Toronto Blues Society | » May 2023 – Loose Blues News

May 2023 – Loose Blues News

Published April 28, 2023 in Loose Blues News

Radio News: CIUT has just opened a Podcasting Studio, a space to train University of  Toronto students and community members in creating podcasts.  This is the latest effort by the station to update and upgrade their facilities to support the changing demands in how people create and consume audio content. CIUT-FM is about to launch their own Podcast network with about 10+ programs, making everything available on-demand on your favorite podcasting platforms. The station has also launched a new “Music Committee” to help with the programming.  The Music Committee will be a virtual group that will be sent music monthly for their consideration. More info at, where you can also contribute to their spring funding drive running from May 8th to May 14th. Support the radio station(s) who support the blues! 

Mother’s Day Congrats: Congratulations to Samantha Martin and Renan Yildizdogan on the birth of their new baby boy, Neko Heath Yildizdogan. Sam writes, “Neko (means Victory of the people) Heath (to honour my mom Heather Martin) and Yildizdogan which means star born (or star Falcon) in Turkish and is of course the love of my life’s last name….May he live a long and healthy life, be kind to others and do good by everyone.” 

More Congrats: It seems like only yesterday that Andy Frank and David Newland handed over to Heather Kitching but it’s been five years and surely a labour of love to keep the roots community connected, with a healthy dose of blues news to remind everyone that blues is folk music.  Hats off to Heather and all the volunteer contributors to

On the Club Scene:  The Cameron House, built in 1896 and a working hotel by the 1920’s, it has become an iconic Toronto music spot. Located in the historic & artistically rich Queen West area, local bands have been performing here since 1981. The Cameron have some great blues coming up in May with Paul Reddick Band on Friday, May 5 (10pm)the Fraser Melvin Blues Band on May 12. On May 13 Big Tobacco and the Pickers at 6pm and Garrett Mason at 9pm in the back room.  

Sauce on the Danforth defines itself as a Victorian/Goth New Orleans inspired local bar. Easily accessible on the Danforth subway line, it is both intimate and fun.  Great drinks and free live music most nights. There is no stage but a parlor style front room with an old piano in the corner. Think “kitchen party”. Styles of music vary, but you can find Blues here. Julian Fauth, a staple at Sauce,  plays every Tuesday (6:30pm). His barrel house Blues stylings are perfect for the piano in-the-parlor atmosphere that Sauce provides. He has received multiple Blues award nominations, both winning a Maple Blues Award & a Juno in 2008.  His third solo album was named “Best Blues Album of the Year” in 2012 by CBC. Paul Reddick, or his alter-ego Zeke Pippin plays most Fridays (8:30pm). Many fine musicians show up on Tuesday to jam with Julian.  If you have never experienced this “Kitchen Party in the Key of Blues” you really should check it out. 

And Monday night at Sauce is bound to become a popular blues destination with the indefatigable Steve Marriner scheduled every Monday night (8pm) throughout the summer, though there will surely be the occasional sub for our globe-trotting blues sideman/frontman/bass/guitar/keyboard/harmonica wizard. He has won the Maple Blues Award for best harmonica player six times and best Male vocalist of the year in 2009. He saw the world touring with Colin James and Harry Manx and has played with some of the best of today’s blues artists.

Blues in Kingston: How about a day full of Blues in Kingston as they celebrate the 15th year of a unique festival called the Home-Grown Live Music Festival. It is a one-day event, on May 6th, 2023. For the cost of a $10 wristband, you can indulge in live local Blues at the historic waterfront R.C.H.A Club. Beginning at 2pm with the last show at 10pm, there will be 9 Blues bands featured. But that is not all.  This festival celebrates multiple genres, everything from Singer-Songwriter, Folk & Roots, Indie, Jazz, Country, Youth & Emerging Artists, Ambient & Electronic, Alternative & Hard Rock… you name it. All proceeds are donated to the musician inspired Kingston non-profit called the Joe Chithalen Free Instrument Lending Library. For over 20 years this library has provided hundreds of instruments, amps & resources for free to anyone who has an interest in music.  This festival features local & live talent with more than 113 performances on 13 stages. The listings can be found on the Home-Grown Live Music Festival website. 

Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer on screen: The National Music Centre will present “The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer at the King Eddy” Concert and Film Screening on May 12 and 13. The blues duo will play the legendary venue where the live album was recorded on May 12, followed the next day by a Q&A and screening of the concert film at Studio Bell, where fans will get to see the electrifying concert film that was the culmination of the band’s three-night residency in 2019. A live Q&A with the band will follow the screening.

In 2019, The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer recorded a live-off-the-floor album at the Eddy using the adjacent Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, a marquee component of the National Music Centre recording collection. Germinating over three raucous nights, a rippin’ live album and concert film of all the unfolding magic would result. The live album would also garner the band a 2023 JUNO Award nod and 2023 Western Canadian Music Award win for Blues Artist of the Year.

Donna Grantis tackling climate change: Famed music pioneer Brian Eno and Canadian guitarist Donna Grantis are collaborating on Grantis’ newest creative project, Culture vs Policy, fusing the emotive power of music with thought-provoking dialogue about the climate and ecological crises. A live performance of the first song from her Culture vs Policy project, titled “A Drop In The Bucket,” was filmed at the inaugural Canadian Music Climate Summit, presented by Music Declares Emergency. In the powerful video, Grantis’ inspired and incendiary guitar playing is featured alongside the voice of Tzeporah Berman, Chair of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. Throughout the performance, Grantis improvises a visceral soundscape in support of Tzeporah’s words which highlight the urgency to stop the expansion of fossil fuels and manage a global, just transition away from oil, gas, and coal. Grantis wrote, “As a supporter of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, I was moved by Tzeporah’s words from a recent podcast interview. She spoke about the continued extraction of fossil fuels; the resulting impacts on people and the planet; and ultimately, how change happens. I was inspired to compose ‘A Drop In the Bucket’ and highlight her message in hopes that it may evoke a feeling or spark an idea in someone, as it did with me.” 

Grantis completed the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Virtual Global Training led by former Vice President Al Gore. She was selected to join the first Creative Climate Leadership program in Canada hosted by Julie’s Bicycle and the Centre for Sustainable Practice in the Arts. As an EarthPercent artist, an endorser of the Music Declares Emergency declaration, an advisor to The Jellyfish Project, and a roundtable member of SCALE/LeSAUT, she is passionate about harnessing the power of music to create transformative cultural change.

Another Robert Johnson biography:  Biography of a Phantom has just been released by Smithsonian Books and it poses more questions than it answers about the already mysterious Blues legend Robert Johnson. Mack McCormick knew more about Robert Johnson than anyone and promised for years that he would publish a biography of the blues legend but it never happened until after his death and his archives were handed over to the Smithsonian museum who have just published an early draft that was left unfinished and unpublished at the time of McCormick’s death. 

“Mack allegedly had answers to all the open questions about Johnson. He had not only discovered the man who murdered the famous blues guitarist—but had even confronted the killer face to face. And that was just the start of what Mack knew about Robert Johnson and the Delta blues, “ writes Ted Gioia on his Substack blog, The Honest Broker. “Ever since it was announced a half century ago, this work has been eagerly anticipated by blues fans and music scholars—who hoped it would solve all the mysteries surrounding the most enigmatic figure in twentieth century American music.  We heard crazy stories about him selling his soul to the devil, or showing up in unlikely cities under assumed names, or finally getting poisoned by a jealous husband who literally got away with murder in the racist South.”

McCormick’s literary executor, Mike Hall published an article in Texas Monthly and wrote “[Mack] said he was having serious doubts that the man whose trail he had discovered back in 1970—the Robert Johnson from Mississippi—was, in fact, the Robert Johnson who’d recorded those immortal songs in Texas. There was no proof, he said—no contracts, no letters….”

In fact McCormick researched 31 individuals named Robert Johnson, narrowing it down to 6 individuals. These theories do not appear in the newly published book because they chose to release an early draft of the biography, before Mack came up with all these conflicting stories late in life, some say as a result of an intense rivalry with other bluesologists and conflicts with Johnson family members, which resulted in the Smithsonian pulling out chapters that were based on information from Johnson’s sisters.  You can hardly call this a “definitive” biography when the author admitted he made stuff up, but for Robert Johnson aficionados, it’s a must-read.  Biography of a Phantom is available from Amazon and Audible.   

– Brian Blain, Lynn Boucher

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