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.


John’s Blues Picks August 2017 – Cash Box Kings

Take four accomplished younger players and add one veteran vocalist – it’s a recipe that worked for Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets featuring Sam Myers and it has been repeated successfully since. The Cash Box Kings was formed in Madison WI in 2001 by harmonica player Jay Nosek. South Side singer Oscar Wilson joined in 2007. There have been eight albums since and this is their first for Alligator.

John’s Blues Picks August 2017 – Martin Goyette

This Montreal-based vocalist/songwriter/ harpist was first runnerup in our Talent Search in 2006 and showcased at the Blues Summit the following year. He released Sweet Warm Jelly in 2013. He continues the food theme with Big Beets. Guitarist Jim Bland opens the program in fine fashion with a reverb-laden solo before the band kicks in on “St. John Morning Blues”.

John’s Blues Picks August 2017 – 12 BeLowZero

For blues bands actually based in Cottage Country instead of just visiting, we have The Mackenzie Blues Band in Owen Sound and Tobin Spring in Huntsville to name two, but there is now also 12BeLowZero, based in & around Port Elgin.

John’s Blues Picks August 2017 – Trickbag

After a rather long hiatus on disc the veteran Hamilton band Trickbag is back (Not to be confused with an American band of the same name). They got their start backing King Biscuit Boy and three of the original members are still going strong: Larry Feudo on guitar & harp, Donna Panchezak on vocals & percussion and Paul Panchezak on drums.

John’s Blues Picks August 2017 – Bad Luck Woman & Her Misfortunes

The Bad Luck Woman is Raha Javanfar, one multi-talented artist, with one foot in the music world and the other in the theatre. She’s of Persian heritage and is classically trained in that tradition. She has a foot in the folk world here too as a fiddler in a western swing band and as the singer, bass player and bandleader here. They specialize in the songs by obscure and sassy ladies of the 40’s, 50’s & 60’s.

John’s Blues Picks July 2017 – Watermelon Slim

Watermelon Slim (William Homans) has been a frequent visitor here, especially as he was signed to Fred Litwin’s Ottawa-based NorthernBlues label. In fact, he was the label’s last remaining artist as the company wound down (all his CDs remain available, however). We clearly had an impact on him as this new disc was recorded in Winnipeg, with local players and produced by poet/singer/songwriter Scott Nolan.

John’s Blues Picks July 2017 – Harris, Hunter & Fenn

Dave HarrisJohn R. Hunter and George Fenn are three veteran Victoriaarea performers, so veteran that they have 50 years of playing experience between them. Harris may be best known as a busker on the streets of Victoria and has recently been performing as a one-man band when not in this group. He has in fact written a book on oneman bands called “Head, Hands & Feet”. John R. Hunter is a drummer/vocalist/ songwriter, most recently working with Bill Johnson (he was here with Bill for the Summit) and Harpdog Brown.

John’s Blues Picks July 2017 – The Bluesland Horn Band

This eight-piece band is based in Calgary, it was active from 1998 to 2004 and then was re-formed in 2013. This is their third CD since. Marty Cochrane is the vocalist, with Gavin Sorochan, drums; Pan Sciore, bass; piano, Guy Plecash; guitars, Terry Medd (who is also the producer and pr imary songwriter); tenor sax, John Reid; trumpet, Doug Zacharias; baritone sax, Paul Evans; the horn arrangements are by Miles Jackson, who also plays piano on some songs. They describe their style as a mix of blues, funk, soul/jazz & roots and have eight new originals and a couple of covers here.

John’s Blues Picks July 2017 – Betty Bonifassi

You may not know Béatrice “Betty” Bonifassi’s name but if you saw Les Triplettes de Belleville, you certainly heard her as she dominates the soundtrack. She was also the vocalist for DJ Champion on “No Heaven”, which made a splash a few years ago and even made it to the JUNO Awards show.

John’s Blues Picks June 2017 – American Epic

This ambitious project, ten years in the making, has suddenly appeared, with shows broadcast on PBS this past month. It is a new exploration of the fledgling recording industry’s series of field trips that documented the amazing breadth of working peoples’ music in the United States in the late 20’s.

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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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