It may be more of a fact than news, but people from all over are getting excited about Whitehorse-based old-time string band Annie Lou. This universal love-on includes a nomination for a Canadian Folk Music Award , placing the comparatively new band alongside Canadian folk mainstays such as Ian Tyson, Joel Plaskett, Great Lake Swimmers and Ndidi Onukwulu. Vocalist/guitarist Anne Louis Genest especially appreciates the Best Ensemble nomination. As she says, “It’s great because it feels like a nod from our peers, kind of a vote of confidence.”
Annie Lou began in 2007 when Genest found herself working on a number of new songs without any real outlet for performing them. Based on a common growing interest in old-time music and string-band arrangements, Genest invited her longtime friend Kim Barlow to collaborate with her on the claw-hammer banjo and vocals. After working on some original material and selecting some covers and traditional numbers, Genest and Barlow were eventually joined by the third core member, Virginia-born Lindy Jones on stand-up bass, who brought her own country honky-tonk roots to the mix.
From there things have come together organically, motivated by the positive response the band has been getting from audience and industry members alike. “We started playing some local festivals,” Genest explains, “but we got such a good response and we had so much fun that we got more into it.”
Despite the numerous successes over a short period of time, Genest insists the band is still only in its early stages. “We’re working on just building,” she says, “so we can get the word out there and start hitting other parts of the country and getting to share the music with other audiences.”
For Annie Lou, “building” has included the well-received spring release of their self-titled debut album and a subsequent string of festival appearances, as well as a 15-date tour around B.C. and Alberta. This was followed up by a fall tour, including showcases for both the Arts Touring Alliance of Alberta and the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils, plus a handful of house concerts around the events.
There is no down time in sight as Annie Lou looks forward to even more time on the road in 2010. For Genest, it’s all a part of the same goal. “We’d like to be working musicians and be able to spend our time carrying out our work as artists,” she says. “I’d like to be able to earn my keep as a musician. Like being a carpenter or a welder or a baker, it’s your craft that you do every day.”