5 Best Photos of 2014

Ok, what I meant to say was MY 5 best photos of 2014. Or at least, 5 of my favourites.

Beluga, Vancouver Aquarium

Beluga, Vancouver Aquarium

Consider this the modern day equivalent of being invited over to the neighbours’ for drinks, only to find out that you also get to see their family reunion slideshow. Hit the lights, Agnes!

Purple Flower, Lolly's Garden

Purple Flower, Lolly’s Garden

I am not a great photographer, barely a good one, more like a guy who owns a phone that also functions as a camera. In 2014, I clicked over 1,400 pics with my phone. I shared a few with family members, posted a handful to social media, and didn’t print a single one.

Kayakers, Kananaskis Country

Kayakers, Kananaskis Country

I have a few frames of my fingers, visiting Vancouver, Kananaskis Lodge, the auto show, and even gardening. My digits get around, and occasionally, in the way.

When I was a kid, my folks bought me a little point and shoot Kodak, with film… 24 frames per roll… that we had to send away to develop… and pay for each print. A photo of my thumb was a much bigger deal then; Now I just delete them.

Oz & Lolly, Jasper Park Lodge

Oz & Lolly, Jasper Park Lodge

Lots of professional photographers roll their eyes at folks snapping away with their phones, but in most cases, a slightly shaky, poorly lit photo that I took means more to me than the perfect frame from someone else.

Once or twice in 1,400+ tries I’ll catch it just right, but even when I don’t, my digital pics from my phone serve as nice souvenirs of the places I’ve been, things I saw, and people I’ve met. What more could I ask for?


Frost Flowers, Lac Beauvert

So, I say, snap away!

Punch and pie will now be served in the dining room.



Another Cold January Day, in Edmonton

Captain’s Log: January 5th, 2015;

The Oilers are still struggling, our Christmas decorations are put away, and the cat won’t go outside. (Haha, I said log. I am soooo juvenile)

It’s winter in Edmonton, and the last few days have been more than a little on the chilly side. I’ll spare you the photo of the minus 30-something kajillion reading on my car’s temperature display, not because I’m merciful, nor because I think it’s an overused image, but because it means I’d have to go outside to do so.

It’s the kind of cold that makes the roof trusses in our 1970’s constructed bungalow creak like my elbows and knees, the kind that makes my dog do his business on the run and beg to get back in the house before I can close the door.

It’s the kind of cold that makes us visit travel sites, lingering on the beachfront resorts, even when we don’t have vacation time coming, nor the funds to get there. Bermuda looks nice, yes?

See: http://www.fairmont.com/hamilton-bermuda/

Fairmont Hamilton Princess - Bermuda

Fairmont Hamilton Princess – Bermuda

Thanks to Twitter, I saw this funny / sad / true to life cartoon from DepressedAlien.com and my reaction was “haha that’s funny, hey wait a minute, you’ve got a point there”.



I had a good laugh.

To be honest the number of days that we experience a level of cold that is truly oppressive is thankfully pretty minimal; assuming you live indoors.

When temperatures and wind chill dip to -40C , be grateful that you’re on the warm side of the glass, sipping your individual serving, pod brewed, gourmet coffee.

Imagine how you’d feel if there were no heated attached garage for you to pull your SUV into, no balmy temperatures in your kitchen, den, family room, or home office. The reality of it is simple, I’m fortunate and you probably are too, reading these word on a tablet or superphone in forced air, central heating, comfort. But there are folks out there who are faced with a much harsher life, dependent on the kindness of others to take the chill out of their bones, put a meal in their bellies, or provide a bed indoors for a cold winter’s night.

If you live somewhere that gives you occasion to ask yourself why you live somewhere so cold, and you are in a position to help, do it. There are many agencies that would welcome your support; It’ll give you a warm feeling too.


Happy New Year!

CCMA 2014 – Wrapping It Up and Giving It Away

Country Music Week and the 2014 CCMA Awards seems like such a distant, but fond memory. Many memories actually, both for me, and my blogging partner @OscarCares. If you haven’t seen his work yet, please click here, he’s got some cool stuff, and from a unique perspective. He interviewed Album of the Year nominee, Codie Prevost, did a brief public service announcement with Madeline Merlo, and had his photo taken with a multitude of country stars. He even got a hug from Michelle Wright :-) . Hey, wait minute. Why I didn’t get a hug from Michelle Wright :-( ?

I had the pleasure of interviewing hardworking artists / rising stars like Quentin Reddy, Samara Yung, and Ryan Bradley. I got to experience a metric tonne of great live music, in venues ranging from a garage (thanks @DogRumpCreek) to the city’s premier concert hall, the Winspear Centre.

Oscar and I thought that we’d cap off our Canadian Country Music odyssey by giving away some CDs, so that you can enjoy some rockin’ country too.

The Big Prize

The Big Prize

Our contest is easy to enter, all you have to do is Tweet to @OscarCares with the hashtag #CCMAWrapUp and you’ve got an entry to the draw. Tweet to me @BigDaddySaid with #CCMAWrapUp and you’ve got an entry. Leave us a comment on either of our blogs, including #CCMAWrapUp and it’s an entry, leave us both a comment and it’s two.

