Blue Monday, thought to be the most depressing day of the year, was anything but last night Toronto’s Koerner Hall, as internationally renowned Canadian Blues Artists from coast-to-coast were honoured by their peers at the 18th Annual Maple Blues Awards gala.
Montreal’s one-man band, Steve Hill took home all of the awards he was nominated for including Entertainer of the Year, Electric Act of the Year, Recording of the Year for Solo Recordings Vol. 2, and Guitar Player of the Year. Angel Forrest won two awards including Female Vocalist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. Also representing the thriving Quebec blues scene were Nanette Workman who won the Blues with a Feeling Lifetime Achievement Award and Greg Morency of the Paul DesLauriers Band who won Bassist of the Year. From Montreal, Guy Belanger won Harmonica Player of the Year, sharing it with Vancouver’s Harpdog Brown in the first ever Maple Blues Awards tie.
Vancouver’s Brandon Isaak won the Acoustic Act of the Year award with David Vest taking home the award for Piano/Keyboard Player of the Year. The New Artist or Group of the Year award was presented to Ottawa’s Wicked Grin. Edmonton Folk Festival producer Terry Wickham joined Stony Plain Records president Holger Petersen to present the Blues Booster of the Year Award to Edmonton’s Peter North, who was recognized for his dedication to promoting the blues as a broadcaster, talent buyer and festival Artistic Director.
An additional award was handed out last night as the winners of the first ever Cobalt Prize for Contemporary Blues Composition were announced. The creator and benefactor of the award, musician Paul Reddick, presented Digging Roots the grand prize for their song “Hwy 17”, with Rob Lutes and Samantha Martin announced as runners up.
Hosted by renowned musician and broadcaster, Toronto’s own Danny Marks, the Maple Blues Awards included outstanding performances from Maple Blues Award nominees past and present, including the evening’s big winners Steve Hill and Angel Forrest, Joel Johnson, Downchild, Harpdog Brown and Brandon Isaak, all backed by The Maple Blues Band.