Whitehorse’s Annie Lou quartet have been nominated for a Juno.
“We were absolutely tickled pink,” said Anne Louise Genest, the group’s lead singer and guitarist. “It’s pretty exciting. We knew it was a strong album, but there are so many great albums out there. It was exciting to get that affirmation from our peers. We’re working on a good thing here.”
The group, formed in the winter of 2007, primarily consists of Genest and Kim Barlow, a Juno-nominated Whitehorse musician who sings and plays the clawhammer banjo with the group.
Their old-time sound is rounded out by Lindy Jones, who Genest says, lives “just over the hill” in Haines, Alaska, and Meredith Bates of Vancouver on fiddle.
When the group recorded their debut, somewhat-eponymous album last year, Whitehorse’s Keitha Clarke played fiddle before moving on to other projects.
Sammy Lind, a renowned long-time fiddler with Portland’s Foghorn Stringband also shared fiddling duties on the nominated album.
Genest and Barlow began playing music together around the campfire about 18 years ago, shortly after they both moved to Whitehorse. And they’ve played in a slew of acts prior to the current project.
“We started jamming around campfires,” said Barlow. “It’s been a great adventure.
“It’s exciting that we’re still going, and getting better.”
Genest began playing guitar at age 30, after spending time with her trapper friends, Pete and Mary Beatty, who would play music around the kitchen table. “They were songs that I loved to listen to, and it suddenly occurred to me that I could play that,” she said.
These jam sessions would prove formative to Genest’s musical direction, even if she didn’t know it at the time.
She began as a solo singer/songwriter. Her poignant lyrics began to draw attention and were published in Geist magazine.
Then she learned mandolin, began thinking more about melody, and “it just opened up a whole new world of music for me.”
But after releasing two albums, Big Dream and Trouble, “I started to feel unhappy,” said Genest.
“You’re a lone soldier. There’s a million, gazillion singer-songwriters out there, and unless you’re doing something really different and unique, it’s hard to get work.”
The camaraderie that comes with being in a band helped fill that lack with Genest. And, judging by the Juno nomination, they’ve stumbled on to a successful recipe.
But the band’s rustic sound remains true to Genest’s early kitchen-table jams.
“I like old-time music because it’s so rough and raw,” said Barlow. “It’s not about being slick or glossy or polished or anything. It’s really about being down home and unpretentious.”
“It’s sort of like my choice to live in the Yukon. I think they go hand-in-hand.”
Genest credits Whitehorse producer Bob Hamilton for his “great ears” while recording their album. This is the fifth Juno-nominated album he has produced, she said.
The group has a busy summer planned. It’s booked to play at Calgary’s folk festival and three other big, yet-to-be-disclosed festivals, said Genest. The band is also busy writing new songs for its second album.
The Juno Awards will be held in St. John’s, Newfoundland on April 18.
Contact John Thompson at email@example.com.