(TORONTO, ON) – Canadian blues artists from coast-to-coast were honored by their peers at the 20th Annual Maple Blues Awards gala in Toronto January 23rd as a crowd of blues lovers gathered to celebrate Canadian blues at Koerner Hall.
Quebec blues artists swept the awards with honors going to trio The Paul DesLauriers Band who won Entertainer of the Year, Electric Act of the Year, Drummer of the Year for Sam Harrisson, and Bassist of the Year for Greg Morency. Blues belter Angel Forrest took home three awards including Female Vocalist of the Year, Recording/Producer of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. The Blues With A Feeling Award for lifetime achievement was awarded to Stephen Barry, who has been a fixture on the Quebec blues scene for over 40 years. Montreal-based Frankie Thiffault of Ben Racine Band took home the hardware for Horn Player of the Year.
British Columbia blues artists were well recognized with awards going to David Gogo for Guitarist of the Year, Harpdog Brown for Harmonica Player of the Year and Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne for Piano or Keyboard Player of the Year.
Other winners at the sold-out gala event were Manitoba’s Big Dave McLean for Acoustic Act of the Year, Ontario’s 17-year old newcomer Spencer MacKenzie for New Artist or Group of the Year, New Brunswick’s Matt Andersen for Male Vocalist of the Year, and Joe Bonamassa for International Artist of the Year.
Edmonton’s Cam Hayden, a long-time broadcaster on CKUA and co-founder of the Edmonton Blues Festival 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 third annual Cobalt Prize Contemporary Blues Composition Award was handed out last night to Ann Vriend for her song “All That I Can”, with runners up Michael Kaeshammer for his song “Sweet Grace” and The Harpoonist And The Axe Murderer for their song “Father’s Son”. A cash prize of $1000 was presented to Vriend with second and third place winners each receiving $250, courtesy of the benefactor The Unicorn Project.
Hosted by Steve Marriner of MonkeyJunk, the 20th annual Maple Blues Awards included outstanding performances from nominees past and present, including Calgary’s Tim Williams, Toronto’s Sugar Brown and Shakura S’Aida, British Columbia’s Michael Kaeshammer and the evening’s big winners, The Paul DesLauriers Band along with the awards gala house band, The Maple Blues Band.
Winners of the 20th Annual Maple Blues Awards:
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR The Paul DesLauriers Band
ELECTRIC ACT OF THE YEAR The Paul DesLauriers Band
ACOUSTIC ACT OF THE YEAR Big Dave McLean
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR Matt Andersen
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR Angel Forrest
NEW ARTIST OR GROUP OF THE YEAR Spencer MacKenzie
RECORDING/PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
Angel’s 11 (Morningstar) Artist: Angel Forrest. Producers: Angel Forrest and Denis Coulombe
BLUES WITH A FEELING (Lifetime Achievement) Stephen Barry
B.B. KING INTERNATIONAL ARTIST OF THE YEAR Joe Bonamassa
GUITARIST OF THE YEAR David Gogo
HARMONICA PLAYER OF THE YEAR Harpdog Brown
PIANO/KEYBOARD PLAYER OF THE YEAR Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne
HORN PLAYER OF THE YEAR Frankie Thiffault
DRUMMER OF THE YEAR Sam Harrisson
BASSIST OF THE YEAR Greg Morency
SONGWRITER OF THE YEAR Angel Forrest & Denis Coulombe