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If He Had A Million Dollars

By JANE STEVENSON, Toronto Sun, February 20th, 2001.

Barenaked Ladies want to go to the Grammys, but Robertson says it'll cost 'em.

LOS ANGELES — Barenaked Ladies' singer-guitarist Ed Robertson isn't laying bets his Toronto band will take home a much-coveted Grammy Award tomorrow night.

On the other hand, he'd be thrilled if they did.

"Everyone pretends that they don't really care, but everyone wants a Grammy — of course they do," says Robertson, down the line from a tour stop in Toledo, Ohio.

The Ladies, whose single, Pinch Me, got the nod this year for best pop performance by a group, is up against such ueber boy bands as 'NSYNC and Backstreet Boys, oldtimers Steely Dan and Irish group The Corrs at the Grammy ceremony, which is broadcast live from the Staples Center (8 p.m., CBS, Global, ONtv).

"At this point, 'NYSNC's the obvious, Backstreet's the dark horse, and Steely is the industry pat on the back," says Robertson, sounding like a veteran oddsmaker. "It's, like, I don't think we're even in there sideways. We could win, and if we do, I'd be overjoyed. But I'm not holding too much hope."

That leads to why the Ladies, nominated in 1999 for One Week, probably won't be among the Canadian nominees attending this year's ceremony. Robertson says it would cost the group about US$60,000 to rent a corporate jet for transportation, since they play in Hamilton tonight and Montreal on Thursday night. There's just no way they could make that schedule flying commercially.

"We had a little huddle and said, 'I think I'd rather win in Montreal than lose in L.A,' " says Robertson. "So right now, we're not planning to go, but I think if the award gets bumped to an on-air award we may just bite the bullet and come. At this point, it's a pre-show (not televised) award."

Whether the Ladies go or not, Canadian music fans will still have the group, and plenty of other homegrown stars to root for on Grammy night.

Among them, double nominee and presenter Joni Mitchell, perennial nominees Sarah McLachlan, Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette and polka king Walter Ostanek, Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster, country music family act The Wilkinsons, producer Daniel Lanois, and classical pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin, who's also performing.

The bad news is that previous winners McLachlan, Dion and Morissette aren't scheduled to attend the ceremony, and many of the trophies will be handed out during the pre-telecast. The Canadian contingent is also way down this year from last — from 26 nominees to 13 — but that doesn't make it any less exciting for first-timers like MacMaster.

"It's just so cool to be nominated," says MacMaster, whose album, My Roots Are Showing, is up for best traditional folk album. "And to be able to go and just sit right in the thick of things, that in itself is a treat. It will be really neat just to sit there and watch Lord knows who walk by. Like Madonna — I'm not really a fan of her music as such — but she's just such a huge entity that it'd just be cool to sit and watch her."

MacMaster, already in town to perform last night at the Musicares celebration honouring Paul Simon, was among those Canadian nominees surprised this year by their Grammy nod. My Roots Are Showing is three years old in Canada but was just released last year in the U.S.

"I didn't realize I had any CDs eligible for even the nomination," says MacMaster. "It just shocked me."

Equally flabbergasted by their nod for best vocal country performance by a group were the father-daughter-son act The Wilkinsons, from Belleville, Ont. Their nominated single, Jimmy's Got A Girlfriend, suffered from a lack of radio play in the U.S., says Amanda Wilkinson.

"Being even mentioned in the same sentence as Alabama, and Brooks & Dunn, it's just truly an honour to be nominated with them," says Wilkinson, whose family was previously nominated in 1999 for their breakthrough hit, 26 Cents.

"You never quite know how things go, but everybody's sitting in the audience. Basically, you'd be silly not to say I hope we win this."