Nobody is willing to take chances with their music career.

But if you don’t take chances you don’t grow as a person and a musician. 

Alex Bird and Ewen Farncombe  offer up 11 new original compositions on their new album Songwriter and their growth is distinctive and expressive.

Nighttime Grooves and I’ve Seen The Sun are the straight up clear radio choices.

Both have a continuity and are easily melodic and that goes a long way on stage, radio and streaming.

Symphony of Love shows off the melancholy of Bird’s voice at the start before Farncombe’s left hand throws out clear note choices and a very hip solo leaving Bird to outro on an extended vocal note.

One of the smartest things on Songwriter is that most songs are between 2, 3 or 4 minutes.

The title track with it’s blues base shows off a playful groove that is immediately ear catching, while Raindrops (Falling Down) catches Farncombe’s prettiest chord choices and solo. 

It should be noted this is not a band album with the excellent other Jazz Mavericks but an album featuring the songwriting of Farncombe and Bird.


JOHN EMMS is a music journalist, musician, songwriter, former Juno Awards Judge and member of The Maple Blues nominating committee

JOHN ON TWITTER https://twitter.com/emmsreviews



Gary Cain is a fierce guitarist and definitely no slave to musical fashion.

He picks up his guitar and rips.

Although he often works in blues riffs, funk, and rock he ultimately bridges the gap between all three on his new album titled Next Stop.

In fact the Canadian-born, Austin-based guitarist, singer, and songwriter also plays bass and drums casting himself as a one man power trio.

Blasting off the album with “Billionaires In Space,” Cain rips it up over a Johnny Winter-esque riff, while “Confusion” drills down in Hendrix territory.

The real bonus is the excellent lyrics when you check out the master funk of “Gatekeeper”

“Hey gatekeeper, tell me what’s your role?/Wine and dine, always looking fine in the
emperor’s new clothes/Oh gatekeeper don’t try to tell me what you know/I had my ten thousand
hours in about ten thousand hours ago.”

Elsewhere on “House On Fire” and the gorgeous “Gone” Cain’s virtuosic Stratospheric solos reach new heights.

Cain has a blindingly fast technique on guitar and that’s a no brainer but as evidenced On Gone and Crazy, vocally he more than gets it done.

The SRV influenced instrumental “A Short, Furious Goodbye,” which ends the album is absolutely killer. Next Stop shows Cain as a confident artist with superb guitar “hero” chops.

This year he will be performing with his excellent band in the US, Canada, UK &

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, musician, Post Media contributor, Juno Awards Judge and former tv and radio host.

Twitter https://twitter.com/emmsreviews



This is a hell of a good album made with Nashville’s top session players.

Can’t Get Enough of You with the huge wash of Michael B Hicks organic Hammond B3 and the gorgeous title track are superb.

Davis’ vocals are solid and inspiring on the ballads Your One and Only Life and the gorgeous acoustic Second Time Around.

However I could not find any videos of Davis playing live on YouTube and that is very strange.

There are a few regular videos made a few years back but that’s it

If your going to go out with a big sounding album as this is there should be some live stuff up there.

Other standouts include I Don’t Want To Be That Guy and the excellent and Bullets and Blood.

Let’s see some of these songs and Brock live.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, Juno Awards Judge, musician with Canada’s Blues Rockers THE SHAFTMEN and former radio and tv host, as well as a Post Media free lance columnist




The Luxury of being Ronnie Earl is not having to rely on a career of being tied to a certain decade or time period.

Mercy Me his latest album sounds timeless because the emotional center is still the sound of his guitar.

The album especially on the instrumentals has a unique power of oneness.

The beauty of the instrumental songs Soul Searching, A Prayer For Tomorrow with piano man Anthony Geraci and Blues For Duke Robillard are really at the heart of Earl and the band.

On these songs the playing and band dynamics are almost spiritual.

The 12-song album features the absolute killer work of Dave Limina on piano and Hammond B3.

Diane Blue is a great vocalist and gets it down and earthy on the chestnut Please Send Me Somebody To Love while Mark Earley, baritone sax and Mario Perrett, tenor sax are featured on the album and blow solos on the Dave Mason cover Only You Know and I Know

Forrest Padgett on drums, and Paul Kochanski on electric and upright bass. guitar keep the groove harnessed while Earl and Limina explore.

The cover of Higher and Higher (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) is in Diane Blue’s R & B wheelhouse and differs from both the widely known Jackie Wilson and Rita Coolidge versions.

Elsewhere Earl covers the John Coltrane classic Alabama possibly one of most emotional jazz songs of all time in his own inspiring take.

This album is quite different than 2020’s Rise Up but will satisfy Earl’s audience in a big way.

Ronnie Earl and The Broadcasters will release Mercy Me, his 14th album in partnership with Stony Plain Records and his 28th career album April 15th 2022.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, musician, Post Media contributor, Juno Awards Judge and also works with The Toronto Blues Society.

John Emms Twitter



HOROJO TRIO’S debut album Set The Record is a gorgeous fusion of R & B, Contemporary Blues, and in the end just damn good Rock n’ Roll.

