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National Country Music Awards Review

17 Aug 2014 // A review by Joel C Blood

Written by Joel Blood
Edited by James Faulkner
Photos by Joel Blood and James Faulkner

The evening kicked off with the extremely talented by Kylie Austin doing a fantastic cover of All Jacked Up by Gretchen Wilson. Kylie then went on to host the evening, a role that she grew into as she got progressively more confident. The first award that was presented was the Legend Award. This was awarded to Pat Dugan who accepted the award with few words but this was obviously a proud moment for the "Godfather of Kiwi Country Music". Pat was then joined in performance by the big voice his son Brendan Dugan. 

The next award section was the male dominated Horizon Award which was sponsored by Maton Guitars. The winner received a Maton Guitar and the opportunity to play 'Rocks the Hunter', North Queensland country music festival and also to play a show casing slot at the Global Artists Showcase in Nashville. 

The first artist up was Daniel Cosgrove. Daniel had an energetic guitar driven sound, that was hands down the best guitar performance on the night. He also had solid vocals to match and wasn't pushing the heavy forced American accent that often times accompanies country music. 

Next up was Sarah Conlan. Sarah had a striking voice but seemed like she was less than enthusiastic to be there. This may not have been the truth of the matter but compared to the upbeat attitude of the rest of the performers on the night I felt that this lack of zeal didn't get me inspired to get into her performance. 

After Sarah, Cam Luxton took the stage. Cam, to me, was the star of the night. His quirky continual "cuppah of tea" jokes complimented his warm and soulful voice. If you are even slightly interested in country or acoustic guitar music then be sure to check out this hot new talent out. Cameron already has toured the world and his recent release Laid Back Man debuted at number one on the NZ iTunes charts and number 7 on the NZ Top 40 Charts, which goes to show the calibre of his song writing. 

It was no surprises that Cam Luxton took out the Horizon Award. I look forward to hearing more from Cameron in years to come as his style matures and possibly his voice as well.

This year there was also the DAG Scholarship up for grabs, won by Sarah Conlan. This was a surprise as her lacklustre performance left me thinking that this would have gone to Daniel almost by default. This aside, Sarah will now be traveling to Australia to participate in the Winter Songwriters Retreat later this year.

The next performer of the night was Cameron Scott who was the winner of the 2013 Horizon Award. Cameron's performance was fantastic. He was captivating in his delivery of his spell binding authentic country rock songs. I would definitely go and see a solo show of Scott's in the future.

The winner of the country female artist of the year was split between Kaylee Bell and Tami Neilson. This was a deserved duel placing as both woman have had a fantastic year. The Country Male of the year went to Phil Doublet, who was brought to tears during his acceptance speech. Phil also played guitar for the backing band for the night and his fret work was definitely a highlight for me. 

The Duo Award went to Into the East. A recently formed combo who have already chalked up national tours a nomination of the highly regarded Tate Music Award and an APRA album of the year award at the 2014 Southland Entertainment Awards. 

Aussie Country Rocker, Morgan Evans, then took the stage and I found his performance a little contrived compared to the kiwi artists. Saying this Morgan was a pro in his delivery and maintaining audience participation. I think a some of his performance may have been lost on the very senior audience.

There was a twenty minute intermission which gave me a chance to get a quick chat with the ever pleasant Topp Twins. After the intermission Lesley Nia Nia from Gisborne took the stage. Lesley has had a stella year taking out three awards at the NZ Country Music Star Awards in Tauranga, quite an accomplishment considering she has had a considerable break from the country music scene.

Now this is where a great night took a turn for the worse for me personally. Up until this point I was having a terrific time checking out the many talented young performers, then the Howie Morrison Trio took the stage. At first this was kind of fun. It was the first time that I had seen a Maori Cabaret live and for the first few songs the cheesy one liners, goofy stage antics and power ballads were a novelty. But this quickly turned to monotony and quickly became irrelevant to the lineup. It wasn't hard to see why the promoters booked the Howard Morrison Tribute, because 85% of the audience were past retirement age. It was however a poor choice for new comers to the country scene or anyone under the age of 75. It is seldom that I go to country events and to have the night railroaded by this tacky overcooked cabaret act was just plain annoying. Sure they were consummate pros at their tired and over rehearsed routine but this should simply have been a different show in it's own right. I would would have preferred to see the acts that did play, play for twice as long instead watching the Howard Trio for well over an hour. 

At the end of the night, I was stoked to get to be exposed to some brilliantly talented young country artists and I truly was blown away at the caliber of ability. My cowboy hat must also come off to the event organizers who did a fantastic job in putting together a slick evening. It was great to see country music alive and kicking in New Zealand and to be of a standard that truly is world class.

Kylie Austin

Pat Dugan

Pat and Brendan Dugan

Daniel Cosgrove

Sarah Conlan

Cam Luxton

Cameron Scott

Phil Doublet

Lesley Nia Nia

Morgan Evans

Howie Morrison Trio


Other Reviews By Joel C Blood

Macombee and the Absolute Truth - No Man's Land Album Review
29 Nov 2014 // by Joel C Blood
When I received this record I had no idea what to expect. The press information describes the sound as a cathartic experience founded on cinematic arrangements wrapped around the lead singer, Sarah Macombee's, exquisite voice, so it all sounded fairly self indulgent.
SSXUB EP Review - Shapeshifter vs The Upbeats
03 Oct 2014 // by Joel C Blood
This 5 track EP has been probably my most highly anticipated NZ release this year and it doesn't disappoint. This is everything that you would expect from this collaboration, the soulful wailing of P-Digsss and melodic lusciousness of Shapeshifter mashed together with the unforgiving, beat driven groove of The Upbeats.
Tali - Faster Than Sound Single Review
03 Oct 2014 // by Joel C Blood
The second tune from Tali's forthcoming record Wolves is a huge departure from the UK drum n bass that made her a worldwide name. Faster Than Sound is a self declared love song and is closer to trip hop than Tali's traditional "Boobs to the Wall" DnB; which is a great departure in my eyes.
Moana And The Tribe - Rima Album Review
02 Oct 2014 // by Joel C Blood
According to the albums publicists, this is Moana and the Tribe's 5th Studio album, and it wasn't what I was expecting. This was primarily a good thing as I like surprises but it did catch me a little off guard.
Oakley Grenell - The Deep Album Review
19 Sep 2014 // by Joel C Blood
Listening to this record for the first time was a breath of fresh air. With so many Kiwi hip hop artists and beat makers writing the same old wannabe American Gangster drivel, it was inspiring to hear a guy construct something uplifting, tasteful and sonically dynamic.
Electric Wire Hustle - Love Can Prevail Album Review
19 Sep 2014 // by Joel C Blood
Electric Wire Hustle do it again with another outstanding record. The dynamic duo strikes back with a fusion of classic soul mixed with slick glitching, well textured futuristic beats.
Whistlejacket - The Year of the Horse EP Review
11 Sep 2014 // by Joel C Blood
I was impressed with the work that Whistlejacket management have gone to in producing a very stylistic press package. It's not often I get any info on the reviewed band but these guys had a full press kit which used strong alternate imaginary to represent the band.
Phil Rudd - Head Job Album Review
05 Sep 2014 // by Joel C Blood
There are two ways to write this review. One way is looking at the record from Phil's vast and impressive career as the worlds most acclaimed 4/4 drummer, while being wowed by his self indulgent lifestyle.
View All Articles By Joel C Blood

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