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Canada's Cheryl Dunn

She has wowed Canada with her musical ability since she was twelve years old, topped the charts in the UK and Australia and toured the Caribbean. Fresh off her nomination for a Covenant Award (Canada's Dove Awards), Cheryl Dunn will be tackling Texas in December and planning a full scale tour of the United States in the spring of 2006. She is finally bowing to the pressure to make the journey south of the 49th parallel after being coaxed, prodded and courted by the music industry for several years.
 
Dunn is the consummate country music performer, waxing eloquent when she speaks, singing her ballads with gusto and leading audiences through the chorus of her fun and frolicking tune "Let Go" from the album of the same name. The song was written by producer Carmon Barry, who is a double nominee for a Covenant both in the Producer of the Year and Song of the Year categories. Let Go the album is nominated for Country / Bluegrass Album of the year but is in tough as country star Paul Brandt finds himself nominated in the same category.
 
Grateful for her success on the country music scene, Dunn is quick to point out that any good fortune she has enjoyed is a direct result of God's intervention. If you don't do your homework before speaking to Cheryl, you might miss out on some interesting insights to her career that I had to coax from her such as why she has been so well received in the UK.  "I don't know why, I really don't. We released a song, "My Rock," and it stayed there (on the charts) for a long time--two months. It was so well received." She finally admits, "When I get my tracking reports (for airplay) in, I get reports from Australia, Spain and all over the UK. I got an inquiry from a fellow in Japan who would like me to come over and do a tour there. Australia is a big one for me."
 
"I met a fellow in Banff Alberta who said to me, 'You are Cheryl Dunn.' I said yes, I am. He said, 'They play your music in Australia and I know exactly who you are.' It's pretty incredible."
 
The summer of 2005 was busy for Dunn as she crossed the ocean to tour Scotland singing in Aberdeenshire, Inverness, Glasgow, and Lochgelly, to name just a few of the cities. She says of the experience, "It was great. We went for a gospel music convention and the people were fantastic. You will not get treated any better. They bless the socks off of you. It was just incredible." The average crowds were in the neighborhood of 3,000 people.
 
Dunn also spent five weeks this past summer touring Northern Ontario and western Canada. The highlight was the Big Valley Jamboree, an annual country music festival that in the past two years has hosted top drawer country stars such as Reba McEntire, Pam Tillis, Clint Black, Clay Walker and Ricky Scaggs. Singing before crowds as large as 50,000 people, she punctuates her conversation with superlatives, "It was a pretty big thing for a gospel artist to be able to get in there. I was looking forward to it and it was really fantastic." 
 
"I find now that my name is getting around, we pull in such a huge crowd. People are actually saying, 'I know who Cheryl Dunn is, let's go to that concert.' We've been out west four times where we have packed houses.  We have been to the east coast and packed houses out.  It just seems to work every place that we have gone," she says in her down home friendly manner that will endear her to those in the southern United States. 
 
Despite her success, life hasn't always been easy or kind to this native of Port Hope Ontario. She left the music industry at age 18 jaded and disillusioned. Not unlike other childhood prodigies, she found herself burned out at an early age. Playing in bars and honkytonks got to her, "I had just had enough. There was never a moment when I just got to be a kid. I was just so sick and tired of people having to get drunk. I was just fed up with people and their lifestyles. I couldn't handle it. It was just so lonely. I didn't have any friends because I was gone every single weekend. I burned out as time went on."
 
When they (the band) stopped to have a few beers, we would go into the car and have some pop. This was our whole lifestyle. I never got to see my graduation. I never got to see any kind of sports or anything like that. As time went on, I felt so empty. I kept thinking there has got to be more to life than this. Even at Christmas parties, husbands and wives would come in and look happy together but by the time the evening was over, the guy would have his shirttail out and the wife would be all tousled and I was just sick and tired of it. I just said I had enough and walked away. I sold everything I had including my guitar. I never looked back and I never missed it either for the longest time." 
 
Fast forward many years and Dunn, now married to husband Jim, with four children in tow, is a committed Christian. Her music career is a distant image in the rear view mirror of life. A women's ministry event was being planned at the church she attended. At the urging of a friend and over Cheryl's many objections, she was convinced to sing just one song for the occasion.  
 
Gifted as a story teller, she helps you feel a part of the story as she relives it, "I went to that women's ministry event scared out of my wits, standing in front of those women. I closed my eyes, held the microphone against my chest and I shook like a leaf. I was scared to death but my girlfriend Eleanor, she pushed me on. She was the one who inspired me. She said to me, 'God gave you a gift, Cheryl, you get out there and use it.'  Despite the fact Dunn says it took her several years to regain her confide nce, she never looked back. 
 
In the mid 'nineties, not long after Cheryl and her husband Jim had given their hearts to the Lord, they were faced with another challenge as Jim was diagnosed with cancer. "At the time, it changed our lives drastically because when you are going through such a tough time, you know you have nowhere else to turn. You have no finances, no house, no stuff, you know nothing can change the situation but God. At that point in time when there is just nothing left, God took us through that whole process," she remembers. She then adds, "Sometimes you take life for granted. Jim is well now and he is doing great."
 
Her song "You Can Reach Me" echoes those sentiments. "Sometimes you go through life and say, 'Where is God in the midst of all of this?' Then you realize that He will never leave us or forsake us," she says. Just like the words to her song "Let Go" remind us:

God's got a big plan,
May include some things you don't understand.
Step aside let the Lord do the leading,
Something new you will be receiving,
If you're holding on too tight,
Squeezing hard with all your might, 
Let go.  
In Canada, Cheryl Dunn's music is distributed nationally through  Christian bookstores. You can also listen to audio clips and order her music online through her website <http://www.cheryldunn.com/>www.cheryldunn.com 
 
By Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved

Joe Montague is an internationally published journalist / photographer. His ministry is dedicated to the memory of his late son Kent David Montague who went to heaven at the age of 18. All copyright and distribution rights remain the property of Joe Montague. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
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