An album by an Ottawa Canada trio that has an International roots feel deep in it’s grooves.

Heck did I mention the 11 track 39 minute album is very addictive?

Okay now you know!

Jeff Rogers the piano playing lead vocalist has a voice somewhere between Boz Scaggs and Robert Cray that can be playful, soulful and in the case of the ballad The Night a very Leon Russell emotional center.

Rogers tears it up on the opening track Man of Steel driven by the groove of drummer Jamie Holmes and the organic guitar sound of JW-Jones.

This is followed by the very radio friendly A Little Goes a Long Way produced by Steve Strongman.

If the above mentioned song is not a hit on any roots radio in North America then something is wrong.

Things get Neville Brothers funky on the Title Track and Hard As I Can has a crisp Cooper Brothers Pop/R & B feel with a great Jones solo and fills.

It should be motioned that veteran Ottawa songwriter Dick Cooper co-wrote 9 out of 11 songs with the band.

Elsewhere, Stay Crazy would not sound out of place on a Los Lobos album and is beautifully sung by Rogers.

Something You Should Know locks in again via the killer stick work of Holmes and the stinging Albert King attack of Jones’ fluid guitar.

The album ends with Real Deal an all out rocker that breaks down into a blues middle before swinging for the fences.

Exciting, distinctive and contemporary this debut can’t miss!

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist/Post Media contributor, musician, and Juno Awards Judge.

Twitter https://twitter.com/emmsreviews



Just A Season’s third album Leave to Come Home has a gorgeous cohesion that stands it apart from a lot of new albums

Opening with You’re Gonna Be Okay into the life affirmation of the title track over to the “Jessica” Allman Brothers feel of She’s The One there is an alt country band vibe that rings throughout.

Queen of the Underground has a Wilco/early Blue Rodeo vibe that would kill at radio while That Sunday Sound has sweet 70’s feel with a great slide guitar outro.

The album ends with the majestic almost gospel feel of Anything You Want simply one of the best songs I’ve heard this year.

Americana or Canuck essence Scott Smith and his band are sounding fresh and vibrant

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, Post Media contributor, musician, and former radio and tv host




-“The Real Thing Accept No Substitute”

When you have great musicianship and friends chances are when you make an album it will come out joyous

They Called It Rhythm & Blues by The Duke Robillard Band is the real R & B, an album with heaping amounts of special sauce

Check out No Good Lover Featuring Sue Foley, the brash exciting Tell Me Why featuring Kim Wilson and Sugar Ray Norcia blowing hard on Rambler Blues.

Turn it Up I dare you!!!!

You can be professional and Duke and the gang are but when the pros have fun look out.

Chris Cote the band’s vocalist sings the hell out of The Way You Do, In The Wee Wee Hours and Here I’m Is

If that isn’t enough how about John Hammond singing Howlin’ Wolf’s No Place To Go…WOW WOW

Duke’s band is hotter than hell and this is the real thing accept no substitute

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, POST MEDIA contributor, musician and Juno Awards Judge


JOHN EMMS is a Veteran music journalist, Musician, Post Media Contributor, Juno Awards Judge and former radio and tv host



Let’s Face it Kenny Blues Boss Wayne is one hell of an entertainer and his new opus Blues From Chicago to Paris: A Tribute to Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon a 17-track album is a clear winner

It’s so damn natural you simply turn it up and groove to it’s straight forward clean no frills style.

Tracks like the 7 minute plus New Way To Love or the 3 minute pleaser Ain’t Gonna Be Your Money Man are so cool Otis Spann would approve

Bassist Russell Jackson and drummer Joey Di Marco and Wayne can’t miss on the The Way She Loves a Man and Somebody Tell That Woman and Don’t Let the Music Die which are all superb gems and a total joy

You Need This

John Emms is a veteran music journalist, musician, Post Media Contributor and Juno Awards Judge



On You Are The Light and The Way Alex Bird & The Jazz Mavericks prove through musicality and improvisation that 12 new original songs sound familiar enough as to suggest they belong in a new version of The Great American Songbook.

Call it “The New Cool” if you will.

Ewen Farncombe (piano-B-3) and Bird write the songs that blend into a melting pot which is both richly melodic and economic.

The bravest investment has to be the string quartet employed with Bird’s stunning vocal on Where The Blackbird Sings.

If that was not enough check out the fills via the sax and clarinet work by Jacob Gorzhaltsan here and throughout the album.

Fool For Love with nods to Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett brims warmly over the bed of Farncombe’s B-3 organ and Bird and Gorzhaltsa’s interplay. It’s a definite live set crowd pleaser as is the wildy Mel Torme inspired My Cutie Pie

Elsewhere the title track puts Bird’s unique killer voice upfront in a Bobby Darin type way while Old Soul swings madly behind a 4 piece horn section and Eric West’s excellent drumming and Leighton Harrell’s consistent bass work.

Sophisticated and beautifully recorded the album shines especially on revealing and intimate songs such as Tell Me It’s You (gorgeous solo by Farncombe) and the organic Sittin’ By My Lonesome.

