Blues critic John Valenteyn brings you reviews of new blues albums every month!


  • John’s Blues Picks September 4, 2013Little Miss Higgins is back with a stunning set of new songs and a new band. Fear not, however, for her distinctive sound is very much intact. On earlier albums, the arrangements were sometimes rather too different; here she has assembled a wonderfully coherent program without sacrificing anything. You will also marvel at her vocals, ...
  • John’s Blues Picks August 7, 2013It was a golden age in Toronto blues, when Albert’s Hall was booking touring acts for a week at a time, the Blues Society was just starting up and the Saturday Matinee at the Black Swan on the Danforth was THE gathering place. One of the main reasons it was a gathering place was the ...
  • John’s Blues Picks July 8, 2013A recent pilgrimage to the birthplace of the blues was the spark behind guitar virtuoso & multiple MBA winner David Gogo’s thirteenth album. The song ideas he picked up along the Blues Trail are delivered in true Gogo style – his unique blend of Rolling Stones, early Fleetwood Mac & Ray Charles. “Come On Down” ...
  • John’s Blues Picks June 10, 2013Since Jeff’s passing in 2008, two band CDs and the long-rumoured solo CD have been released through his Estate. It has now sanctioned a generous package of live recordings from Germany that document live shows from 1989, 1995 and 2000. The audio-only version is a 3CD set and a deluxe version that includes the three ...
  • John’s Blues Picks April 30, 2013Diana Braithwaite & Chris Whiteley Scrap Metal Blues Electro-Fi/Outside “The Blues Suite”, a TBS commission that Diana Braithwaite & Chris Whiteley performed last October at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio was a concert highlight of the year. That music forms the basis of their latest Electro-Fi release. The Suite’s aim was to incorporate their own histories ...
  • John’s Blues Picks April 3, 2013To celebrate his induction into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame during Canadian Music Week and with his last album receiving a Blues Juno nomination, we get his first live album. Recorded over three nights at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom, the older songs were selected by fans and there are live versions of songs from ...
  • John’s Blues Picks March 14, 2013Montreal’s Steve Hill is the latest bandleader to go the solo route, simply by dispensing with a band – at his impromptu live segment at the Blues Summit, he played his electric guitar as he always would with only some drums played with his feet. The result obviously leaves the glaring spotlight on him but ...
  • John’s Blues Picks February 5, 2013Harry Manx and his album titles just get better & better (Isle of Manx, Bread And Buddha, In Good We Trust, West Eats Meet). Don’t be mislead by the ‘Om’ part as the songs here show a further development in incorporating Eastern elements into his own style. A prime example is the appearance of electric ...
  • John’s Blues Picks December 27, 2012I was too ill to attend but you heard Ms. Forrest introduce three songs from the new disc at the Womens’ Blues Revue last month.  You’ll be able to hear them again with her own fine band at the end of the month when Mother Tongue Blues becomes available. As you discovered, she writes from ...
  • John’s Blues Picks December 3, 2012With a lengthy discography culminating with Soul Bender, a charming, infectious Christmas CD may not have been the most obvious choice for David Gogo. It is certainly a welcome choice here. The not-often-heard “Christmas Blues” by Canned Heat opens the program in fine fashion. Fortunately he didn’t choose the other side of this single, the ...
  • John’s Blues Picks November 1, 2012Colin Linden has lived in Nashville for some years now and this club recording was done at the Douglas Corner Café there on October 29, 2010. Its journey as a CD available in stores here has been a lengthy one. It was released last May on CrossCut Records in Germany and has been available on ...
  • John’s Blues Picks October 16, 2012A quadruple fracture in the shoulder is major trouble for a piano player but Julian Fauth did not let that stop him from progressing musically. This disc is a major leap from Ramblin’ Son, his JUNO-winning second album. The biggest difference is that this is much more a collaborative effort. He started as primarily a ...
  • John’s Blues Picks August 30, 2012At www.fathead.biz, there’s an awards page that will give you an idea of how important this band is in our national music scene. With seven CDs, two of them JUNO winners, in their twenty-year history it’s a good time for a career retrospective. Twenty Years Deep takes well-chosen samples from each album and adds a ...
