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.


April 2018 – James Harman

To quote the press release, James Harman’s last one on Electro-Fi, Bonetime, hit #1 on the Living Blues magazine’s radio chart and received 5 BMA nominations. I see no reason why this one should not do even better. But then I’m biased, I think Harman is one of the best blues songwriters around and Fineprint has thirteen more treasures.

April 2018 – Christopher Darton

Port Colborne-based documentary maker Christopher Darton has already produced the excellent The Way We Was: The Story of The Kendall Wall Blues Band and a new video for the Mighty Duck Blues Band’s video for “Hammered and Nailed” featuring John Dickie. His choice of Danny Brooks’ epic journey is a most welcome one. Many are now aware of his horrible descent into addiction and the miraculous recovery he attributes to his newfound faith and his wife Deb.

April 2018 – Sugar Brown

A blues traditionalist and proud of it is Sugar Brown aka Ken Kawashima, who is also a Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto and who comes to us from Bowling Green OH via Chicago, where he played in several blues bands. For his third album, he again shows us that there is no need to stray outside the tradition to come up with contemporary blues songs.

April 2018 – Myles Goodwyn

Myles Goodwyn, the lead singer and principal songwriter for April Wine (20 million albums sold), has apparently been a staunch blues fan all along. He has found the time to write songs and stockpile tracks for a possible album. He has also given a lot of thought to who might be suitable ‘Friends’ to help.

April 2018 – Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar

One of the big stories last fall was the forthcoming album from Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar, the critical success of Send The Nightingale serving to heighten the anticipation. The TBS selected the newly enlarged group after a competition at Hugh’s Room with Dan McKinnon and Raoul & The Big Time to be its representative at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Alas, that trip proved to be unsuccessful but a major record label reached a much different conclusion and the album will soon be here for us all to enjoy – the Release Party is at The Horseshoe on April 28th.

March 2018 – Sue Foley

‘The Ice Queen’ certainly does not refer to Sue Foley’s relationship with her friends in Texas, particularly the ones she made during her lengthy sojourn at Clifford Antone’s famous club. She went back to record her first solo album in some time and the result proves how smart a move that was, even if she has moved to broaden her musical palette from straight ahead blues.

March 2018 – Jack de Keyzer

Hard on the heels of a “best of” collection, Jack pays homage to the masters and Checkmate is one stomping, roaring collection. Otis Rush is represented by three songs; Howlin’ Wolf, three; Elmore James, two and Robert Johnson, two. We also get some early BB, Blind Willie McTell and Aretha Franklin. While they stick fairly close to the originals, Jack and the band don’t try to imitate any of the masters, they perform these songs as the Jack de Keyzer Band.

March 2018 – Suzie Vinnick

Shake The Love Around’ was the end of a mealtime blessing in rural Saskatchewan where Suzie Vinnick grew up – everyone around the table shook hands before digging in. She said she wanted use that analogy to do an album of happy songs as an antidote to the darkness in the world. The sense of community is also evident in the songs here, as many of them are collaborations, a method of songwriting that is yielding very good results.

March 2018 – Khari Wendell McClelland

Vancouver’s Khari Wendell McClelland was here last February at the Streetcar Crowsnest Theatre for a ten-day run of the ‘documentary theatre musical’ that the songs on this album were written for. He ‘collected and interptreted songs that likely accompanied his great-great-great grandmother Kizzy as she fled US slavery into Canada’.

John’s Blues Picks February 2018 – Curtis Salgado & Alan Hager

Soul bluesman/harmonica player Curtis Salgado and his lead guitarist Alan Hager decided to record an acoustic album and a fine decision it was. They’ve worked up a program of originals and newly arranged covers that’s a delight to hear. Salgado has had rather more health problems than any man should endure but he’s back, a fact celebrated in the opening “I Will Not Surrender”. Hager, who is a graduate of the Berklee School and of the New England Conservatory, brings a unique sophistication to the music.

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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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