For the second straight year, a Canadian took top honours for best single/duo at the International Blues Challenge. When the IBC wrapped two weeks ago, Austin-based, Montreal-born Ray Bonneville, walked away with the prize. That’s evidence the challenge, is doing what it was designed to do.

The Blues Foundation founded the IBC in 1985 as an effort to expand and support the efforts of international artists. The foundation, which represents the world of the blues, was begun in 1980 by a group of blues enthusiasts in Memphis. The mandate of the foundation is to inform, educate and celebrate blues music.

The foundation also gives out the Blues Music Awards (formerly known as the W.C. Handy Awards), which recognize blues performers from all over the world. But the annual IBC is regarded as the premier global blues competition. The IBC starts out broad, with 160 affiliated blues organizations holding regional talent searches. The regional winners then head to Memphis for the finals.

In many Canadian cities, local blues societies sponsor an individual or group to compete, and this effort has paid dividends for the performers. They get the opportunity to make contact with other performers and international booking agents, not to mention the chance to walk away with prizes including cash, equipment, sponsorships, gigs and an invigorated career.

For this year’s competition finals, Bonneville performed “I am the Big Easy,” a song from his 2008 album Goin’ By Feel. Bonneville’s music is always deep in the groove, swampy and rootsy, and this song is no exception.

Here he is performing "I am the Big Easy" in 2008.

Last year’s winner in the single/duo category was New Brunswick’s Matt Andersen.

Here’s a video of one of his gigs in Memphis during the 2011 International Blues Challenge.

Got a favourite Canadian blues artist you think is worthy of recognition? Let us know in the comment section or email us at

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posted by Dan Cherwoniak on Feb 14, 2012