Toronto Blues Society | » John’s Blues Picks

John’s Blues Picks is the monthly album review column originally launched by the late Toronto-based blues historian and broadcaster, John Valenteyn. Submission can be sent to the TBS office for consideration and will be circulated to a pool of journalists and others for review in the monthly Maple Blues newsletter and placed at the Spotify playlist.


March 2021 – Maria Muldaur with Tuba Skinny

With nearly sixty years in the biz and 42 albums released to date, Maria Muldaur has once again created a show stopper album, in which the veteran singer is perfectly paired with the youthful Tuba Skinny ensemble. Let’s Get Happy Together, to be released on the Stony Plan Records label on May 7, 2021, once again reminds us of the greatness that is Maria Muldaur, and her penchant for seeking the exact right musicians to bring her musical vision to life.

March 2021 – Curtis Salgado

The best – if not most intense – blues seem to originate from having endured real pain and suffering, helping to build an honest connection with others. While the 67-year old Washington native may hide it well, the colourful, soul-blues veteran with the big voice has come up on the other side of every medical affliction the gods can throw at him – emerging more energized, if not stronger, than ever.

March 2021 – A.J. Fullerton

A gifted singer, guitarist and songwriter in his early twenties, A.J. Fullerton possesses a talent that belies his age. The Colorado native grew up steeped in blues, and since 2016 has won a remarkable sixteen awards from the Colorado Blues Society. In The Forgiver and the Runaway — his third album — he teams up with Canadian producer Steve Marriner —also a singer, composer, multi-instrumentalist and frontman for the band MonkeyJunk — and some stellar supporting musicians that include harmonica players Paul Reddick and Jake Friel.

February 2021 – New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Riders

The genesis of the New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Riders recordings was on a Charlie Musselwhite / Mavis Staples tour bus. The North Mississippi All-Stars were the backing band on the tour; and, while on route, Luther Dickinson of The All-Stars and Musselwhite hatched a plan to record together along with a few friends.

February 2021 – The Swingin’ Blackjacks

This Toronto trio features singer/songwriter/guitarist Matt Allen, ace bassist/backing vocalist Gary Kendall (Downchild), and drummer Adam David. Their new EP comes as a result of winning the Amy Louie Grossman Music Scholarship in 2018, whose funding facilitated this release. Money well spent, as Four Hot Tracks lives up to its title.

Jan 2021 – Layla Zoe

Nowhere Left To Go is the latest offering of ten new original songs from Layla Zoe. Now residing in the Netherlands, this album shows a much deeper, more reflective side, of this fiercely independent artist.

Jan 2021 – Selwyn Birchwood

At 35, Selwyn Birchwood is hardly the ‘typical’ blues artist. Yet, being pegged a maverick has little to do with his age. His musical epiphany came at age 13 upon first hearing Hendrix and, tracing the artist’s love for the blues, a chance to see Buddy Guy live sealed the deal for this young guitarist. He not only realized what he wanted to do but was also fortunate to study under Sonny Rhodes’ tutelage – on the road of hard knocks.

Jan 2021 – Gráinne Duffy

Voodoo Blues is a showcase for the intense, electrifying vocals of Irish singer and guitar player Gráinne Duffy, who wrote all the songs on this album with her rhythm guitarist, Paul Sherry. Her blues-infused rock packs a potent punch. She was voted best female vocalist in 2014 and best artist in 2015 by Blues Matters, a U.K. publication. Her artistry has been honed with a degree in music, and she has four previous albums under her belt.

Jan 2021 – Kat Danser

Having earned the moniker, “Canada’s Swamp Blues Queen,” Edmonton’s Kat Danser lives up to the title with yet another golden album. One Eye Open, Danser’s sixth release, continues her collaboration with guitarist/producer Steve Dawson, releasing the album on his Black Hen Music label, with distribution handled by True North Records.

Dec 2020 – Beauwater

Who Works for Who is the Third release from Newfoundland based blues rockers, Beauwater and follow up to their 2017 ECMA Blues Album of the Year, Lovers, Fools and Kings.
For this release the power trio welcomed back special guests Kelly Hoppe of Big Sugar on Harmonica, Chris Harnett on Saxophone, Terry Campbell on Trumpet and Chris Kirby on Keys. This is the line-up that helped fuel the success of the previous release.   They’re back creating a more complete and textured sound on 10 original tracks of blues-soaked rock. As with their previous album, Beauwater defy being pigeonholed as one type of band or another. Their diversity, power and writing tallent is beautifully on display with this new release.

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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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