Big Dave McLean
With Better the Devil You Know Dave continues to set an example for new generations of musicians by constantly evolving his sound, embracing new artistic collaborations and making records that just keep getting better and better.
Along the way, there have been career highs: opening for his idol, Muddy Waters; earning two WCMAs, a Prairie Music Award, a Whisky Award and countless Maple Blues honours – including the Blues with Feeling (Lifetime Achievement) Award; sharing a JUNO for his contribution to CBC’s Saturday Night Blues Vol. 1 album; and most recently, garnering his third career JUNO nod for his last album, Faded But Not Gone. Billboard’s Larry LeBlanc once wrote that Dave “has done more to shape Western Canada’s blues scene than perhaps any other artist.”
Better The Devil You Know sees producer Steve Dawson pushing Dave far beyond his Chicago and Delta blues roots and into country blues, Southern gospel and Americana.
“DESPITE the fact he has a JUNO for eight albums and more than 40 years of music-making under his proverbial belt, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more humble guy than Winnipeg bluesman Big Dave McLean.” (Winnipeg Free Press)
The creation of songwriter and guitar/harmonica virtuoso Donnie (“Mr. Downchild”) Walsh, Downchild has an illustrious and colourful history now spanning five decades. Something I’ve Done is another stellar entry in a discography with very few equals in terms of both quantity (it is their eighteenth album) and quality. The history of Downchild would certainly make a fascinating movie, and in fact aspects of the band’s story were used in the hit movie The Blues Brothers.
The Toronto-based group’s universally-recognized status as Canada’s best-loved blues band is reaffirmed by the accolades they receive including: JUNO Awards, Entertainer of The Year at the Maple Blues Awards, as well as North American festival favourites in both North American and European Blues Festivals.
Time To Roll is the fifth album by award-winning Ottawa, Ontario-based blues/rock trio, MonkeyJunk. Time To Rollincorporates elements of their previous recordings with added maturity in songwriting and instrumentation, cementing MonkeyJunk’s sound as its own. It is also progressive for the band adding electric bass on most of the songs. Comprised of Steve Marriner on vocals, baritone guitar, bass, harmonica and organ; Tony D on lead guitar; and Matt Sobb on drums, MonkeyJunk is one of the hardest working bands on the scene today, performing at venues and festivals around the world. MonkeyJunk’s sound draws on inspiration from John Lee Hooker and Lightnin’ Hopkins to J.J. Grey & Mofo and The Meters. Time to Roll showcases deep grooves, fervent vocals and soulful, original material, plus a cover of Albert King’s classic, “The Hunter.” Time to Roll was co-produced by Ken Friesen, who also doubles as a co-songwriter. Kelly Prescott, Tom Wilson and Stony Plain label-mate Paul Reddick also lent their songwriting talents to the recording. The band’s name comes from an interview with Son House, who described the blues as being about love, stating “I’m talking about the blues. I ain’t talkin’ ’bout no monkey junk”.
Modern and timeless, Strongman’s No Time Like Now is a slab of reinvigorated 21st-century blues. An intoxicating shot of raw electrified blues, the album captures the performer riding a surge of new energy. The album is a shout-out to a lifelong love of blues in all its shapes and shadings, from rough-hewn electric blues, blue-collar hollers and swampy stompers to soulful groovers and hushed, heartfelt ballads. More than anything, the album reconnects with the primal force and emotional clout of dirty blues. Award-winning Canadian bluesman Steve Strongman is a versatile talent, and a restless one. By constantly pushing himself in new directions, he has kept himself vital. His talent is huge and impossible to miss, and it’s matched by his staggering musical ambition — as guitar-slinger, songwriter or vocalist. Strongman is a subtle shape-shifter who manages to slip that trap without betraying the music he loves. Throughout, he never sounds an inauthentic note or loses touch with the essence of the blues. No Time Like Now offers tribute to blues-rock as a full-blooded, living thing, not a museum piece. With No Time Like Now, one of this country’s most talented and compelling blues players becomes a juggernaut.
Williams, Wayne and Isaak
Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne most recently won (Piano Player of the Year) from The Living Blues Awards. Raised in New Orleans, his powerful music recalls an era when piano players worked the chitlin’ circuit on the “strolls” in dozens of American cities. Kenny Wayne is a world leader in Boogie Woogie, and a real gentlemen of the blues.
Tim Williams won at the International Blues Challenge (2014) as Best Solo or Duo, and Best Guitarist (solo or duo). These are just the latest accolades in a career entering its fifth decade. Tim blends passionate, soulful vocals and awe-inspiring chops on a number of instruments including finger-style and slide guitar, mandolin and Hawaiian guitar to get a traditional yet unique sound. Brandon Isaak this Yukon songster recently most won (Acoustic Act of the Year 2014) by The Maple Blues Awards, (Canada’s national blues awards) His last album was also nominated for (Song Writer of the Year) and (Album / Producer of the Year). Brandon once again has a nomination this year… (Guitarist of the Year).