Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Wailin' Jennys win a Juno!

The winnin' Jennies
The Winnipeg Free Press Sun Apr 3 2005

By Bartley Kives

BACK in the fall, things looked grim for the Wailin' Jennys, the Winnipeg folk trio known for its stunning, three-part vocal harmonies.
Cara Luft, one of the group's three singer-songwriters, abruptly quit the Jennys, citing musical differences with co-founders Ruth Moody and Nicky Mehta. A European tour and a promising career were suddenly left in limbo.

The Wailin' Jennys - Nicky Mehta, Annabelle Chvostek, Ruth Moody

To abuse a cliché, what a difference a season makes.

The April 2005 edition of the Jennys has a new member in Montrealer Annabelle Chvostek, a busy touring schedule and as of last night, a Juno Award for best roots and traditional album by a group.

Last night at the non-televised Juno Awards Gala at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, the Jennys won Canada's biggest roots-music musical honour for 40 Days, an album recorded while Luft was still in the band. In a dramatic move, she joined her former bandmates up on the podium to accept the award.

"It's an honour to be in the fine companies of all the nominees in this category. They're all friends of ours," said Luft, referring to Winnipeg roots quartet Nathan and Victoria trad act The Bills.

Cara Luft

Moody thanked record label Jericho Beach and distributor Festival Records. And Mehta gave kudos to the Manitoba Audio Recording Industry Association and arm's-length music-funding agency Manitoba Film & Sound.

"You guys are awesome. You're a huge reason why we're up here," she said.

Backstage, all three women were stunned by their good fortune.

"It's very exciting and personally gratifying, especially because this is in Winnipeg and our peeps are here," said Moody. "Other people were more confident than we were. We tried not to think about it," added Mehta, noting they had spent the past two days with the members of Nathan.

Ruth Moody

Asked what it felt like to win an award for work with a group to which she no longer belongs, Luft said, "It's a wonderful way to put a closing chapter on a part of our lives. It's a wonderful album, and I'm very proud of it."

The Jennys' win was the sole bright spot during an otherwise disappointing night for Manitoban recording artists, who had the potential to win a total of nine awards, including all four classical Junos.

Brandon violin virtuoso James Ehnes, the province's only double nominee, lost out to Ottawa-born pianist Angela Hewitt in the solo-classical-album slot and to New York-born Canadian violinist Jeanne Lamon and her Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in the large-ensemble classical category.

Eighty-four-year-old composer Robert Turner, an inspiring presence in Winnipeg for decades, conceded the classical composition trophy to Hungarian-born contemporary Istvan Anhalt.

And the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, paired up with soprano Measha Brueggergosman, lost the vocal-choral classical Juno to Tafelmusik and soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian.

Winnipeggers were also blanked in four more populist categories. As expected, Steinbach-born rock band the Waking Eyes were outshone by St. Catharines, Ont. phenomenon Alexisonfire in the new group of the year category.

Similarly, aboriginal soundscape creators Longhouse bowed to heavily favoured Calgary guitarist Oscar Lopez in the instrumental-album category, while filmmaker Benjamin Weinstein's video for The Reasons -- by Winnipeg indie-rock institution the Weakerthans -- was knocked off by rapper k-os's B-Boy Stance.

But Winnipeg rapper Fresh I.E., who received a 2004 Grammy nomination for his Red Letterz album, was expected to win the contemporary Christian/gospel album Juno for the same album. Instead, he bowed out to Okanagan Valley R&B artist Greg Sczebel. Manitoba's sole Juno win represents an improvement on 2004, when nobody from the province took home a prize. And with the awards taking place in Winnipeg, the one-for-10 record was overshadowed by the exuberance in the city itself.

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