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Cowichan’s Brandon Isaak and Blue Moon Marquee will duke it out at Juno Awards

The 2024 Juno Awards will be held at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax on March 24

The 53rd annual Juno Awards will see two Cowichan Valley entries go head to head in the Best Blues Album of the Year Category. Brandon Isaak, and Blue Moon Marquee are both nominated for the celebration of the best of Canadian music, which will be held on March 24 in Halifax this year.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island artist nominated for 2024 Juno breakthrough award

“It’s a real honour to be nominated,” said Isaak, who made the shortlist for his album One Step Closer. “It’s my third nomination but this one I knew was coming. After I finished mixing the album I knew the record was quality and worthy of the nod. So I cleared a spot on my shelf to put the Juno. I have been dusting the spot for six months now and have always loved the phrase ‘three times lucky’.”

Isaak, who was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon moved to the valley with his wife and agent Cindy Mae just over a year and a half ago and both absolutely love the nature and peace the area brings them. Isaak, who notes he will always be a Yukon boy at heart, has been playing music for 37 years and strictly the blues for the past 28. Like most lovers of the genre, Isaak values the human story and the honesty of the blues.

“The music goes straight to the heart and is so diverse that it never gets old,” he said. “I always try to keep the music fresh and do different things. When I moved to Vancouver Island I knew there were some amazing traditional jazz and Dixie musicians here and always wanted to do more of a New Orleans sounding album. I’ve played there quite a bit over the years and have always been in love with that sound, and Louis Armstrong.”

Isaak is looking forward to spending time with his wife in Halifax as they see old friends, and embrace East Coast culture, including some time in the pub listening to traditional fiddle music. While Isaak is humbled to be nominated in this category, he says creating great music, and doing what he loves is the real award.

“Comparing artists is like comparing colours, it’s all subjective and each colour deserves respect and amazement depending on the day or mood you’re in,” said Isaak. “I use my music for a few things, I try to write about finding hope in hard dark situations. I write about my spiritual thoughts and beliefs, and that all religions or spiritual ways lead to the path of God. And lastly I put humour in my songs to let people laugh and forget about their troubles and worries for a little while.”

Blue Moon Marquee are not only competing with Isaak for a Juno for Best Blues Album of the Year, they have also been nominated for Contemporary Indigenous Artist/Group of the Year as well.

“It feels like an affirmation to keep writing, performing, and to keep going,” said Jasmine Colette who plays bass, drums, and sings in the band. “Recognition and appreciation for one’s work gives fresh wind to the sails.”

Colette and A.W. Cardinal are the core duo of Blue Moon Marquee that officially came together a decade ago. The pair have known each other since their hardcore punk playing days in Alberta, but were both always longtime fans of other genres such as folk, blues, swing, and jazz. Colette and Cardinal both live in Quw’utsun Territory, but have several other players from around the country that join them, primarily Darcy Phillips of Saanich on keys, and Jerry Cook who plays the sax and lives on the mainland. Blue Moon Marquee has numerous nominations and awards tucked under their guitar and bass straps. On top of their two 2024 Juno award nominations, the band also received two 2024 Maple Blues Award nominations for Entertainer of the Year, while Colette was nominated for Bassist of the Year.

Blue Moon Marquee has been nominated for their new album Scream, Holler, and Howl which Colette said drew inspiration from life in real-time, the documentary film RUMBLE, early calypso, swing, and blues music, as well as Gabriel Dumont, vintage motorcycles, rivers, Indigenous stories, and the underbelly of society. Colette said they draw heavily from the earlier styles circa 1910 to 1950 when Black and Indigenous artists were creating and mixing the seeds of sounds for punk, metal, rock and roll, and rhythm and blues.

“Modern blues tends to get a somewhat lame report with younger folks for idling too long in the ‘dad mall rock’ vein,” said Colette. “I feel like this is due to a major shift in the genre during the ’70s where it suddenly became all about the guitar solo instead of the true grit original spirit of the blues which was steeped in lyrical storytelling, innovative tones and unique artistic styles. Often people say to us that they never even thought they liked blues and swing music until they heard this.”

Colette said the band is looking forward to attending the Junos on the East Coast and immersing themselves in the energy, music, and food of the region and hope that their new album resonates with many fans of the genre.

“I hope that our music will encourage folks to dig deep down to the roots and discover the thrill of all the profound early musicians such as Charlie Patton, Blind Willie Johnson, Memphis Minnie, Lonnie Johnson, Bessie Smith, Howlin’ Wolf, and Ma Rainey,” said Colette.

About the Author: Chadd Cawson

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