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.


June 2018 – Steve Dawson

All-instrumental albums are entering the mainstream as players move beyond merely accompanying vocalists to looking for ways to bring their virtuosity more to the fore. Steve Dawson is not only a master of all things stringed, he also wants to push the boundaries of composition for these instruments. Lucky Hand is the latest manifestation of that search. He’s joined here by several guest artists, most notably a string quartet, led by old friend and duo partner Jesse Zubot as one of the violinists and the arranger.

June 2018 – Matt Andersen & The Mellowtones

One often hears Matt Andersen live performing solo and indeed the opening song does start with his trademark acoustic guitar strumming but The Mellotones quickly join in, telling us that this is a major big band concert event. The song is “Weightless” and what a performance it is: with piano, electric guitar, bass & drums, four horns and harmony vocals, this is about as far from a solo show as you can get.

May 2018 – Jay Sewall

Jay Sewall is a Quebec City-based harmonica player, the first bluesman to play the Montreal International Jazz Festival, in 1983, and the recipient of the Lys Blues Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. With his seventh album, he’s celebrating 50 years of performing with songs he’s performed over the years but never recorded along with some vintage tunes from the archive.

May 2018 – Dan McKinnon

Toronto native Dan McKinnon won our Talent Search last summer and has been very busy ever since, being the winner of the artist development prize, the Amy Louis Grossman Music Scholarship, as well. He was also one of the runners up for our IBC nominee and introduced a couple of the new songs at that memorable playoff evening at Hugh’s Room. His new disc will raise his profile much further.

May 2018 – Michael Kaeshammer

Something New is a very appropriate title as Michael Kaeshammer shows himself to be a very good practitioner and composer of New Orleans pop & jazz but he has a number of guests that you know and enough blues to include it here. The opening “Scenic Route” surprises with a boogie piano break among its jazzy sections.

May 2018 – Carlos del Junco & The Blues Mongrels

Carlos del Junco says that it’s seven years since his last Mongrels album, where does the time go. A gorgeous acoustic album is what we get here, with Eric St. Laurent on guitar and Henry Heilig on bass, both longtime accompanists. He calls the program ‘an eclectic potpourri of styles’ with five vocals followed by five instrumentals.

May 2018 – David Vest

Veteran piano man David Vest recorded his last two albums here with the Willing Victims, Teddy Leonard, Gary Kendall and Mike Fitzpatrick. This time he decided to record on Vancouver Island with a West Coast band: Peter Dammann was the guitarist in the late Paul deLay’s Band when Vest was its pianist.

April 2018 – James Harman

To quote the press release, James Harman’s last one on Electro-Fi, Bonetime, hit #1 on the Living Blues magazine’s radio chart and received 5 BMA nominations. I see no reason why this one should not do even better. But then I’m biased, I think Harman is one of the best blues songwriters around and Fineprint has thirteen more treasures.

April 2018 – Christopher Darton

Port Colborne-based documentary maker Christopher Darton has already produced the excellent The Way We Was: The Story of The Kendall Wall Blues Band and a new video for the Mighty Duck Blues Band’s video for “Hammered and Nailed” featuring John Dickie. His choice of Danny Brooks’ epic journey is a most welcome one. Many are now aware of his horrible descent into addiction and the miraculous recovery he attributes to his newfound faith and his wife Deb.

April 2018 – Sugar Brown

A blues traditionalist and proud of it is Sugar Brown aka Ken Kawashima, who is also a Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto and who comes to us from Bowling Green OH via Chicago, where he played in several blues bands. For his third album, he again shows us that there is no need to stray outside the tradition to come up with contemporary blues songs.

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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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