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Loose Blues – February 2020

Published February 9, 2020 in Loose Blues News, News

Blues at Winterfolk:  The Winterfolk Blues & Roots festival is moving to the Annex but continues with a healthy dose of blues.  Opening night, Friday February 21, presents festival favourite Jack de Keyzer and a “Blues and Bluegrass” showcase with Ken Whiteley, Chris Whiteley and Diana Braithwaite and the Layrite Boys as well as a “Finger Picking the Blues” workshop with Isaak Bonk, Brian Blain and Mr. Rick. Saturday brings sets from Noah Zacharin and Mr. Rick and a “Campfire Jam” hosted by Brian Blain.  On Sunday Brian will have a solo set and Jack de Keyzer will present  Evolution of Blues Guitar (from Robert Johnson to Jimi Hendrix), followed by the Guitar Jam with Mike McKenna, Danny Marks, Donne Roberts and D’Arcy Wickham. More info at

And the awards just keep on coming:  Just before the JUNO Nomination announcement (see page 2), Canadian blueswomen figured prominently in the Blues Foundation’s Blues Awards nominations. Sue Foley is nominated for Traditional Blues Female Artist (Koko Taylor Award), Dawn Tyler Watson is nominated for Instrumentalist – Vocals  (must have been her mouth-trombone that clinched it).  Also it should be mentioned that “honorary Canadian” Annika Chambers (the new Mrs. Paul DesLauriers) is nominated for Soul Blues Female Artist.  

Congrats to East Coast legend, Matt Minglewood  who will be inducted into Casino Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame. The Casino Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame recognizes the contributions of East Coast musicians and industry movers and shakers who have had an impact on the development and promotion of Canada’s East Coast culture and music. The induction weekend will be held February 27, 28, and 29 at the Casino Nova Scotia Schooner Showroom. Matt Minglewood will join long time collaborator and friend Bruce Guthro, as well as Matt Andersen and Kim Dunn, on stage during the 3 nights of the Bruce Guthro Songwriters Circle. Tickets are available now at  

And finally, Mavis Staples was awarded Album of The Year for We Get By at the International Folk Music Awards, presented at The Folk Alliance Conference in New Orleans. A good reminder for hard core folkies that blues is indeed folk music.

Al Lerman sidelined: Al Lerman was injured recently in a fall outside his home. The result was a broken left wrist that will need 2 months or more to heal.  Al has had to cancel all his upcoming gigs including his annual appearance as part of The Maple Blues Band at The Maple Blues Awards.  To help solve his lost income dilemma he’s decided to avoid the usual GoFund campaign or fund raising event.  Instead he’s asking those who want to help him out to download his latest recording, Northern Bayou or one of his earlier releases at  The supportive bump in CD sales will help him through this financial crunch.

Venue news: A new artist-focused micro performance bar has opened in Toronto’s west end. After years of noting the good and bad of performing both professional stages and bars that “move a few tables aside to ‘do music’”, a singer-songwriter and his hospitality veteran partner have built the tiny venue they’ve always dreamed of going to. Today/Tonight, at Queen Street West and Roncesvalles (1704 Queen Street West), is Toronto’s first truly artist-focused micro-performance bar: a cozy 30-seat venue with chic decor, a crystal-clear sound system and incredible sight-lines, where artists can perform to a more engaged audience. “Our main focus was to build an intimate venue that actually commands attention towards the stage,” said co-founders “Clamp” and Lauren ‘LB’ Bailey. Since its grand opening in August, Today/Tonight has hosted shows by Blackie Jackett Jr. (a side project for members of Finger Eleven), Juno winners Quique Escamilla & Laura Hubert and members of Sun K to name just a few, as well as several comics from the Just For Laughs circuit. The bar is quickly becoming a notable spot for happenings in Toronto.

Castro’s Lounge, an important music venue in the Beaches, seemed to be in jeopardy following a feud with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission but it will remain open although it appears co-owner Anthony Greene has stepped out of the picture (he has recently acquired the Dakota Tavern so he will still be a big part of the roots music community in Toronto. 5,000 people signed a petition to ensure that Castro’s Lounge be allowed to continue. As reported in the Toronto Star, the trouble began in June of 2018 when Greene admitted to sending a private Facebook message to a liquor inspector, in which he compared the inspector to a character in The Handmaid’s Tale, a novel by Margaret Atwood and popular television series. As a result, the AGCO banned Greene from his own premises. On Jan. 21, the AGCO convened to deal with allegations that Greene had violated that ban.The tribunal stopped short of closing Castro’s — on the condition that Greene divest himself from the business and turn it over to his partner Stephen Reid. The bar also faces a two-week suspension of its liquor licence starting Jan. 31 and ending on Feb. 14.

The bar will close down and reopen after the suspension is over. Castro’s has made itself indispensable, because it has been helping artists find a venue and an audience for more than two decades.  Sam Taylor, known as Little Magic Sam said Greene gave him “a great opportunity right off the bat.”

Summer Festival News (already??): Festival announcements are starting to trickle in, the latest from Mariposa. They have booked the incomparable and indomitable Mavis Staples for their festival taking place July 3-5.

The 2020 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will feature performances by the likes of The Who, Dead & Company, Stevie Nicks, Foo Fighters, Lizzo, Lionel Richie, The Lumineers, The Black Crowes, Lenny Kravitz, Brandi Carlile, The Beach Boys and many more. The tagline for Jazz Fest 2020 is “Right Place, Right Time,” nodding to the late, great NOLA icon Dr. John. As per usual, a number of the Crescent City’s own performers will take the stage at the Fairgrounds, from Irma Thomas to Aaron Neville to Tank & The Bangas to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to George Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will take place from April 23 – 26 and April 30 – May 3, 2020.Check out the full lineup below at

Podcast News:  For anyone currently unaware of Mako Funasaka’s ongoing presence on the music scene, know that his popular podcast is approaching its 200th episode at the end of February, profiling one of Canada’s greatest (and most timeless) singer-songwriters, Ian Thomas. The podcast idea came from a potential interview with Steve Vai (to discuss BB King) back in 2015 and, when that meet-up fell through, the new baby was already born. Reaching out to a friend and local music mogul, Electro-Fi’s Andrew Galloway, Funasaka had completed Podcast #1.

The soft-spoken, self-effacing Funasaka has always had a unique expertise at relaxing, if not entirely disarming, his guests – getting the most from them with every interview. With a double-goal of “interviewing those I am most interested in” and, in the process, “becoming a better interviewer”, these 200 podcasts testify to a job well done. Congratulations on your 200th, Mako!

Don’t miss an episode by going here: or watch for upcoming shows via Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook.

BB King Tribute in NYC: On Feb. 16 and 17, Port Chester, NY’s Capitol Theatre will host the star-studded event, ‘The Thrill is Gone: A Tribute To B.B. King” featuring Buddy Guy, Steve Cropper, as well as students and longtime admirers of King, like Derek Trucks, Ivan Neville, Robert Randolph, Susan Tedeschi Bob Margolin, Bobby Rush, Jimmie Vaughan, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Robert Cray, Robert Randolph, Shemekia Copeland and more.

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