Dirty Ransom
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Dirty Ransom

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"Singing Canada's praises to Obama"

No, we're not all snowbirds, we don't spend all our time at the good ole hockey game, or searching for shipwrecks in the big lake they call Gitche Gumee.

But Canadians have made some mighty distinctive music, and CBC wants Barack Obama to know it.

Starting next week, Canadians will collect some choice homegrown songs for the new president to groove to as he takes office Jan. 20.

CBC Radio 2 is calling on the public to take care of business, tune-wise – to help select 49 songs from north of the 49th parallel that best represent the northern nation.

“We believe that a country is defined by its artistic expression. If you wanted to know about Canada you just close your eyes and listen to our songs,” said Denise Donlon, executive director of English Radio at CBC.

The contest, which begins Jan. 5, gives Canadians a week to submit as many tunes as they like for “Obama's playlist.”

Each submission, made online, via e-mail or on the phone, must be accompanied by a reason justifying the choice made. Entries qualifying as Canadian content according to competition rules will be tallied and short-listed to 100 tunes on Jan 12. The public will then vote online for their favourite melody until Jan 16. The final 49 will be aired across Canada as Mr. Obama takes office.

But as far as anyone knows, the president-elect is unaware of the three-week-long effort to expand his musical repertoire. Ms. Donlon said she hopes elected officials on this side of the border will enlighten Mr. Obama on the Crown corporation's unique contest at some point.

“We're truly excited about this president,” she said. “Ultimately, I think we hope to achieve good will across the border.”

Both French and English songs will have to make up the list if it is to truly represent the country and its bilingual history, said former Liberal MP Don Boudria, who used to be rocker himself.

According to Mr. Boudria, the contest is an opportunity to remind the public of important historical moments that are being fast forgotten by contemporary Canadians.

“Anything that gets Canadians to get to know each other and to get Americans to know Canadians is a good thing,” he said.

In this case, music is a good way to tap into a nation's identity, says Herb Stovel, a professor of Canadian studies at Carleton University in Ottawa.

“Music is emotional,” he said. “It can be a microcosm of Canadian ideas.”

According to Prof. Stovel, Canadian folk music from such artists as Stan Rogers and James Gordon deserve a place on “Obama's playlist” if the new president is to learn of traditional Canadian stories told through song.

And at least one spot on the list should be taken by an aboriginal tune, said Vince Fontaine, songwriter and musician for the Eagle Hawk band.

“The arts is always the front line of expression in society,” said Mr. Fontaine, adding that a native Canadian song would show Americans the importance of first nations on the Canada scene.

But the diversity of this society, reflected in the broad range of its music, will make choosing 49 songs a tough process, said Kenneth Penney, lead singer of Newfoundland hard rock band Dirty Ransom.

“Every province had a different tradition, we try to incorporate all those different backgrounds in our music,” he said, adding that songs by Alberta's Nickelback and Ontario's Tragically Hip were likely shoo-ins.

Ensuring that all genres of the musical scene are represented is another challenge the CBC faces if the list is to be truly representative of Canada, said composer and conductor Alain Trudel.

Quality is the standard that should be employed to sort the wheat from the chaff, he said, adding that institutions such as the Montreal and Vancouver symphony orchestras should not be overlooked.
- Globe and Mail


Still working on that hot first release.



Dirty Ransom has been ripping through the clubs of downtown St. John’s, Newfoundland, since late

2006. Since then, they have proven to be no ordinary hard rock band. Influenced by such bands as

AC/DC, Gun’s N’ Roses, The Cult and Aerosmith, they have defined a sound of their own, described

by many people as “raw” and “dirty”. They have a talent for writing slick, quick and hard hitting

songs like “The Whiskey” and “Empty Pocket Fuss “. Their live performances are impulsive, full of

energy and have said to be “too big for a club stage”. The bands members are complete connoisseurs

when it comes to rock music, with three members having a diploma in recording arts, one member

having a degree in writing, and their newest member just returning from the music scene in L.A.

With these credentials, it is easy to see why they are masters of writing catchy lyrics and intense

guitar riffs, creating songs full of grit and grime.

With attitude and guts, rock is back . . . and it demands a Dirty Ransom.