Last Articles - 2006 (January-June) update on June 22, 2010


01/04/06 - Willie Nelson, k.d. lang to sing at songwriters gala

01/20/06 - Raylene Rankin alive, well and singing

02/04/06 - Last night in Toronto...

02/05/06 - Rankin sings N.S. anthem into Hall of Fame

02/24/06 - Canada's youngest premier, Nova Scotia's Rodney MacDonald, sworn in (new)

03/16/06 - Letter from SXSW: Getting the Party Started

04/03/06 - The best music scene found off-camera. Every venue in Halifax caught up in Juno fever

04/05/06 - What has a Juno done for you?

06/25/06 - Eastern stars shine bright for Johnson


Willie Nelson, k.d. lang to sing at songwriters gala

January 4, 2006 - CBC Arts

Willie Nelson, k.d. lang and Jully Black are among the performers lined up to usher five new inductees into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

A gala ceremony featuring these and other top performers will be held Sunday, Feb. 5, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Singer and poet Leonard Cohen, Quebec singer-songwriter Gilles Vigneault, big band composer Carmen Lombardo, ragtime composer William Eckstein and classical composer and lyricist Lionel Daunais are being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Three others, singer Anne Murray, record industry pioneer Herbert Berliner and Quebec singer and radio host Lucille Dumont will receive Legacy Awards for their contributions to songwriting in Canada.

CBC Radio One will broadcast highlights of the ceremony on Feb. 6 and CBC Radio Two plans a longer broadcast later the same day. The gala will appear on CBC Television in a one-hour special presentation on March 6.

CBC Radio's Andrew Craig and Radio-Canada's Sophie Durocher will host the gala.

Rufus Wainwright, Louise Pitre, Sarah Slean, Claire Pelletier, Jarvis Church, and Jimmy Rankin are also scheduled to perform.

A full lineup of which of the inducted songs will be performed and who will perform them will be released later this month. Nelson has requested to sing a Cohen song.

The gala will include musical tributes to Cohen, Murray and Dumont by a new generation of artists. Five of Cohen's songs, including Hallelujah, Suzanne and Bird on a Wire, are on a list of 26 songs that will be added to the commemorative lists in the Hall of Fame.

Among the songs to be inducted is Sugar Sugar, which will be performed at the gala by original writer Andy Kim with reggae-rock group Bedouin Soundclash.

The Stampeders will sing their inducted song, Sweet City Woman, with country group Doc Walker.

Gilles Vigneault's timeless classic Mon Pays will be performed by his daughter Jessica Vigneault and Martin Lťon. Hot young artist Marie-Mai and Fred St-Gelais will sing his Pendant Que.

Founded in 1998 by music publisher Frank Davies, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame celebrates the accomplishments of popular music songwriters in Canadian history.


Raylene Rankin alive, well and singing

The Rankin Family member will sing with Scott MacMillan-led Orchestra London

January 20, 2006 - London Free Press

By Herman Goodden, Special to the Free Press

There may be step dancing in the aisles of Centennial Hall tomorrow night.

That's when Raylene Rankin, of the enormously popular Rankin Family, and fellow Maritimer conductor, composer and arranger Scott Macmillan join Orchestra London for an evening of down-home music-making.

"We go way back with Scott," Rankin says. "In 1989, the Rankins were doing gigs locally, but we weren't really doing anything on a full-time basis. Scott threw together a tour with a bunch of Cape Breton artists that got us some important early exposure and we've all worked on and off with him ever since. Scott did all the arrangements for a Christmas show I did with my sisters, Cookie and Heather, a few years back. He's a great guy to work with and he has a lovely sense of humour."

Several of Macmillan's original orchestral compositions will be featured tomorrow, including Song for the Cape, A Date with the Fundy Tide and a tribute to renowned Cape Breton fiddler Dan Rory MacDonald which Macmillan has impishly entitled Dan R. is Served.

Dorchester fiddler Shane Cook guests on a set of tunes by Cape Breton master fiddler Buddy MacMaster and other Macmillan-arranged material. (Buddy is Natalie MacMaster's uncle).

After 10 years of success with the Rankin Family, selling more than two million albums and topping the international charts with their hymn to family longevity, We Rise Again, Raylene was the first to leave the family ensemble in 1998 to look after her son. In '99, the band decided to pack it in for a little while.

"With the tragic death of our brother, John Morris," Rankin says, "I think it has become less likely that we will ever join forces again as a touring unit. But I never say never. Everybody is still involved with music and I think this is kind of the natural progression, anyway. Especially for Jimmy, who was always writing so much. He needed to get out on his own."

