Junos: not without our folk & roots
We sat it out.
Don’t get us wrong: we’re not boycotting. We were really “rooting” for artists who work in folk, roots, world, traditional and other genres we cover.
We also recognize the importance of the televised awards show to the Canadian music industry in general, and wish every artist publicly honoured last night – from Justin Bieber to Arcade Fire – all success in their careers.
But we were not in a hurry to watch an awards show that doesn’t present the music we believe in and support so passionately. (We did follow along on Twitter, just to stay in the game.)
The irony is, wherever their populist presentation preferences may lie, the Junos couldn’t get away from folk and roots music if they tried.
Take Neil Young, who won Artist Of The Year, Adult Alternative Album Of The Year, and the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award. Hipsters pour adoration over the guy like maple syrup, despite the fact he’s been absent from Canada for as long as the Junos have been in existence.
Neil Young earned a lot of cred with the thirty-somethings who were teens in the grunge era, but let’s not forget that he sprang out of Yorkville’s coffee house scene, a six-string strumming songwriter at the height of the folk era, and almost all his best-known tunes are folk songs. He even had a hit with a cover of the ultimate Canadian folk record, “Four Strong Winds.”
Daniel Lanois, who started off his extraordinary career engineering Stan Rogers albums, won Producer of the Year, for Young’s “Le Noise”. That album’s been called “experimental folk,” but was placed in the bizarre “Adult Alternative” category, which sounds like a slogan for Viagra. As Benjamin Boles of NOW Magazine wondered, “does ‘adult’ just mean that they’re influenced by roots music?”
Sarah McLachlan, Luke Doucet, k. d. lang (doing Leonard Cohen), Great Big Sea, Basia Bulat, and Royal Wood, to name only a few roots and folk-influenced artists, were all in the running for Junos OUTSIDE the roots and traditional categories.
Sometime folk-singer Dan Hill presented an award. Justin Rutledge and Sarah Harmer, Serena Ryder and The Sadies got their licks in on the big jam session, we hear. Dear me, Junos, your roots are showing!
Seems that on TV, as on radio, you have to make it big enough to be a cross-genre success to get the airtime, and at that point your roots are somehow redundant.
It’s unfortunate, because folk singers forged the Canadian sound, and roots influences continue to shape it — from Sylvia Tyson to Gordon Lightfoot to Tom Cochrane to Jann Arden to Hawksley Workman to Tegan and Sara.
Folk means people, after all. And roots are where your creative nourishment comes from.
All of which gives us hope, as folk, roots, blues, world, and trad music continue to thrive and reinvent themselves as essential elements of the Canadian sound today.
The Junos could be comfortable with their roots; they just don’t always realize where they are. They know where the TV ratings are, and they program their gala shows accordingly. They need to get the eyeballs to support the good work they do, and we respect that.
Thankfully, music is about ears, not eyes. And we know our roots when we hear them.