Host Shania Twain was by far the biggest winner at the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Awards at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton last night. She took home four trophies, the Apple Music Fan's Choice award, the Top Selling Album and Top Selling Canadian Album of the Year awards (both for her comeback record Now), and the career achievement Generation Award (presented to her by Alessia Cara).
More significantly, however, this was a triumphant night for female Canadian country artists. Whereas US country music remains firmly dominated by good ole boys in hats, females have a much stronger presence on the Canadian scene.
Winners on Sunday night included Jess Moskaluke, and Meghan Patrick, while Sirius XM Rising Star winner The Reklaws is a brother/sister duo. In accepting her second straight Female Artist of the Year honour, Patrick dedicated it "to all the girls. We are killing it this year!"
The gals also delivered many of the strongest performances of the two-hour show, via Jessica Mitchell, Serena Ryder, Lindsay Ell, Terri Clark, Patrick, Moskaluke, and more.
The tone was set in the opening, with a medley of Shania Twain hits performed by Kira Isabella, Madeline Merlo, and Jess Moskaluke. Twain joined them onstage at its conclusion, declaring "it feels so good to be home."
Twain reminisced that "I won my first CCMA Award 23 years ago, and it was here in Hamilton. This city has heart and grit, and it has definitely got the fans."
The pride of Timmins has had a significant influence on the younger crop of singers. Backstage, Merlo told the media that being part of the opening tribute and getting to hang out with Twain "is the coolest thing that has ever happened to me." Kira Isabella concurred, explaining that "Shania was a big reason for me getting into country music. She was at our rehearsals, even helping with our choreography, and she was so sweet and down to earth."
Another female country veteran given a deserved turn in the spotlight was Terri Clark, who was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame by Keith Urban. Her Nashville friends Reba McEntire and Brooks and Dunn sent congrats via video, while Suzy Bogguss trekked north to join Patrick and Mitchell in the onstage tribute to Clark.
Backstage, Clark credited McEntire with the best career advice, "try new things." She called receiving the honour from Urban "a career highlight," adding that "I believe he's the most talented artist in the genre, plus he's a pure good spirit." She also declared "I have a lot of gas left in the tank. Retirement is for people who don't like what they do. They'll have to drag me offstage!"
Adding international star power to the show, Urban also impressed with his performance. Other males acquitting themselves admirably included The Washboard Union, Paul Brandt, High Valley, Dallas Smith, Tim Hicks, and Brett Kissel. The latter paired with Serena Ryder on versions of their respective hits "Anthem" and What I Wouldn't Do," a show highlight. Ryder explained that she and Kissel have become good friends and songwriting partners.
The enthusiastic fan response to the big show would indicate that the CCMA has made a smart decision to bring back Hamilton as the host city for Country Music Week and the CCMAs in 2020, news that was announced at the Gala dinner on Saturday night.
Here are the 2018 CCMA Award winners from last night:
FORD Album of the Year
Past the Past - Jess Moskaluke
Apple Music Fans' Choice Award
Female Artist of the Year
Group or Duo of the Year
The Washboard Union
Male Artist of the Year
Sirius XM Rising Star
Single of the Year
"Chills" - James Barker Band
A complete list of 2018 CCMA Award winners can be found at ccma.org