Tell your friends, shout it from the rooftops! Tweet! Comment! Enter! Win!

On October 4th, we’ll put all your names in a cowboy hat and draw some winners.

Our big prize is:

  • Autographed copy of Codie Prevost – All Kinds of Crazy +
  • Autographed copy of Madeline Merlo – self-titled EP +
  • Autographed copy of Quentin Reddy – Diamond in the Rough +
  • A copy of Jason Blaine – Everything I Love

Thanks to @ThatEricAlper, we also have copies of Everything I Love for 4 more music fans, as secondary prizes.

And THAT is wrapping up Country Music Week.


The Big Daddy Top 10 – CCMA 2014 Edition

I’m no Ferdinand Magellan, but thanks to attending events during Country Music Week, I’ve made some very satisfying discoveries. I’m talking about new music, er… well, at least new to me.

In addition to drawing big name talent to Edmonton, for the 2014 CCMA Awards, Country Music Week showcases a multitude of amazing performers that are working hard to hone their skills, build their fan base, and become the next big thing. A lot of effort goes into making it look effortless, and it usually takes years to become an instant success.  Here are my top ten discoveries from the events surrounding this year’s CCMA Awards:

Codie Prevost has been nominated for 3 CCMA Awards in the last four years, including this year’s nomination for Album of the year – All Kinds of Crazy. Not being real familiar with Codie’s work prior to Country Music Week, I am proud to say that I have become a true Codie fan. He’s a talented songwriter, and he knows how to connect with audiences, whether he’s rocking the house with All Kinds of Crazy, or bringing a tear to your eye with the heart wrenching I’m Okay.

Mackenzie Porter is a classically trained violinist, accomplished actress, and is ready to make a big name for herself in country music. She’s quickly become one of @OscarCares favourites, as he bought her debut studio album at Fanfest. In addition to Oscar’s endorsement, her 2014 CCMA nomination for Female Artist of the Year, follows her 2013 Rising Star nomination. Seeing her perform at the Legends concert with the graceful and ageless Michelle Wright, tells me that Mackenzie will become as big a name as she chooses to be.

Quentin Reddy, whom I’ve mentioned previously on this site, has had a good taste of the spotlight, making the top two in CMT’s “Big In A Small Town”. On his debut album, Diamond in the Rough, Quentin co-wrote nine of the eleven tracks, including my favourite, a rockin’-country song, Moonlight Ride. It could become a workingman’s anthem.

Madeline Merlo has just released her self-titled, debut EP; With the driving, inspiring, song Alive well positioned to follow up her first single, the beautifully melancholy Sinking Like a Stone, this adorable little mermaid not only has a great voice, but confidence and maturity beyond her years. Another of @OscarCares favourites, Madeline surely has a bright future ahead.

The Command Sisters give me pause to ask how do two girls, so young, have such polish and presence? I saw Charlotte and Sarah perform at the CBC studio, and again at the Alberta Music Showcase at the Westin, and was bowled over by the richness of sound they produced with their harmonies and two acoustic guitars. Wow! You should go to TheCommandSisters.com and check out what they’re up to, but don’t compare your life accomplishments with those of their young lives, or you’ll wonder what you’ve been doing with all your time.

Brett Kissel and Gary Fjellgaard Okay, we’ve all heard of Brett Kissel, after all he led the way with 8 CCMA award nominations this year, with Brett winning Interactive Artist of the Year, and Video of the Year for 3-2-1. What I didn’t know until the Legends concert, when he performed with Gary Fjellgaard, was the reverence he has for the roots of modern country, and his respect for previous generations of artists. I wish I could have found video of that performance, but at least I found footage of Mr. Fjellgaard performing Dance With This Old Cowboy. Enjoy.

From Twitter

From Twitter

Leah Daniels  is the winner of the 2014 CCMA Spotlight Performance Contest, a fan-voted contest hosted online by the CCMA. I saw her perform at the Countdown concert prior to the Awards show, and am willing to bet we’ll hear a great deal more from her in the coming years.

Wes Mack – By the time Wes was selected as the winner of the Canadian Country Music Association Discovery Award in September of 2013, he already had built an impressive resume as a young entertainer, appearing in film and television, as well as garnering international attention for his music. With no apparent end to his talents in sight, Wes has also directed all of his own music videos.

Cory Marquardt hits on a very contemporary topic with his single Smartphone; I’ve often wondered why they’re called smartphones, when people do such stoopid things with them? Cory looks like he might be trying out for a spot in Metallica, but his music rocks country style, and he’s got a song called I Need A Beer. So what’s not to like?

One More Girl is two girls, duh. Britt and Carly McKillip, are another pair of multi-talented siblings, and previous winners of CCMA’s Rising Star (2010). Full of energy and confidence, with an edgy feel  to their music, these sisters find themselves poised to make a big impact on the country music scene. Below, you can check out the video for Love Like Mine (directed by a guy named Wes Mack).

Honestly, the list could keep going, but David Letterman does a Top Ten List, so I do a Top Ten List.

But if you get the chance, you might also want to check out Samara Yung, and Ryan Bradley.



