Québec artists ruled the roost at the 20th annual Maple Blues Awards in Toronto last night. 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, while Angel Forrest grabbed three trophies, for 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 Québec blues scene for over 40 years. Montréal-based Frankie Thiffault of Ben Racine Band won as Horn Player of the Year.
BC blues artists also fared well at the event, 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 at Koerner Hall 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.
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 benefactor The Unicorn Project.
Presented by the Toronto Blues Society. the Maple Blues Awards were hosted by Steve Marriner of MonkeyJunk. Performers included Tim Williams, Sugar Brown, Shakura S’Aida, Michael Kaeshammer and The Paul DesLauriers Band, along with the awards gala house band, The Maple Blues Band.
The gala also featured a moving memorial tribute to the late John Mays (Fathead), Brian Cober and past Blues With A Feeling Award Winner Bob Walsh.
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
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
NEW ARTIST OR GROUP OF THE YEAR
RECORDING/PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
Angel's 11 (Morningstar) Artist: Angel Forrest. Producers: Angel Forrest and Denis Coulombe
BLUES WITH A FEELING (Lifetime Achievement)
B.B. KING INTERNATIONAL ARTIST OF THE YEAR
GUITARIST OF THE YEAR
HARMONICA PLAYER OF THE YEAR
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
Angel Forrest & Denis Coulombe
BLUES BOOSTER OF THE YEAR