Though not as prolific as Jimmy, Raylene and her sisters are still making music in concerts and on records. The sisters sang backup vocals for Carly Simon's CD, Bedroom Tapes, and Raylene recently released her first solo album, Lambs in Spring, the title song hailing from the pen of her late brother. The sisters also purchased the Red Shoe Pub in their home town of Mabou on Cape Breton Island, which they opened for business in June and closed up in October.

So you can afford to close it through the winter? I asked.

"No, no," laughs Rankin. "We can't afford to have it open through the winter. It was well supported by the locals, but it's a little hard to get to through the winter. We had a really good time with it this year and hopefully it will continue to be a positive experience. It was originally owned by a friend of ours and became a destination for folks who love traditional music. So we're carrying that on."

Rankin Family gigs always had a party atmosphere and Rankin says none of that is lost when playing with a symphony orchestra.

"I love it," she says. "It's just a bigger band, really. A great band. That's always been my experience with Orchestra London. They can swing just as loosely as a much smaller group and they're really open to trying new things."

Is there a theme to this show?

"Do you mean like a title?," she asks. "How about Raylene Rankin Live? Or Raylene Rankin Alive? We'll be performing a mix of music from my solo album and the Rankin Family catalogue. It's going to be a lot of fun."

IF YOU GO

What: Raylene Rankin in concert with Orchestra London, Scott Macmillan conducts

When: Tomorrow, 8 p.m.

Where: Centennial Hall

Tickets and info: Ticket prices $45-$49. To reserve tickets or get more information, call 679-8778


Last night in Toronto...

February 4, 2006 - Toronto Star

By Ashante Infantry

"I'll be right back. I need a nicotine fix," said Jimmy Rankin as he slipped out the front entrance of Hugh's Room. "Smoking definitely isn't good for your voice," acknowledged the singer/songwriter upon his return. "I'm slowly quitting. I'm down to two-three a day, well three-four."

The East coast roots-rock musician singer flew in from Halifax yesterday morning for a show at the Dundas St. West nightclub.

No ordinary concert, the Bluebird North Tour: Where Writers Sing and Tell blends art with insight, featuring a diverse line-up of singers performing in an unplugged setting and discussing their craft.

It's the fifth year of the 11-city national tour, organized by the Songwriters Association of Canada.

"Anyone who is a fan of music is also a fan of the process, but it's not an educational workshop, it's entertainment," explained the event's co-producer Shari Ulrich. "We offer a magical combination of artists that don't normally appear together."

Rankin, who shared the stage with rapper Kardinal Offishall, pop-folk duo Dala and folksongstress Melissa McClelland, has also done the Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary legs of the tour.

"As a musician you go out and play wherever you're wanted ó whether that's a Friday, a Sunday or a holiday," he said before sitting down to a bowl of post-soundcheck, pre-show lentil soup. "The gig is easy, it's the travel that wears on you; especially in Canada which is so vast."

The lead singer of disbanded quintet, The Rankin Family, is preparing to record his third solo album, having "toured the hell" out of his three year-old sophomore outing Handmade, which yielded the singles "Butterfly" and "California Dreamer." But experience doesn't mean inspiration comes easier.

"Sometimes I begin with a phrase, or a small melody, sometimes nothing," he said.


Rankin sings N.S. anthem into Hall of Fame

Farewell to Nova Scotia among songs being inducted tonight

February 5, 2006 - Halifax Herald

By Andrea Nemetz - Entertainment Reporter

Photo: Singer-songwriter Jimmy Rankin, shown at a Halifax coffee shop on Wednesday, will perform Farewell to Nova Scotia tonight for the first time in his career at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame 3rd Gala at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. (PETER PARSONS / Staff)Jimmy Rankin canít remember the first time he heard Farewell to Nova Scotia.

With its familiar chorus "Farewell to Nova Scotia, the seabound coast/Let your mountains dark and dreary be/For when I am far away on the briny ocean tossed/Will you ever heave a sigh or a wish for me?" the song, whose author is unknown, has become an unofficial anthem for the Bluenose province, sung at gatherings large and small, by tourists and native sons and daughters.

"Itís a part of everyoneís consciousness for the Maritimes and Nova Scotia," concedes Rankin, bundled up in a soft, olive green wool sweater and olive Diesel cap in a Halifax coffee shop during Nova Scotiaís first blizzard of 2006.

"Because itís such an anthemic song, itís almost been bastardized. Itís played in pubs everywhere."

The Mabou-raised singer-songwriter, who has been busy touring with his two solo albums since The Rankin Family disbanded in 1999, will perform Farewell to Nova Scotia tonight for the first time in his career at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame 3rd Gala at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Among the other performers are Andy Kim, who will be joined by Bedouin Soundclash doing his hit Sugar Sugar, the Stampeders singing Sweet City Woman with country sensations Doc Walker, Jully Black and Jarvis Church dueting on Oscar Brandís A Guy is A Guy as well as Sarah Slean, Louise Pitre, Willie Nelson, k.d. Lang, Rufus Wainwright and more.

CBC radio listeners can catch highlights of the gala on Monday on Radio One from 11 a.m. till noon and Radio Two from 8 to 10 p.m. A one-hour TV special will air on CBC on Monday, March 6 at 9 p.m.,

The gala is hosted by Andrew Craig from CBC Radio Twoís In Performance and CBC Radio-Canadaís Sophie Durocher,

Farewell to Nova Scotia is one of 26 songs being inducted along with five songwriters: ragtime composer William Eckstein; big band giant Carmen Lombardo and classical composer and lyricist Lionel Daunais; and songwriter/poets Gilles Vigneault and Leonard Cohen. Gene Mac- Lellanís Put Your Hand in the Hand will also be inducted.

Quebec singer Lucille Dumont, Springhill songbird Anne Murray and Canadian industry pioneer Herbert Berliner will also be presented with Legacy Awards, honouring their contributions to, and support of, the Canadian songwriting industry, a news release from the organization says.

"I wrestled with the kind of version to do," says Rankin. "I started by re-examining the lyrics. Itís a very tragic song, heart-wrenching. I do it not like a dirge, but slower, more melancholy, thoughtful than the pub version where itís slammed out as a beer drinking song."

According to a news release from the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, Farewell to Nova Scotia is believed to have been written shortly before or during the First World War.

"Derived from The Soldierís Adieu, by Scottish poet Robert Tannahill, the song was changed to reflect a soldierís sorrow at leaving the hills behind as he heads out to sea," the release says, noting ""the song gained popularity when it was recorded in 1964 by Catherine McKinnon to be used as the theme song for the CBC TV show Singalong Jubilee.""

"People tend to take it for granted, so itís almost overused," says Rankin of the folk-traditional tune.

"At any pub in Nova Scotia, any ex-pat pub across Canada, you expect to hear it. Itís been overused, maybe misused, but the lyrics are touching. Itís a memorable melody, sung constantly since it was discovered."

Rankin left for Toronto on Friday for a whirlwind few days beginning with a sound check for the gala on his way in from the airport before an appearance later that night with the Songwritersí Association of Canadaís Bluebird North Cafť. He was to perform with Kardinal Offishall, Melissa McClellan and Dala in a show hosted by Blair Packham and Shari Ulrich.

In late January, he performed with Divine Brown, Tom Wilson, and Wil in Bluebird North shows hosted by Lennie Gallant and Ulrich in Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton.

And on Thursday heíll kick off Casino Nova Scotiaís Songwriter Series in the Schooner Showroom at 8 p.m. Hosted by Bruce Guthro, the evening, also showcases Nova Scotian favourites Jill Barber and Dave Gunning. Tickets are $24.98 each plus tax. The Bluebird North Cafť will stop at Casino Nova Scotia on Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. with Ron Sexsmith, Jane Siberry, Ron Hynes, Thom Swift, Morgan Davis, Packham and Ulrich, in the lineup to sing their songs and tell the stories behind them. Tickets for that show are $25 plus tax.

"When you get the right combo itís a lot of fun. You need good chemistry and a good mix of genres and personalities," says Rankin.

After spending less than a week out west, Rankin returned home to discover numerous changes in his six-month old son James.

"Heís more co-ordinated, more interactive. Heís got a tooth. There are little things, heís evolving from an infant to more of a human being," says the proud first-time dad.

"It happens before your eyes and itís kind of amazing.."

Besides revelling in the joys of fatherhood, Rankin will be spending this winter working on his third album.

His 2001 solo debut Song Dog earned him ECMAs for single of the year and SOCAN songwriter of the year for Followed Her Around and country artist of the year as well as two Juno nominations.

His 2003 followup Handmade earned ECMAs for SOCAN songwriter of the year for Midnight Angel, male artist of the year (2004) and roots/traditional solo recording artist.

And heís already booked for some performances in and around the Junos at the end of March, beginning of April in Halifax, as well as the South by Southwest music festival in March in Austin, Texas.

Photo: Singer-songwriter Jimmy Rankin, shown at a Halifax coffee shop on Wednesday, will perform Farewell to Nova Scotia tonight for the first time in his career at the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame 3rd Gala at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. (PETER PARSONS / Staff)


Canada's youngest premier, Nova Scotia's Rodney MacDonald, sworn in

February 24, 2006 - Global Maritimes

By Murray Brewster - Canadian Press

HALIFAX (CP) - Canada's youngest premier summoned his small-town values and rural Cape Breton roots as he was sworn into office Friday in Nova Scotia.

