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: