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.


Dec 2020 – Steve Strongman

There’s a reason Steve Strongman is considered the Best Guitarist in the Solo/Duo category in the world, he rightfully captured the title at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis.
Following on the heels of that impressive win, Strongman has released another stunning recording to his growing catalogue, with Tired Of Talkin’, recorded in both Nashville and Hamilton and released in 2019. The album is representative of Strongman’s enormous songwriting and guitar skills, traversing from Blues-Rock to swamp and all points in between. One thing that makes Strongman so great is that there are solid melodies to satisfy the soul for a full listening experience.

Dec 2020 – Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar

Samantha Martin takes no prisoners.
It’s no coincidence that the cover of her new CD, The Reckless One, is a multi -coloured, gold-leafed representation of a hand grenade. This is, indeed, both explosive and reckless. It is also the long-awaited successor to 2015’s Send the Nightingale, which in turn was preceded by two albums and an EP going back to 2008.

Nov 2020 – Duke Robillard

Although a house party is not in the cards right now, Duke Robillard’s Stony Plain release Blues Bash! is the next best thing. Robillard, the Grammy-nominated, co-founder of Roomful of Blues, has been at the blues game for more than fifty years, and his wide-ranging experience is on full display in this CD.

Nov 2020 – Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters

Guitar giant Ronnie Earl adds to his impressive catalogue of recordings with his latest release, Rise Up, on Stony Plain Records. This 15 song album showcases the artist’s masterful guitar work with a socially conscious recording.
As ever, Earl is understated in both his performances and his renderings of songs composed by an array of artists including Magic Sam, Bob Dylan, Lillian Green and Fenton Robinson, along with his own material filling out the album.

Nov 2020 – Tony D

Such a great idea for Tony D to reveal himself as much more than a primate with the release of this multi-hued retrospective, displaying his passion and abilities across all styles of guitar. First enamoured of Tony Diteodoro’s many talents with his solo releases from back in ’93 and ’94, he was then – as he is now – a musical adventurer. His early blues output leaned towards the Hendrix/SRV side of the tracks.

Nov 2020 – Rick Fines

Time has been good to Rick Fines – as this tasty release attests. His smooth, whiskey-poured-over gravel vocals have aged beautifully, adding gravitas to his every lyric. This – his second release recorded (mostly) using the power of the sun from his northern hideaway – is a hearty collection of rootsy folk and blues, featuring eleven originals (some cowrites with Matt Andersen, Grainne Ryan, P.J.Thomas) and a Jesse Winchester cover.

Nov 2020 – Jack de Keyzer

Born in London, UK and carrying a Dutch family name Jack de Keyzer is now one of the pillars of Canada’s blues community. Long gone are the apprenticing days with Ronnie Hawkins or rabble rousing with the Bobcats, Jack de Keyzer has evolved into a master musician, a teacher who enjoys his job and loves to shine light on his inspirations.

Oct 2020 – William Shatner

Stratford festival, Star Trek and now Smokestack Lightnin’.  Is there nothing William Shatner will not try? With an all-star cast of guitarists including Albert Lee, Brad Paisley, Steve Cropper, Ritchie Blackmore, Sonny Landreth, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Pat Travers, the shame-free Montreal-born thespian butchers blues standards with gusto and cartoonish hysteria. There are some places one needn’t boldly go, and this album is one of them.

Oct 2020 – New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers 

The best news I heard all month was that singer-harpist Charlie Musselwhite, singer-songwriter Alvin Youngblood Hart, Squirrel Nut Zipper founder Jimbo Mathus, and drummer Cody Dickinson and guitarist Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and their late father Jim Dickinson had made a record together in 2007. The second best news was that the album is finally seeing the light of day, on the Alberta roots label Stony Plain. The third best news that it’s called Volume 1. More to come, then.

Oct 2020 – Bill Bourne

I’d like to say the Edmontonian Bill Bourne sounds like he has a hell hound on his trail, but he deserves better than a blues cliché. Still, he sounds like he has a hell hound on his trail.
Released in September, A Love Fandango has a lovely autumnal feel, like a soundtrack to a wheat-field film starring Lucinda Williams. Bourne plays banjo, dulcimer and four or five varieties of guitar – I lost count. You don’t need me to tell you that he’s accomplished on all those stringed things. He could probably play a bean if he had to.

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