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This article was published 13/4/2021 (185 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Noah Derksen has turned an album about his thoughts on the American dream into a Canadian Folk Music Award.
The Winnipeg singer-songwriter is one of three Manitoban artists and one arts supporter who picked up awards at the virtual ceremonies that were streamed Saturday and Sunday evenings.
He was named the New/Emerging Artist of the Year for his album America, Dreaming.
Burnstick, the husband-and-wife duo of Jason Burnstick and Nadia Gaudet, earned Single of the Year for their tune Some Kind of Hell, which is from the album Kîyânaw.
The folk world’s love of William Prince continued on the weekend when the Winnipeg singer-songwriter won two awards, for Contemporary Album of the Year and English Songwriter of the Year, both for his early 2020 album, Reliever.
The CFMA had previously announced its Slaight Unsung Hero Award would go to Winnipeg’s Ava Kobrinsky, who, along with her late husband Mitch Podolak, founded the Winnipeg Folk Festival and later was a co-founder and general manager for Home Routes, the organization that co-ordinates a network of house concerts across Canada.
For Derksen, 27, the award is a major step in a music career that began in 2015 after his university volleyball days at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. While the award describes him as an emerging artist, America, Dreaming is his third album.
"I’ve been at it for a few years for sure, but this award... it does put me on a bigger stage perhaps," he says. "It’s not quite indicative of all the time put in, all the years put in."
Derksen was born in Ohio, and while his American citizenship has allowed him easier access to perform south of the 49th parallel, his time growing up in Winnipeg has allowed him to look at the American dream from an outside and skeptical perspective.
"I had this unrealistic idea of what the States was, as this wonderful land of opportunity and freedom. I thought of it as a kind of paradise land where everything can happen, and I think that’s ultimately what the States’ publicity machine has bred the rest of the world to believe," Derksen says.
"After spending some time there, I was realizing the practical limitations to those opportunities and to those freedoms."
Jason Burnstick says he and his wife were over the moon when they found out about their win. The song Some Kind of Hell hearkens back to a time when Burnstick was in hospital, but he says the track then transformed into a different message.
"I started thinking about what would an elder — if he came back from the 1800s and looked at the world today — what would he see," Burnstick says. "Residential schools, ‘60s Scoop, things like that, what he would do to make a change for the better. I think he would keep fighting until his days are done."
Gaudet is from Winnipeg and counts Louis Riel as one of her Métis family’s ancestors. Burnstick is a Plains Cree from the Alexis and Alexander First Nations northwest of Edmonton. He hopes the CFMA honour will repeat next month at the Junos, where the couple are nominated for Indigenous Artist of Group of the Year.
"There’s a lot of First Nations artists throughout Canada who are absolutely phenomenal, who set the bar incredibly high," Burnstick says. "I can’t wait for many of them to go mainstream for people to hear this music. It should be celebrated and I’d love to hear more of it."
Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.