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.

March 2023 – Justin Saladino Band

Four releases into their musical career, you might expect it would be easy to plot the band’s progress since their ’16, 5-track release, No Worries. You’d be wrong. The Justin Saladino Band revealed a mature grasp of their talents right out of the gates and, while live records can often uncover a band’s greatest strengths or limitations – 2020’s JSB Live quickly registered this ‘young band’ as every bit as musically astute and seasoned as road warriors twice their age.

March 2023 – Denis Parker

You might first be taken aback by anyone releasing a double album in these fractured times. However, after sitting down to listen to one of the best folk-blues releases in a long time, one can only conclude that each record’s approach belongs under one roof. Too few people are aware of Denis Parker and his 60 years of blues.

February 2023 – Joe Louis Walker

Blues Hall of Famer and winner of multiple blues awards, Joe Louis Walker treats us to a new offering in Weight of the World. Sometimes serene, often rambunctious, the album highlights Walker’s mastery and versatility as a singer, guitarist and composer.


January 2023 – Chris Antonik

Chris Antonik started his career as a much in demand side player which grew into his own recording and touring projects, the latest of which is Morningstar (His fourth studio album). A riotous and often genre spanning collection of co-writes, Morningstar stretches the boundaries of the blues, exploring the limits of Chris’ style and creating a compelling sonic landscape.



January 2023 – Steve Hill

After a quarter of a century in the recording industry, there’s very little that Steve Hill hasn’t already done. He started out working the club circuit in his native Montreal, building his brand in a succession of bands, before launching an impressive series of recordings and tours as a one man band that saw him constantly expand his repertoire by adding more and more to the music without expanding the band beyond himself.


January 2023 – Michael Kaeshammer

Over the course of a prolific recording career now spanning 26 years and 13 albums, Vancouver Island-based Michael Kaeshammer has blossomed into a truly multi-faceted artist. The Juno Award winner is a talented singer/songwriter, a virtuoso piano player, a bandleader, and an engaging performer who is now in-demand for theatre concerts across the country.



December 2022 – Jake Chisholm

Jake Chisholm  Hands Held High Electro-Fi

I’m not sure which is the bigger surprise – the fact that this Jake Chisholm is the same front man from Jake & The Blue Midnights or that this release is one of the latest from deeply-respected blues label, Electro-Fi Records. Impresario Andrew Galloway’s label has long specialized in traditional, post-war blues but – as the t-shirt reads: “with a foot in the future.” Hence, Galloway’s own vast musical interests are coming to the surface as he adds newfound success stories like Harrison Kennedy and Blackburn to his esteemed catalogue. In other words, Chisholm’s progressive release is a good fit. Likewise, Chisholm has undergone a personal renaissance, moving from horn-fueled swing crooner to bona fide soul-rocker on a mission.

November 2022 -Layla Zoe

Layla Zoe’s fourteenth album, The World Could Change, is one of contrasts, showcasing her sweeping range in both vocal expression and lyrical themes. Born in Victoria, the Canadian artist has won and been nominated for a slew of awards in North America and Europe, including Best Vocalist at the 2016 European Blues Awards.

October 2022 – Miss Emily

In a world where mass media tend to generalize everything, it is easy for an individual to be defined by one facet of their life. In many cases, they can be associated to something they would never want to be defined by, like their career choice, their appearance or an action they most regret.

October 2022 – Spencer Mackenzie 

“Preach to My Soul”, Spencer Mackenzie’s third album, marks a giant step in the still young (22) musician’s career.  Coming four years after his much praised “Cold November” album (released when he was just 18 years old) Spencer’s songwriting, vocals and guitar playing all display continued growth and maturity – which has led to the creation of an album that can stand with the best of contemporary blues releases.


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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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