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 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.

September 2021 – Wylie Harold

I didn’t really know Wylie Harold until I heard this recent release. Turns out, he’s a blues institution in and around the Peterborough area and has been for years. And, for a guy who lives for the local bar scene, clubs, patios and the people he plays to, the pandemic has been brutal. Playing in various bands along the way (Half Ton, The Bottoms Up Blues Band), Harold did his due diligence in rock’n’roll yet was eventually courted by the blues, which lent itself to playing solo as often as possible.

August 2021 – The Brothers

When Jaimoe, a founding member and drummer of the Allman Brothers made a call to members of the group alumni suggesting they reconvene for a concert celebrating 50 years of the brotherhood, he was met with the kind of positive responses he had hoped for.

August 2021 – Tommy Castro

So you want to be a bluesman? Or woman (to bring us into the 21st century)? Take a listen to Tommy Castro’s latest album, “A Bluesman Came to Town, a blues odyssey.” It’s an invitation and a warning of the joys, fringe benefits and bumps in the road, all wrapped up in vivid storytelling.

August 2021 – Steve Hill

After almost a decade (and 5 recordings) as a one man band, Steve Hill has come out with a brand new album (and a new direction) creating the next logical step in his progression as a player, singer and songwriter.



August 2021 – JP LeBlanc

This is JP LeBlanc’s first album in 15 years, and man, was it worth waiting for. The native of Bathurst, New Brunswick was somewhat of a young prodigy, infected by the blues at the age of 11, picking up guitar and joining high-powered jams as a teenager and recording his first CD at the age of 21.

August 2021 – Gary Kendall

There are not enough words in the English language to explain the incredible impact Gary Kendall has had on the Canadian Blues Industry. His work with Legendary Downchild Blues Band is just the tip of a very deep ice berg.

August 2021 – Lindsay Beaver & Brad Stivers

Two Austin residents, drummer, vocalist Lindsay Beaver and guitarist, vocalist Brad Stivers have teamed up to present a pretty impressive debut duo disc.

July 2021 – 50 Years of Genuine Houserockin’ Blues

When Bruce Iglauer started Alligator records in a neighbourhood on the south side of Chicago back in 1970, little did he realize the giant impact his tiny label would have on the world of blues. In the years since, the label would release a compilation called Genuine Houserockin’ Music every 5 years,  that I would snap up as soon as I could get my hot little hands on it. It all started when Bruce used his savings to finance a recording by his favorite windy city blues band, Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers. It was that album that created the necessity of the label, so it is only fitting that the first cut on this 50th anniversary compilation is from that classic band.

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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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