Abigail Lapell, herself a long-time curator of songsters with her monthly Early Birds sessions at the Tranzac in Toronto, began the first round with Indigo Blue from her Hide Nor Hair album, which would win her the Contemporary Album Of The Year prize on Sunday night.
Left, she is congratulated by Sarah Jane Scouten.
Jim Bryson, a workhorse producer and sideman for many of the nominated artists sang a meditative song about divorce that seemed to hold a plaintive echo of Gord Downie's voice at its core. Bryson was once an itinerant touring musician with the Hip. Ken Yates, (winner~English Songwriter and New Emerging Artist Of The Year), who benefitted from Bryson's production skills on his album Huntsville, sang a new song and then passed the deal to Catherine Durand. Nominated as French Songwriter Of The Year, Catherine lured the room into smoky seductions with ballads from her elegant La Pluie Entre Nous CD.
Hidden Roots Collective, who harmonized radiantly in a sometimes sunlit corner of the room, eventually got around to a re-imagining of Leonard Cohen's Suzanne that flooded the room with affection and a sweetly melancholy pride.
The whole ensemble was given a lift by the late arrival of Lisa Muswagon, a Cree singer from Cross Lake Manitoba, who related some fondly allusive animal episodes from the legendary journey of a rabbit to retrieve a lost dance. Each one led into a drummed chant expressing the feelings of the titular rabbit, Waupoos, from her album Rabbits and Buffalo. She was nominated as Aboriginal Songwriter Of The Year. She stayed with us to continue her stories as a second wave of performers arrived.
Sarah Jane Scouten, wearing a faux fur crown, set some country inklings loose in the room and tenderized us to the core with the heartfelt voice that won her a nomination for Traditional Singer Of The Year. Her friend Winona Wilde demonstrated her insight into some lyrically dark situations and then Newfoundland's Dave Penny raised laugh lines and eyebrows with his densely rhymed tirades on gambling, bicycle culture, and the pros and cons of the accordion, all delivered without a translator. His enthusiasm for the diversity of the slate and the ambience it created warmed the room appreciably. He was up for Traditional Singer Of The Year with his All Turned Around CD, in what proved to be a very competitive category this year. Sarah Jane voiced the opinion that adding a Traditional Country classification to the awards might help ease the congestion in some of the other categories.
The window seat had been taken over by a symbiotic duo of perfectly attuned Whitby teens working as Moscow Apartment, who charmed and conquered the room with their honey timbres and rich arrangements. On Sunday night they would take the trophy for Young Performers Of The Year, the conferring of which is a central aspect of the C.F.M.A.'s mandate to cultivate new roots and branches.
And finally, straight from the frosty complications of the 401, and also a nominee for Aboriginal Songwriter Of The Year, Julian Taylor made it just in time to sing a few pensive songs about beauty and heritage and to deepen the bond between the audience and the high winds of song that prevailed, with banners and drums, throughout the whole wondrous afternoon.