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.

John’s Blues Picks January 2018 – Wes Mackey

Wes Mackey is a Vancouver bluesman, now 75 years old, with roots that go back to South Carolina. He worked as a sideman in blues bands in the US before ending up in Vancouver, where he eventually re-started his solo career. He has often performed as a one-man band but for some of his recordings he assembled the best Vancouver players.

John’s Blues Picks January 2018 – Shirley Jackson & Her Good Rockin’ Daddys

This is a Halifax horn band: two saxes & trumpet carry the load. MBA winner Shirley Jackson leads on tenor & vocals, Dawn Hatfield on baritone and Dave Harrison on trumpet. There are two guitarists: Tom Crilley & Marc Doucet, with Jef Wirchenko on double bass and Ainslie Jardine on drums. Ms. Jackson wrote most of the songs and did the horn arrangements, showcased most admirably on the opening rousing instrumental “Back Porch Swing” which indeed swings like crazy.

John’s Blues Picks January 2018 – Al Wood & The Woodsmen

Ottawa’s Al Wood is the vocalist, songwriter, harp player and guitarist and The Woodsmen are Lindsay Pugh on lead guitar, Frank Deresti on bass and Simon Meilleur on drums. Together they’ve released four CDs now and made it to the semi-finals at the 2011 IBCs in Memphis. They wanted to do a live off the floor album of new songs and they’ve done very well indeed – nothing mattters more than talent & experience for this task.

John’s Blues Picks January 2018 – Vincent Beaulne

Vincent Beaulne is the lead singer and guitarist for the Montreal group Blues Delight. So that’s one way to interpret the CD title. We can also look at it as making a statement through his songs. They are highly original, personal compositions performed with just his various guitars but on many he’s added some very attractive instrumentation.

John’s Blues Picks January 2018 – Billy Joe Green

Billy Joe Green, Osawi Kinew (Brown Eagle) of the Mahkwa Dotem (Bear Clan) is from the Anishnaabe Aki-ing Territory. His escape from residential school was through his guitar. The Winnipeg nightclub scene was hot and Billy Joe soaked it all up, playing every kind of music imaginable.

John’s Blues Picks January 2018 – Crystal Shawanda

After the hard rocking Fish Out Of Water last year, Crystal Shawanda returns to the blues with Voodoo Woman. She’s Ojibwe and this time out she’s paying tribute to the blues women she grew up listening to on the Wikwemikong reserve on Manitoulin Island, in sparkling new arrangements.

John’s Blues Pick December 2017 – Emily Burgess

The lead guitarist for the Women’s Blues Revue Band and formerly filling that role for the now-defunct 24th Street Wailers, Emily Burgess has been working recently with Peterborough’s Weber Brothers. They are here with her for her first solo disc. Sam Weber plays guitar; Ryan Weber, bass; Ryan “Rico” Browne, keys and Marcus Browne, drums.

John’s Blues Pick December 2017 – Layla Zoe

Born in Nanaimo and starting her career in BC, Layla Zoe moved here for a time and then on to Montreal. She found so much work in Europe that she moved there and now lives in Germany where she is also signed to its major blues label, Ruf Records. Her recent albums have been collaborations with a guitarist who is also a songwriting partner.

John’s Blues Picks December 2017 – Mike “Mudfoot” McDonald

Mike “Mudfoot” McDonald has lived in Kitchener for quite a while now but he was a fixture of our scene before that. He played guitar in many of the bands you remember and occasionally led his own with Pat Rush. He led the Sunday Jam at Grossman’s for thirteen years and put together a couple of famous compilation LPs, Grossman’s Live! Vols. 1 & 2, that captured the scene in ’87 & ’88 in a way that no one else has ever done.

John’s Blues Pick December 2017 – Cootes Paradise

Named after a conservation area around Dundas ON, this new grouping of like-minded individuals was created at Lily’s Pad. Lily Sazz, the keyboard player in the Women’s Blues Revue Band lives nearby and her basement is the focal point of the group. Joining her are five veterans: Sue Leonard and Wayne Krawchuk on lead vocals supported by Mark Volkov on flute, sax and violin; Lily on keys; Amy Di Nino on drums and Ian Taylor on bass.

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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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