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.


January 2019 – Robert Connely Farr & The Rebeltones

Robert Connely Farr is a Vancouver resident, who grew up in Bolton MS. In 2017, he travelled to nearby Bentonia to learn from Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, who runs and performs at the Blue Front Café there. It’s celebrating its 70th anniversary this year and is the longest running juke joint in Mississippi.

January 2019 – Robert Davis

Robert Davis moved here from Kingston in 1981, playing harmonica and learning guitar while teaching in community college and working with the homeless. He was also learning Spanish and would regularly visit Cuba to play with band called Bluespirit. He formed a band here called Up the Line, which was a finalist in the 2007 Talent Search. Fraser Melvin is a very talented guitarist and arranger about town, currently playing with Bad Luck Woman & Her Misfortunes and you heard some of his amazing charts at the Women’s Blues revue last fall.

January 2019 – Blue Standard

This is the new project for Raoul Bhaneja, entertainer, vocalist, actor, harmonica player & bandleader. He’s joined by Jesse Whiteley of the famous Whiteley clan and a keyboard wiz formerly with bands like JW-Jones and the 24th Street Wailers. The duo’s name derives from ‘jazz standard’ and they chose songs from well-known jazz singers such as Nat King Cole, Chet Baker and Jimmy Scott. The album title comes from a Joe Williams song, which gets a lovely vocal from Raoul.

January 2019 – Eric Schenkman

You’ve seen Eric Schenkman’s name in the listings playing guitar in Jerome Godboo’s bands for some years now along with many others. He’s also a member of Godboogie, a more formal Godboo lineup whose album Play Music and Dance was released last year by Vizztone. Schenkman was a founding member and guitarist for the New York City alt-rock group the Spindoctors

January 2019 – Whitehorse

Back in May 2016 Melissa McClelland & Luke Doucet, the Hamilton duo who call themselves Whitehorse, released Vol. 1. It became one of the nominees for the Blues JUNO last year. They had already won a JUNO for Leave No Bridge Unburned. Vol. 2 may well do the same or even better next year. On both EPs, they combine their alt-rock (and laptop) sensibility with a deep understanding of the importance of the blues along with their very contemporary music, in each case adding new insights to the selected blues classics.

December 2018 – Les Copeland

Vernon BC-based Les Copeland is a veteran country bluesman, tracing his path from Fred McDowell and was a regular playing partner for David Honeyboy Edwards on his trips to the West Coast. Honeyboy guested on Copeland’s earlier discs for Earwig, in person on the first and in spirit on the second.

December 2018 – Jim Dan Dee

This is a new quartet of local players none of whom have been mentioned in this column before. Their name comes from the phrase ‘Everything is just Jim Dandy’ and it is also a stage persona, a character played by Jim Stefanuk, who handles the vocals and lead guitar.

December 2018 – Miss Emily featuring Gord Sinclair & Rob Baker

iss Emily (Fennell) hails from Kingston, the home base of the Tragically Hip and you might recognize Gord Sinclair and Rob Baker as the guitarist and bassist from that famous band. Although she has just celebrated twenty years in the business, it was a chance to open for the Hip that led to her association with Sinclair & Baker.

December 2018 – Deb Rhymer

This is another example of a veteran and very good West Coast band that the rest of us don’t know about; vocalist Deb Rhymer is out to change that with her first album. None other than David Vest calls her the ‘Queen of the Blues in Western Canada’ and she has a hard-working trio behind her plus several guests for the recording.

December 2018 – Angelique Francis

This young Ottawa area singer/songwriter & multi-instrumentalist has performed here several times to great acclaim. So much so that she was invited to perform at the 2015 Women’s Blues Review and she may perhaps still be its youngest alumna. It is something of a major surprise to hear her write and perform such fresh takes on traditional acoustic blues.

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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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