There weren’t any wide-angle shots of a wildly applauding crowd, but there was no shortage of noise being made at the 2020 East Coast Music Awards (ECMA).
The pre-recorded, digital gala was originally scheduled for April 29 at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, but was shifted online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Host this year was Newfoundland and Labrador comedy legend Mary Walsh. She started the show by acknowledging, jokingly, the fear she has with the current state of the world.
These days, she said she looks out the window wondering which chapter of Revelations we’re on, before moving on to introducing Matt Mays and his band to rock the house.
The first award to be presented was the Roots/Traditional Recording of the Year to Natalie MacMaster for her album “Sketches.”
An impassioned solo performance by Newfoundland’s Damhnait Doyle showcased her soaring vocals, vibrating up to the higher reaches of her range and hovering there, as if at risk of falling, but always landing gracefully.
Francophone Recording of the Year was announced next and went to Jacobus from Nova Scotia.
“Our next group, the pride of New Brunswick … Motherhood,” Mary Walsh said, before throwing to the three-piece band playing in a bowling alley.
Motherhood consists of guitar, keys and drums. They played a dark, slightly country-tinged, pop tune, with strange rhythms and a keyboard sounding like marimbas. The song abruptly changed to an up-tempo, organ-inflected, almost gospel part, before switching again, to a jumpy rhythm. As if that wasn’t enough, it shifted again, this time to a waltz, with the guitars becoming distorted every so often, always accompanied by open and washy hi-hats.
Halifax’s Zamani, a producer, arranger, vocalist and writer, performed a song reminiscent of mid-'90s R&B, with perfected vocal runs over a deep beat, stuttering hi-hats and organ sounds.
The seven-piece Eastern Owl, the St. John's-based group that describes itself as an Indigenous-led, all-nations, women’s drum group, performed a low key, folk tune, with layered vocals, guitar and drum. A chorus of seven singers chanting, introduced in the middle and layered in the end, brought new energy to the performance. They would later win Indigenous Artist of the Year.
St. John’s own Tom Power of CBC presented the award for the Solo Recording of the Year, which went to Newfoundland’s Tim Baker for his album “Forever Overhead.” Baker, the frontman for the on-hiatus band Hey Rosetta!, would also win Folk Recording of the Year. As well, the video for his song, “All Hands,” directed by Newfoundlander Jordan Canning was named Video of the Year.
AWARDS AND HONOURS
- Album of the Year: Wintersleep — “In The Land Of” (Producers: Tony Doogan, Wintersleep)
- Blues Recording of the Year: Myles Goodwyn —“Myles Goodwyn and Friends of the Blues 2 “
- Bucky Adams Memorial Award: Jon Samuel
- Classical Recording of the Year: Marc Djokic — “Solo Seven”
- Contemporary Roots Recording of the Year: The East Pointers — “Yours to Break”
- Country Recording of the Year: Dave Sampson — “All Types of Ways”
- Dance Recording of the Year: Famba — “Swear to God”
- Electronic Recording of the Year: Rich Aucoin — “Release”
- Folk Recording of the Year: Tim Baker — “Forever Overhead”
- Francophone Recording of the Year: Jacobus — “Caviar”
- Group Recording of the Year: Wintersleep — “In The Land Of”
- Indigenous Artist of the Year: Eastern Owl
- Inspirational Recording of the Year: Ian Foster and Nancy Hynes — “A Week in December”
- Instrumental Recording of the Year: Florian Hoefner — “First Spring”
- Jazz Recording of the Year: Florian Hoefner — “First Spring”
- Loud Recording of the Year: Spirit of the Wildfire — “Bittersweet Nothings”
- Pop Recording of the Year: Neon Dreams — “Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams”
- R&B/Soul Recording of the Year: Laura Roy — “Forte”
- Rap/Hip-Hop Recording of the Year: Jacobus — “Caviar”
- Rising Star Recording of the Year: Dave Sampson — “All Types of Ways”
- Rock Recording of the Year: Wintersleep — “In The Land Of”
- Roots/Traditional Recording of the Year: Natalie MacMaster — “Sketches”
- Solo Recording of the Year: Tim Baker — “Forever Overhead”
- Song of the Year: Wintersleep — “Beneficiary” (Producers: Tony Doogan, Wintersleep)
- Songwriter of the Year: The East Pointers
- Fans' Choice Entertainer of the Year: Jimmy Rankin
- Fans' Choice Video of the Year: Jason Benoit — “Slow Hand” feat. Leah Daniels (Director: Tim Deegan)
- Company of the Year: The Syrup Factory
- Event of the Year: Celtic Colours International Festival
- Graphic/Media Artist of the Year: Deep Hollow Print
- Management/Manager of the Year: Jones & Co.
- Media Outlet of the Year: The East
- Media Person of the Year: Bill Roach
- Producer of the Year: Daniel Ledwell
- Studio Engineer of the Year: Thomas Stajcer
- Studio of the Year: Soundpark Studios
- Venue of the Year: The Ship Pub
- Video of the Year: Tim Baker — “All Hands” (Director: Jordan Canning)
- Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction: Ron Hynes
- Directors’ Special Achievement Award: Measha Brueggergosman
- Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award: Shanneyganock
- Industry Builder Award: Tony Murray
- Musician’s Achievement Award: Kelly Russell
- Stompin’ Tom Awards
- Kinnon & Betty Beaton (CB)
- - Chuck Teed (N.B.)
- - Wonderful Grand Band (N.L.)
- - Brent Williams (N.S.)
- - Paul Bernard (P.E.I.)
The Halifax duo Neon Dreams performed its take on danceable pop. Light whistling, simple melodies, both acoustic and electric drums and synthesizers, fleshed out their sound. Lead vocalist Frank Kadillac did some crowd work with the at-home audience before going into the song “High School Dropout.”
A brief foray into a faux commercial for a product called “Never Happened At-Ol,” which made fun of Canadians who marvel at the problems in America, without recognizing our own past, was presented by Walsh.
It can be taken as a suppository she said, but make sure to take the stick out first.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Shanneyganock performed before thanking the ECMA’s for the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award they received this year.
Prince Edward Island’s Rose Cousins performed a solo piano version of her song “The Benefits of Being Alone,” her understated vocal delivery complemented by the light of several candles.
A socially distant, full-band performance from Baker set the virtual stage for the Fan’s Choice Entertainer of the Year award, which went to Cape Breton’s Jimmy Rankin.
Fan’s Choice Video of the Year honours went to Jason Benoit for his song “Slow Hand,” which featured Leah Daniels and was directed by Tim Deegan.
Five years after his death, Ron Hynes was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. His nephew Joel Hynes accepted the award on his behalf.
“It’s just a breathtaking honour,” said Joel Thomas Hynes, who along with Glenn Simmons, Shaye, Colleen Power and Lennie Gallant paid tribute to his uncle with a backing band that included Sandy Morris, who like Simmons, was a former member of the Wonderful Grand Band with Ron Hynes.
Last year’s winner, Classified, presented the award for Album of the Year to Halifax’s Wintersleep, for its album “In the Land Of,” one of four wins for the band.
Geraldine Hollett and Phil Churchill of Newfoundland’s The Once were joined by the hand puppet of Andrew Dale, the other member of the group, in presenting the award for Songwriter of the Year to Prince Edward Island’s The East Pointers.
Walsh congratulated all the winners and nominees before four-time ECMA winners, Wintersleep, danced the virtual audience out. Two of the members, drummer and pianist, performed together in the same room, placed between three tall screens on which the other members were being displayed, until the screens went dark.