Being thrifty, helping neighbours, taking responsibility for yourself, and giving more than you receive will be the guiding principles of his administration, Rodney MacDonald, 34, said after taking the oath of office. "I believe these are the values of Nova Scotians," he told over 1,000 invited guests, many of them high-profile federal and provincial Conservatives.

His outlook on life and government, said MacDonald, were moulded by his upbringing in Mabou, N.S., a picturesque, sleepy hamlet in western Cape Breton which has recently been a hotbed in the revival of Celtic music.

In an echo of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent election campaign, MacDonald said his Conservatives will make the health and well-being of families the highest priority of his government.

"To us, each little village, every small town and both of our cities matter," he told a packed convention hall.

"We all know our communities are strongest when our families are doing their best."

Later in Ottawa, Harper greeted the new premier at the front door of 24 Sussex Drive and said to reporters: "I'm no longer the newest first minister. He's newer than I am."

MacDonald's homespun words touched friends, supporters and colleagues in Halifax, who gave the rookie premier three standing ovations during his first speech as premier.

"It's quite a day," said Gerald MacDonald - no relation to the premier - as he used a white handkerchief to wipe tears from his eyes.

"He's from down home and I know him very well. I served on municipal council with his father and he's a great guy."

Mixed with the warm personal assessment, the Port Hood, N.S., resident was bursting with pride at the thought the new premier was from Cape Breton, where residents have long considered themselves Nova Scotia's distinct society.

The pomp and circumstance of the nearly hour-long ceremony was often punctuated with folksy touches, beginning with a bagpipe processional and ending with the national anthem sung by friend and fellow musician Raylene Rankin, of The Rankin Family.

His 15-member cabinet was sworn in at the same time Friday, with only five untested ministers.

One of the newcomers, Brooke Talyor, a longtime backbencher who ran afoul of former premier John Hamm, admitted being overwhelmed by the ceremony.

"I was sweating like a hen hauling wood up there," said the new natural resources minister.

"I'm not used to a whole lot of pomp and ceremony. When I got up, I forgot to shake the premier's hand until after I signed. Everyone else did it before. I don't know whether you call that a bad start or not."

The prime minister was quick to congratulate MacDonald, who was the only Nova Scotia cabinet minister to support him during the federal Conservative leadership.

"All Nova Scotians can be confident in knowing that their premier is committed to ensuring the province remains vibrant and optimistic for the future," Harper said in a statement.

MacDonald has inherited a relatively stable minority government, one stacked with experienced ministers who earned their stripes under Hamm. The 67-year-old former country doctor announced his retirement last fall after six years as premier.

The Opposition New Democrats said Friday they're prepared to give MacDonald some time to settle in and wouldn't speculate on whether they would continue to prop up the Conservatives.

There will be no such grace period from the third-party Liberals, who struck an inflexible tone.

The new premier and cabinet have less than a week to come up with concrete policy ideas, which could be used to lure his party's support, said Liberal Leader Francis MacKenzie.

"I'm not interested in sitting down, having coffee and making small chat," he told reporters. "We've got a job to do here."

In a bizarre addition, MacKenzie said he's not interested in meeting at all with the new premier, and MacDonald could communicate with him via Canada Post.

There was one light moment amid the pomp and circumstance as Lt.-Gov. Myra Freeman told the incoming premier that she accepted his "resignation" instead of his "recommendation" to form a government.


Letter from SXSW: Getting the Party Started

March 16, 2006 - Hits Daily Double Magazine

Good Vibes Permeate 20th Edition of Austin Music Biz Confab, Let the Shiner Bocks Flow

Golda is an anonymous industry veteran attending this year's 20th South by Southwest in Austin, TX, under cover, and after editing her report, we can't say we blame her. If anyone else cares to have their SXSW musings posted, e-mail me at knickart52@aol.com and we'll see how many we can get up here.

Itís a Love Fest.

Arrived in Austin late TuesdayÖ.and it really is the greatest city for live music. I'm reminded within two minutes why I got in this business in the first place. You can hear someone playing before you even get off the plane, with the incredible soul goddess Ruthie Brown greeting the arrivals in song from a makeshift stage. Waiting for my luggage was like a high school reunionÖ some people it's really great to see and others, well not so much...

After dropping off my stuff, we all headed over to La Zone Rosa for legendary Asleep at the Wheel singer Ray Bensonís annual birthday party. Don't ask how a nice Jewish boy from Philadelphia has become the King of Western Swing, but there you go.

The moment we arrived, we were immediately greeted by perhaps the most famous Texas Jewboy of all, as Kinky Friedman himself worked the room, soliciting votes for Governor of the Lone Star State, a tidbit that, after a few shots of tequila, you start to seriously consider... and find yourself agreeing with his campaing slogan, "WHY THE HELL NOT??!!" Why not indeed? Seeing the gangly 6'6" Ray on stage is always quite an experience, but then the sultan of twang Mr. Bill Kirchen, one of the night's special guests took over and he really is one of the most amazing guitar players ever. Boy that tequila was going down smooth.

