Review – Maple Blues Awards in Toronto, ON

Internationally renowned Canadian Blues artists from coast to coast were honoured by their peers at the 21st Annual Maple Blues Awards gala in Toronto January 15th, 2018 as a full house of blues lovers gathered to celebrate Canadian blues at Koerner Hall.

The Maple Blues Awards is Canada’s national blues awards program. Its goal is to promote blues music across Canada and to recognize outstanding achievement in the field. Winners in all categories (excluding the instrumental categories) are decided by blues fans across Canada. Voting occurs online each November.

The big winner of the evening was Colin James, who took home awards for Electric Act of the Year, Recording/Producer of the Year and Guitarist of the Year. Several new faces were honoured with awards including multiple nominee Hamilton’s Harrison Kennedy for Songwriter of the Year, Ottawa’s Laura Greenberg for Bassist of the Year and Victoria’s Jason Buie for New Artist of the Year. In a rare occurrence, there were no other multiple winners throughout the evening.

The Blues With A Feeling Award for lifetime achievement was awarded to Toronto-based Diana Braithwaite for her longtime career and commitment to blues music in Canada, while musicologist, professor, and writer Rob Bowman was presented with the Blues Booster of the Year award, a very special Maple Blues Award honouring outstanding contribution to the Canadian blues music industry.

In addition to the Maple Blues Awards, the fourth annual Cobalt Prize Contemporary Blues Composition Award was announced last night naming Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta’s Joe Nolan the winner for his song All You’ve Got To Do, with runners-up Conor Gains for his song Walking Alone and Miss Emily for her composition Hold Back The River. A cash prize of $1000 was the grand prize, with the second and third place winners each receiving $250.

Hosted by ShoShona Kish of Digging Roots, the Maple Blues Awards featured an electrifying performance from Kish, joined by her husband guitar player Raven Kanatakta and on kit drum their son Skye Polson.  An array of live performances continued with Calgary’s Donald Ray Johnson, Montreal-based guitarist Cécile Doo-Kingué, Toronto’s Diana Braithwaite, New Brunswick powerhouse Matt Andersen with surprise guest Steve Hill and the evening’s big winner Colin James, who closed the show with another surprise guest Steve Marriner of MonkeyJunk, all backed by The Maple Blues Band.

21st Annual Maple Blues Award Winners:
Entertainer of the Year – Paul DesLauriers Band
Electric Act of the Year – Colin James
Acoustic Act of the Year – Big Dave McLean
Male Vocalist of the Year – Matt Andersen
Female Vocalist of the Year – Angel Forrest
New Artist of the Year – Jason Buie
Recording/Producer of the Year – Colin James – Blue Highways (True North); Producers: Colin James & Dave Meszaros
B.B. King International Artist of the Year – Joe Bonamassa
Songwriter of the Year – Harrison Kennedy
Blues with a Feeling Award (Lifetime Achievement Award) – Diana Braithwaite
Guitarist of the Year – Colin James
Harmonica Player of the Year – Guy Bélanger
Piano/Keyboard of the Year – David Vest
Horn Player of the Year – Jon Wong
Drummer of the Year – Matt Sobb (MonkeyJunk)
Bassist of the Year – Laura Greenberg (JW-Jones)
Blues Booster of the Year – Rob Bowman

To see more photos from the evening, including performers, check out our Facebook page!

I shoot live music performances and concerts. I love the excitement of entering a venue, knowing that I’ll be photographing a concert and enjoying the energy of the crowd. There’s nothing like being in a venue and looking at the expressions on the faces of people who are all transfixed by the talent onstage. I shoot about 120 shows each year, averaging 2 bands per show, as well as several all-day and weekend festivals in and around Southern Ontario. From the large venues to very small ones, bright lights or barely lit stages, I hope that my photos capture the enjoyment the artists have in doing what they love to do.

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