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.


August 2018 – Cliff Stevens

Europe sure loves the blues, many blues artists, especially Canadian ones, have toured there to great success and Cliff Stevens, from Montreal, is no exception. This album, recorded over two nights at Die Halle in Reichenbach an der Fils and the Laboratorium in Stuttgart, Germany, proves that live albums can be much more than just archival documents. He performs as a power trio, with Serge Dionne on bass and Dan Dyson on drums and all the songs are from his two previous studio albums.

July 2018 – Rory Block

After six albums that were tributes to the ‘rediscovered’ bluesmen that she had met personally, Rory Block’s new series is entitled ‘Power Women Of The Blues’. In her perceptive and well-written liner note she points out how difficult it must have been for women to pursue a career in blues along with all the other obstacles they would face in the Jim Crow South.

July 2018 – Dan Dorion

Dan Doiron becomes the third Canadian bluesman to sign with Chicago’s Earwig Music, after BC’s Les Copeland and Hamilton-born, Mississippi residing Guitar Mikey. Doiron calls Halifax home now being originally from Cape Breton and after several years as a sideman releases his fourth solo album.

July 2018 – Riot and the Blues Devils

This is a veteran Montreal trio led by a man who calls himself Riot. He plays guitar and sings while Big Papa Mike handles bass and Mark Di Claudio drums. André Chrétien adds keyboards for the CD. They play some fine rocking blues as those who were at the Aurora Winter Blues Festival will attest.

July 2018 – Spencer MacKenzie

A sophomore album is always difficult but Spencer MacKenzie, now 18, has met that challenge and then some: his voice has matured and his songwriting has blossomed. Working with producer Dean Malton and on one track none other than Eddie Kramer, he has moved into the big leagues.

July 2018 – King Biscuit Boy

Set the time machine for 1981, Richard Newell’s then current LP, King Biscuit Boy, produced by Allen Toussaint in New Orleans, had been released in 1974. It was well received but there were frustratingly few recording opportunities after that. Enter Bob “Georgie Fab” Johnston and Darcy Hepner who wanted to get started in the music recording business and who approached Richard.

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.

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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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