Despite COVID-19 trying to grab all the spotlight, Country Music Alberta (CMA) is determined to bring together the biggest names in the province’s country music landscape.
The legendary George Canyon and the quick-witted Mariya Stokes, the CMA’s 2019 Horizon Female Artist of the Year, are tapped to host the 10th annual CMA Awards Show Sunday, Feb. 28 on YouTube.
CMA president Bill Hanson, a decades-long friend of Canyon’s, said he feel the southern Alberta-based Calgary singer-songwriter is the ideal co-host for this unprecedented virtual awards ceremony.
“George is very honest. He shoots from the hip and has a great sense of humour. And he has that voice. It’s a very calming, a very natural superhero voice.”
He added Stokes' confidence and recording quality is appealing.
Awards producer Tera Lee Flaman called Stokes "a natural."
"She’s very likeable and she has a great sound. People really like her," Flaman said.
Among the recording artists lined up to perform during the awards ceremony are Gord Bamford, Lindsay Ell, Clayton Bellamy, Nice Horse, Ryan Lindsay, Brandon Lorenzo and Michela Sheedy.
“We have a combination of emerging and veteran artists. You want to change it up every year so people see some current faces, but also you want to see the best,” Hanson said.
Gord Bamford is one of the best. He spent more than 20 years honing his neo-traditional style and audiences have grown with him. They like his humble, likable approach that blends smoothly with an ability to evolve and they’re happy to go along for the ride.
Lyndsay Ell is another singer-songwriter making waves on the charts. She has toured as a support act with Jennifer Nettles, Brad Paisley, Sugarland and Keith Urban. In her 2020 album release, Heart Theory, she tracks the seven stages of grief, raw emotions many have dealt with in the last 12 months.
Clayton Bellamy is another recording artist who has spread his wings as a member of The Road Hammers, toured with his rock’n roll band The Congregation, and freelanced as an award-winning songwriter.
The four wildly talented ladies of Nice Horse are relative newcomers to country, but the sassy singer-songwriters have already pocketed two 2019 Alberta Country Music Awards. When not working on other projects, they perform at high profile festivals including Boots and Hearts, Big Valley Jamboree and Dauphin’s CountryFest.
Ryan Lindsay, who was featured in St. Albert's singer-songwriter Hailey Benedict’s release of 'Hindsight 2020', adapts his prairie roots to a modern country sound. Making the rounds as a support artist, Lindsay opened for Kiefer Sutherland and shared the stage with Dean Brody and Jess Moskaluke.
Brandon Lorenzo is about to release his sophomore 'Kissin’ In the Kitchen', co-written by former St. Albert singer-songwriter Aaron Goodvin and produced by Dan Davidson, another St. Albert singer-songwriter. It’s a fun, teasing song that immediately sparks a connection.
Michela Sheedy is an unapologetic, raw and soulful singer who in 2018 released her debut single 'I Make Bad Look Good'. It took off and she’s opened for Dallas Smith, Dean Brody, Aaron Goodvin and Lonestar.
Once CMA’s organizers decided to pivot to a virtual format, they partnered with Production World, a studio that specializes in live streams where everyone is physically distanced.
“We read out nominees, the winners and in between live performances are spliced,” explained Flaman.
The entire event can be viewed live at 7 p.m. on YouTube followed by an after party available on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/1217049625360021.