The Wilkinsons — father Steve, daughter Amanda, 18, and brother Tyler, 16 — dominated the Canadian Country Music Awards Monday night (Sept. 11) for a second consecutive year, racking up four major honors.
“We are completely, like, dumbfounded,” Amanda said as the group accepted their second award of the night, Single of the Year, for “Jimmy’s Got a Girlfriend,” the first single released from their second album. The Wilkinsons opened the show with a performance of the award-winning single, a teasing, teen-oriented tune about new love.
“We really want to thank the fans,” Steve Wilkinson said. “Radio plays our songs, you request them. Radio plays those songs, but if you guys didn’t phone in, they wouldn’t play ‘em.”
The album, Here and Now, was named Album of the Year. Accepting, Steve Wilkinson thanked the Canadian Country Music Association. “You guys are what it’s all about,” he said, pointing into the crowd of 8,000 at the Skyreach Centre in Edmonton, Alberta.
The Nashville-based trio, originally from Trenton, Ontario, repeated as Vocal Duo or Group of the Year, and they unseated Shania Twain as winner of the Fans’ Choice Award. Last year, the Wilkinsons won five awards.
“This past couple of years have been absolutely tremendous for us,” Amanda said when the group picked up Vocal Duo or Group honors. “You fans, we can’t thank you enough, and we’re looking so forward to being here and touring this November, so we’ll see you then.”
The CCMA handed out its awards during a two-hour show co-hosted by Terri Clark and Paul Brandt. For the first time, the show was seen live in the U.S., carried by TNN. TNN and CMT Canada teamed up to telecast the show in Canada.
After a short “Survivor” spoof and a litany of things that distinguish Canadians from their neighbors to the south, the hosts pointed out that the combined reach of the cable networks would go to over 80 million homes across North America. “We are Canadians!” they proudly proclaimed.
The biggest surprise of the night came when Michelle Wright was named Female Vocalist of the Year, unseating Twain. Wright, dressed in a provocatively plunging orange suit, had just finished performing “When I Found You” on a stage filled with balloons.
“Boy oh boy, that’s really wonderful, thank you so much,” she said as the audience in the Skyreach Centre rose to its feet. Wright won the award in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993. She thanked her manager of 14 years, Brian Ferriman, and his wife, Sue Ferriman. “We have shared the absolute highs and the absolute lows of this business. I admire you, I love you, I respect you, you’re one of my best friends in the whole wide world,” she said to Ferriman.
“I’ve just got two things to say,” host Clark quipped when she returned to the stage. “Jennifer Lopez ain’t got nothin’ on our Michelle Wright … and nice balloons.”
Brandt, from Calgary, Alberta, was named Male Vocalist of the Year for the fourth consecutive year. The crowd also stood and gave him an extended ovation. “This is so special to me. I thank you guys so much,” he said. “Every single time that you guys have me up here for an award, you come out to a show, it just means so much to me and I appreciate that.”
Brandt’s video for “That’s the Truth” was named Video of the Year. He thanked his fans, his director, Thom Oliphant, and his wife, Lizzie. After four U.S.-released albums on Reprise, including a Christmas title featuring a duet with Clark, Brandt is without an American record label though he continues to record for Warner Music Canada. His first album, Calm Before the Storm, released in 1996, was his most successful in the States. He performed “What I Want to Be Remembered For” during the telecast.
Tara Lyn Hart, a 22-year-old mother of two young children, earned the Rising Star Award designation. The Roblin, Manitoba, native had seven nominations, more than any other entrant. Her self-titled debut album was released last year in Canada. Hart performed “Stuff That Matters.”
“I was personally rooting … I mean, everybody was so great, but I wanted Adam to win so we can share this buddy, we’re labelmates,” she said, referring to 15-year-old Adam Gregory, a fellow nominee for Rising Star. “I love Adam too, man, he rocks.”
Steve Fox and co-writer Robin Branda won the SOCAN Song of the Year honor as writers of Montgomery Gentry’s “Daddy Won’t Sell the Farm.” That’s heavy, in more ways than one,” Fox said as he accepted his award. Also nominated for the Rising Star Award, Fox performed “I Just Don’t Know Anymore,” during the telecast. SOCAN is the Canadian performing rights organization which collects royalties for performances on behalf of songwriters and publishers.
All but two CCMA Awards are selected by the trade organization’s 1,700 members. The Fan’s Choice Award, sponsored by Chevrolet, is based on fan phone calls, while Top Selling Album goes to the release with the highest sales figures in Canada. The Dixie Chicks won last year for Wide Open Spaces and repeated this year with Fly.
“We want to thank the fans, first and foremost,” Natalie Maines said in a videotaped acceptance. “Y’all are the ones who bought the album and that means the most to us.”
Also in the videotaped segment, Martie Seidel pointed out that the group’s “Fly” tour began in Canada — June 1 in Winnipeg, Manitoba — and sister Emily Robison added, “Canadians were smart enough to bring ‘Earl’ to No. 1, so we think y’all are special.” The controversial “Goodbye Earl” stalled at No. 13 in the U.S.
Twain, winner of the Fans’ Choice Award in 1999, had six nominations but did not win an award this year and occasionally there were boos in the crowd when her name was read. Twain last released a new album, Come On Over, in 1997 and she did not attend the CCMA Awards last year or this year.
Julian Austin, also nominated six times, did not win a major award though his band, the Austinators, won Back Up Band of the Year and Josh Levy won Video Director of the Year for a clip of Austin’s “Take the Money and Run.” From Calgary, Alberta, Austin performed the old Steve Miller hit, “Take the Money and Run,” on the show.
Patty Loveless, a former Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year, also was on hand for the show. She performed “That’s the Kind of Mood I’m In” from her recently released album, Strong Heart, and she presented the Fan’s Choice Award to the Wilkinsons.
Clark did not win an award during the evening but performed “A Little Gasoline” from her upcoming album, Fearless.
Natalie MacMaster and Alison Krauss won the honor for Vocal/Instrumental Collaboration of the Year for “Get Me Through December.” The award was not presented during the telecast.
On their fourth trip to the stage, the Wilkinsons accepted the fan-voted honor. “Wow, this is awesome,” said Tyler. “The award name just speaks for itself. It’s because of you guys up there that we’re standing up here. You guys are the best people in the world.”
“Thank you Canada,” Steve Wilkinson added. “You guys are absolutely the best.”
A number of other industry awards were presented during a separate event Sunday night. Read the complete list of CCMA award winners.