Valley musicians recognized by fans

 LOCAL BAND Cold Driven, Billy Nickell (left), Ben Bouthillier, Dennis Nickell, Shane Bouthillier and Kalen and Bryn Bird, have been nominated for eight awards at the 2007 Okanagan Music Awards to be held in Kelowna Oct. 10. -  Guenter Schulz photo
LOCAL BAND Cold Driven, Billy Nickell (left), Ben Bouthillier, Dennis Nickell, Shane Bouthillier and Kalen and Bryn Bird, have been nominated for eight awards at the 2007 Okanagan Music Awards to be held in Kelowna Oct. 10.
— image credit: Guenter Schulz photo

The valley’s biggest party for musicians is about to take the stage again.

The Okanagan Music Awards, held last year at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre, returns to Kelowna Oct. 10, and North Okanagan musicians are once again well-represented on this year’s list of nominees.

More than 1,100 music lovers weighed in on who they believe best represents the valley’s music scene in an array of genres – a significant hike from the 600 votes garnered last year.

Leading the pack with eight nods, plus one for People’s Choice, is Armstrong-Vernon band Cold Driven, which released its sophomore album, Steel Chambers, in May.

Other local acts nominated for awards include Kath in Blue, Wyshbone, The Evans Sisters, Samsara, guitarists Manfred Harter and Chris Madsen and former Headpins singer Darby Mills, who will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.

“The odds seem to be in our favour this time,” said Cold Driven bassist Dennis Nickell on the phone from Burnaby after a late-night gig there. “We are very happy with this record. We put a lot into it and we hope to get a lot out of it. We have spread the word as much as we can. It’s nice to be recognized.”

Cold Driven is up for Best Album of the Year, Single of the Year (for Heavier Than Heaven), Group of the Year, Rock or Pop Group of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Male Performer of the Year (for lead singer Billy Nickell), Engineer of the Year (for Guenter Schulz), and Producer of the Year (bandmates and brothers Ben and Shane Bouthillier.)

The band received six nominations at the Okanagan Music Awards last year for its debut CD, Set in Stone, and won for Song of the Year for Bittersweet Casualty, beating out Daniel Powter’s international hit Bad Day.

Nickell attributes a lot of the band’s success to its local fan base.

“We get the best reception (locally) because we come from there,” he said. “We have also been getting a warm reception in Vancouver. Some bars have never heard of us, but some are booking us because they’ve heard of us. It’s starting to take shape for us.”

The band is currently looking for a director to make its first video off Steel Chambers, to be released nationally by early next year.

“We are leaving it open for a couple of tracks. It could be for Heavier Than Heaven... Who knows? We are doing some radio tracking and it will be shopped out to radio stations around Canada.”

Cold Driven will play Heavier Than Heaven live at the Okanagan Music Awards, and will also open for fellow nominee, metal band Helcion, at its CD release party Oct. 12 at Doc Willoughby’s in Kelowna.

Another Vernon act, Kath in Blue, has been nominated for both best blues and best jazz group or artist.

The band consists of vocalist Kath Raeber (also of Kath and the TomKats), guitarist Walt Musekamp, Gerry Sholomenko on flute, sax and clarinet, John Keith on drums and Barry Lamb on bass.

“It’s perfect that we were nominated in those two categories as that is what we do, blues and jazz,” said Raeber, adding that Kath in Blue has been busy playing live since forming three years ago, while her other band, Kath and the TomKats, have been performing the past seven years.

Raeber, who is well attuned to the local music scene as a music promoter for some local venues and also as a writer for the Blues Underground Network, says the Okanagan music scene has picked up over the past few years.

“When we got the group together, we got gigs immediately... We go from north to south and also the Kootenays. However, there’s enough work in the Okanagan that we don’t have to go far. We also play a lot of private functions,” she said.

Kath in Blue will join other Okanagan Music Award nominees on a compilation CD.

“We’ll be attending the event,” said Raeber. “There’s some amazing musicians playing.”

The award ceremony and concert will be held Oct. 10 at the Kelowna Community Theatre. Besides Cold Driven, a number of other acts have already been signed to perform that evening, including Vernon’s Raquel Warchol, the Sleddogs, Roger Gabriel, Kinship, Jane Eamon, the Uptown Hornz, Helcion, Olga Osipova and A Day Late and a Dollar Short.

Special guest performer will be Vancouver band Stabilo. Following the concert there will be a VIP after party.

This is the fifth year for the Okanagan Music Awards, which also features SOCAN seminars starting at 5 p.m. before the big show at 7 p.m.

Chosen by the Okanagan community, those artists or groups that received the most nominations in their category have gone on to a panel of judges, which will cast a vote on the nominee they believe is most deserving of the award.

This year’s panel of judges include chairman Michael Schell from The Kelowna Capital News, Dave Pears from CKOV, Patrick Nicol from KISS FM, Sarah Willard from B.C. Musician Magazine, Shelly Vida from Vida Promotions, Bob D’Eith from Music B.C., Sheryl MacKay radio host from CBC’s North by Northwest, Charlie Hodge from The Kelowna Capital News and B.C. Musician Magazine, Andre Wetjen from Event Magazine, and Ed Schneider from The Penticton Herald and Standard Radio B.C. Interior’s Doc Roberts

Tickets for the awards show are available through www.ticketmaster.ca. For more information on the event and a full list of the nominees go to www.scorpionentertainment.ca.

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