Canadian Country Music Awards: See y’all again in September 2020

Awards show turns into a Shania love fest

The Hamilton Spectator
By Graham Rockingham
September 10, 2018

Shania Twain, Keith Urban and the Canadian Country Music Awards have now left the building. But don't fret, country fans, they're coming back.

Well, maybe not Shania and Keith, but definitely the awards show.

Before Sunday night's nationally televised extravaganza had even started, Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Canadian Country Music Association president Tracy Martin let it slip that the awards would return to FirstOntario Centre in September 2020.

"The CCMAs are coming back to Hamilton in 2020," Martin told more than 950 members of the music industry gathered at the Hamilton Convention Centre Saturday night for the CCMA gala annual dinner.

That's a good thing for Hamilton, especially if the 2020 show is anything like the one awards show held Sunday night at FirstOntario Centre. Tourism Hamilton estimates it drew 10,000 visitors to the city over the past five days.

The show opened with CCMA nominees Jess Moskaluke, Kira Isabella and Madeline Merlo teaming up for a spectacular medley of Shania hits, with the star herself joining them for "Honey I'm Home."

Shania then took over the stage as host of a show that would turn into a love fest for the Timmins-born star.

"Man it feels so good to be home and even better to be coming to you live from Hamilton," said Shania, noting that she won her first CCMA award 23 years ago in Hamilton. "This is a country town. It's got the heart, it's got the grit and, judging from that opening, it's definitely got the fans."

Two hours later, the show closed with Paul Brandt joining Moskaluke, High Valley and the Hunter Brothers for a rousing rendition of Johnny Cash's classic "I Walk the Line."

In between, a few awards were handed out — Moskaluke took album of the year honours, while Dallas Smith won male artist of the year and Meghan Patrick won female artist of the year (she almost took a header trying to climb over a velvet rope barrier trying to get to the stage but recovered gracefully). The Washboard Union took home two awards for group of the year and roots act of the year.

Just to make sure the CBC TV audience knew the show was being broadcast from Hamilton, they added a few sure fire hints — such as having Tiger-Cats receiver Luke Tasker present the single of the year award to the James Barker Band for "Chills" (it was also the top selling country single in the country). The Ticat defence got equal time, with linebacker Simoni Lawrence presenting the Sirius XM Rising Star Award to Cambridge brother-sister duo The Reklaws.

The show also featured an unbelievably cute Kira Le, a young student from Hamilton's James MacDonald Elementary School, explaining how a $10,000 grant from the industry-funded Musiccounts program helped her school buy ukuleles.

"Playing music makes me feel better and focus on my other classes," Le said.

There was another nice Hamilton touch — the unveiling of a new countrified video version of Parachute Club's "Rise Up," the iconic empowerment anthem recorded 35 years ago at Hamilton's Grant Avenue Studio.

The video features the voices of Gord Bamford, Patrick, Tim Hicks, Tebey, Isabella, Kissel, Jason McCoy and The Washboard Union and is now available for download on iTunes. Proceeds from its sale will go to selected charities involved with youth as selected by Lorraine Segato, the Hamilton-born lead singer of Parachute Club.

Australian country rocker Keith Urban added some international star power to the show by performing his current hit "Never Coming Down." Urban returned to the stage a few minutes later to induct Terri Clark into the Canadian Country Hall of Fame.

Patrick, Suzy Bogguss and Jessica Mitchell joined Clark for a medley of her hits. Clark called the experience "truly humbling and surreal." There was another standing ovation. Clark later returned to the stage to sing a duet with Dallas Smith, "One Drink Ago."

Shania, as host, was everywhere — mingling with fans for "a big Hamilton hello" and rubbing shoulders with 11-year-old American yodelling sensation Mason Ramsey.

She also took home a few of her own awards — the fan choice award, as well as bestselling album of the year and bestselling Canadian album of the year.

Shania was even presented with a special CCMA Generation award by Grammy winning pop star Alessia Cara. The award, handed out to stars who introduce country music to non-country fans, has only been given out once before, to Taylor Swift.

"I faced a lot of harsh criticisms for bringing a different style to the county world, but fans and audiences embraced my music," Shania told the crowd. "My audience and fans are why I'm still here and loving what I do."

Shania, of course, got another standing ovation.