George Canyon tops ECMAs
HALIFAX (CP) – Tears mixed with laughs when the best musicians in Atlantic Canada gathered Sunday night to pat backs, play a few tunes and bid farewell to a trio of trailblazers.
George Canyon, In-Flight Safety, Joel Plaskett Emergency and J. P. Cormier each walked away with three awards following the East Coast Music Awards gala at the Halifax Metro Centre. During a two-hour awards show broadcast nationally by the CBC and hosted by the Trailer Park Boys, Canyon added the new pieces of silverware to an already bulging trophy case.
The Nova Scotia country singer was named entertainer of the year for the third consecutive year. It was the only award voted on by fans.
“God is so good,” said Canyon, resplendent in a glittery western suit and black Stetson.
Canyon, who came out of obscurity in 2004 by finishing second on the “Nashville Star” talent search, has won more than a dozen awards since, including a Juno in 2005 and the Canadian Country Music Awards fan choice honour.
Besides the nod from the fans, the granite-chinned singer from Pictou County also won for video of the year and country recording of the year for “Somebody Wrote Love.”
“I’m scared to death to let a lot of this success in the last three years sink in,” Canyon said later. “That’s the God’s honest truth.”
In the night’s emotional centrepiece, three Maritime legends who died in the past year – Denny Doherty of the Mamas and the Papas, Celtic pioneer John Allan Cameron and bluesman Dutch Mason – were remembered in a moving tribute that included performances by recent Grammy winner Gordie Sampson, Shaye, Canyon and Ashley MacIsaac.
“I’ve got a wound on my lip from biting it so hard. I was getting choked up,” said Canyon, who sang “California Dreamin’ ” during the tribute.
“Being a part of that was one of the highlights for me.”
Cormier, who performed many times with Cameron, became emotional when he told reporters about a late-night conversation he had with the Celtic troubadour in a hotel room several years ago.
“He really thought he was going to be forgotten,” Cormier said. “He wasn’t bitter about it. It was poignant.
“But it was apparent to me – and apparent to me tonight – that he’s never going to be forgotten.”
Jill Barber, an Ontario-raised singer-songwriter who moved to Halifax almost five years ago, won two awards on the strength of her first full-length release, “For All Time.”
The album was named FACTOR recording of the year. She also won for solo female recording of the year.
Barber, who grew up in Toronto before moving to the Maritimes, said she came to the city on a whim.
“I knew Halifax was great for music and I felt the calling,” she explained to reporters later. “But I never would have expected to find myself, as far as music.”
Cormier, a Cape Bretoner whose musical chops span folk, country, bluegrass, rock and Celtic, won for bluegrass recording of the year, folk recording and instrumental recording.
Cormier figured he’s won “eight or nine” ECMAs since attending the inaugural awards show 19 years ago in a smoky Halifax pub.
“The award was a pin at the end of a Q-Tip, or something,” the burly musician quipped. “Everybody stood around saying, ‘You rock!’ ‘No, you rock!’ ” It’s come a long way since.”
Newfoundland’s Ron Hynes took the award for male solo recording of the year for his self-titled album.
In-Flight Safety, a Halifax-based band that met as students at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., went into the night with four nominations.
Their first full-length release, “The Coast is Clear,” was named alternative recording of the year, CBC Galaxie rising star recording of the year and XM Satellite Group recording of the year.
The rising star award came with a cheque for $5,000.
“We’ve gone from making records in a basement in Sackville to this awards show,” said a clearly thrilled John Mullane, the band’s singer.
“It’s a hell of a difference.”
Halifax’s Joel Plaskett Emergency won for single of the year for “Nowhere With You,” and DVD of the year.
Plaskett was also named SOCAN songwriter of the year, also for “Nowhere With You,” a song that was used in a Zellers commercial.
The lanky performer said he fretted “for about five minutes” about being labelled a sellout for allowing the department store giant to use the song.
“Their prices are great,” he joked to reporters later.
“That commercial brought a lot of kids out to the shows over the summer and made radio take notice, which has been hard to crack. It’s tough getting on radio. It’s a weird business.”
Sloan won for rock recording of the year for the band’s mammoth 30-song CD “Never Hear the End of It.”
Chris Murphy, the lone member of the former Halifax independent faves to travel from Toronto for the show, said the new album has garnered more positive press than any of the band’s recent releases, particularly in the U.S., where Sloan has a new record deal.
Wearing a Halifax T-shirt under a battered leather jacket, Murphy joked about being finally able to afford a house in Toronto.
“But I have a tenant, and we have mice, so we’re not getting rich,” he said.
The awards show was hosted for the second year in a row by Bubbles, Ricky and Julian of the popular cult TV hit “The Trailer Park Boys.”
The showed opened with the three arriving late and ramming their old beater through a steel door and onto the floor of the packed hockey arena.
The foul-mouthed trio dropped several F-bombs during the broadcast, but all were bleeped out.
Comedian Mary Walsh wasn’t bleeped, however, when she called the federal Conservatives “the arse-lickers of Satan,” as an uncomfortable-looking Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay smiled in the front row.
Earlier in the evening while making a presentation on stage, MacKay was booed when he mistakenly referred to Halifax as Toronto.
The best quote of the night: “The arse-lickers of Satan” by a long shot!
George Canyon tops ECMAs