So now itís Wednesday (that's yesterday if you're counting, which I've stopped since about 3 this morning). I had my annual brunch at the Four Seasons, where EMI technohoncho Ted Cohen was seen holding court about how his cell phone can actually microwave a TV dinner as I spent some quality time with friends before everyone was let loose into the wilds of Austin to try and catch as many of the 1,300-some-odd bands that would be playing within the next 96 or so hours... not to mention which parties to hit.

I fullfilled my obligations to SXSW by participating in their mentoring program, which is always fun. I have even been known to actually hire some of these kids over the years and watch them do good. Then, itís off to the smoking balconyÖwhich I recommend should be the non-smoking balcony sponsored by Zyban next year (which might be the only sponsor not here this year). The Canadian contingent sponsored a big tent, barbeque and a lively afternoon showcase and after that it was off to relax and figure out the night, which ended up being divided between clubs on 6th Street and a couple on 4th.

Most notable were the Gourds, who were kinda like intellectual hillbillies, and great multi-tasking musos to boot, each playing multiple instruments effortlessly. Then, it was off to the Austin Music Awards for a little bit just in time to see Kinky again, giving a speech I couldnít hear very well. Couldn't really tell you who won, but it's usually the same folks every year. Finally a showcase for Jimmy Rankin, one of Canada's foremost singer-songwriters, who looks like he could be Paul McCartneyís little brother, which is enough to win me over as he rocks the house until the clock struck 2:00. I drove around looking for cigarettes until 3, and then it was time to sleep it off and start all over again.


The best music scene found off-camera. Every venue in Halifax caught up in Juno fever

April 3, 2006 - Halifax Herald

By T'Cha Dunlevy, CanWest News Service

HALIFAX - Bagpipers at the airport, parties in the street, industry hobnobbing, star sightings and music everywhere -- it was an action-packed weekend on the East Coast as the 35th annual Juno Awards did their best to celebrate Canadian music, big and small.

The televised show last night was just one event among many, and there was truly something for everyone.

Ginger's Tavern was the place to be on Friday night, as soft-spoken romantic Ron Sexsmith held court before a full house.

Outside, about 30 people stood in line, waiting desperately for a chance to hear their favourite artist. They watched as media, label reps and other industry pass holders waltzed in front of them and upstairs.

Inside, Mr. Sexsmith played acoustic guitar (and, briefly, piano), accompanied only by stand-up bass as an enraptured crowd (save for a few schmoozers near the bar) hung on his every word and note.

The scene was somewhat more disjointed (and rowdier) over at Irish pub Pogue Fado, where Vancouver's Alpha Yaya Diallo played fluttery African guitar, backed by a tight, funky band. Half the crowd went obliviously about its business -- drinking and gabbing --while the other half danced along.

Elsewhere in town, Luke Doucet played to the jam-packed college crowd at Tribeca; rock acts Stabilo and Pilate performed at the Marquee Club; Toronto rapper Eternia and soul singer Carl Henry played an urban showcase at the Waterfront Warehouse; and Montreal rocker Jonas performed at Your Father's Moustache.

The kids got their fix on Saturday at Juno Fan Fare, an autograph session featuring Nickelback, Bedouin Soundclash, Hedley, Shawn Desman and more than a dozen other acts.

Things kicked into high gear on Saturday night, as every venue in town seemed to have a lineup out the door.

Political offspring Justin Trudeau and Ben Mulroney were among the elite in attendance at CTV's invitation-only Juno party, at the Economy Shoe Shop. It was open bar, Pamela Anderson was hanging out in a back room somewhere, and Jimmy Rankin was playing to the dolled-up, elbow-to-elbow attendees.

Things were more down-to-earth next door at the Seahorse pub, where local acts Hey Rosetta and Elliott Brood were performing to the mostly hometown crowd.

Around the corner at Ginger's Tavern, Jully Black -- who had just hosted the non-televised awards with a fearless mix of snappy punchlines and caustic wit -- was delivering the smooth soul sounds of her Juno-nominated album This Is Me.

The big show of the night was a double bill: indie rock collective Broken Social Scene and reggae act Bedouin Soundclash. Feist swooped in to join her pals in Broken Social Scene for their song 7/4 (Shoreline). Both groups performed at last night's televised awards and both, coincidentally, won Junos.

Other performances around the city on Saturday night included Halifax rockers Sloan, Juno winner Corb Lund (roots and traditional album of the year -- solo) and Blessed (reggae recording of the year), plus Julie Doiron, Tanya Tagaq and C'mon.

