Veteran Vancouver blues-rocker Colin James was the big winner at the Maple Blues Awards at Koerner Hall in Toronto on Monday night. He took home five awards for Entertainer of the Year, Electric Act of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Recording/Producer of the Year and Songwriter of the Year.
Female blues musicians were well represented in several other categories, with awards going to Sue Foley for Guitarist of the Year, Lindsay Beaver for Drummer of the Year, Laura Greenberg for Bassist of the Year, Shirley Jackson for Horn Player of the Year, Emily Burgess for New Artist of the Year, and Angel Forrest for Female Vocalist of the Year.
Calgary based Ellen McIlwaine, aka Goddess of the Slide, was honoured for her long career and outstanding contribution to the Canadian blues scene with the Blues with a Feeling Award (Lifetime Achievement Award).
The Blues Booster of the Year Award, another special Maple Blues Award, was handed out to the Hornby Island Blues Society for its continued contribution the Canadian blues scene.
In addition to the 17 Maple Blues Awards handed out throughout the gala event, the winners of the 5th annual Cobalt Prize Contemporary Blues Composition Award were announced. The Award was created and initially funded by Juno Award winner Paul Reddick, whose goal was to change the way audiences perceive and appreciate blues music. The intention behind the Cobalt Prize is to promote blues music through the exploration of its form. In 2020 the Maple Blues Awards will introduce the Sapphire Award for Best Blues Video.
The winning Cobalt Prize for composition was “It’s Happening” by Edmonton based Ann Vriend. The runners up were “Down on Vaughn Rd” by Toronto’s Son Roberts and “Chasing Dreams” by Toronto’s Samantha Martin. A cash prize of $1000 was presented to Vriend, with the second and third place winners each receiving $250.
Hosted by popular theatre/television actor and blues artist Raoul Bhaneja, the show's near-capacity audience was treated to performances by Edmonton expat Jenie Thai, Newfoundland’s Earle & Coffin, Ottawa’s Sue Foley (now based in Austin), and Toronto-based guitarist and singer Emily Burgess. Salt Spring Island's Harry Manx teamed up with Monkey Junk's Steve Marriner to preview their new release and Raoul closed the show with the Big Time joined by surprise guest and big winner Colin James for the finale.
Now in its 22nd year, the Maple Blues Award gala is recognized as the most important date on the Canadian blues scene's calendar.
Maple Blues Award Winners
Entertainer of the Year
Electric Act of the Year
Acoustic Act of the Year
Big Dave McLean
Male Vocalist of the Year
Female Vocalist of the Year
New Artist of the Year
Recording/Producer of the Year
Colin James - Miles to Go / True North (Colin James & Dave Meszaros)
International Artist of the Year
Songwriter of the Year
Blues with a Feeling Award (Lifetime Achievement Award)
Guitarist of the Year
Piano/Keyboard Player of the Year
Harmonica Player of the Year
Horn Player of the Year
Drummer of the Year
Bassist of the Year
Laura Greenberg (JW-Jones)
Blues Booster of the Year
The Hornby Island Blues Society