  • John’s Blues Picks July 30, 2012Danny Marks’ announcement last year that he was going to record a tribute to Lonnie Johnson was greeted with much anticipation. He performed the song at the Maple Blues Awards and again at the launch of Mark Miller’s book about Lonnie in Toronto, ‘Way Down That Lonesome Road’. The final recorded version of “Blues For ...
  • John’s Blues Picks June 28, 2012Album number fifteen by this multiple MBA winner features contributions from a couple of fellow songwriter/performers: Gordie “Big Sugar” Johnson, Tom “Junkhouse” Wilson & Ron Sexsmith along with some unusual choices of covers. Johnson’s two co-writes get pride of place here with “I Need You Bad” being a fine blues rocker featuring his guitar as ...
  • John’s Blues Picks June 6, 2012Chuck Jackson’s day job since 1990 has been as lead singer for Downchild and many of you know that he’s also the artistic director for one of our largest blues festivals, the Southside Shuffle in Port Credit. To occupy any remaining hours, he leads his own band, with a regular Sunday gig at Roc ‘n’ ...
  • John’s Blues Picks April 25, 2012 Shakura S’Aida’s long-awaited third CD is actually two CDs: the first disc is entitled “Time To Rock My Soul” and the second, “Time For The Blues”, and they constitute a most ambitious effort that, to these ears, is a masterpiece. Both discs feature the band you’ve been seeing in her shows plus some very special ...
  • John’s Blues Picks April 3, 2012 This duo’s first CD was the song cycle He Said, She Said and it was very well received. It chronicled the beginning of a relationship. This new one is about continuing it, whether or not they both want that, and dealing with various temptations. It’s also much more of a band album with the basic ...
  • John’s Blues Picks March 8, 2012 It’s been a while since we’ve heard the name of this Hamilton native. He released a CD here and played with King Biscuit Boy but decided to pursue his career in the USA. After stints in Chicago & Boston, he now resides in Clarksdale MS. Mike McMillan has made some very useful contacts in ...
  • John’s Blues Picks January 31, 2012 At the Awards show, Matt Andersen was being accompanied to the podium by one of those wonderful stings by the band – this time Al Lerman was playing guitar & harp. Matt quipped ‘we got to take some instruments away from Al’. That delightful compliment is a good way to introduce Al’s new solo ...
  • John’s Blues Picks December 29, 2011January 2012 – Vol. 28, No. 1 It opens with a simple graphic and Dan Aykroyd announcing the band over a darkened stage, Donnie Walsh & Chuck Jackson begin the show with the dueling harps of “Soaring” and the celebration has begun. The culmination of a cross-country tour, this evening masterfully combines history and, ...
  • John’s Blues Picks December 26, 2011December 2011 – Vol. 27, No. 12   An earlier disc paired Layla Zoe with only an acoustic guitarist. This time out, Henrik Freischlader accompanies her on guitar, bass & drums and it is determinedly electric. And yes, it was recorded in Germany and Cable Car is his record company. At one point in “Hippie ...
  • John’s Blues Picks November 4, 2011November 2011 – Vol. 27, No. 11     The Women’s Blues Revue will soon be upon us and Treasa Levasseur is well prepared with some excellent new songs for her three. The press kit says ‘4 bands, 3 studios, 2 towns, 1 surprising album’ but it should not be seen as a surprise, Treasa’s songwriting & ...
  • John’s Blues Picks October 4, 2011October 2011 – Vol. 27, No. 10 Montreal-born Ray Bonneville’s ability to create evocative images with very few words remains unmatched. Those images often seem to jump right out of southern novels, the press kit says his favourite authors are Cormae McCarthy & Flannery O’Connor. Ray, however, doesn’t need a novel, these short stories take but 3 ...
  • John’s Blues Picks September 2, 2011September 2011 – Vol. 27, No. 9 A double Maple Blues Award winner this year, Andersen’s new release is only his second studio album. There was also a disc with harmonica virtuoso Mike Stevens. The Live at the Phoenix Theatre CD earlier this year pretty much summed up his career to date and is a must-have ...
