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 2022 – Lyle Odjick & the Northern Steam

Lyle Odjick & the Northern Steam  Through The Rain

September 2022 – Broke Fuse

Splashdown  Broke Fuse

September 2022 – Shemekia Copeland

Shemekia Copeland   Done Come Too Far  Alligator

August 2022 – Jay Douglas

My two major intersections with Jay are touchstones of his career that tell you a lot of about his Jamaican  roots.  In the nineties I was able to connect Jay with one of his inspirations in a Harbourfront Centre Soul ’n Blues concert with Memphis soul master Rosco Gordon.  This revealed how much American radio travelled into Jay’s youth in Jamaica.  Sadly Rosco passed away only a couple years later.  Our second occasion was a more obvious Jamaican collision given that guitar innovator Ernest Ranglin was at the heart of reggae, ska, mento and his own blend of jazz.

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”

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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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