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country music

East meets West

Dean Brody

Dean Brody

By Trevor J. Adams

Halifax goes a little bit country as the city celebrates some of Canadian music’s top talents.

The Canadian Country Music Association Awards come to Halifax for only the second time in the event’s history. In addition to the gala awards show, the celebrations include Country Music Week, jam-packed with special events for music lovers.

First on the calendar is the CCMA Songwriters’ Series, beginning on September 10 and continuing through September 13. The Schooner Showroom at Casino Nova Scotia on Upper Water Street hosts, as artists explore the songwriter’s craft. Industry veterans and rising stars will share the stage for an intimate acoustic performance series.

Meaghan Blanchard

Meaghan Blanchard

Also on September 10, the World Trade and Convention Centre hosts the CCMA Discovery Showcase. The event brings together six finalists from the association’s Discovery Program for up-and-coming talents. Beverley Mahood hosts, while each artist performs separately for the secret panel of judges.

The finalists were selected through a rigorous, nationwide jury selection process. Since then, they’ve learned in-depth, about the music business and artist development through industry-led information sessions and seminars, performance and vocal coaching, and styling.

The roster includes Meaghan Blanchard (Hunter River, P.E.I.), Raquel Cole (Vernon, B.C.), Ray Gibson (Maple Ridge, B.C.), Maddison Krebs (Okotoks, Alberta), Katia Zuccarelli (Port Credit, Ontario), and Sykamore (Calgary, Alberta).

Up next is the CCMA Legends Show on September 11 at the Dalhousie Arts Centre. Beverly Mahood hosts this special
tribute to Canadian country hits of the past by pairing young talents and industry veterans.

Gord Bamford

Gord Bamford


Ridley Bent


Brett Kissel


The lineup includes Gord Bamford, Tim Chaisson, Patricia Conroy, Tracey Brown, and many others. The same night, the Cunard Centre on Marginal Road hosts a rollicking Kitchen Party.

Return to the Cunard Centre on September 12 for FanFest, a free afternoon show featuring back-to-back live performances by a collection of fan-favourite artists. Attendees will have the opportunity to get their picture taken with these country music celebs at the CCMA FanFest photo wall.

The celebrations continue back at Casino Nova Scotia that night, as the CCMA All Star Band Awards honours the hardworking musicians who spend hours perfecting their skills and supporting artists both on stage and behind the scenes.

Finally, the Scotiabank Centre on Duke Street hosts the eponymous awards show on September 13. The finalists are a who’s-who of Canadian country music scene. Gord Bamford and Nova Scotia’s own Dean Brody lead the pack with six nominations apiece. Following close behind are Brett Kissel and Dallas Smith, with four nominations each.

Tickets are available at ticketatlantic.com. The show airs on CBC and CMT.

Lady Antebellum at the Scotiabank Saddledome

And the Grammy Goes To…


Lady Antebellum in Calgary March 16, 2012. Image courtesy of Live Nation

Hot on the heels of a second consecutive Grammy win for best country album, Lady Antebellum’s Own The Night 2012 World Tour makes a Calgary stop tonight. (more…)

Honky-tonk Beginnings

The early career years of country music king George Strait



See George Strait at the Saddledome on July 11. For tickets call Ticketmaster, 403-777-0000.

When it comes to the archetypal cowboy, George Strait fits the stereotype down to a tee. He grew up on a Texas ranch, knows how to rope a steer, wears his Wranglers starched, and is rarely seen without his Resistol hat. He’s got the love of a good woman (he’s been with wife Norma for almost 40 years), is a hard worker (he’s had 57 number one hits) and is musically influenced by “the greats”: Merle Haggard and George Jones.

To the outside world, he is known for being shy—a reputation that longtime friends and crewmates, Tommy Foote and Mike Daily say is not without merit.

Tommy Foote is Strait’s road manager. Back in the “old days” he was the drummer for Ace in the Hole—the band that has been Strait’s touring band since before his manager Erv Woolsey got him signed onto MCA Records. Mike Daily is another original Ace in the Hole band member, he plays the steel guitar.

Both Foote and Daily get nostalgic when talking about their early years. “We were young, doing what we loved to do. It was the best time of my life,” Foote says. When Foote, Daily, Ron Cabal, and Terry Hale were college students, they were in a band called Stoney Ridge.

“We had four band members, but no singer. We auditioned a few people, but none of them worked quite right,” Daily says. “We had a bulletin board in the student centre at the college where we posted signs saying ‘Looking for a singer,’ George saw it and auditioned.”