So, we survived another East Coast Music Association Conference and Awards Show. This is the seventh time What’s Goin On has made the mission and in all those years, not much has changed. The same faces or predictable facsimiles still pick up the same awards, the drink still flows early into the morning if you can find the “right” party and Cape Bretoners still seem to be everywhere in the spotlight, whether they still live in Cape Breton or not.
This year’s big winners were Bruce Guthro and Jimmy Rankin who received awards in three categories each. Guthro picked up Male Artist of the Year, Pop Artist/Group of the Year and Album of the Year for his second EMI release Guthro. Rankin took home the hardware for Country Artist / Group of the Year on the strength of Song Dog, his debut solo album for EMI, Single of the Year and SOCAN Songwriter of the Year with Gordie Sampson for “Followed Her Around”, a great song from Song Dog which they co-wrote years ago when Sampson was touring with The Rankins.
No surprise to find Natalie MacMaster on the podium for a well-deserved Entertainer of the Year honour after her extensive touring and recent Grammy nomination. And hooray for Mary Jane Lamond, getting the nod as Roots / Traditional Solo Artist of the Year for her fourth recording of Gaelic song, Orain Ghaidhlig (Gaelic Songs of Cape Breton).
I was pleasantly surprised to see The Jimmy Swift Band win Alternative Artist of the Year after years and years and years of Cape Bretoners Craig Mercer and Mike MacDougall slogging it out with a variety of lineups and band names. I suppose it may have been a bit predictable for Ian McKinnon (from the west coast of the island) and Scott Macmillan (a summer resident of western Cape Breton) to be honoured for Classical Recording of the Year, since MacKinnon’s Brook Suite with Symphony Nova Scotia was a top seller at HMV in Halifax.
During the Industry Awards brunch, Cape Breton’s recording industry dominated with Lakewind Sound Studios winning Studio of the Year and Jamie Foulds being named Technician / Engineer of the Year.
But there’s more to the ECMA than winning awards or even just being nominated. Cape Bretoners featured prominently in a number of showcases and performances throughout the weekend and we tried to take them all in. We made it to the Jungle Jam, the Sinkin’ Dory no-cases, the Much Music Dog and Pony official no-cases, the 72 Hour Jam, Saturday afternoon Fan Fest, the Gothic Arches show, the mainstage showcases, and countless afternoons and evenings at O’Leary’s pub.
Carlo Spinazzola was busy on the weekend, wowing a massive crowd on Saturday afternoon at the Brunswick Square Shopping Centre during Fan Fest. Carlo played a few laid back numbers, tastefully accompanying himself on slide guitar during a mini Songwriters Circle with fellow Cape Bretoner Bruce Guthro and Kris Taylor from PEI. Spinazzola also attracted a large crowd to the mainstage showcase room closing the Post Awards party opposite The Fables in the Traditional Room across the hallway. Howie Centre’s Keith Mullins added just the right touch on percussion to get everybody up dancing at the end of a long weekend. Next weekend Carlo’s artwork will be exhibited at UCCB Art Gallery. Watch for that story in the next issue.
Dougbill Platypus was around all weekend playing at O’Leary’s Pub and partying at the the Cape Breton Party Saturday night.
Slainte Mhath had an outstanding weekend at ECMA 2002 playing to a full house at the Gothic Arches with the Irish Descendents, inspiring a huge room to get up and dance at their manstage showcase and signing a national distribution deal with Warner Music through Toronto-based Linus Entertainment, home of such acts as Ron Sexsmith and By Divine Right. Next stop for Slainte Mhath is London, England and the BBC Radio 2 Roots Awards. The band has been nominated for a Horizon Award, in recognition of their potential to be the next big thing. Their new album, VA is due for release in the next couple of weeks.
Accompanied by Aneirin Thomas, Don Ellis, Dave Panting and Geoff Panting, Colleen Power put in impressive performances during her mainstage showcase Saturday night, on the nationally televised Awards show Sunday and during the post awards party. The showcase was recorded by CBC for future broadcast on Atlantic Airwaves.
Triple award-winner Jimmy Rankin (Country Artist, SOCAN Songwriter, Song of the Year) performed live for national audiences on CBC Radio Two’s Saturday afternoon pop culture program Definitely Not The Opera and Sunday night on the Awards show.
Even Rock Ranger took time out from schmoozing long enough to win over new fans at the Jungle Jam and at the Much Music Dog and Pony Show.