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.

September 2023 – The Blackburn Brothers

The Toronto music scene has been enriched by members of the Blackburn family for over five decades, beginning with veteran R&B artist  and family patriarch Bobby Dean Blackburn. He has passed the torch onto a younger generation, and it is now burning bright in the form of The Blackburn Brothers, comprised of his sons Duane (lead vocals, organ, piano), Brooke (guitar, vocals), Cory (drums, harmony vocals), and Robert (guitar, harmony vocals).

September 2023 – Coco Montoya

Coco Montoya hits a home run in his 11th album, Writing on the Wall. This southpaw guitar master, who began as a drummer, is an alumnus of both Albert Collins’s and John Mayall’s bands. Montoya describes his philosophy as “Just play what you feel, be real about it, and enjoy yourself. That’s what Albert Collins taught me.”

August 2023 – The LH Express

This is the 4th album for this Ottawa band, formerly known as “The Lucas Haneman Express”. Painting Stars is the forceful, bluesy sound of a quartet coming out of lockdown with something to prove, a burst of light and optimism we can really use.


June 2023 – Tony Holiday

With a cohort of like-minded musicians, vocalist and harmonica player Tony Holiday has been shaking up the blues scene in Memphis since his move there from Salt Lake City in 2017.

May 2023 – Taj Mahal

Upon first glance at the song titles of Taj Mahal’s latest album, one could be excused for initially wondering if renditions of 14 classic jazz/blues songs that have been cut dozens and dozens of times would be close to required listening.

May 2023 – Eric Bibb

Eric Bibb’s immense musical talents, his fierce and focused dedication to musical forms largely steeped in the blues and folk traditions, have long been coupled with his magnificent, immediately identifiable voice that is one of the most penetrating instruments of our time.


May 2023 – John Mayall

Marvel not at his age but at his legacy. From his hearty catalogue of 37 studio and 34 live releases (many defining the very heart and soul of British blues), Mayall remains the last of his kind and the great grandfather of this time-honoured genre. Regardless of whether you appreciate his reedy voice, his flash-free harmonica and his endless ability to reinvent himself, his seminal Bluesbreakers birthed some of the greatest guitarists of our time.

May 2023 – Michael Jerome Browne

Michael Jerome Browne is the son of two university professors, so it’s no wonder that his research into the blues is so deep. On this latest release, Gettin’ Together,  he has curated 14 songs from more obscure blues artists of the past century such as William Bunch and Bayless Rose, as well as the more familiar artists like John Hurt and Booker White.


April 2023 – The Maple Blues Band

I was wondering what a blues record without vocals would be like. In my mind, the story and the emotions expressed through the lyrics and the singer have always been at the centre of the blues, with the musicians accompanying them with groove, melody, and hopefully some blistering solos.



March 2023 – Paul DesLauriers & Annika Chambers

There are a lot of artists who claim to put love into everything they do, but this latest release from Paul DesLauriers and Annika Chambers is a true love story. When two people with so much talent and potential get together, sparks fly and one can only imagine what fires can come from it.


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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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