At Dalhousie University's Rebecca Cohn Auditorium -- away from all the hustle, bustle and hype -- a handful of artists sat on stools yesterday afternoon, acoustic guitars in hand, for the Songwriter's Circle. Among them: Martha Wainwright, Diallo, Mr. Sexsmith, Joel Plaskett, Jann Arden and the event's host, Great Big Sea's Alan Doyle.

Broadcast on CBC Radio, the show was the antithesis of the flashy affair the Junos have become. But between the two extremes lay an endless array of possibilities -- each somehow representing the eclectic, confusing and evolving identity of Canadian music.


What has a Juno done for you?

April 5, 2006 - Halifax Herald

By Elissa Barnard

EDITORíS NOTE: Arts reporter Elissa Barnard asked a few of Nova Scotiaís Juno winners, what a Juno did for their careers and for some of their Juno memories.

JIMMY RANKIN, of The Rankin Family and The Rankins, winners of six Juno awards, four in 1994 for single of the year, Fare Thee Well Love; group of the year, country group of the year and Canadian entertainer of the year:

"Weíd been to the Junos before. Nothing really came out of it then the next Junos we were nominated for a bunch of awards. I donít even think we were going to go, we were planning to be on the road.

"We cleaned up that year and in all four categories we were nominated in. That combined with the surging popularity of the band and the radio play and word of mouth and sweeping the Junos really brought the band to another level nationally. It brought us to the top level you can get in this country.

"Itís a great thing. I donít know if at the time it registered how important in our career it was. Itís a great landmark. I have them on my book shelf, my Junos. Iím very proud of them. We were there and we deserved them. Itís something that never happened again and rarely happens to a band.

"One of the highlights for me personally was the Juno for Fare Thee Well Love. It was a song I wrote. It was the last song that made the album. It was an afterthought; we needed another song for Cookie.

"Iíve been to a lot of these awards ceremonies. I donít care what anybody else says. When they call your name it doesnít feel anything but good."

RITA MACNEIL, winner of three Junos including most promising female vocalist in 1987:

"I was in my 40s. It was so exciting I couldnít believe it. It was just very, very exciting, and a great experience to meet people through a wonderful event and it can be a great memory in your career.""

MacNeil performed on stage at the Junos with The Men of the Deeps. "A highlight for sure and so proud to sing Working Man and have them with me. It came off as a different performance from what they had in the show. It was very exciting for us all and coming from Cape Breton and bringing that culture to the stage in Toronto was a great night for us all."

MacNeil has kept her Juno awards. "Oh my, theyíre in my tea room where people can pick them up and look at them. Itís nice for people because theyíre responsible for buying the CDs and coming to the shows.

"I think itís great the Junos are in place to recognize performers. Whether youíre nominated or you win a Juno itís a great thrill. Itís great for your career for sure. I think at the end of the day the goal in this business is to have longevity in your career.

"I have a new CD coming out in May, an album of cover tunes which is different for me, and Iím following up with a tour and doing a CTV special on TV in the spring and planning a tour for the fall and winter and a trip to Australia so Iím pretty busy. Iíll be 62 in May and Iím still going and I still enjoy it as much as ever."

CARROLL BAKER, winner of country female vocalist of the year in 1977, 1978 and 1979:

"I was the first country performer they ever had on the Junos and my performance (of Iíve Never Been This Far Before) was live and most people lip-synched and I did a live performance. I got on the stage and said to myself, ĎOK, Baker, this is for country music.í

"It was one of those magic moments. I got a standing ovation. The next day I woke up and my face was on the front page of the newspapers and I got a lot of offers.

"I already had a gold record at that point and a No. 1 record and I did not win a Juno that year but I won it the following year but I didnít have a hit record then," she says with a big laugh.

"I think the performances were more fun than actually winning the Junos. For all singers itís about the music: do the fans like it? do you like doing it? The gold and platinum records indicated I had fans which no industry award can say to you.

"The awards are the icing on the cake but I loved the performances, I love the camaraderie of being with the people at the Junos.

"I started going to the Junos when they were so small, everybody knew everyone. My daughter Candace was five when she started going. It was nothing to see her on the shoulders of people like Bryan Adams or Loverboy.""

One year Baker co-hosted the Juno Awards with Ronnie Hawkins. "We arrived on stage in a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce and the doors wouldnít open. Ronnie was climbing out the side and I was coming out behind him and Pierre Trudeau was in the front row and people were laughing hysterically. Iíve got some really good memories."

The Bridgewater-born singer, who lives with her husband John in Guelph, Ont., is giving a rare performance on Juno night, Sunday April 2, at Nine Mile River Community Centre, as well as a 3 p.m. show. "I said to John, ĎI guess my audience they donít watch the Junos.í Iíll be thinking of them. Hope theyíre thinking of me."

