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.

July 2021 – Steve Marriner

On first glance at the front cover of Hope Dies Last, one could be excused for wondering if Steve Marriner’s new solo album might be a complete departure from the raucous and righteous sounds he’s been whipping up with his MonkeyJunk bandmates for more than a decade now.

May 2021 – Ghalia Volt

Ghalia Volt honed her skills busking on the streets of her native Brussels, singing and playing guitar, while a foot tambourine marked the beat. Growing up, she was influenced by garage rock and punk music, then came to blues though Skip James and J.B. Lenoir. Now, on the heels of two acclaimed albums — Let the Demons Out and Mississippi Blend — where she was supported by other musicians, she’s back with a twist. In her new release, One Woman Band, Volt returns to her original format and decisively demonstrates that she won’t be silenced by the limitations of the pandemic.

May 2021 – Gary Kendall

A true stalwart of the Toronto blues scene, Gary Kendall is best known as the longtime bassist in Downchild, former co-leader of the Kendall Wall Band, and music director of the ace Maple Blues Revue. He is also a highly talented songwriter and producer, skills that were showcased on his only solo album to date, 2004’s Dusty & Pearl.
Kendall recently returned to the material on that compelling release, selecting four highlight tracks that have been Remixed & Remastered by award-winning engineer L. Stu Young (Downchild, David Wilcox, Prairie Oyster).

April 2021 – Tao Ravao & Vincent Bucher

Legendary producer Christian Mousset of France’s Musiques Metisses festival in Angouleme provides a quote on the jacket of the new release by the unlikely duo: “Haunting and melancholic melodies delivered with subtle and spicy elegance, Piment Bleu, Tao Ravao and Vincent Bucher’s new album takes us on board for a trip to landing on the shores of southern creole Blues, Malagasy infectious beat and African echoes. An authentic and unique blend of today’s musical landscape.”

April 2021 – Sunday Wilde

Northern Ontario blues singer/songwriter Sunday Wilde has certainly been a prolific recording artist over the past 14 years, with new outing Peace In Trouble being her ninth full-length release. She frequently collaborated with her partner Reno Jack (Rennie Frattura), a renowned roots/blues/rockabilly bassist, and their excellent joint album, Two, was released in 2017, just before Frattura’s passing.


April 2021 – Chris Cain

What I love most about the blues is that every performer has a unique story – a story usually woven into their life’s work. Cain, from San Jose, grew up in a musical family with blues-loving parents and a Dad who encouraged him to play his guitar from age 8. The household was filled with the sounds of Albert and BB King, Ray Charles and Big Joe Williams. It stuck. Further schooling opened his eyes to jazz sounds and, after mastering the guitar, Cain experimented, learning tenor sax, piano, clarinet and bass. This may account for the full rich sound he brings forward in his brand of the blues, given the added sax (Michael Peloquin, tenor & Doug Rowan, baritone), trombone (Mike Rinta) and trumpet (Jeff Lewis) on half of the tracks.

April 2021 – Alec Fraser Jr.

Alec Fraser is no stranger to the Blues Scene in Canada, and yet, this album is only his first solo project.
To my ear, it is one of the purest and most diverse projects I have heard this year. Alec’s distinctive voice is perfectly suited to the simple truth he sings of in these twelve songs.

April 2021 – Mr. C. & The C-Notes

This album is one of those marvelous moments in history that come about purely by chance, only every now and then. The live show was recorded at Wally’s Tavern, in Guelph, Ontario, sometime in the late 1990’s. (The actual date cannot be confirmed.) The recording was lost for almost a quarter century until Mike McDonald found it, and passed it on to Jim Casson, who cleaned it up and prepared it for release.

March 2021 – Maria Muldaur with Tuba Skinny

With nearly sixty years in the biz and 42 albums released to date, Maria Muldaur has once again created a show stopper album, in which the veteran singer is perfectly paired with the youthful Tuba Skinny ensemble. Let’s Get Happy Together, to be released on the Stony Plan Records label on May 7, 2021, once again reminds us of the greatness that is Maria Muldaur, and her penchant for seeking the exact right musicians to bring her musical vision to life.

March 2021 – Curtis Salgado

The best – if not most intense – blues seem to originate from having endured real pain and suffering, helping to build an honest connection with others. While the 67-year old Washington native may hide it well, the colourful, soul-blues veteran with the big voice has come up on the other side of every medical affliction the gods can throw at him – emerging more energized, if not stronger, than ever.

Donate Join TBS Volunteer

©2021 Toronto Blues Society. Design by Janine Stoll Media.
TBS logo and WBR artwork by Barbara Klunder

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.

Toronto Blues Society