ASSINIBOIA – The Saskatchewan Country Music Awards are always a party, and that bash took place in Assiniboia this year.
Traditionally, the awards are held in larger centres such as Regina, Saskatoon, and Prince Albert, but this year Assiniboia had the opportunity to show why they’re referred to as the Heart of the Golden South.
“It seemed to take forever to get here,” said Mayor of Assiniboia, Sharon Schauenberg of the anticipation for the big weekend to arrive. ”It’s been fantastic, and it’s a great way to showcase our community.”
Schauenberg also noted to positive economic impact from visitors travelling in for the big show, pleased to see bustling local businesses. In particular, she noted the excitement people showed for the host facility - the Southland Co-Op Centre - which ably proved Assiniboia can host performances.
“During the off season when we don’t have hockey tournaments, we want to facilitate other events,” Schauenberg explained. “This is a way to showcase our event centre for not only hockey, but also concerts. The sound in here is phenomenal!”
Those sentiments were echoed by performers as well, impressed with the sound quality and the facility itself.
In fact, the town was a bustle all week with activity, including a performance with Hal Schrenk and special guest Carrie Catherine at the Shurniak Art Gallery on June 7. Schrenk is no stranger to Assiniboia, having grown up in the town, then launching a highly successful career in music as a drummer, music producer, and director. Plus. He’s accumulated six SCMA awards as well in the past, remaining quite active in the organization.
“Im so excited to come back home,” he told SASKTODAY.ca just before the busy week commenced. “I’m really looking forward to connecting with some old friends. I think it’s just going to be great to be back there and ignite the community.”
Indeed, Schrenk was a very busy guy, not only providing expertise behind the drum kit during many weekend performances, but also being the music director for the entire event.
Thursday night featured the big Stars and Guitars concert at the Prince of Wales Centre with performances by JJ Voss and Jordyn Pollard.
“Those are my favourite - solo, intimate acoustic shows,” Voss said of the banquet. “You get to connect with the audience in a different sort of way.
He was also quite impressed with the work that went into hosting the 34th edition of the awards.
“This looks like a world-class show right here,” he said moments before the awards show began. “Assiniboia did a wonderful job of hosting there’s a lot of work that goes into putting one of these together. The people stepped up, and it all came together.”
The SCMAs celebrate Saskatchewan artists, who have a tight knit, almost familial connection with each other.
“It’s such a small world, even nationally, everybody knows everybody somehow,” Justin LaBrash told SASKTODAY.ca before the show. “It’s a very welcoming industry, there’s really no room for nasty competition and backstabbing like people may think the music industry is.”
As for physically being at the event, LaBrash admitted to being a bit overwhelmed.
“I’m shocked - probably more shocked than anyone else, but I’m very grateful,” he said. “I’ve never been one to care win or lose, I’m just always happy that my peers deem me worthy of being on the ballot alongside such amazing names. I’m just happy to be here, honestly.”
Steve Huber, SCMA President, thanked the nominees for their efforts during his introductory comments as the awards show kicked off.
“You’re going to be recognized not only for the talent that you have, but for your contribution to country music in Saskatchewan in general,” he said.”Your creativity and dedication have undoubtedly left a mark in our industry.”
As for the awards themselves, a few faces kept appearing at the podium. Probably Shaunavon’s most famous musical family - The Hunter Brothers - received four awards. Another southern artist, hailing from Weyburn, would make good on his own tongue-in-cheek comment “I really hope you get sick of my face tonight,” as Justin LaBrash racked up three SCMA nods.
Award winners are as follows (in order of presentation):
• Female Artist Achievement Award - Tenille Arts
• Group of the Year Achievement Award - The Hunter Brothers
• Recording Studio of the Year - Bart McKay Productions
• Keyboard Player of the Year - Jeffery Straker
• Songwriter of the Year - “Running Away” - Justin LaBrash, Doug Sylvester, and Dan Sully
• Fiddle Player of the Year - Dean Bernier
• Emerging Artist of the Year - Adam Johnson
• On-Air personality of the Year - Cody Glydon
• Country Music Person of the Year - Bart McKay
• Bass Player of the Year - Luke Hunter
• Interactive Artist of the Year - The Hunter Brothers
• Drummer of the Year - Darcy Deschambault
• Country Album of the Year - “The Neon Palm Tree” - Justin LaBrash
• Guitar Player of the Year - Scott Patrick
• Alternative Country Album of the Year - “Everybody But Me” - Jake Vaadeland
• Record Producer of the Year - Bart McKay. Song - “Watch It,” artist Brett Kissel.
• Music Director of the year - Colin Lovequist
• Video of the Year - Letter to Dad - JJ Voss
• Radio Station of the Year (secondary market) - 105 CJVR (105.1FM Melfort)
• Radio Station of the Year (major market) - 92.9 The Bull (92.9FM Saskatoon)
• Music Venue of the Year - The Happy Nun Cafe
• Music Festival of the Year - Country at the Creek
• Indigenous Artist of the Year - Teagan Littlechief
• Single of the Year - “Back Then, Right Now” - Tenille Arts
• National/International Artist of the Year - The Hunter Brothers
• Legend and Legacy Award - Faster Gun
• Female Artist of the Year - Shantaia
• Male Artist of the Year - Justin LaBrash
The SCMA is a non-profit organization that promotes country music created right here in Saskatchewan. They’re dedicated to showcasing homegrown talent not only to attract the attention of local audiences, but across Canada and all around the world.