From now until the 2021 Juno Awards are presented on June 6, we will offer this weekly column to help you get to know some of the nominees in all categories a little better.
Meet the 2021 Juno Nominees:
Nominated in the category Blues Album of the Year
Angel Forrest has been singing the blues for over 30 years, and although over that time the Montreal native has been honoured within her home province, and earned multiple Maple Blues Awards, she’s never had many expectations of being recognized beyond that.
Until this year, that is, when her latest album Hell Bent With Grace caught the attention of the Junos for the first time. “When my name was announced as a nominee, the thought of possibly winning this prestigious Canadian award was overwhelming,” she says. “All the years of playing and creating, all the people involved with my career, all the potential for greater opportunities to share my music... Well, my slumber has been affected and a whole village of butterflies have moved into my belly since the announcement!”
Forrest made Hell Bent With Grace with her longtime co-writers and producers, Denis Coulombe and Ricky Paquette, and together they came up with a clutch of songs that range from party anthems to the importance of maintaining mental health. But tying it all together is Forrest’s wonderfully raspy voice that’s been her trademark ever since she first received widespread acclaim in 1997 for her Janis Joplin tribute show that also led to her Angel Sings Janis album.
While some blues purists would categorize Hell Bent With Grace’s sound instead as “blues-rock,” there’s no denying that Forrest puts every ounce of her heart and soul into what sings, and in the end that’s all that really matters.
“I never considered myself a singer,” she admits. “I just found so much joy and release in expressing myself through song. I’ve always tried to ‘sing my soul’—sometimes it’s pretty, sometimes it’s heart-wrenching, but it’s always real and true. I just want to get my story heard without any misunderstanding. My music is just me trying to get through to you, one word at a time.”
Hell Bent With Grace arrived on the heels of Forrest being named a finalist at the prestigious Memphis International Blues Challenge in 2018, and she’s eager to continue building her audience in the US once the opportunities present themselves again. But in the meantime, she’s been making the best of the situation in the absence of the human connection that’s always fuelled her drive to make music.
“We are fortunate to have a large online following, so my husband, who’s also my guitarist, and I did a virtual tour across Canada. But for me, this past year has been a real eye-opener. I am the kind of performer who dances in the crowd, and I’m a serious hugger. It’s part of how I feel about music being something that’s meant to shared--together. I never thought I'd say it, but I miss the crowds!”