In the last few years, Quebec artists have made their presence felt at the Maple Blues Awards. The 20th edition of the awards ceremony held at Koerner Hall in downtown Toronto on Monday night was no exception. Quebec acts walked away with a record nine Maple Blues statues, led by the Paul DesLauriers Band with four, followed closely by the husband and wife team of Angel Forrest and Denis Coulombe, with three. Bassist Stephen Barry charmed the audience with his acceptance speech for the Blues with A Feeling (Lifetime Achievement) award; we’re still not sure if he was truly asleep when his name was called or if he was kidding! Kudos to René Moisan for getting Barry to attend under false pretenses to make this well-deserved award a true surprise. Little Frankie Thiffault rounded out the Quebec haul taking Horn Player of the Year honours.
The Toronto Blues Society presents the awards gala each January, and the best in Canadian blues are recognized. Steve Marriner, of MonkeyJunk fame, hosted the Maple Blues Roast, er, um, Awards, with great aplomb. A natural host, Marriner took friendly shots at his music making confrères throughout the evening much to everyone’s delight. He also did a few great impersonations and impressions. When you can hit the stage disguised as Richard Flohill and everyone in the audience knows who it is, you get a pretty good idea of how tightknit the Canadian blues community is. Marriner took his hosting duties seriously, so dedicated that he shaved off his beard during the intermission to mimic Paul Reddick. His beret and jean jacket wearing impression was so authentic that many in the crowd were fooled until the real Paul Reddick appeared onstage alongside the host. Rumour has it that Marriner also tapped Guitarist of the Year recipient David Gogo for some joke material when he was preparing to host. Most of it, as the saying goes, ended up on the cutting room floor, as Gogo’s stories are generally best kept for late night conversations with a glass of your favourite poison.
The Paul DesLauriers Band rhythm section of Greg Morency and Sam Harrisson each picked up awards as Bassist and Drummer of the Year. It was Morency’s second win in three years, while Harrisson got the nod for the first time. The band also took home trophies in the Electric Act of the Year as well as Entertainer of the Year categories. The band has been riding a growing wave of success since the fall of 2015 when it clinched a win at the Montreal Blues Society hosted Quebec to Memphis contest. This secured them a slot at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis a year ago, where they impressed, finishing 2nd worldwide out of a field of 119 competing bands. Blues Foundation President and CEO Barbara Newman was on hand at the Maple Blues Awards and like a proud mother, congratulated the PDB boys.
Angel Forrest snagged her fourth consecutive Female Vocalist of the Year award. She also shared Songwriter of the Year and Recording/Producer of the Year honours with Denis Coulombe for their work on her latest album Angel’s 11.
Quebec artists held no less than 19 nominations spread throughout 10 of the 17 categories! This is a testament to the quality of blues artists that we have in Quebec. You know there is talent in Quebec when the likes of Steve Hill, Dawn Tyler Watson, and Cécile Doo-Kingué get shut out by musicians from their own province. The TBS also took a moment to remember those we lost on 2016, including Bob Walsh and Rick L. Blues.
The Toronto Blues Society once again hosted a first-class event. A big tip of the hat to Derek, Alice, Jordan, and their entire team for yet another job well done. See you next year!
Below is a complete list of this year’s Maple Blues Awards winners. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners.
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 Award (Lifetime Achievement)
BB 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