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The Juno Blues: Are there any good independent artists at the JUNOs? I’m tired of Buble and Nickleback

For years I’ve flip-flopped between caring deeply about the outcome of the Junos and being completely disinterested because Hedley and Nickelback are invariably nominated for album of the year. However, there are always at least a few nominees that give me some hope that giant award shows can provide more than photo-ops and press-quote material for major label artists and that independent musicians may actually derive some benefit from the added coverage.

Here are a couple of outliers in the list of nominees, that may not end up taking home any awards, but at least they’ll give the weekend a little more street cred if nothing else:

Catherine MacLellan “The Raven’s Sun” – Songwriter of the Year

Catherine MacLellan - The Raven's Sun (720px)My first pleasant surprise this year was seeing Catherine MacLellan not only nominated in the Roots/Traditional category, but also for Songwriter of the Year. Her beautiful traditional folk ballads like “Tell Me Luella” are nominated alongside Magic! and a guy who wrote Top 40 hits for Katy Parry and Pitbull. Though it is interesting company for MacLellan to be in to say the least, it’s great that the folks behind the Junos are willing to consider song writing from more than a purely sales-based perspective. MacLellan’s record may not win out against the Billboard singles, but it is great to see her getting some attention for her beautiful work on “The Raven’s Sun” where she pens outstanding lines like:

When cherry blossoms are blooming in the West

The East is blanketed in snow to rest

Just a little longer now

’til Spring will come around

Tanya Tagaq “Animism” – Alternative Album of the YearTanya-Tagaq-Animism

Tanya Tagaq has had her fair share of praise lately after winning the Polaris Prize and receiving all of the press associatedwith such an award. Seeing there is some cross-over between the world of Polaris Prize judges and the Juno’s selection process gives me hope that music critics in this country are starting ot broaden their minds about what constitutes a great record. It is also refreshing to see that Tagaq has been nominated for not only the Aboriginal Album of the Year but also Alternative Album of the Year, showing that the Junos is apparently willing to embrace a broader definition of “Alternative” music that encompasses more than pop/rock in minor keys and college radio buzz-bands, while also allowing Tagaq to break free of the pigeon hole that can so often trap Aboriginal artists.

The Deep Dark Woods “Jubilee” – Roots/Traditional Group of the Year

91wtT-3boEL._SL1500_Two years ago I searched the list of Juno nominees convinced that the Deep Dark Woods must be nominated for some award for their 2013 record Jubilee only to find them curiously absent. I was sure their wonderfully sprawling record at least merited a nomination for producer of the year or something of the like, but sure enough they had been snubbed. However, it appears the Juno’s crew has seen the light (or the DDWs actually submitted their record for nomination this year) as the band is nominated for Roots/Traditional Group of the year. Two years after Jubilee’s release, songs like Red, Red Rose and 18th of December still hit hard and fast, while epics like “The Same Thing” still leave me amazed at the bands endurance.

Alex Durlak, Jeff McMurrich & Bry Webb “Free Will” – Recording Package of the Year

I imagine there aren’t many people interested in the nominees for Recording Package of the Year, but if anyone ever deserved this award, it’s Bry Webb &co. Both of Webb’s first two solo LPs have been masterpieces musically as well as physically, featuring cover designs akin to what I imagine marble might look like if you could liquefy it. While it’s a shame the songs inside the beautiful packaging were not nominated, this award still speaks to the attention to detail that governs everything Webb &co. have released thus far.

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Ben Robinson, Music Director

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