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
Electric act of the year
Acoustic act of the year
Michael Jerome Browne
Male vocalist of the year
Female vocalist of the year
Dawn Tyler Watson
New artist or group of the year
Conor Gains Band
The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer
B.B. King international artist of the year
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Joe Louis Walker
Guitarist of the year
Harmonica player of the year
Carlos del Junco
Piano/keyboard player of the year
Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne
Horn player of the year
Drummer of the year
Bassist of the year
Songwriter of the year
Shakura S’Aida & Donna Grantis
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)
Michael Jerome Browne
Blues booster: John Valenteyn