BUCK 65 (RICH TERFRY), winner of alternative album of the year in 2004, nominated this year for video of the year for Devilís Eyes, and creating the main music for the awards ceremony including the opening theme and incidental music between performers and award presenters:

"Itís one of the things that I feel kind of strangely conflicted about because it seems on some gut level a strange thing in this day and age and with everything going on in the world to be handing out trophies for art and it is certainly not what motivates me to make records.

"For as much as Iíd like to say weíre real artists and none of this stuff matters to me, it feels good. I had been fighting against hip-hop type for years. Just to be nominated in the alternative category made an interesting statement that maybe drew people to my record.

"When youíre making music thatís difficult to categorize, when you have attention drawn to what you do in a big way with a major award nomination, and in an unexpected category, that might make the average person check it out. They might go, ĎI always thought Buck 65 was a normal hip-hop guy but why is he in alternative?í

"To go one step further and to actually win that category was very flattering and it did draw some new listeners to what I was doing. I do remember in the week or two following the awards we saw a real spike in the sale of my record.

"Iíll be absolutely honest with you. I wondered before the award if this was any sort of thing people took notice of internationally but I noticed in the press I did after it that people did. There is a lot of focus on Canadian music these days

"There is an awareness that Canadian music is hot and Canadian music has been getting a lot of international attention and so maybe our national music identity from an international perspective is changing a bit. In years past people thought of Canadian music as Celine Dion and maybe Neil Young. Weíve always had a bit of big pop success.

"Now that a lot of successful Canadian music is a little edgy and left of centre itís changing peopleís perception of what weíre about and what our sound is.

"I was backstage after the Junos and people were leaving and milling about and I was approached by Sarah McLachlan and she walked up to me and put her hand on my shoulder and said, ĎI think what you do is very interesting,í and it was kind of funny. It was like things had come full circle. I remember when she performed at the Flamingo in Halifax a long time ago.

"I was hanging out with Ron Sexsmith. Weíre not party animals and we went back to the hotel and decided to spend a quiet night hanging out and Ron had his guitar with him. Just Ron and I and a couple of friends.

""It was so intimate. It was just so friendly and off the cuff and at one point I snapped out of it (and thought), ĎItís me and Ron singing Leonard Cohen songs! Thatís great.í

"This year it being in my home town is a real double whammy. Iím really looking forward to it. I imagine itíll be very full-on and a good time."

ASHLEY MACISSAC, winner of best new solo artist in 1996 and instrumental artist of the year in 1997, recently released his new singer/songwriter CD Pride in Canada and in the U.S. this week:

"It means I have a couple of statues. I donít have them anymore. It did nothing for my career. If it did they might ask me back to the Junos this year. I did get invited to play a private CTV party and I told them, ĎNo, Iím not going to play your private party unless you put me on the show.í I think theyíre more concerned about whether Coldplay is going to show up.

"Iím not knocking them, it is an honour. I was ecstatic and elated at being told youíre worthy in Canada. Obviously, it made my parents very proud. At that time I thought it meant a lot more. In the long run it probably looks good on the resume.

"You canít spend it though. Awards are great for recognition from your peers, but it doesnít necessarily parlay into album sales.

"Iíve got good memories definitely from it. A free limo, you know, that sort of thing. It was a pretty big night. It was a great performance the year I opened the Juno show. I had David Foster tell me it was his favourite Junos.

"The Junos are for people whoíve had a lot of success or very little and the middle ground is neither here nor there. Iím not knocking them. Itís definitely an honour. Itís an honour with a grain of salt."

JOE SEALY, Montreal jazz musician and composer who lived in Nova Scotia and whose father grew up in Africville, winner of best contemporary album for Africville Suite, 1997:

"I think it really did help. It publicized the project itself and I ended up doing a lot of touring which I was doing anyway but I think it did increase the amount of touring I did. The publicity made the project a lot more visible in the eyes of the public.

"It was my third nomination but it was the one that had the most emotional involvement on my part. The whole project was a tribute to my father.

"Itís always a thrill when you hear your CD named. Itís very exciting. I think most people hang out with people theyíre familiar with. Iím not much of a schmoozer. Iím not into star gazing and I presume no one is star gazing at me."


Eastern stars shine bright for Johnson
Rankin, Sampson guest on Alberta country singer's Love & Negotiation

June 25, 2006 - Halifax Herald

By Stephen Cooke - Entertainment Reporter

SHEíS ONLY appeared on the East Coast twice; once last February at Casino Nova Scotia, and later that month at the East Coast Music Awards in Charlottetown, as a special guest at the Songwriterís Circle. But the Northern Alberta native has a special fondness for Maritimers.

