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There's no shortage of great music in Saskatchewan

SaskMusic will hand out its awards on Jan. 21. Take a look at the list of this year’s finalists. A column.
Music Notes

It’s a common complaint I hear: the music today isn’t very good.

Admittedly, this generation of musicians won’t be my favourite. In fact, many of my favourite songs and albums were released before I was born.  

And there was lots of great music in the 1980s and 1990s, although I don’t get as nostalgic about ‘80s music as some in my generation. 

But there’s still lots of good music being produced. You just have to look for it. 

SaskMusic will hand out its awards on Jan. 20. It’s a celebration of the tremendous talent that currently exists in Saskatchewan, and the quality music being produced.

Granted, every musician isn’t going to appeal to every listener. But odds are you’re going to find someone in this province that you’ll enjoy, if you’re willing to look.

Commercial success isn’t their goal. They know they aren’t going to be making big money with their albums. Sure, they’ll be happy if lightning strikes and they do attain big success. But for most of them, they want to release something that showcases the talent of everyone involved, whether it be playing an instrument, singing or songwriting.

But since they aren’t preoccupied with commercial success, the finished product is often much better.

Still, you might know more names than you realize from our province’s music scene, and many of them have played in the southeast. For example, six years ago, the Hunter Brothers, who won the annual SaskMusic Top Albums competition for 2021, did a promotional video in the Mercury’s building before a concert in Estevan. They weren’t big then. They’re pretty big now.   

Take a look at the list of this year’s finalists. There are some familiar names. And there are more musicians who won’t be finalists this year.  

If you haven’t heard of them, I encourage you to check them out. 

A lot of these talented Saskatchewan musicians are from our backyard. Jeff D. Michel, who I’ve known for about 20 years, released an album late last year. He finished 10th in the Best Sask. Albums contest. Last Birds, comprised of Lindsay Arnold and Mike Davis, were on the long list for the top album contest.  

I know the top 10 was decided by a public vote, but if Last Birds didn’t crack the top 10, it shows you how many quality albums came out of this province in 2021.  

There are a lot of really good musicians down here. Some are just getting started, like Carlyle’s Morgan Robertson. Others have been around for a long time, like Oxbow’s Jim Galloway or Bromhead’s The Daae Family.

Some have left Estevan, like Joel Henderson (who performs under the name Poor Nameless Boy) and Chris Henderson.

I’ve had the pleasure of hearing a lot of them, and we are always happy to publish stories about them.

I’m still hoping that we’ll one day get the Library Voices rock opera that was in the works before COVID-19 hit.  

And we have some pretty awesome places to listen to music down here. The Happy Nun Café in Forget is a finalist for top venue. If you’ve been to a concert there, you’ll understand why it’s a favourite for musicians and spectators alike.  

For bigger concerts, Affinity Place is a great place for a show. And the Orpheum Theatre in Estevan proved itself to be a great, intimate setting for an enjoyable concert.  

It’s a similar story in each province. You’ll find talented performers at the grassroots level, looking to create a great product.

I’m not going to be listening to a top 40 music station any time soon. I couldn’t name half of the singers and bands currently in the top 40. I couldn’t certainly name you their top songs.

The last couple of years haven’t been easy for musicians, whether they be cabaret acts playing cover tunes, or big name acts used to playing in front of tens of thousands of fans. They haven’t been able to perform live. They haven’t been able to tour. 

Concerts have been pushed back and rescheduled time after time.  

Not only are live performances an important part of a musician’s livelihood, but they provide the thrill of performing in front of a crowd. It’s a rush when spectators are singing along or dancing to the music.  

So before you question where all the great musicians have gone, take the time to find the great music. Find something you like. You might be surprised to find out where they’re from.