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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

A Review Of The TD Kitchener Blues Festival, Ontario, Canada

By Ken Wallis.

The TD Kitchener Blues Festival is one of the largest music gatherings in Canada and it’s hard to fathom, but it’s completely FREE for 3 days. It’s jam-packed with a sparkling line-up of musicians from around the world. Hats off goes to the team that pulls this event off. It is so well organized that attendees are treated to non-stop music and entertainment. We tried to get around to see as many performers as possible, but it’s just not possible to see everyone, unless you’re the superhero Flash. My apologies to those who I didn’t get to see. And there were some great ones I missed. But for now, here’s how the weekend went.


What a way to kick it all off. We caught The Justin Saladino Band. Out of Montreal, Justin fronts a hard-driving, guitar-centred band. Wearing his signature hat, he kicked the weekend off with a bang.

Then Juno-award winner, and Hamilton resident, Steve Strongman took the stage. He didn’t hold back and I’d say he blew the roof off, except he was playing in the open air. What a performance by the multi-talented, Juno-awarded musician.

Without time to catch our breath, David Gogo hit the stage. He laughingly mentioned that he’s been nominated for six JUNO Awards, losing five and being disqualified for the other😊 You gotta love his humour but he sure can shred a guitar. A marvelous musician!

The talent just kept coming. Up next was powerhouse vocalist Dawn Tyler Watson. She’s been called Queen of the Blues in Montreal and she sure lived up to that reputation. She puts on a performance that either glues you to your seat or has you up and dancing! What a talented singer!

And if that wasn't enough to wrap the night, we joined in reminiscing at Get Back: The Rooftop Concert the Beatles Never Gave. If you’re too young to know, the Beatles were stopped performing on the roof of Apple Records by the police for noise and traffic issues. Lance Anderson and Matt Weidinger poured everything into the performance.


The weather forecast warned of heavy rain and a chance of tornadoes, and it did rain early in the morning, but the blues gods chased the clouds away and the day was saved for great music!

We kick started our day with some acoustic blues by Brooke Blackburn. Part of the Blackburn family band, he’s off to the International Blues Challenge on Beale Street in Menphis this coming January. He ushered us into a day of music with some sweet tunes and the audience enjoyed every minute of his performance.

Then the marathon began. Time to lace up the runners and dash back and forth between stages. We headed over to catch Patrick Alexandre. WOW! Somehow, I had never heard of him before but what a joy to discover him. He sings up a storm, plays a wicked guitar, and coaxes some amazing sounds out of his harmonica.

Up next, the Weber Brothers. This rockin’ band has quite a story. Ryan and Sam left their home in Baltimore as teenagers to meet their idol, Ronnie Hawkins. They soon became part of the band The Hawks and haven’t looked back since. Their performance was riveting.

Then I was really excited to go see Albert Cummings, a favourite of mine for years. I had never seen him live but oh what an experience. He simply overcomes the audience with music that is both loud and clear. He’s the consummate blues professional. I’ve always loved his song The Blues Make You Feel So Good. And he sure made everyone feel good!

Spencer MacKenzie was the next stop. I’ve known him for years as a young and upcoming artist, but he’s no longer that. He’s now a mature, established artist, who’s success had already garnered him numerous awards. The blues future is bright in his hands.

Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar were on the docket right after Spencer. She’s always been a fav of mine. When she sings, you sit up and pay attention ‘cause you know you’re in the presence of a rare talent. Delta Sugar, the backup singers, fill in with great vocals that creates a solid sound of music.

The fun had only just begun. What a treat to see Samantha Fish and Jesse Dayton with their unique blend of music. They work together seamlessly and featured several tunes from their new release Death Wish Blues. Gonna be a must-have album.

I’ve seen MonkeyJunk 3 times in the last couple of months, but they never get stale. The trio always seem to be fresh and vibrant, and they play like they’ve been together for years. And that’s because they have been.! This is their 15th Anniversary Tour.

We hot-footed over to see Thorbjorn Risager and the Black Tornado, but they weren’t there yet due to border issues. But boy did the festival make sure the audience was still entertained. Out came Mr. Sipp early to fill in the slot. His blues and gospel music was the perfect antidote for disappointment. He was simply superb!

With Thorbjorn still on his way, Albert Cummings was roused from his room to fill the gap. And boy did he ever. I swear he scorched the stage.

Somehow summoning enough energy, we decided to catch some of the 12 Bar Blues at night. We saw Silvia Dee and The Boyfriend doing their thing.

Frank Cosentino Band shredding some great tunes.

And the legendary Harrison Kennedy.


The last day of the festival featured more great music. And what better way to get things going than listening to Harrison Kennedy. He sang, played harp, told great stories, and even sang out the lines Give Me A Little More Time. He is an icon of the blues, and a Canadian treasure.

Lyle Odjick & The Northern Steam from Montreal were a complete surprise to me.I had enjoyed their music on their album, but I wasn’t quite prepared for rocket fuel. They simply tore up the place. All the members of the band are characters that not only played music, but they also entertained. If you ever get a chance to see them live, go for it.

Sadly, we knew the day was coming to an end for us. We only had time to catch one more set. But, what a set it was with The SheWolves Of London. The band includes such greats as Cheryl Lescom, Sarah Smith, and Chuckee Zehr. You could tell they were having fun on stage and the audience lapped up the good feelings.

But all good things come to an end. We couldn’t stay to see Downchild. That was a real disappointment but how could anyone be disappointed with a weekend at the TD Kitchener Blues Festival. It’s pure music magic! Can’t wait for next year!



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