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.


August 2018 – Denis Parker

Denis Parker was inducted into the Newfoundland Labrador Music Hall of Fame last year to celebrate his 50 years of performing, writing and teaching. It also includes his almost twenty years as Executive Director of its Music Industry Assocation. He is originally from England where he came up with the Panama Limited Jug Band, whose two albums have recently been re-issued on Cherry Red Records.

August 2018 – Tri-Continental

It has been some years since a recording by these three players together. Bill Bourne, Lester Quitzau and Madagascar Slim (Randriamananjara Radofa Besata) each have separate careers loosely characterized as folk, blues and world music respectively, although each would probably be upset at being so labelled. Slim for one spent many years here in blues bands.

August 2018 – Manitoba Hal

Manitoba Hal (Brolund) plays his blues on the ukelele; playing several different models through FX pedals and using ‘looping’, he can easily overcome any limitations that instrument might have. He has some 17 albums in his discography, many of them solo, one-man-band efforts but this time he went to Calgary to work with the legendary Tim Williams as producer and accompanist.

August 2018 – Elliott & The Audio Kings

Mike Elliott hails from Waterloo, where for several years he fronted a band called Daddy Long Legs that won an MBA for New Artist. He has now retired that band and this is the second album for the new one. The Audio Kings are Jonny Sauder on drums and Scott Fitzpatrick on doghouse bass and they describe this album as ’12 tracks of grit, swagger and fun’.

August 2018 – Shemekia Copeland

The birth of her son, Johnny Lee Copeland, led Shemekia Copeland to take a fresh look at the world he would grow up in. Never one to shy away from telling it like it is, she has assembled a hugely talented, genre-crossing guest list led by Americana producer/instrumentalist Will Kimbrough, who plays guitar throughout.

August 2018 – Cliff Stevens

Europe sure loves the blues, many blues artists, especially Canadian ones, have toured there to great success and Cliff Stevens, from Montreal, is no exception. This album, recorded over two nights at Die Halle in Reichenbach an der Fils and the Laboratorium in Stuttgart, Germany, proves that live albums can be much more than just archival documents. He performs as a power trio, with Serge Dionne on bass and Dan Dyson on drums and all the songs are from his two previous studio albums.

July 2018 – Rory Block

After six albums that were tributes to the ‘rediscovered’ bluesmen that she had met personally, Rory Block’s new series is entitled ‘Power Women Of The Blues’. In her perceptive and well-written liner note she points out how difficult it must have been for women to pursue a career in blues along with all the other obstacles they would face in the Jim Crow South.

July 2018 – Dan Dorion

Dan Doiron becomes the third Canadian bluesman to sign with Chicago’s Earwig Music, after BC’s Les Copeland and Hamilton-born, Mississippi residing Guitar Mikey. Doiron calls Halifax home now being originally from Cape Breton and after several years as a sideman releases his fourth solo album.

July 2018 – Riot and the Blues Devils

This is a veteran Montreal trio led by a man who calls himself Riot. He plays guitar and sings while Big Papa Mike handles bass and Mark Di Claudio drums. André Chrétien adds keyboards for the CD. They play some fine rocking blues as those who were at the Aurora Winter Blues Festival will attest.

July 2018 – Spencer MacKenzie

A sophomore album is always difficult but Spencer MacKenzie, now 18, has met that challenge and then some: his voice has matured and his songwriting has blossomed. Working with producer Dean Malton and on one track none other than Eddie Kramer, he has moved into the big leagues.

Donate Join TBS Volunteer

©2018 Toronto Blues Society. Design by Janine Stoll Media.
TBS logo and WBR artwork by Barbara Klunder


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.

Toronto Blues Society