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.


Bernard Allison Highs & Lows

Highs & Lows is Bernard Allison’s declaration of euphoria at getting back to work. His voice and guitar are standouts, his joy palpable. His longtime collaborator, the legendary Jim Gaines, produced the album, and Allison wrote or co-wrote eight of the songs.

 

Angelique Francis  Long River

Angelique Francis   Long River

When I sat down to write this review, it occurred to me: How do I describe someone that defies description?

Angelique Francis is a musical enigma. An old soul with a love and respect for the music, but an open mind with the power and passion to follow her own muse.

Debra Power  I’m Not From Chicago

Debra Power  I’m Not From Chicago

Anyone who has witnessed this red-headed fireball deliver her brand of the blues live can never forget her. And yes, with 2,618 kilometres between Calgary and Chicago, she’s not anywhere near the Windy City – yet her music can transport you instantly. A wicked piano-player, powerful vocalist and all-round nuclear explosion of a personality, Power is also a budding lyricist and capable songwriter – with only one non-original across ten songs.

Sam Moss – Blues Approved

You’d be entirely forgiven if you’ve never heard of Sam Moss. Few of us have. Yet this is an interesting curio for a man who seems an archetype for many of the more dedicated musical characters we grew up with in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. A tale both happy and sad, the story of Sam Moss might’ve been entirely lost without the discovery of tapes, originally recorded in ’77 and found – pure chance – by Chris Stamey in 2020, while searching for archived db’s’ recordings.

Tinsley Ellis – Devil May Care

If you’re intrigued by the potential of Southern Rock married to red-hot electric blues, meet your new favourite artist – and start digging into his impressive 20-release catalogue.

 

Steve Dawson – Gone Long Gone

This album has almost as many grooves as Steve Dawson has guitars. From the opening track, “Dimes”, reminiscent of Little Feat complete with a slippery horn arrangement and searing slide guitar to the solo, open-tuned acoustic guitar instrumental, Cicada Sanctuary, there is never a dull moment on this album.

HOROJO Trio – Set The Record

Every so often in the world of Canadian blues a project comes along that captures the imagination. Say for example three individual artists, each amazing on their own right, combine to create an entirely new entity, a power trio that generates incredible buzz. That is HOROJO Trio in a nutshell.

The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer – Live at the King Eddy

The past two years of Covid restrictions have just been a total drag for musicians, music lovers, club owners, sound techs and anyone else with ears. That’s stating the obvious, but this live album by the Harpoonist and the Axe Murder just might be the closest thing to being at a killer live show in a crowded bar.

Angel Forrest – Angel’s 11 Vol. 2

When Angel Forrest released her landmark album, Angel’s 11, I thought she had finally reached the pinnacle or her creative abilities. By teaming up with the 11 guitarists who have helped her to solidify her standing as one of Canada’s finest blues acts, I thought maybe she had defined her 3 decades in music with one CD.

Boy was I wrong!i

Davis Hall & The Green Lanterns

This is one of those albums that pushes the boundary of Blues in ways most people could never imagine. I am sure some blues purists would say that it is not blues, but if you listen closely you can hear blues undertones throughout every cut on this CD.

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