Recorded in her adopted home of Nashville, Johnsonís latest CD Love & Negotiation ó in stores on Tuesday ó features a few Atlantic Canadian contributions. One is a guest vocal by Mabou-born singer-songwriter Jimmy Rankin, a former tour mate and longtime friend. Thereís also a songwriting assist and vocal backup on the song Crybaby from Cape Breton singer-songwriter Gordie Sampson, now a hot property after his chart-topping, award-winning success with Jesus Take the Wheel, a solid hit for Carrie Underwood.

But Johnson has known Sampson for years, as part of Nashvilleís burgeoning Canadian contingent, and snagged him for the song before he became too hot to handle.

"Gordie sings harmony with me on Crybaby, you can hear him in there quite a bit," says the willowy blond over a cup of green tea at Halifaxís Trident Cafť. "His voice is so awesome, itís got this great rasp on it, but it sounded a little . . . Ďsmushy,í when we turned it up more in the mix. So I pulled out my other harmony, and then put him in-between, and I think weíve got the right balance. I think weíve got it; he did some really cool nuance things that I wanted to keep.

"They were things that werenít totally perfect, but he has great pitch, and itís like heís got his own melody going on in there."

In a lot of ways, Sampson is following a similar path to the one blazed by Johnson, who started commuting back and forth from Westlock ó 85 kms north of Edmonton ó to Nashville with a head full of songs for a few years before finally settling down in Music City, U.S.A. While establishing herself as a performer she wrote tunes for the likes of Patty Loveless, Jo Dee Messina and Pam Tillis, and got Chely Wright to number one with Single White Female.

She was part of a new generation of young songwriters, including longtime friend and Sampson songwriting partner Troy Verges, who also contributed to Crybaby.

"Weíve been writing for, like, 10 years now," says the American Music Award and Canadian Country Music Award winner, in the middle of a quick visit to Halifax to tape a special for French CBC-TV. "We were the nobodies that no one cared about when we started writing together. We were both at a small songwriting company, and he had been an intern there, and then he got some single song contracts, and got signed on.

"We were working together, and he had a little rock band, and we were just gelling. We wrote my first single ever together, Georgia. Surprisingly, Crybaby is the only song heís on with me on this record. For some reason, heís not on the rest, but it was just this particular combination. Iíve got so many things of his in mind, but sometimes when youíre making a record you worry about covering the same subject matter twice, and finding the songs that fit together."

Clearly Johnson has been able to find new inspiration for Love & Negotiation. She wrote or co-wrote all but one of its 12 songs, relying on an intuitive ability to draw on the world around her for their subject matter. "Itís just a compilation of stuff thatís going on in my life; past, present, whatever. There are observations of other people, but mostly itís . . . stuff."

Stuff like the ups and downs of getting the most out of a fully committed relationship, in this case her 2003 marriage to husband Matt Fisher, still

going strong thanks to the two factors named in the CDs title track.

"I always knew Iíd call the record Love & Negotiation, because the title had been in my head for a long time, and then I had a chorus sitting around that I just thought would really be something once I got it written," she says.

"It just encompasses this whole aspect of being a couple, when love motivates us to do some things, and sometimes you have to negotiate to get ahead. What can you sacrifice to get what you really want; your job, your home, your kids. Youíre always making deals, somehow or another."

For Johnson, the trick to making the song work is knowing which personal details will be the ones to engrain the lyrics in listenersí hearts and minds.

"Iíve kissed a few Jacks," she sighs, referring to the male character of her musical mini-play. "Iíve turned a few princes into toads, Iím just talking about my own life experiences and how Iíve gone through some of that stuff too. You give up certain things just because you think youíre not going to win, and you realize things arenít right for you, so you get out. And even if youíre not married, you can probably relate to having your own knight in rusty armour, and how if he gets to have his night out with the guys, then you get to go out with the girls the next night.

"Hopefully it all works out."

But it wouldnít be country music if things worked out all the time, and while Johnson is a whiz at the up tempo, uplifting stuff, she can also tug at heartstrings on a song like Thereís Nothing Good About Lonely, a song that had its foundation in her own feelings of isolation, but grew into something else when a friendís story gave it even more depth.

"That was just me in my bedroom one weekend when I was by myself, thatís how it started," she recalls. "I just had a chorus. Then my girlfriend came over and she was going through a really hard time; her boyfriend was moving back to Russia, and she couldnít keep him, but she didnít want to marry him although she was in love with him, and she was so sad.

"So I pulled this out and we finished the song, although she was sad the whole time. And thatís Jimmy Rankin singing on that tune with me, he just sounds awesome, and somehow makes the song sound even lonelier."


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