Toronto Blues Society | » John’s Blues Picks

John’s Blues Picks is the monthly album review column originally launched by the late Toronto-based blues historian and broadcaster, John Valenteyn. Submission can be sent to the TBS office for consideration and will be circulated to a pool of journalists and others for review in the monthly Maple Blues newsletter and placed at the Spotify playlist.

July 2021 – Alligator Records – 50 Years of Genuine Houserockin’ Blues

When Bruce Iglauer started Alligator records in a neighbourhood on the south side of Chicago back in 1970, little did he realize the giant impact his tiny label would have on the world of blues. In the years since, the label would release a compilation called Genuine Houserockin’ Music every 5 years,  that I would snap up as soon as I could get my hot little hands on it. It all started when Bruce used his savings to finance a recording by his favorite windy city blues band, Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers. It was that album that created the necessity of the label, so it is only fitting that the first cut on this 50th anniversary compilation is from that classic band.

July 2021 – Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

There’s a new guitar hero on the horizon — Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. His first album, Kingfish, held at number one on the Billboard Blues Chart for 91 weeks and was nominated for a Grammy Award. Rolling Stone wrote, “Kingfish is one of the most exciting young guitarists in years, with a sound that encompasses B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix and Prince.” Guitar World declared him “the future of the blues.” All this for a twenty-two-year-old from Clarksdale, Mississippi, the cradle where so much of that music was born.

July 2021 – Brandon Isaak

Brandon Isaak’s new release, Modern Primitive, is a highly listenable, highly air-playable album of gems.  The ultra talented songwriter and musician has outdone himself with 11 songs that are honest, genuine and distinctly different from one another.

July 2021 – Steve Marriner

On first glance at the front cover of Hope Dies Last, one could be excused for wondering if Steve Marriner’s new solo album might be a complete departure from the raucous and righteous sounds he’s been whipping up with his MonkeyJunk bandmates for more than a decade now.

May 2021 – Ghalia Volt

Ghalia Volt honed her skills busking on the streets of her native Brussels, singing and playing guitar, while a foot tambourine marked the beat. Growing up, she was influenced by garage rock and punk music, then came to blues though Skip James and J.B. Lenoir. Now, on the heels of two acclaimed albums — Let the Demons Out and Mississippi Blend — where she was supported by other musicians, she’s back with a twist. In her new release, One Woman Band, Volt returns to her original format and decisively demonstrates that she won’t be silenced by the limitations of the pandemic.

May 2021 – Gary Kendall

A true stalwart of the Toronto blues scene, Gary Kendall is best known as the longtime bassist in Downchild, former co-leader of the Kendall Wall Band, and music director of the ace Maple Blues Revue. He is also a highly talented songwriter and producer, skills that were showcased on his only solo album to date, 2004’s Dusty & Pearl.
Kendall recently returned to the material on that compelling release, selecting four highlight tracks that have been Remixed & Remastered by award-winning engineer L. Stu Young (Downchild, David Wilcox, Prairie Oyster).

April 2021 – Tao Ravao & Vincent Bucher

Legendary producer Christian Mousset of France’s Musiques Metisses festival in Angouleme provides a quote on the jacket of the new release by the unlikely duo: “Haunting and melancholic melodies delivered with subtle and spicy elegance, Piment Bleu, Tao Ravao and Vincent Bucher’s new album takes us on board for a trip to landing on the shores of southern creole Blues, Malagasy infectious beat and African echoes. An authentic and unique blend of today’s musical landscape.”

April 2021 – Sunday Wilde

Northern Ontario blues singer/songwriter Sunday Wilde has certainly been a prolific recording artist over the past 14 years, with new outing Peace In Trouble being her ninth full-length release. She frequently collaborated with her partner Reno Jack (Rennie Frattura), a renowned roots/blues/rockabilly bassist, and their excellent joint album, Two, was released in 2017, just before Frattura’s passing.


April 2021 – Chris Cain

What I love most about the blues is that every performer has a unique story – a story usually woven into their life’s work. Cain, from San Jose, grew up in a musical family with blues-loving parents and a Dad who encouraged him to play his guitar from age 8. The household was filled with the sounds of Albert and BB King, Ray Charles and Big Joe Williams. It stuck. Further schooling opened his eyes to jazz sounds and, after mastering the guitar, Cain experimented, learning tenor sax, piano, clarinet and bass. This may account for the full rich sound he brings forward in his brand of the blues, given the added sax (Michael Peloquin, tenor & Doug Rowan, baritone), trombone (Mike Rinta) and trumpet (Jeff Lewis) on half of the tracks.

April 2021 – Alec Fraser Jr.

Alec Fraser is no stranger to the Blues Scene in Canada, and yet, this album is only his first solo project.
To my ear, it is one of the purest and most diverse projects I have heard this year. Alec’s distinctive voice is perfectly suited to the simple truth he sings of in these twelve songs.

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