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.


Colin James Open Road

Colin James  Open Road  True North Records

It’s reassuring, if not beyond pride-swelling, to watch a true Canadian talent getting better and better at their craft with each successive release. And, as popular as his Little Big Band was to so many, this writer never felt that James has ever truly maximized his definitive guitar talents, as readily identified by once-mentor, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Yet, here’s another strong release that moves him ever closer to doing so. 

Denis Parker – Country Blue

Denis Parker  Country Blue

Blues fans in St. John’s, Newfoundland are well aware of Denis Parker. He has been a cornerstone of the local blues scene ever since he arrived in the city of legends back in the early 70’s, bringing blues to the rock. With a pedigree that includes his work with Panama Limited, and their recording done at the legendary Abbey Road Studios,  

David Vest – Live In Calgary

David Vest   Live In Calgary Cordova Bay Records

Picking up where Gary Kendall’s review of Vest’s Live at Hermann’s left off, Live In Calgary continues to celebrate the venerable blues pianist’s joy of playing live. Armed with his long-time band (Tom Bowler, guitar; Ryan Tandy, bass; Damian Graham, drums) , with longtime Portland, Oregon blues guitarist, Peter Dammann, sitting in, Vest & Co. lay down their love for piano-based blues on fans at the 2019 Calgary International Blues Festival.

Charlie A’Court & Witchitaw – When Country Gets the Blues

The latest release from ECMA award winning singer / songwriter Charlie A’Court sees the Atlantic Canadian blues powerhouse teaming up with country rocker outlaws “Witchitaw” for a brand-new Live album, but it is more than just a one-off live album. They have joined forces to create an exciting new touring show that will cover all three Atlantic provinces in the wake of the album’s release.

September 2021 – Colin Linden

Long based in Nashville, Colin Linden is recognised as a true renaissance man of roots music and the blues. As well as his solo recording career, he is a member of Canadian roots supergroup Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (alongside Tom Wilson and Stephen Fearing) and an in-demand guitarist, producer, and music director for other artists.

September 2021 – Sue Foley

Prolific blues guitarist and singer/songwriter Sue Foley has at times been undervalued over the course of a career now spanning over 30 years and 15 albums. It was gratifying, then, to observe her 2018 album The Ice Queen fare so well. Arguably her strongest yet, it earned a Juno nomination, and helped her win another Maple Blues Award as Best Guitar Player and take home the coveted Best Traditional Female (Koko Taylor Award)” at the 2020 Blues Music Awards in Memphis.

September 2021 – David Gogo

Acoustic-blues veteran David Gogo used the pandemic as an opportunity to rediscover his musical roots. The result is Silver Cup, his sixteenth album, in which the Vancouver Island resident — three-time winner of the Maple Blues Guitarist of the Year Award — displays his impressive talent as a vocalist, guitarist and songwriter (he wrote or co-wrote all but one song on this recording). The CD was produced by Steve Marriner, who also plays a dizzying array of instruments here, including guitar, piano, drums and harmonica. In fact, one outstanding feature of this album is the interplay of instrumental excellence between Gogo and Marriner.

September 2021 – David Vest

It makes sense that if David Vest decided to release two live recordings at the same time one of them would be recorded at his home base in Victoria B.C.  Hermann’s Jazz Club has been part of the Canadian live music landscape since 1981.  David Vest and his band have been performing there regularly since 2012.   The room has the right piano and the right vibe.

September 2021 – Mark Hummel

Harp master, singer and band leader Mark Hummel presents historic recordings, on his latest release, that capture the spirit of, and are a welcome addition to, the annals of 70’s and 80’s East Bay Blues. Rest assured that this isn’t a nostalgic trip down memory lane but rather a documentation of 22 rare and valued recordings by a number of Hummel’s heroes, influencers, and former band mates.

September 2021 – Party For Joey

Don’t be blinded by the outstanding collection of star power appearing on this timely release. Focus in on the subject matter – a celebration of all things Joey Spampinato. It’s a demonstration of appreciation and respect for this underrated talent to help NRBQ bassist, singer/songwriter and co-founder raise much-needed funds for his ongoing battle with throat cancer. It’s also a celebration of Spampinato’s overriding joie de vivre, his songwriting gifts, the rhythmic swing of his approach to his instrument and his spirited vocals. You’ll find each of these Spampinato-penned songs in NRBQ’s vast back catalogue and, if nothing else, may these fresh renderings of this material lead you back to the source for added musical inspiration and a better understanding of why these artists have come forward to pay heartfelt tribute. If you attend any party, you need to know who it’s for.

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