THE stars of Northern Ireland country music were out in force last week as the Annual Country Music Awards honored a whole host of singers including Dominic Kirwan, Susan McCann, Hugo Duncan and Daniel O’Donnell.
On Wednesday night a whopping 17 performers took to the stage at the Tullyglass Hotel in Ballymena playing to a packed crowd. Organised by JW Promotions the Northern Ireland Country Music Awards are now in their third year and going from strength to strength.
Omagh-born country legend Dominic Kirwan scooped the top accolade on the night as he was awarded the Special Achievement Award and closed the show with a string of his old classics including Hello Mary Lou.
Speaking on stage Dominic said he was delighted and honored to receive the award.
The star is currently in rehearsals for his Irish and UK tour which starts later this month and sees him returning to The Waterfront Hall to celebrate his 50th birthday with a special concert in June.
He added: I’ll be touring the new album My Kinda Country over the next couple of months and I’m really looking forward to the big event in The Waterfront Hall when I hit the big 5-0.
Ireland’s first lady of country Susan McCann walked away with the Female Lifetime Achievement Award after 30 years in the business.
And speaking backstage Susan revealed her online radio show for fans is bigger than ever.
I launched the radio show online back in November last year and I’ve had amazing response and feedback from it she said.
We built a brand new state-of-the-art studio at home which means I can now record two one-hour shows every day which are available on my website susanmccann.com each day.
Later this month Susan will be appearing at the National Concert Hall in Dublin in aid of The Variety Club children’s charity. Susan McCann presented Kieran McGilligan with the Best Country Male award, sponsored by the Sunday World.
The first act of the night to be awarded was Bonnie Stewart who received the Best Local Country Act gong. She said: Im so delighted beyond belief. Thanks to all the fans and organisers for making this happen for me.
Northern Ireland’s favourite country music broadcaster and performer Hugo Duncan was presented with the Best Radio Presenter Of The Year award by friend and fellow radio host Citybeat’s Robin Elliott.
Speaking of his award Hugo said: I can’t believe I received this for the second year in a row. I was asked to come along and present an award, I never actually thought for one second that I’d be receiving one.
This is fantastic. Thanks to everyone who listens to the show for your support over the years.
Country crooner Daniel O’Donnell scooped the Best International Artist Award but unfortunately couldn’t make it to accept his accolade.
The Donegal star is currently in rehearsals for his forthcoming Irish and UK tour which kicks off later this month. Daniel is headed back to Northern Ireland in July to play the Armagh City Hotel and Derry’s Millennium Forum. He will also take to the stage on December 13 at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall.
Up and coming country hunk Nathan Carter proved he could hold his own with the biggest legends as he took to the stage to perform his new single Where Do You Go To My Lovely, a cover of the sixties classic by Peter Sarstaet after scooping the Best Country Newcomer award.
Nathan said: I’ve been singing since I was around four years old so to get to this stage and even just be nominated was brilliant.
When I heard I was nominated I was excited but also felt very privileged. When they called my name I just felt great. I’m very grateful to everyone who voted for me.
I hope that in the future I can be as successful as Daniel O’Donnell, he’s a great ambassador for country music all over the world and has been a great inspiration to me.
Winner of Best Album Of The Year was Shaun Loughrey who was up against artists such as Roly Daniels and Mike Denver. Speaking after collecting his award he said: “I’m absolutely over the moon about winning this award and even more pleased because it was voted for by the public.
“I’ve never been happier within the business than when I heard my name being called from the stage.” Shaun, who has been on the local music scene since 2005, also revealed he will be releasing his fourth studio album this summer followed up by his first DVD.
And he added that while traveling can be the worst part about working in the country music industry that the crowds always make up for the journey.
Shaun continues to tour throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland and said there are two men he will always look up to in the industry.
“My father Johnny Loughrey was the most important influence in my music and career and still is. I also admire the likes of Declan Nerney who I believe is the finest entertainer on the scene.”
Other winners on the night included Stephen Smyth for Best Live Country Act, Mike Denver for Best Song with The Day Of My Return, Sandy Kelly (Best Country Female) and Declan Nerney who walked away with the Male Lifetime Achievement Award.
Other stars attending the awards and performing included Kim Dickinson, Lisa McHugh, The Benn Sister and Linda Welby.
BY TINA CALDER
PICS BY FABRIZIO BELLUSCHI
THE WINNERS LIST
Best Local Country act
Nominees: Kim Dickinson, Curtis Magee, Sinead Taggart and Bonnie Stewart
Winner: Bonnie Stewart
Best Country Newcomer
Nominees: Nathan Carter, Jason Mc Gilligan, Lisa Mc Hugh and Linda Welby
Winner: Nathan Carter
Radio Presenter Of The Year
Nominees: Warren Smyth , Hugo Duncan, Trevor Campbell, Brian Darcy
Winner: Hugo Duncan
Best Live Country Act
Nominees: Jimmy Buckley, Robert Mizzell, Stephen Smyth , Kieran Mc Gilligan
Winner: Stephen Smyth
Best Album Of The Year
Nominees: Shaun Loughrey, Roly Daniels and Dee Reilly, Mike Denver, Robert Mizzell
Winner: Shaun Loughrey
Song Of The Year
Nominees: Linda Welby – The Galway Fiddler, Mick Flavin – Sams Place, Shaun Loughrey – The Galway Girl and Mike Denver – The Day of my return
Winner: Mike Denver – The Day Of My Return
Winner: Daniel O Donnell
Best Country Female
Nominees: Philomena Begley, Susan Mc Cann, Sandy Kelly, The Benn Sisters
Winner: Sandy Kelly
Best Country Male
Nominees: Mike Denver, Robert Mizzell, Kieran McGilligan, Jimmy Buckley
Winner: Kieran McGilligan
Female Lifetime Achievement Award
Winner: Susan Mc Cann
Male Lifetime Achievement Award
Winner: Declan Nerney
Special Achievement Award
Winner: Dominic Kirwan