A.W. Cardinal with band Blue Moon Marquee first Indigenous musician to sweep ‘big four’ at blues awards

Tuesday, February 14th, 2023 11:20am


Image Caption

Blue Moon Marquee's Jasmine Colette looks on as A.W. Cardinal accepts a Maple Blues Award Jan. 30 in Toronto.


“A deep thank you and bow of gratitude to everyone who took the time to vote for us, come out to a show, buy a record and support us along the way.” — Blue Moon Marquee

British Columbia-based Blue Moon Marquee rocked the Maple Blues Awards in a four-award sweep, winning the coveted categories of Entertainer of the Year, Acoustic Act of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, and Record/Producer of the Year for their fifth album Scream, Holler & Howl.

It’s the first time in the 26-year history of the awards that one artist swept in these specific categories.

A.W. Cardinal, one-half of the Blue Moon Marquee duo, is also the first Indigenous artist to win the big four categories. Cardinal is Alberta-born and Métis/Cree. Jasmine Colette, a.k.a. Badlands Jass, is the other half of Blue Moon Marquee.

The Maple Blues Awards are Canada’s and they honour the finest in Canadian blues. The awards program's goal is to promote blues music across the country and recognize outstanding achievement. The Maple Blues Awards have been presented by the Toronto Blues Society since its inception in 1997. This year’s awards were presented Jan. 30 in Toronto at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre.

Nominees for the Maple Blues Awards are selected by a panel of about 40 blues experts, including radio hosts, journalists and festival organizers regionally distributed across Canada. Blues fans then cast votes online from Nov. 2, 2022 until Dec. 1, 2022.

“A deep thank you and bow of gratitude to everyone who took the time to vote for us, come out to a show, buy a record and support us along the way,” the band said, adding that they will soon announce plenty of new tour dates, including for their very first tour of Australia.

"The best part of these awards is that they came from the people. All those long years on the road crisscrossing the country, sleeping in alleys with our instruments and performing anywhere we could,” the duo said.

Cardinal grew up in the area of Rocky Mountain House and Colette in the Badlands, but the two met many years ago when they were part of the central Alberta music scene, playing in punk and rock bands.

“We’ve been playing music ever since we can remember,” said Cardinal in an interview with Windspeaker.com in August 2022. “We are from central Alberta and the music scene is pretty small there, so we knew each other when I was like 15. We had a whole career of different styles of music and came together, I guess, about eight years ago now and have been playing together ever since.”

They both left home at young ages and spent years traveling on their own, working at a variety of jobs and touring with different acts. Colette hitchhiked throughout North America performing vaudeville with her act of hula hooping, skateboarding, and playing trombone simultaneously, while Cardinal was living in New York City working as a bike mechanic and performing at open mics each night.

They came together in Vancouver to record Cardinal's original material for his solo album, Stainless Steel Heart.

The two have created a unique sound that can’t really be classified in one genre, but rather “really pays homage to the origins of blues” said Ryan Rathjen, executive director of the Purple City Music Festival in Edmonton. The duo, who write and perform original compositions, are influenced by anything that swings, jumps or grooves, reads a press statement.

Cardinal said some of his original lyrics have connections to his Métis/Cree heritage and are grounded in the stories he has heard from Elders and his family. These include stories about trickster coyote and the black snake, he said.

“Using them in my writing and maybe putting a different spin on it, but still having the same meaning,” he said.

“It’s something that is a part of me and has been in my existence ever since I was a child. I used to go to powwows when growing up…It’s part of me. It’s my culture and I express stories through the style of music that I love, which is blues and jazz music.”

Cardinal was nominated in 2020 for Indigenous Songwriter of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards for the album Bare Knuckles and Brawn.

On Sept. 9, 2022, the duo released Scream, Holler & Howl. The album has topped the charts in the United States and Canada, achieving No. 1 on the !Earshot National Folk/Roots/Blues chart and No. 3 on their National Top 10 Chart for all genres, No. 1 on Canada’s Top 50 Chart by Roots Music Report, No. 6 on the International NACC Radio Chart and No. 8 on the coveted Living Blues Radio Chart.

To listen to some of what Blue Moon Marquee is all about, head to Blue Moon Marquee where their single “Thunderbird” is available.