This year’s Juno Awards — for the uninitiated, they’re like the Canadian Grammys, celebrating the best in Canadian music — will be held on Sunday night in London, Ont. If you don’t know who to root for in each of the prizes, you could do worse than to root for some hometown artists who either have roots in Ottawa, live here now, or call it their hometown. There’s plenty of talent from the 613 represented this year.
But where to start? Ottawa Matters has you covered with a recommendation for some of the Ottawa artists up for a prize this year.
Canada has an unusual knack for producing top-shelf female jazz players. Diana Krall. Molly Johnson. Bria Skonberg. After her first album, titled So Here We Are, you can probably go ahead and saxophonist Allison Young to that list. The Ottawa native put out a jazz record that’s solid front-to-back, with originals and a few standards thrown in.
It’s a tossup here, but for a sample of Young’s chops, listen to Young play the standard ‘Here’s That Rainy Day.’ Follow it right through to the next track, a bebop tune called ‘One Night Stan.'
Kaia Kater has been around. The Grenadian-Canadian singer songwriter grew up in Montreal, but has also lived in Ottawa, Wakefield, and is now based in Toronto. None of this is immediately apparent upon listening to her, though: Kater, who is nominated in the Contemporary Roots Album of the Year category for her album Grenades, sounds just as much a songwriter out of the Appalachians as she does from Quebec. (It helps that she studied in West Virginia on a banjo scholarship.)
Want to transport yourself to a quiet summer evening, somewhere further south than here? Close your eyes, put on some headphones, and tuck into the final track on her album, “Poets Be Buried.”
Belly, the Ottawa-based Palestinian-Canadian rapper, is nominated for Rap Recording of the Year for his album Immigrant. It’s a deeply personal and meditative album from a Muslim artist grappling with changes in life and the world at large.
A lot of this gets distilled into the album’s title track, “Immigrant,” which features American rapper Meek Mill and Sri Lankan-British rapper M.I.A.
It’s a little bit outside of Ottawa, but hailing from Elphin, Ont., is David Francey: a working-class folk singer who immigrated from Scotland at the age of 12. Francey got started in folk music at the age of 45, quickly celebrated for his traditional sound and evocative lyrics.
He’s nominated in the Traditional Roots Album of the Year category for his album The Broken Heart of Everything. Get started with Francey — and will be hard to stop — with his song “I Know It Won’t.”
If you’ve never heard Ottawa native Sue Foley play before, and her 2018 album The Ice Queen — nominated for Blues Album of the Year — is the first thing you’ve heard from her, it’ll take you no more than about four-and-a-half minutes into the second track until you’re muttering to yourself, “man, she can play.” It’s little wonder, then, that she attracts blues stars like Jimmie Vaughan (brother of Stevie Ray) and Billy F Gibbons of ZZ Top to play on her records.
Check out “81”:
Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine
You have probably heard Elijan Woods x Jamie Fine somewhere. Their breakout hit “Ain’t Easy” was everywhere for a while last year. )The song was a hit after appearing on the CTV show The Launch.)
The electro-pop duo met in 2014 at Algonquin College, and their debut EP, 8:47, was released last week on March 8, and it’s a demonstration that the duo are so much more than playin’ the hits. One of the best examples of the duo’s range, in production and vocals, is the explorative track “Humming,” which has both Woods’ production and Fine’s vocals swinging for the fences.