And it’s not hard to see why. Vinnick has a voice that both technically pure, and chalk-full of gritty soul – often at the same time. Take her latest effort, Me ‘n Mabel. The record is almost entirely a solo Vinnick on acoustic guitar (her guitar, a Canadian-built spruce and maple Levirrée parlour guitar, is affectionately named Mabel, hence the title of the album), and while this style would sometimes lend to a slow listen, Me ‘n Mabel is upbeat and fun.
When Suzie and I spoke during Canadian Music Week in March, she sounded like she was having a lot of fun. She was coming off a high – a few highs, to be precise. She was nominated for a Juno Award for Blues Album of the Year – her fourth Juno nod since 1994 – and she took home the Indie Award for Best Blues Record.
(She’s also won eight Maple Blues Awards – five for Best Female Vocalist, two for Best Songwriter, and one for Best Bassist. She won a Canadian Folk Music Award for Contemporary Singer of the Year in 2011, and has topped the International Songwriting Competition – twice.)
As a teen, Vinnick took lessons with Naomi Freeson. She practiced some yoga, and learned breathing techniques – techniques that lend to her incredible vocal range. Vinnick can easily go from a low, sultry growl, to a strong, pure note in a heartbeat.
Over the years to follow, she would play in various bands and as one-half of some duos. She found success with her counterparts, releasing albums and accepting awards.
In 2000, she released And They All Rolled Over with her band Vinnick Sheppard Harte. The trio – comprising of Vinnick, Kim Sheppard and Alana Harte – would go on to release another record in 2007, called My Favourite Shirt.
Throughout early Y2K, Vinnick would keep busy. In 2006, she released a self-titled album with Betty & the Bobs. That same year, she released Nothing Halfway with Rick Fines.
With her band, The Marigolds, Vinnick released The Marigolds, in 2005, and more recently, The State I’m In, in 2011.
But a solo career has always managed to stick around.
“I had always done solo shows,” she says. “And I had a lot of projects – Vinnick Sheppard Harte, with Rick Fines, The Marigolds, and other folky bands.
“But being a solo artist was always my main focus.”
And her solo career is what really sticks out from her solid discography. Vinnick released her first solo effort in 1994, called Angel in the Sidelines. Her debut earned good reviews, and phrases like, “soul-grasping renditions”, “masterful musicianship”, and “exceptional range of talent” were abound. Her sophomore effort, 33 Stars, released in 2002, garnered even more praise. Cam Fuller of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix made reference to Vinnick’s “sometimes playful, occasionally laid-back, always confident vocals,” while Paul Morden of the Sarnia Observer called songs on the album “musical gems where Vinnick takes her big voice into a delicate space with style and tenderness.”
In 2008, Happy Here was released to equally positive reviews, followed by her wildly successful 2011 effort, Me ‘n Mabel (you can read our review of Me ‘n Mabel here.)
Solo musicianship seemed to favour her – Vinnick has earned Juno nominations for each of her solo albums, including three nods in just four years.
It’s not hard to understand her success – both as a solo artist, as a member of a group, and in any other musical capacity. Vinnick has, if you will, the blues trifecta: technical knowledge, a ton of heart, and a lot of soul.
“You need a lot of heart to be a blues musician, and a lot of soul,” she explains. “You can be technical, and know your scales, but if you can’t play with feeling, you can’t move people.”
More recently, Vinnick finished a west coast tour with the Saskatoon Arts Council, and headed a blues workshop in Hornby Island, B.C. She released an EP called Live at Bluesville, which she recorded at Sirius XM last year. She’ll continue touring throughout Canada this summer, with stops at the Harrison Festival of the Arts in B.C., the Canmore Music Festival and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival in Alberta, the Summerfolk Festival, the Forest Festival and the Eaglewood Folk Festival in Ontario, and the Alianait Concert Series in Nunavut.
For more information on Suzie Vinnick – like where to buy her records, or where to see her live – visit www.suzievinnick.com.