The Canadian Folk Music Awards 2022 – winners and highlights
How was this already the 17th annual Canadian Folk Music Awards?
Why, I remember when it was just a twinkle in the eyes of people like Borealis Records co-founder Grit Laskin and Penguin Eggs magazine founder and publisher Roddy Campbell.
Now Roddy’s retired, Penguin Eggs is a joyful memory and Borealis is sold to Linus Entertainment but the CFMAs remain a banner event on the Canadian roots music calendar, one that is arguably more relevant than ever before in an era when live music will likely continue to face challenges due to COVID-19.
When you can’t tour, you need other ways to bring attention to great new music, and let’s face it, everyone loves an awards show.
So it was great to see members of the Canadian folk family gather, in person and online, in a spirit of community to celebrate some fantastic releases.
Just the right mix of awards show and concert
The event was hosted, as it was on Friday night, by original host Benoit Bourque, of groups such as Matapat and La Bottine Souriante, and newbie host Chelsey June of the duo Twin Flames – who, can I just say, has a really lovely speaking voice in addition to a beautiful singing voice.
The CFMAs don’t overdo the guest presenter thing, much to the relief of many audience-members I’m sure, but the appearances of PEI Senator Brian Francis, Juno-winning PEI singer-songwriter Catherine MacLellan and particularly East Pointer Jake Charron were much-appreciated nods to the host Island.
The performance line-up mixed live and online components to great effect for those of us watching at home.
A few years ago, the CFMAs pioneered a format that is unique among awards shows, handing out the approximately 20 awards over the span of two evenings during which several of the nominees also perform three-song showcases.
It keeps the focus on the music – as opposed to the posturing that occurs at some other events – and gives the audience a chance to get to know the artists in a more-than-cursory way.
Saturday showcase highlights
This year’s showcases certainly presented the selected nominees in the best possible light – the sound was outstanding and, the production values on the video components were excellent.
More importantly though, seeing the artists live was a reminder of how the energy of a live audience can utterly transform a performance.
Dana Sipos’ solo set with guitar conveyed its intimacy even through cyberspace and showcased Dana’s lovely, mournful vocals.
Young Mi’kmaq fiddler and singer-songwriter Morgan Toney was just plain electrifying.
The ensemble Bouches Bées, who I had never heard of, were a revelation with their gorgeous female vocal harmonies and captivating songwriting, and Solo Artist of the Year winner Alicia Toner showed up her powerhouse vocals in a way that you just can’t capture on record.
But for my money, the star of the night was Ian Tamblyn, a 74-year-old elder statesman of Canadian folk music and recent recipient of the Order of Canada.
He opened his set with his seminal track, “Woodsmoke and Oranges” and closed it with “In the Mist” from his brand new album, A Longing for Innocence – which he set up by likening the slowly-lifting haze to our exit from pandemic-related solitude.
The kids are alright
Before he played it, he praised the young musicians in the audience for their commitment to community-building and remarked, “You kids are alright.”
His heartfelt performance was rewarded with a standing ovation.
Before the proceedings closed, there was a video tribute to Grit and Judith Laskin, the two remaining founding board members of the CFMAs. Though it was not explicitly stated, I derived from this that they are retiring from their posts. If so, congratulations to both of them, tireless organizers in the folk community for decades and well-deserving of some relaxation.
Next year the awards show is off to Vancouver, provided the earth and humanity survive another trip around the sun.
Until then, here is a complete list of winners from this weekend’s ceremonies.
Instrumental Solo Artist of the Year – Cédric Dind-Lavoie for Archives
Instrumental Group of the Year – Frank Evans & Ben Plotnick for Madison Archives
Solo Artist of the Year – Alicia Toner for Joan
Contemporary Singer of the Year – Rob Lutes for Come Around
English Songwriter of the Year – Allison Russell for Outside Child
Indigenous Songwriters of the Year – Twin Flames for Omen
Producer of the Year – Cédric Dind-Lavoie for Archives
New/Emerging Artist of the Year – Allison Russell
Contemporary Album of the Year – Allison Russell for Outside Child
Oliver Schroer Pushing the Boundaries Award – Cédric Dind-Lavoie for Archives
Young Performer of the Year – Isabella Samson
Children’s Album of the Year – Splash’N Boots for Heart Parade
Ensemble of the Year – Elliott Brood for Keeper
French Songwriter(s) of the Year – Reney Ray
Vocal Group of the Year – Twin Flames (Chelsey June et Jaaji) for Omen
The Slaight Music Unsung Hero Award – Geneviève Nadeau
Traditional Singer of the Year – Ewelina Ferenc of Polky for Songs From Home
Traditional Album of the Year – Kitchen Days by Braden Gates
Global Roots Album of the Year – Wutiko by Elage Diouf
Single of the Year – “Gospel First Nation” by William Prince