There were not a lot of surprises in the roster of recipients at the 16th annual 2013 Maple Blues Awards, handed out on Jan. 21 at Koerner Hall and hosted by the Toronto Blues Society.

With the exception of the instrument categories, which are voted by members of the industry, all other winners are chosen by public online voting.

Steve Strongman is a happy camper, as he took home three trophies. Strongman was the top nominee, with six nods. In the end, his name will be etched onto the awards for songwriter of the year, recording of the year and, for the second year running, guitar player of the year.

A huge disappointment in my books was an empty-handed Shakura S’Aida, who was left to graciously congratulate fellow nominees. Female vocalist of the year for 2010, S’Aida was the second most nominated artist of the evening, with her name included in four categories. 

Collectively — which is how they like to do things — MonkeyJunk added three more to the umpteen Maple Blues Awards they have picked up over the years. This go-round the band received electric act of the year, to make it four years straight, as well as harmonica player of the year for Steve Marriner, a repeat from 2010, and drummer of the year for Matt Sobb, who took the award home last year.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the Maple Blues Awards without giving a little something to Suzie Vinnick, who won for acoustic act of the year and female vocalist of the year.

It has been a long and musical road for East Coast blues and roots singer-songwriter Matt Minglewood. His career began as a teenager in the mid-'60s, playing high school dances and local taverns. Almost 50 years, a dozen recordings and thousands of gigs later, and the tastefully melodic guitar player with the gruff and meaningful voice is still at it. For that, he was given the Blues With a Feeling Award, for lifetime achievement.

Jon Wong of the 24th Street Wailers, selected as horn player of the year, was a bit of a surprise. Certainly not as a reflection of his talent, but rather as a relative newcomer alongside veteran players like Al Lerman of Fathead, Pat Carey of Downchild and Chris Whiteley of, well, any time in Canadian blues/roots music over the past 40 years, really. It is only the third time in 16 years that the award has not gone to either Carey or Whiteley.

Steve Kozak went home with the award for new artist or group of the year. As his website states, “Vancouver born Steve Kozak has been a mainstay on the western Canadian blues scene since the mid-'80s.” It seemed a little odd to see his name on the list for the new artist category, though I’m certain none of his fellow nominees begrudge him the win, despite the 30-odd years he has been at it.

Here is a complete list of the winners of the 16th annual Maple Blues Awards. Winners are in bold.

Entertainer of the year

Colin James
Matt Andersen
MonkeyJunk
Shakura S’Aida
Steve Strongman

Electric act of the year

Anthony Gomes
JW-Jones
MonkeyJunk
Paul Reddick
Steve Strongman

Acoustic act of the year

Harrison Kennedy
Michael Jerome Browne
Ray Bonneville
Steve Strongman
Suzie Vinnick

Male vocalist of the year

Chuck Jackson
Harrison Kennedy
Matt Andersen
Paul Reddick
Steve Marriner

Female vocalist of the year

Dawn Tyler Watson
Nanette Workman
Shakura S’Aida
Suzie Vinnick
Treasa Levasseur

New artist or group of the year

Ben Racine
Boogie Patrol
Conor Gains Band
Steve Kozak
The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer

B.B. King international artist of the year

Tedeschi Trucks Band
Michael Burks
Dr. John
Curtis Salgado
Joe Louis Walker

Guitarist of the year

David Gogo
Garrett Mason
Kevin Breit
Steve Strongman
Teddy Leonard

Harmonica player of the year

Carlos del Junco
David Hoerl
Guy Bélanger
Paul Reddick
Steve Marriner

Piano/keyboard player of the year

David Vest
Julian Fauth
Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne
Lance Anderson
Michael Fonfara

Horn player of the year

Al Lerman
Chris Whiteley
Frank Thiffault
Jon Wong
Pat Carey

Drummer of the year

Bucky Berger
Chris Nordquist
Matt Sobb
Sam Harrisson
Tom Bona

Bassist of the year

Alec Fraser
Gary Kendall
Omar Tunnoch
Stephen Barry
Terry Wilkins

Songwriter of the year

Julian Fauth
Paul Reddick
Shakura S’Aida & Donna Grantis
Steve Strongman
Treasa Levasseur

Recording of the year

A Natural Fact Steve, Strongman (Independent), producer: Rob Szabo
Checkered Past, The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer (Independent), producers: Matthew Rogers and Shawn Hall
Time, Shakura S’Aida (Electro-Fi), producers: Shakura S’Aida and Howard Ayee
Broad, Treasa Levasseur (Slim Chicken), producers: Treasa Levasseur, Ken Whiteley, Steve Marriner, Terry Wilkins and David Baxter
Wishbone, Paul Reddick (Independent), producer: Colin Cripps

Blues With A Feeling (Lifetime Achievement Award)

Alec Fraser
Danny Brooks
Ellen McIlwaine
Joe Murphy
Ken Whiteley
Michael Fonfara
Stephen Barry
Tom Lavin
Michael Jerome Browne
Matt Minglewood
Brent Parkin
Bob Walsh
Jim Zeller
Nanette Workman
Theresa Malenfant
John Dickie

Blues booster: John Valenteyn

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posted by Chris Martin on Jan 21, 2013