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.


February 2019 – Watermelon Slim

William Homans, aka Watermelon Slim, recorded Golden Boy last year in Winnipeg and released it on France’s Dixiefrog label. This new one has him once again on our NorthernBlues. A longtime resident of Clarksdale MS, Church of the Blues was apparently recorded back in his hometown of Norman, Oklahoma and what we get is his trio with lots of guests, primarily on lead guitar. Howlin’ Wolf once said that he rarely played guitar because he felt his style was too old fashioned, he had  Hubert Sumlin there to provide that more contemporary sound.

February 2019 – Mike Goudreau

This Eastern Townships veteran has quite a large discography both solo or as leader of the Boppin’ Blues Band. Not as well-known is his sideline as a composer of music for films and TV. He now has a CD of highlights from that work and it comes as something of a surprise that songs of this quality have been ‘hidden’ this way. Vol. 1 covers the blues selections from a catalogue of some fifty songs and these are actual songs as opposed to instrumental interludes.

February 2019 – Ragtime Orioles

You may not have known that a renowned expert in early blues and ragtime is right here in town: Professor Emeritus Bill Westcott retired from teaching music at York U. in 2010. He has a couple of solo CDs featuring his piano playing and has now assembled a group to play some of these songs in a more formal setting. Brenna MacCrimmon is on voice & percussion; Andrew Downing, bass; Tim Posgate, banjo and Chris Robinson on clarinet. In these performances, they take us back in time to a period when blues and jazz were emerging from ragtime and into vaudeville.

February 2019 – Michael Jerome Brown

The combination of Michael Jerome Browne’s voice and his guitar has always been something very special. To use that combination to give us an intimate look at soul music from a traditional blues player’s perspective is a master stroke. His deep knowledge of early recordings is put to good use as we get Blind Willie Johnson’s street gospel song “Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right”, a duet with Eric Bibb. “Pharoah”, a spiritual by Mrs. Sidney Carter was recorded by Alan Lomax in 1959 but it no doubt goes back much further and here MJB is joined by Harrison Kennedy – the result is sheer pleasure.

February 2019 – Colin Linden & Luther Dickinson

These two giants of roots music have generated something quite unique out of their regular get-togethers. This album has the telepathic collaboration of the two guitarists as its foundation but with guest vocalists and members of the cast of the TV series Nashville for which Linden is the music director, it is much more of a communal effort than the duet album we might think we’re getting. This communal atmosphere is of course one reason Nashville is such a magnet for performers.

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.

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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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