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.

February 2021 – New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Riders

The genesis of the New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Riders recordings was on a Charlie Musselwhite / Mavis Staples tour bus. The North Mississippi All-Stars were the backing band on the tour; and, while on route, Luther Dickinson of The All-Stars and Musselwhite hatched a plan to record together along with a few friends.

February 2021 – The Swingin’ Blackjacks

This Toronto trio features singer/songwriter/guitarist Matt Allen, ace bassist/backing vocalist Gary Kendall (Downchild), and drummer Adam David. Their new EP comes as a result of winning the Amy Louie Grossman Music Scholarship in 2018, whose funding facilitated this release. Money well spent, as Four Hot Tracks lives up to its title.

Jan 2021 – Layla Zoe

Nowhere Left To Go is the latest offering of ten new original songs from Layla Zoe. Now residing in the Netherlands, this album shows a much deeper, more reflective side, of this fiercely independent artist.

Jan 2021 – Selwyn Birchwood

At 35, Selwyn Birchwood is hardly the ‘typical’ blues artist. Yet, being pegged a maverick has little to do with his age. His musical epiphany came at age 13 upon first hearing Hendrix and, tracing the artist’s love for the blues, a chance to see Buddy Guy live sealed the deal for this young guitarist. He not only realized what he wanted to do but was also fortunate to study under Sonny Rhodes’ tutelage – on the road of hard knocks.

Jan 2021 – Gráinne Duffy

Voodoo Blues is a showcase for the intense, electrifying vocals of Irish singer and guitar player Gráinne Duffy, who wrote all the songs on this album with her rhythm guitarist, Paul Sherry. Her blues-infused rock packs a potent punch. She was voted best female vocalist in 2014 and best artist in 2015 by Blues Matters, a U.K. publication. Her artistry has been honed with a degree in music, and she has four previous albums under her belt.

Jan 2021 – Kat Danser

Having earned the moniker, “Canada’s Swamp Blues Queen,” Edmonton’s Kat Danser lives up to the title with yet another golden album. One Eye Open, Danser’s sixth release, continues her collaboration with guitarist/producer Steve Dawson, releasing the album on his Black Hen Music label, with distribution handled by True North Records.

Dec 2020 – Beauwater

Who Works for Who is the Third release from Newfoundland based blues rockers, Beauwater and follow up to their 2017 ECMA Blues Album of the Year, Lovers, Fools and Kings.
For this release the power trio welcomed back special guests Kelly Hoppe of Big Sugar on Harmonica, Chris Harnett on Saxophone, Terry Campbell on Trumpet and Chris Kirby on Keys. This is the line-up that helped fuel the success of the previous release.   They’re back creating a more complete and textured sound on 10 original tracks of blues-soaked rock. As with their previous album, Beauwater defy being pigeonholed as one type of band or another. Their diversity, power and writing tallent is beautifully on display with this new release.

Dec 2020 – Endrick & The Sandwiches

Ten tracks – recorded live – reveal a young band intrigued with the potential of redefining barroom blues – and making them work. A closer look at their debut from ’18 portrays a band brimming with fresh ideas and original music, created by an 8-member band. Endrick & The Sandwiches is: Endrick Tremblay (lead vocals, harp, guitar, piano), Greg McEvoy (lead guitar, vocals), Simon Éthier (bass, backing vocals), Mandela Coupal Dalgleish (drums), Elyze Venne-Deshaies (sax), Anne Lauzière (baritone guitar, percussion, backing vocals), Marie-Pier Lavallée and Gabrièle Côté Lebreux (percussion, backing vocals).

Dec 2020 – Shemekia Copeland

The daughter of a bona fide Texas Twister, Johnny Copeland, Shemekia quickly carved out a name for herself with her scorching debut at age 19. With a voice like a hurricane, years spent woodshedding with her famous father gave her a considerable head start in the blues. Now, nine releases later, she continues to be a gale force wind to be reckoned with. Picking up where America’s Child left off, Uncivil War takes a critical look at the chaos we’re living in and she’s got a message to spread.

Dec 2020 – Michael Schatte

Michael Schatte demonstrates his wide-ranging artistry in his new CD, Conundrum. His expertise as a guitarist and vocalist is obvious, but Schatte also plays mandolin, tenor banjo, dulcimer, and violin on this recording. As well, he wrote all but two of the fifteen songs, and produced, engineered, and mixed the album. Backing him on bass is Ryan Spratt, and his two drummers Riley O’Connor and Chad Lewis, in addition to session musicians Randy Cassidy, Sacha Visagie, and Carson Freeman.

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