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.


June 2018 – Conor Gains

Conor Gains won the Cobalt Songwriting Prize for “Leave It On The Line” from Run Away with the Night. The prize is for innovation and creativity in songwriting and he has taken that to heart in the songwriting for this new one. The first single and the opening track, “I Know” opens with classical strings tuning before a choir comes in. With Gains vocal we are in a very contemporary R&B setting.

June 2018 – Jordan Officer

Three Rivers, or Trois Rivières, is Jordan Officer’s hometown and a trip to the Mississippi Delta led him to realize the importance of one’s roots and perhaps more importantly the value of family. The opening “Your Body’s My Home” tells of starting a family with a childhood sweetheart after many years apart.

June 2018 – Judy Brown

Those of us with fond memories of the Kendall-Wall jams at the Black Swan may recall Judy Brown’s name. The singer/songwriter/guitarist played there often and released a cassette or two of original songs. She stopped performing to raise a family but didn’t stop writing songs.

June 2018 – Steve Hill

Even though he tries to record ‘live off the floor’ for each of his solo albums, there remains the excitement and energy of live performance in front of an enthusiastic audience and that’s exactly what Montreal’s Steve Hill has captured here in a concert recorded at La Chapelle in Quebec City last November.

June 2018 – Steve Dawson

All-instrumental albums are entering the mainstream as players move beyond merely accompanying vocalists to looking for ways to bring their virtuosity more to the fore. Steve Dawson is not only a master of all things stringed, he also wants to push the boundaries of composition for these instruments. Lucky Hand is the latest manifestation of that search. He’s joined here by several guest artists, most notably a string quartet, led by old friend and duo partner Jesse Zubot as one of the violinists and the arranger.

June 2018 – Matt Andersen & The Mellowtones

One often hears Matt Andersen live performing solo and indeed the opening song does start with his trademark acoustic guitar strumming but The Mellotones quickly join in, telling us that this is a major big band concert event. The song is “Weightless” and what a performance it is: with piano, electric guitar, bass & drums, four horns and harmony vocals, this is about as far from a solo show as you can get.

May 2018 – Jay Sewall

Jay Sewall is a Quebec City-based harmonica player, the first bluesman to play the Montreal International Jazz Festival, in 1983, and the recipient of the Lys Blues Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. With his seventh album, he’s celebrating 50 years of performing with songs he’s performed over the years but never recorded along with some vintage tunes from the archive.

May 2018 – Dan McKinnon

Toronto native Dan McKinnon won our Talent Search last summer and has been very busy ever since, being the winner of the artist development prize, the Amy Louis Grossman Music Scholarship, as well. He was also one of the runners up for our IBC nominee and introduced a couple of the new songs at that memorable playoff evening at Hugh’s Room. His new disc will raise his profile much further.

May 2018 – Michael Kaeshammer

Something New is a very appropriate title as Michael Kaeshammer shows himself to be a very good practitioner and composer of New Orleans pop & jazz but he has a number of guests that you know and enough blues to include it here. The opening “Scenic Route” surprises with a boogie piano break among its jazzy sections.

May 2018 – Carlos del Junco & The Blues Mongrels

Carlos del Junco says that it’s seven years since his last Mongrels album, where does the time go. A gorgeous acoustic album is what we get here, with Eric St. Laurent on guitar and Henry Heilig on bass, both longtime accompanists. He calls the program ‘an eclectic potpourri of styles’ with five vocals followed by five instrumentals.

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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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