  • John’s Blues Picks August 5, 2011August 2011 – Vol. 27, No. 8 Torontonian Susan Wylde aims to explode blues myths and by starting with conservatory training she explodes one immediately. If that led to her choosing Jack de Keyzer as her co-producer and lead guitarist plus the A-List of the community in the other positions, then she’s off to a very ...
  • John’s Blues Picks July 7, 2011July 2011 – Vol. 27, No. 7 A more meteoric rise for a new band would be hard to imagine. The buzz had already been building but after their third place finish at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2009, things got much hotter. Winning five Maple Blues Awards in 2010, fueled by their first ...
  • John’s Blues Picks June 14, 2011June 2011 – Vol. 27, No. 6  Morgan Davis is a bluesman with a penetrating, uncompromising view of his field and not surprisingly, his albums appear infrequently. He provides a useful example: playing Robert Johnson’s “When You Got A Good Friend” on a cigar box guitar, an instrument Johnson may have known well. With only three ...
  • John’s Blues Picks April 29, 2011May 2011 – Vol. 27, No. 5   The movie documents Rita working with the inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and this disc has the performances that are excerpted in the film. The history of Rita’s ten-year journey and the resulting Bruce MacDonald film was our feature story last October and it’s at our web ...
  • John’s Blues Picks April 7, 2011 April 2011 – Vol 27, No 2  Multiple Maple Blues Award winning vocalist Suzie Vinnick’s latest project is a (mostly) solo acoustic blues album. Mabel is her Larrivée acoustic guitar and those of you who still think of Suzie as primarily a singer will be pleasantly surprised at her facility with Mabel. This is her fourth ...
  • John’s Blues Picks March 18, 2011January 2011 – Vol. 27. No 1 Angel Forrest Come Alive Wonderland/Select Quebec vocalist Angel Forrest has received much acclaim for promoting the music of Janis Joplin, culminating in the album Sings Janis Live. She has moved on from that now to release several other albums, including Wonderland, a recent Christmas disc. On this CD, she’s on a ...
  • John’s Blues Picks March 17, 2011March 2011 – Vol. 27, No. 3 I usually think of Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks as the Ground Zero of Toronto’s & indeed Southern Ontario’s music scene. Looking back, everything seems to build from that enormously influential band. We know though that there were performers who came before and who should be recognized: Curly Bridges, ...
  • John’s Blues Picks February 11, 2011Carlos del Junco | Nicole Christian | Kat Danser | The 24th Street Wailers | Brian Blain
  • John’s Blues Picks February 11, 2011January 2011 - Vol. 27. No 1 (download issue)   Angel Forrest Come Alive Wonderland/Select Quebec vocalist Angel Forrest has received much acclaim for promoting the music of Janis Joplin, culminating in the album Sings Janis Live. She has moved on from that now to release several other albums, including Wonderland, a recent Christmas disc. On this CD, she’s ...
  • John’s Blues Picks December 16, 2010Porkbelly Futures The Crooked Road | Bill Johnson Still Blue | Alan Black Happy As A Monkey | Arsen Shomakhov On The Move | Donald Ray Johnson It’s Time
  • John’s Blues Picks November 5, 2010CD REVIEWS: Bob Walsh Inside I Am Blue | Guy Belanger Crossroads | Various Artists The Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Concert |Jim Byrnes Everywhere West | Buddy Guy Living Proof
  • John’s Blues Picks September 30, 2010CD REVIEWS: Mel Brown Love, Lost And Found | Kellylee Evans Nina | Johnny Max Band It’s A Long Road | Brian Cober Real Far Gone | Chris Antonik Chris Antonik | Terry Gillespie Big Money
  • John’s Blues Picks September 1, 2010CD REVIEWS: JW-Jones Band Midnight Memphis Sun | Ken Whiteley Another Day’s Journey | Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne/Julian Fauth/Bobby Dean Blackburn/Curley Bridges Blues Piano – Rama | Rockit 88 Band Sweet Sugar Cane | Duke Robillard Passport To The Blues | Charlie Musselwhite The Well