I had supper with Angel Forrest, hugged Greg Morency, Nanette Workman poured me champagne, Guy Bélanger drank my scotch, and I had a quick chat with Steve Hill. I am the common denominator in the success of all these musicians at the Maple Blues Awards held last January 19th at the magnificent Koerner Hall in Toronto.
Ok, let’s get serious...Hard work, determination, dedication, sacrifice, and talent are the seeds that were sown to be considered for one of these awards. That’s exactly what our Quebec artists have proved. Although not the ultimate goal, the awards are recognition for the efforts artists across Canada exude throughout the year. “La Belle Province” was well represented with nominees in 12 of the 15 possible categories on Monday morning. By Monday evening nine of the trophies found homes in Quebec.
Hosted by Danny Marks, the Eighteenth annual Maple Blues Awards kicked off with Marks performing one of his songs. The house band for the evening once again was ‘The Maple Blues Band’, made up of a who’s who of musicians and kicked ass. Add that to the remarkable acoustics of Koerner Hall and you have quite the backdrop for this event.
There were several performances slotted in between the award presentations. The DownChild Blues Band did their thing. Joel Johnson as well. Harpdog Brown showed us why he won an award. Brandon Isaak played a nice acoustic tune. We were treated to a performance by Steve Hill who combined ‘Still Got It Bad’ and ‘Hate to See You Go’. Hill’s kit was delivered on a sheet of plywood which made the transport of his one man band set up a little easier. Host Danny Marks noted that it was interesting that a one man band needed a five man road crew to carry the contraption! Angel Forrest and Denis Coulombe brought the proceedings to an end with an emotionally charged rendition of ‘How You Do’.
Following the ceremony, an after party nominee jam was held in the lobby of Koerner Hall. A mini stage was set up and Irene Torres & The Sugar Devils wasted no time in setting a groove. Various artists then took and shared the stage including an awesome line-up featuring bassist of the year Greg Morency and his usual band of hooligans, the Paul DesLauriers Band. They were joined by Steve Strongman, Dawn Tyler Watson, and Harmonica Player of the Year Guy Bélanger. How about Steve Hill giving it a go with Paul Deslauriers? (The two will be sharing a bill at the end of February in Longueil). Angel Forrest got in there as well, with Denis Coulombe taking over the bass duties for a bit. Song after song was a blues paradise.
The Toronto Blues Society has this slick operation well under control, witnessed by the virtually sold out Koerner Hall. There should be an extra award bestowed on that organization for staging such an event including the three days of showcases and seminars. Thank you and cheers to all involved.
Steve Hill, Adam Karch, Michael Jerome Browne, Angel Forrest, Dawn Tyler Watson, Jordan Officer, Nanette Workman, Guy Bélanger, Paul DesLauriers, Sam Harrisson, and Greg Morency a tip of the Montreal Blues Hat goes out to you for representing Quebec with dignity and class. Please keep it up.
Pictured below: Angel Forrest/Steve Hill/Guy Bélanger/Greg Morency/Steve Hill/Angel Forrest/Denis Coulombe/Mark Stenzler and Guida, Brian Slack, and Greg Morency/Steve Hill and Chris Antonik