Toronto Blues Society | » John’s Blues Picks

John’s Blues Picks is the monthly album review column by Toronto-based blues columnist, John Valenteyn. John Valenteyn is co-founder of the Toronto Blues Society, radio host on CIUT.FM and the Toronto Blues Society’s resident album reviewer. John’s Blues Picks (JBP) are collected monthly in the Toronto Blues Society’s monthly print newsletter, Maple Blues.


December 2019 – The Bluesland Horn Band

It was beginning to look like blues horn players were an endangered species but the number of albums with guest horn sections is increasing rapidly and we are now once again seeing actual albums by working horn bands coming to the fore.

December 2019 – Emily Burgess

Emily Burgess rode her first album, Are We In Love?, to the New Artist MBA last year and was busily recording this one at the time of the awards.

December 2019 – Bywater Call

Meghan Parnell and Dave Barnes’ band, Bywater Call, first came to our attention with the 2018 Talent Search. Led by Parnell’s magnificent voice and Barnes’ fluid slide guitar, they won rather handily.

December 2019 – Jackie Washington

November 12 was the one hundredth anniversary of Jackie Washington’s birth. Ken Whiteley, who is largely responsible for the late career success of the Hamilton legend, has assembled an impressive package to celebrate.

December 2019 – Angel Forrest

Now in her 50’s, Angel Forrest has decided to confront her age Hell Bent with Grace. Partner Denis Coulombe is right there with her along with lead guitarist Ricky Paquette as the songwriting trio. 

November 2019 – Sue Decker

Sue Decker is a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Victoria. She specializes in lap steel slide guitars and her set list goes from blues to folk to outlaw country.

November 2019 – Guy Belanger

Guy Bélanger continues his journey to take the humble harmonica to new places, to Eldorado, and he takes a superb band with him: Rob McDonald on lead guitars, Marc-André Drouin on bass and Michel Dufour on drums.

November 2019 – Son Roberts

The premise of the Cobalt Prize is to reward songs that ‘creatively utilize blues traditions within the broad contemporary musical landscape’. Son Roberts has taken this to heart for his third album. He certainly has stretched the boundaries with his song structures and his subject matter is very much in the here and now: he’s very concerned about some of the things he sees around him here in Toronto.

November 2019 – Wide Mouth Mason

Wide Mouth Mason impressed a lot of people in the mid 90’s when this young trio from Saskatoon emerged. I remember a packed house at the Horseshoe Tavern for their CD launch, a self-titled release on Warner Music. They soon left the blues part of their blues rock behind for six more albums, earning several JUNO nominations along the way. They are back now as a duo and diving deep into the blues.

November 2019 – Mel Brown & The Homewreckers

It’s been ten years since the passing of Mel Brown in Kitchener. The legendary guitarist found a home here after a lengthy career as a solo artist for the Impulse label and a mainstay in the band of Bobby Blue Bland, an in-demand session guitarist and the leader of the house band at Clifford Antone’s famous club in Austin TX. He also found a home with Electro-Fi Records, where the guitarist made a late career move as a vocalist with a warm, expressive baritone voice.

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The Toronto Blues Society acknowledges the annual support of the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council and the Department of Canadian Heritage, and project support from FACTOR< and the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage (Canada Music Fund) and of Canada’s Private Broadcasters, The Canada Council for the Arts, the SOCAN Foundation, SOCAN, the Ontario Media Development Corporation, and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

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