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Review: 25th Annual Maple Blues Awards, Koerner Hall, Toronto

By Ken Wallis.

The 25th Annual Maple Blues Awards were held Monday June 20th at Koerner Hall, Toronto. And what an awards show it was. The gala event was hosted by Ottawa’s Angelique Francis, who did an admirable job keeping the festivities going. It was a sparkling event, and I’m not even talking about Angelique’s dress. The awards rolled out smoothly and quickly and it was such a thrill to see folks I haven’t seen in the past two years.

The awards were the focus of the entire night, but it was the music that stood out. The Maple Blues Band was stellar and absolutely flawless. Packed with veteran musicians the band kept the evening flowing. The band consisted of band leader Gary Kendall on bass, Teddy Leonard on lead guitar, Lance Anderson on piano & organ, Alison Young on tenor & baritone sax, Al Lerman on harmonica & acoustic guitar , Meirion (Mei) Kelly on trombone, Jim Casson on drums, Howard Moore on trumpet, Pat Carey on tenor saxophone, and Roshane Wright on percussion.

The Maple Blues Band was in synch with the star performers. Bobby Dean Blackburn showed why he’s considered one of Canada’s top vocalists Sue Foley hit some incredible riffs with her pink guitar. Crystal Shawanda belted it out and demonstrated why she won a Juno award. Angelique Francis pulled out her bass and her harmonica, and sang her heart out. Kat Danser had the crowd up and dancing. Closing out the performances was Colin Linden, who quickly brought the house down with a sizzling guitar performance.

The big winner of the night was Steve Marriner who captured 4 awards, Recording of the Year for his album Hope Dies Last, and Acoustic Act of the Year with David Gogo for the album Silver Cup. Steve also won for Harmonica Player Of The Year and Songwriter of the Year.

Colin James from B.C. was a duo winner as Male Vocalist of the Year and Electric Act of the Year. And Pinky’s Blues’, Sue Foley was honoured as Guitarist of the Year and Entertainer of the Year.

My personal thrill of the evening was when the Hamilton area band, The Lowdown Dirty Mojos were selected as New Artist of the Year based on their rousing album Stone Cold Groovers. GO BUY IT!

There were a lot more winners and the list will be on the Toronto Blues Society website.

In my mind, one award that was not presented, could have been titled Acceptance Speech Of The Night. It surely goes to Shakura S’Aida for her passionate speech regarding inclusiveness. The ovation was loud and supportive.

Even when the show was over, the music continued as Female Vocalist of the Year, Miss Emily rocked it out at the Afterglow Party.

Now onwards and upwards to Festival Season and the 2023 Maple Blues Awards.

For the next two weeks, BluesSource Canada on @bluesandrootsraido will feature the music of the award winners.

Photographs: 25th Annual Maple Blues Awards.


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