Juno Preview: Blues Album Of The Year

With Juno Week in Ottawa just a couple of weeks away, FYI is previewing some of the awards categories. We will introduce you to some shining new stars in the Canadian music firmament as well as reminding you of the recent achievements of some well-established artists.

The group of nominees in the Blues Album of the Year category at this year’s Juno Awards is a diverse and interesting one. It comprises two of the genre’s most important and successful Canadian artists of the past 30 years (Colins Linden and James), another well-respected veteran (Paul Reddick) , a hardworking lesser-known solo artist (Sean Pinchin), and a duo making their first full foray into the genre (Whitehorse).

The list also deviates significantly from that of the recent Maple Blues Awards, a healthy development that showcases the depth of blues talent in Canada.


The 2017 nominees (in alphabetical order) are

Colin James – Blue Highways True North*IDLA

Colin Linden – Rich In Love Stony Plain * Warner

Paul Reddick – Ride The One Stony Plain*Warner

Sean Pinchin – Monkey Brain Independent

Whitehorse – The Northern South Vol. 1 Six Shooter*Universal


Colin James - Blue Highways

Colin James is a veteran singer-songwriter, guitarist and record producer who has found success in genres ranging from rock to blues to swing.

He grew up in Saskatchewan, listening to folk and blues and playing with bands in his teens. After moving to Vancouver he scored a deal with Virgin Records, and his 1988 self-titled debut album became a major hit.

He sticks to the blues form on Blue Highways, his 18th album and one that has scored enthusiastic reviews. On the album he pays tributes to some of his blues heroes, including Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Freddie King, Jr. Wells & Buddy Guy, Peter Green, and Robert Johnson, via fresh interpretations of classic blues tunes.

Colin James was inducted into the Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2016.


Colin Linden - Rich In Love

Colin Linden is a real roots music renaissance man. He has long been an in-demand guitarist for such stars as Bob Dylan and Bruce Cockburn and is a busy record producer, yet still finds time for membership in rootsy supertrio Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and recording solo blues-based albums. His songs have been covered by The Band, The Blind Boys of Alabama and Keb’ Mo’, amongst others. 

Rich In Love is his first new solo studio recording since From The Water (2009), and it finds him at the peak of his creative powers.

Linden's trophy case is a full one, as he has won eight Juno Awards, multiple Maple Blues Awards and a Toronto Arts Award. He was nominated for a Grammy Award for the star-studded A Tribute to Howlin’ Wolf CD, and was nominated in 2002 for Lucinda Williams’ track on the Timeless (Hank Williams tribute) album, which won for “Country Album of The Year.”

That same year his involvement in the O Brother, Where Art Thou project was rewarded, as O Brother won for Best Album and the Down From The Mountain soundtrack (featuring a song he co-wrote) won for Folk Album of The Year. He has also contributed significantly to the hit TV show Nashville.

Rich in Love marks a return to the same label that released Linden’s first studio album The Immortals (1986) and also represents his first new solo studio recording since From The Water (2009).

Paul Reddick- Ride The One

This veteran Toronto-based singer/songwriter is no stranger to major awards nominations. He first made a mark in the '90s as leader of The Sidemen, a group that won multiple Maple Blues Awards and received two Juno nominations. 

Their ground breaking release 2002 album Rattlebag won three Maple Blues Awards including Electric Act of the Year, Songwriter of the Year and Album of the Year and was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award in the U.S.  One of its tracks, “I’m A Criminal,” was used in a popular Coca-Cola “Sip Stealing” television commercial that aired during the Superbowl. 

Since going solo, Reddick has continued to earn critical acclaim with his albums, with his prowess as a poetic lyricist earning deserved recognition. Ride The One is his first recording with prestigious roots label Stony Plain Records.

Reddick is also the creator and benefactor of The Cobalt Prize for Contemporary Blues Composition, awarded annually at the Maple Blues Awards.


Sean PinchinMonkey Brain

This Toronto-born singer/songwriter/guitarist recently relocated to the Kitchener area.

His bio notes that he is "a self-proclaimed typical' ginger and Taurus whose  down-to-earth and easy going personality complements the energetic charisma he projects on stage."

Earlier album Rustbucket marked him as a contender, and Monkey Brain has been well-received. It was produced by Rob Szabo (Steve Strongman) and primarily captures Pinchin's trio live in the studio.

The hard-working Pinchin frequently performs and records with Dione Taylor.

FYI chatted with Pinchin at the recent Juno nominees press event, and he was thrilled at the well-deserved recognition. "This is a beautiful platform for me, and it’ll keep me inspired. I wanted to make another record this year, but it’s a lot of money and you sell less CDs each day. Positive feedback is key."


Whitehorse - The Northern South Vol. 1

You could call Whitehorse the outlier in the group of nominees. The duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland has tasted Juno glory before, but in different categories. Known for a heady blend of roots and rock styles, they detoured into the blues lane for The Northern South Vol. 1, a tribute to the sound of classic Chicago electric blues with their own distinctive twist.

According to their bio, "the album is a project that showcases the duo’s signature blistering riffs and searing harmonies on a modern translation of the grooves and melodies of the 1950s and 1960s blues. With a pink Jazzmaster and a ‘new’ 1952 Martin guitar, Whitehorse takes a twelve-bar trip through a collection of chart-toppers that built rock n’ roll one sneakin’ cheatin’ no good man at a time."

Previous album, Leave No Bridge Unburned, won a Juno Award for Adult Alternative Album of the Year, and the band performed on the televised Juno show.

Doucet told FYI recently that he enjoys the fact that Whitehorse are mavericks in this category and genre, noting "I get a certain kick out of that. I do think there is a blues ghetto that benefits from being tampered with."



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