It’s amazing what a year can bring.
For blues band Wicked Grin, it finally brought them into the limelight and earned them the 2014 Maple Blues Award for New Artist/Group of The Year after 12 years of playing.
“All of a sudden we were visible,” said guitarist Murray Kinsley.
But, let’s start from the beginning. Wicked Grin’s rocket into the spotlight started with the release of their latest album Shame on Me in December, 2013 to great reviews across North America. The album also received attention in their home province of Ontario where the single Heaven was chosen by the Ottawa Citizen as one of the top ten songs of the year by local artists. From there, the band then represented Ottawa at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, was runner-up in the Toronto Blues Society’s new talent search, played four major festival gigs, had a successful Western Canadian tour, showcased at the seventh annual Blues Summit in Toronto and earned the Blues Underground Network’s number one Canadian blues rock CD of the year award.
All of this playing and travelling brought good connections to the band, said Kinsley. It also brought the band to the attention of The Maple Blues Awards, Canada’s national blues awards program that aims to promote blues music and to recognize outstanding achievement in the field.
As mentioned above, Wicked Grin was nominated for the new artist/group award despite the fact that the band had played in one form or another for a dozen years. This was possible, Kinsley said, due to the award’s criteria. According to the Maple Blues Awards website, a new group or artist must not have been nominated for any of the organization’s prizes previously, have performed under its own name on a regular basis, and made “considerable advances artistically and/or commercially” during the year.
The nominations are made by a panel of some 50 radio hosts, journalists, festival organizers and other blues experts.
“The nomination was really cool to get because they’re our peers,” said Kinsley.
However, while the nomination panel is responsible for choosing winners for the instrumental categories, the winners in all other categories, including new artist, are selected by blues fans across the country. This is where Wicked Grin’s skyrocketing popularity served them again. “We got votes from everywhere,” said the guitar player.
With the award now in hand, Wicked Grin isn’t slowing down. In fact, the group is stopping in at the Rod & Gun in Parksville as part of the band’s latest Western tour.
The night will give locals a chance to hear the group’s take of what Kinsley calls “stripped down” and “honest” danceable rock blues. “It’s a simpler sound,” he said. “A little rawer.”
The band will also be a little stripped down for the show. Joining Kinsley on stage will be bass player Leigh-Anne Stanton and Liam Melville on drums and percussion. Unfortunately, harp player and vocalist Rod Williams won’t be able to make it.
Still, despite the missing band mate, Kinsley assured that Wicked Grin will still play a strong set of “truth telling, party starting, soul healing” music.
Wicked Grin will play the Rod & Gun on Saturday, April 4 starting at 9 p.m. Cover charge is $5 at the door.