Dream Big, Work Hard. A Lesson From Country Music Week

Country Music Week and the Canadian Country Music Association Awards are done for another year, and it was a fantastic event. No one person could possibly take it all in, even though you might want to. There were live acoustic sets being performed in little lounges, hotel lobbies, and even drugstores. There were big name acts dropping in to unexpected venues, thrilling crowds with up close performances, autographs and photos, and full band concerts blowing the doors off the clubs. No surprises there.

But what impressed me the most was being witness to the passion that these incredibly talented singers, songwriters, and musicians have for their craft. 

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with a number of rising stars of Canadian country music, offering me a little bit of insight into the years of hard work and struggles that go into becoming an “overnight success”. 

“Believe in yourself, regardless of what anybody else thinks or says.”

When I asked guitarist / singer / songwriter Quentin Reddy what advice he might give his young son, Michael, if one day he were to say, “Dad I’m gonna be a musician,” he replied, without hesitation. “Believe in yourself, regardless of what anybody else thinks or says.” He went on to tell me how important it is for him to maintain the passion that made him want to be a musician as a kid. With a self awareness that comes with having been around the business for a while, Quentin said, “I realized at a young age how important music is to me. Whether on the road or at home I play guitar every day, because I love playing it. I protect that little guy inside me who locked himself in his room and taught himself to play guitar, that is still me. I protect that little guy, like how I protect my son from the bad things in the world.”

In a very intimate venue in Stony Plain (affectionately known as The Tavern), 2014 Album of the Year nominee, Codie Prevost, spoke of growing up in small (no, smaller than that) town Saskatchewan, and playing in local area taverns to a handful of people. He learned a lot from being in those little bars, including that he had to step up and believe in himself. After being turned down by numerous banks, Codie finally received a small business loan to travel to Nashville to record his first CD. Codie demonstrated a self-confidence and determination that few people have; a decade and four albums later, Codie’s career continues to flourish.

Over a cup of coffee, I met with Southbound Records label-mates, Samara Yung and Ryan Bradley. Ryan spoke of the importance of family and the support that they offer, and to remember the people that are there for you at the end of the day. When I asked Ryan to describe his music he answered “honest” and “soulful”, and talked about passion for his music. 

“As long as you put everything you have into it, and you’re willing to make sacrifices for the music, everything else comes with it.”

These two young talents, Ryan and Samara, agreed that hard work and dedication form the path to success, and each want to inspire people through their music.

Samara, who has already been recognized by the Saskatchewan Country Music Association with multiple awards, has appeared at schools, speaking to kids, and was part of the Imagine No Bullying campaign. In a very personal moment, she shared that as a high school student, a teacher once told her that she shouldn’t pursue singing as a career.  I’m glad that Samara didn’t listen to that teacher, and showed the determination to pursue her dreams. That, in itself, is an inspiring lesson for our youth.

Earlier in our meeting, on the topic of success, Samara said, “As long as you put everything you have into it, and you’re willing to make sacrifices for the music, everything else comes with it.”

So if you want to boil it all down to one succinct statement that applies to life in the music business, (and life in general), it’s this:

Dream Big, Work Hard.

EVENT PREVIEW: Country Music Week, Edmonton, Alberta, September 4-7


Edmonton is once again privileged to host the series of events comprising Country Music Week, culminating in Canadian Country Music Association Awawrds, on September 7th.

If you’re a fan of music, you’ll want to attend some of these events. There will be performances in a variety of venues, featuring music legends, current chart toppers, and young up and coming artists; and you’ll never get closer to them than at Country Music Week. (Full listing of events here)



@OscarCares w/ Michelle Wright, Charlie Major, Jason Blaine, and Aaron Pritchett – Fanfest 2013

I’m looking forward to Fanfest (this year it’s in WEM Ice Palace), with another scheduled stellar line-up, including many fan favourites: 

Paul Brandt, Dean Brody, Chad Brownlee, Doc Walker, Lindsay Ell, Tim Hicks, Kira Isabella, Brett Kissel, Wes Mack, Jess Moskaluke, MacKenzie Porter, Small Town Pistols, Bobby Wills, Michelle Wright, and my personal favourites – The Road Hammers. Where else could you see that many amazing big name performers FOR FREE ?

My advice to you: Make like The Road Hammers, and “GET ON DOWN THE ROAD” to Country Music Week.


WTF Internet, Why You Gotta Be So Cray Cray?

A friend of mine sent me a link to a YouTube video, and told me it had over 50 MILLION views. I thought “Wow, it must be pretty special!”

So I watched it.  Actually, I watched it twice. 

And when I was done viewing the video a second time, the only thing I could think of was “Ain’t nobody got time for that”.

I believe this video is brilliant. I see it as an unwitting social commentary, reflecting how we all claim to be so busy all the time, with our faces buried in our smartphones and taking phone calls just to tell the caller “I’m real busy, I’ll call you back”.

And is there a touch of irony in the title being “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That” and it has 52 million views? Dunno, I’m not an English Major. Nor am I a French Lieutenant, Meryl Streep.

What do you think, is it a winner, or crap? Let me know.