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.


Nov 2020 – Duke Robillard

Although a house party is not in the cards right now, Duke Robillard’s Stony Plain release Blues Bash! is the next best thing. Robillard, the Grammy-nominated, co-founder of Roomful of Blues, has been at the blues game for more than fifty years, and his wide-ranging experience is on full display in this CD.

Nov 2020 – Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters

Guitar giant Ronnie Earl adds to his impressive catalogue of recordings with his latest release, Rise Up, on Stony Plain Records. This 15 song album showcases the artist’s masterful guitar work with a socially conscious recording.
As ever, Earl is understated in both his performances and his renderings of songs composed by an array of artists including Magic Sam, Bob Dylan, Lillian Green and Fenton Robinson, along with his own material filling out the album.

Nov 2020 – Tony D

Such a great idea for Tony D to reveal himself as much more than a primate with the release of this multi-hued retrospective, displaying his passion and abilities across all styles of guitar. First enamoured of Tony Diteodoro’s many talents with his solo releases from back in ’93 and ’94, he was then – as he is now – a musical adventurer. His early blues output leaned towards the Hendrix/SRV side of the tracks.

Nov 2020 – Rick Fines

Time has been good to Rick Fines – as this tasty release attests. His smooth, whiskey-poured-over gravel vocals have aged beautifully, adding gravitas to his every lyric. This – his second release recorded (mostly) using the power of the sun from his northern hideaway – is a hearty collection of rootsy folk and blues, featuring eleven originals (some cowrites with Matt Andersen, Grainne Ryan, P.J.Thomas) and a Jesse Winchester cover.

Nov 2020 – Jack de Keyzer

Born in London, UK and carrying a Dutch family name Jack de Keyzer is now one of the pillars of Canada’s blues community. Long gone are the apprenticing days with Ronnie Hawkins or rabble rousing with the Bobcats, Jack de Keyzer has evolved into a master musician, a teacher who enjoys his job and loves to shine light on his inspirations.

Oct 2020 – William Shatner

Stratford festival, Star Trek and now Smokestack Lightnin’.  Is there nothing William Shatner will not try? With an all-star cast of guitarists including Albert Lee, Brad Paisley, Steve Cropper, Ritchie Blackmore, Sonny Landreth, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Pat Travers, the shame-free Montreal-born thespian butchers blues standards with gusto and cartoonish hysteria. There are some places one needn’t boldly go, and this album is one of them.

Oct 2020 – New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers 

The best news I heard all month was that singer-harpist Charlie Musselwhite, singer-songwriter Alvin Youngblood Hart, Squirrel Nut Zipper founder Jimbo Mathus, and drummer Cody Dickinson and guitarist Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and their late father Jim Dickinson had made a record together in 2007. The second best news was that the album is finally seeing the light of day, on the Alberta roots label Stony Plain. The third best news that it’s called Volume 1. More to come, then.

Oct 2020 – Bill Bourne

I’d like to say the Edmontonian Bill Bourne sounds like he has a hell hound on his trail, but he deserves better than a blues cliché. Still, he sounds like he has a hell hound on his trail.
Released in September, A Love Fandango has a lovely autumnal feel, like a soundtrack to a wheat-field film starring Lucinda Williams. Bourne plays banjo, dulcimer and four or five varieties of guitar – I lost count. You don’t need me to tell you that he’s accomplished on all those stringed things. He could probably play a bean if he had to.

Oct 2020 – Danny Brooks & Lil Miss Debi

Danny Brooks opens up his new record the same way Jack de Keyzer does, with a song called Are You Ready. Brooks’ doesn’t end in a question mark. Must be rhetorical. With road gravel in his epiglottis and promise in his heart, Brooks sings “Are you ready to have a good time of-down home Southern soul?” Sure, why not.
As the album title indicates, the tracks – 20 of them in all – were recorded in Mississippi, outside Jackson. Brooks and Lil Miss Debi (no relation to Miss Emily) identify as Texanadians. One imagines that gets them into all sorts of trouble when they have have to deal with immigration officials at the border.

Oct 2020 – Miss Emily

Miss Emily Live at the Isabel Independent

Suddenly Miss Emily (Kingston’s Emily Fennell) is a veteran on the scene. When did that happen? She has sung her heart out, loud, for years, and yet she has snuck up on us.
Perhaps her potent new album, recorded at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts in her Kingston hometown, will turn some heads. The record more or less demands it. Miss Emily even wrote a letter. Does Canada’s public broadcaster take requests?

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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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