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 2018 – Les Copeland

Vernon BC-based Les Copeland is a veteran country bluesman, tracing his path from Fred McDowell and was a regular playing partner for David Honeyboy Edwards on his trips to the West Coast. Honeyboy guested on Copeland’s earlier discs for Earwig, in person on the first and in spirit on the second.

December 2018 – Jim Dan Dee

This is a new quartet of local players none of whom have been mentioned in this column before. Their name comes from the phrase ‘Everything is just Jim Dandy’ and it is also a stage persona, a character played by Jim Stefanuk, who handles the vocals and lead guitar.

December 2018 – Miss Emily featuring Gord Sinclair & Rob Baker

iss Emily (Fennell) hails from Kingston, the home base of the Tragically Hip and you might recognize Gord Sinclair and Rob Baker as the guitarist and bassist from that famous band. Although she has just celebrated twenty years in the business, it was a chance to open for the Hip that led to her association with Sinclair & Baker.

December 2018 – Deb Rhymer

This is another example of a veteran and very good West Coast band that the rest of us don’t know about; vocalist Deb Rhymer is out to change that with her first album. None other than David Vest calls her the ‘Queen of the Blues in Western Canada’ and she has a hard-working trio behind her plus several guests for the recording.

December 2018 – Angelique Francis

This young Ottawa area singer/songwriter & multi-instrumentalist has performed here several times to great acclaim. So much so that she was invited to perform at the 2015 Women’s Blues Review and she may perhaps still be its youngest alumna. It is something of a major surprise to hear her write and perform such fresh takes on traditional acoustic blues.

December 2018 – Brandon Isaak

The former Twisters front man has sent along his new, third, solo CD with a cover that reflects its ‘themes of life, love, acceptance, spiritualism and the sixth sense’. You might think that these themes would lead Isaak away from the blues but you would be wrong, he has come up with some very fine originals that are firmly in the tradition.

November 2018 – Eric Bibb

The title of Eric Bibb’s new disc works on several levels. A longtime resident of Sweden, Bibb was born in the USA, the son of music legend Leon Bibb and has spent a long time soaking up the music of West Africa, revisiting his heritage. After five decades of recording and performing internationally, we can easily call him a ‘global griot’ – a keeper of an oral history and revered storyteller.

November 2018 – Murray Kinsley & Wicked Grin

This band is based in Ottawa when they are not touring and they are seldom there. They’ve won a New Artist MBA and bassist Leigh-Anne Stanton won that MBA a couple of years ago. Murray Kinsley is the lead vocalist/guitarist/songwriter, Rod Williams plays harp and Bruce Saunders on drums & percussion. The hard-rocking blues quartet added Jesse O’Brien on keys plus Darcy Heppner & Sonny Del Rio on saxes for this outing as well. With renowned producer Nick Blagona on board, this is a major leap forward from three already good albums.

November 2018 – Jack Semple

Guitarist/singer/songwriter Jack Semple mostly stays out west, he lives in Regina, which may be one reason he’s not so well known in these parts. He has released some ten albums and has won awards for his television and movie soundtrack work. As he says on his web site, he ‘plays modern blues without forgetting where he came from’. It’s not a bad description of this album either.

November 2018 – Anthony Gomes

With this release Anthony Gomes wants to bill himself as a 21st Century guitar hero although, with a master’s degree from U of T, he knows the blues is much more than that. He showcased his deep knowledge of the blues on his Electric Field Holler in 2015. For album #13, he has written some very fine songs indeed. As you might tell from the album title, this is a blues rock extravaganza.

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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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