Category Archives: Interviews

And the Winner is…

And the Winner is…

The 27th Maple Blues Awards just happened at the Phoenix Concert Hall and what a glorious evening it was…if your name was Matt Andersen. We will get back to that a little later. The packed house was truly filled with people that love the Blues. There were many changes and a lot of firsts that happened. This was the first time in many years since the award ceremony was held at the Phoenix.  It was at Harbourfront last year and at Koerner hall for many other years. Gary Kendall who has fronted the Maple Blues Band handed the reins over to Manny DeGrandis as the new musical director and producer. Gary held this title for 24 years.  The ironic thing was that Gary was up for an award for Best Bass player this evening and he won. Gary decided after a decade of work to take this day off, so a friend accepted it on his behalf.

The Host, Quisha Wint was an excellent choice because of her enthusiasm and love for the Blues. According to her repertoire, she also loved pushing how great the tacos were and that CD’s can be bought at the back of the club. She also was one of the performers this evening. Boy did this lady work for her tacos!

One of the great surprises of the evening was Angelica Hunter. I was sitting in the media area and the lady beside me was practically jumping out of her chair as Angelica walked onto stage. The opening note from her guitar, I knew this was going to be good, really from that first note, It was a perfect Blues note; and then she open her mouth and you could feel every eyeball pop out of it socket. It was a Blues Tsunami riding through the Phoenix and the wave got even bigger. Angelica stepped away from the mike and began singing by herself to the audience. The power and reach in her voice took over the entire space. If anyone thought the Blues could be dead, this woman will breathe life back into it. What a powerhouse performance from a young electric artist. I can’t wait to see her when she arrives in Toronto again.

The other powerhouse performance that made me feel proud to be half native was the final performance by Crystal Shawanda. She glammed herself up and got on stage with her band and her husband and her little girl. You see, the indigenous folk are finally rising in and getting a positive spotlight on their heritage, so they added the Inaugural Indigenous artist/Group of the Year category and Crystal Shawanda took home the prize. She also blew the audience away with her rendition of Koko Taylor’s song-“Wang Dang Doodle”. She did it in the key of Koko. It was raw and loud and shoved into your face! She hit that note that only a young Koko could pull off, but it was her young daughter that stole the show. She got up on stage and danced and sang like a little warrior having the time of her life. She even got the audience to sing along with her just before exited the stage. Not only did Crystal connect the Blues with the Indigenous culture, but she made it a family affair and that connected us all. What an incredible ending and fresh start to the 27th Maple Blues Awards.

Here is a list of all the winners:

Male Vocalist of the Year- Matt Andersen

Female Vocalist of the Year- Miss Emily

Acoustic Act of the Year- Suzie Vinnick

Drummer of the Year- Jim Casson

Piano/Keyboard Player of the Year- Jesse O’Brien

Electric Act of the Year- Colin James

Harmonica Player of the Year- Guy Belanger

Horn Player of the Year- Alison Young

Guitarist of the Year-Garrett Mason

Bassist of the Year- Gary Kendall

New Artist or Group of the Year- Little Magic Sam Band

Blues with a Feeling- A Lifetime Achievement Award- Sue Foley

BB King International Artist of the Year- Tedeshi Trucks Band

Blues Booster of the Year-Brant Zwicker

Recording/Producer of the Year- The Big Bottle of Joy- Matt Andersen

Inaugural Indigenous Artist/Group of the Year- Crystal Shawanda

Songwriter of the Year- Matt Andersen

Entertainer of the Year- Matt Andersen

Here are some images from the Maple Blues Awards:

The Maple Blues Awards

The Maple Blues Awards

Monday February 12,2024 I was lucky enough lately to sneak in about 20 minutes with Manny DeGrandis, the man responsible for organizing and being the band leader of  the Maple Blues Awards this year. It is his first year and he is stoked that the awards ceremony is being held again at the Phoenix Concert… Continue Reading

20 Questions with Iron Kingdom

20 Questions with Iron Kingdom

Back in November 2019 I had the invitation to see Iron Kingdom and write a concert review. I did not know that I was to be transported back to my teenage hood. Iron Kingdom embodied the essence of what was great Heavy Metal coming into the Eighties all about. The songs were all original and… Continue Reading

Nailing it with Hammerhands

Nailing it with Hammerhands

Blast Toronto has been sitting on the sidelines as Covid slowly sucks the music away from us. I am sure you have pulled out a lot of your favourite records and are reminiscing about the good old days. Well I am not going to get relaxed about it. I want the music of Toronto to… Continue Reading

Voracious Words from Devouring Saturn

Voracious Words from Devouring Saturn

      Devouring Saturn is a very unique band. The two EP’s I have are In Light, which explores the lighter side of music much like the Carpenters, and In Dark that explores the heavier side of the Carpenters. If you believe that I have some special land in Florida. Seriously, Devouring Saturn is… Continue Reading

April Wine Interview intro.

April Wine Interview intro.

  Lately I was lucky to correspond with Myles Goodwyn from April Wine. Since I am a fan of the band for many years, I was thrilled that he would answer a few questions for Blast Toronto. Last October, he released a record called Myles Goodwyn and Friends of the Blues 2. His friends this… Continue Reading

Let’s meet Maitreya

Let’s meet Maitreya

A while back I was reviewing a punk rock band in the Junction and Mark Wylie was one of the people playing that evening. He was doing his own thing with a guitar that really caught my ear. I spoke with him and he told me he was in a Hard core Metal band. I… Continue Reading