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.


Sept 2020 – Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite

Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite 100 Years of Blues Alligator Records

Nobody should look to veteran guitarist Elvin Bishop and old-timer harmonica blower Charlie Musselwhite for political blues music, nor should they. What they present on 100 Years of Blues, set to drop Sept. 25, is reliable entertainment of the front-porch, down-home, shoot-the-electric-breeze kind.

Sept 2020 – Fantastic Negrito

Fantastic Negrito Have You Lost Your Mind Yet? Cooking Vinyl/Warner

Though the title of the Oakland-bred bluesman Fantastic Negrito’s third album ends in a question mark, it’s more a reasonable suggestion than a question looking for an answer. Because if you’re not out of your mind these days, you’re probably not paying attention.
“All kind of things can happen in the world,” chants the artist who was born Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz, on the hand-clapped interlude Shigamabu Blues. Sure, all kinds of things can happen – we knew that. But all at the same time?

Sept 2020 – Brian Blain

Brian Blain I’m Not Fifty Anymore Independent

Brian Blain was born Sept. 11, 1946. I’ll let the mathematics enthusiasts figure out his age, but Blain is old enough to know that there’s no sense putting out an album if one doesn’t have something worthwhile to say.
With I’m Not Fifty Anymore, Blain offers topical and occasionally personal middle-of-the-road blues in accessible, avuncular ways.

Sept 2020 – David Rotundo Band

David Rotundo Band So Much Trouble Dreams We Share

The harp-blowing Canadian singer David Rotundo is associated with a happy kind of blues. His music jumps and jives, shakes and rattles, and almost always rolls. Maybe his smiled mood has something to do with wintering in Mexico, which is something he does.

Sept 2020 – Dione Taylor

Dione Taylor Spirits in the Water Matay Records
On an album of shimmering gospel and swampy Americana sounds, the chanteuse Dione Taylor has got those restless dropped-G blues. Take, for example, the existential questioning of Where I Belong, in which the Regina-born, church-raised singer is runnin’ and searchin’ and has to “keep on movin’.”

On the acoustic-slide-driven Down the Bloodline, the song’s protagonist is “runnin’ and runnin’ down the line.”
There’s a chugging, clapping Slim Harpo groove to Workin’. Taylor sings about cookin’, cleanin’ and “always dancin’ for the man.”

August 2020 – Book Review – Brother Robert: Growing Up With Robert Johnson

With the publication last summer of “Up Jumped The Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson” by Gayle Dean Wardlow and Bruce Conforth, we discovered there was previously unknown Memphis chapter in his history. Incidentally this book has won the Penderyn Prize for the best music book of any kind. We now have as full a description of the solid family life there as we’re ever likely to have.

August 2020 – Cootes Paradise

Cootes Paradise is, as you’ll recall, both the former name of the town of Dundas and a beautiful park. Their self-titled first album was nominated for a Maple Blues Award and we are now treated to the follow up. Downstream features all the veterans that made that first one led by the co-vocalists Sue Leonard and Wayne Krawchuk. They call their sounds roots and blues but for this album at least they are into a bluesy soulful blend.

August 2020 – Paul Reddick & The Gamblers

One of the club scene highlights for the past couple of years has been Paul Reddick’s regular gig at The Sauce on Danforth. In lieu of those evenings he has now taken to YouTube to give us a taste every week and we also get a full live album, only one recorded in Italy while on tour there last year.

August 2020 – Downchild

Iconic Canadian Blues Band Downchild is busily celebrating their 50th Anniversary with a tour that would still be happening were it not for the pandemic. Fortunately for us we will have a document of their fabulously well-attended show as part of Downtown Jazz last June.

August 2020 – JW-Jones

JW-Jones likes to change things up for his albums and after an excellent live album with just his road band we get a big band album with no less than thirteen horns! He describes this as his self-isolation project but he was able to assemble the whole band for much of the recording.

Donate Join TBS Volunteer

©2020 Toronto Blues Society. Design by Janine Stoll Media.
TBS logo and WBR artwork by Barbara Klunder


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.

Toronto Blues Society