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 2022 – Hogtown Allstars

The Hogtown Allstars is not just a group of musicians all having a high level of performance in their field, in effect a musical All Star team. They are all well established artists in their own right, with a musical pedigree that some players could only dream of having. Each player in this band is an award winner that represents the finest in his chosen instrument.

July 2022 – Steve Strongman

Over the course of seven previous albums, Hamilton guitar slinger and singer/songwriter Steve Strongman has steadily climbed the Canadian blues ladder. He’s the winner of a Juno (in the 2013 Album of the Year category) and multiple Maple Blues awards, and his signing to Stony Plain/Linus Entertainment in 2020 is further fuelling his career ascent.

June 2022 – Harrison Kennedy

Recently turned 80, Harrison Kennedy is rightfully viewed as a valued elder statesman of the Canadian blues community, but he’s not resting on any laurels. Kennedy continues to record and perform at a very high level, so his new offering, Thanks For Tomorrow, has been keenly anticipated.

June 2022 – The Durham County Poets

The Durham County Poets are more than just a blues band. They are a collective of talented artists, each well versed in their own field, who combine their influences and styles to create a single cohesive unit capable of some amazing music.

The group consists of Kevin Harvey (lead vocals), David Whyte (electric and acoustic guitars, vocals), Neil Elsmore (acoustic guitar, vocals), Carl Rufh (triple bass, that’s a double bass and a regular bass, trombone, vocals), and Rob Couture (drums, percussion).


June 2022 – Cliff Stevens  

Like most Canadian bluesmen, Cliff Stevens started out as a sideman and session player, honing his skills and paying his dues.

Beyond that, I believe his life has been a musical journey of discovery, constantly watching, listening and learning from all those people he worked with, along with the influences of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton and Johnny Winter.

June 2022 – Eliza Neals 

More than a few artists released albums during the COVID 19 pandemic, but Eliza Neals wrote, recorded and released two! The previous album “Black Crow Moan” was a perfect launching point for her latest album, and her second pandemic release, “Badder to the Bone”

June 2022 – Putumayo

Putumayo Presents Blues Café

I am naturally a collector. Hockey cards as a kid, stamps and coins as a young adult and for the last 20 years, music. Anyone who collects by nature is always looking for that hidden gem, the elusive rookie card, rare stamp / coin or that special song from days gone by.

Putumayo Presents Blues Café is just that, that fabulous collection of hidden gems and elusive tracks that fuel the desire, that sonic journey that is at the heart of the love of music.

Bonnie Raitt – Just Like That

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and eleven-time Grammy winner, plus this year’s recipient of the Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement Award — presents her first new album in more than six years. The title comes from Raitt’s awareness that perceptions can alter in a flash, as reflected in recent world events.


Ronnie Earl – Mercy Me 

Every Ronnie Earl release is met with near-religious fervour – and this is his 28th. The twelve tracks on the aptly-named Mercy Me begin with a robust, full-band workout on Muddy Waters’ “Blow Wind Blow”. Dave Limina’s rich wall of B3 is nicely ghosted by guest Anthony Geraci on piano while Diane Blue adds vocal support. Once referred to as ‘the Coltrane of the Guitar’, Earl and his band slip into John Coltrane’s “Alabama” like a pair of well-worn slippers

Bernard Allison Highs & Lows

Highs & Lows is Bernard Allison’s declaration of euphoria at getting back to work. His voice and guitar are standouts, his joy palpable. His longtime collaborator, the legendary Jim Gaines, produced the album, and Allison wrote or co-wrote eight of the 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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