Original and daring the possibilities of Bird and the Jazz Mavericks to be true stylists is wide open.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, musician and contributor to Post Media, The Juno Awards and Toronto Blues Society

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Steve Marriner Sean Chambers, Tito Jackson-REVIEWS JOHN EMMS

First things… with a torn rotator cuff and dislocated shoulder it was hard to type or put on a guitar.

Still rehabbing for sure.  But that should explain the last 4 months of inactivity with reviews

 On with the gig

Steve Marriner-Hope Dies Last-Passion is hard to explain but everyone knows it when they hear it.

On Hope Dies Last Steve Marriner takes 10 well penned songs that show gritty musicianship and soul and let’s it fly. 

Check out the rock urban mix of Take Me to the City and the inside the gut punch of Somethin’ Somethin which just also happens to be a sure fire radio song.

Damn it the track also features a killer pedal steel solo and great background soul vocals by some fine sounding ladies.

How High features Jimmy Bowskill and Glenn Milchem and the video was filmed at The Carmeron House just in case it wasn’t already cool enough. 

Elsewhere Coal Mine shines and the funky Petite Danse would come Dr. John approved.

Also check out Honey Bee a Tom Petty cover that has tons of swagger,

Long Way Down ends the album in a sombre reflective feel.

It’s important to know this is NOT a MonkeyJunk album or reflective of his road dawg work with so many other artists.

It’s just a respected solo artist/musician feeling it and playing it for you.

Love it.

Sean Chambers-That’s What I’m Talkin About-Tribute to Hubert Sumlin

Wow, this simply kicks butt.

From the opening monster riffage of Chunky to the growling Rockin Daddy or the fantastic gem Hidden Charms Chambers and his band are lean and mean.

Put this cd on at a barbecue and watch people start to groove.

Tito Jackson-Under Your Spell-Legendary guitarist Tito Jackson yes that Jackson from the Jackson 5 blows it out of the water on his blues debut album due out August 6 2021

If that was not enough Stevie Wonder, Joe Bonamassa and Kenny Neal and a ton of others guest.

But make no mistake this is Tito J all the way as songwriter, guitarist and bandleader along with the killer talent of Micheal K Jackson. 

Wheels Keep Turning gets the groove on and the title track features Joe B on slide.

Dyin’ Over Here, Love One Another and That Kind of Love are punchy straight forward songs that beg for repeated airplay.

George Benson guests on the B.B. King nugget Rock Me Baby and Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff wrote

All In the Family Blues for Tito.

Damn it this is real fine stuff.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran published music journalist, musician, Juno Awards Judge and former radio host




Big time Bassist, award winning producer, blues man and yes now Troubadour on his first official solo album.

On the Wings of the Wind Fraser’s new album is a beautiful collection of introspective songs.

Songs like Ocean of Emotions, My Father’s Ashes and the title track bear likeable dependable changes and melodies.

Don’t Cry For Me featuring a great fiddle solo and fills from Chris Bartos would sound great on any roots radio format.

In addition Terlingua Night a gentle rolling song featuring Jimmy Bowskill on mandolin works magic.

Considering his many musical hats as a producer and engineer his productions and bass work have won 23 awards worldwide

However it’s no stretch to say the inclusion of any of these songs at a gig would be very welcome.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, Musician, Sun Media contributor, Juno Awards Judge and former radio and television host

john emms (@emmsreviews) / Twitter



LAYLA ZOE- NOWHERE LEFT TO GO- This is an album meant for the times we are living in.

I can’t say why but that’s the way it hits me on an emotional level.

There are many genres on this album which are common to the 2018 album Gemini.

Check out the thumping title track with lyrics about the fires in Australia including some killer guitar work with co-writer Jackie Venson, the soul of Sometimes We Fight written with Bob Fridzema and the church gospel of Pray the opening track.

Honestly Zoe is singing better than ever and with several co-writers easily at her best on this album.

Elsewhere I Might Need To Fly and Dear Mom are super charged and emotional, while the loping rock of this Love Will Last co written with Dimitri LeBel has a Joplin-Esque feel

This album features the rhythm section of Gregor Sonnenberg on bass and drummer Dirk Sengotta

John Emms is a veteran music journalist, musician, Juno Awards Judge and former television and radio host

john emms (@emmsreviews) / Twitter


blues and roots year end roundup-2020-still alive

Holy shite I listen to a lot of music in a year.

And this Covid 19 Health Crisis has made it a shitty year for everyone, not just musicians.

That’s why we need more new music.

The blues/roots music genre spans a big section.

Some of these albums go back to late 2019

My listening pattern is all over.

During the year I will go from big names like Walter Trout, Sonny Landreth, Tinsley Ellis, and Ana Popovic to Canadians like Jack De Keyzer, JW Jones, Downchild Blues Band, David Gogo or Samantha Martin.

I can’t always get to it all.

But damn it, some of the artists you may not be familiar with are fantastic players and songwriters.

Here is a small list and there will be more to come in the next few weeks.

Federico Luiu-Walkin’ The Blues-A standout crisp 7 song set.

Also note killer horn arrangements from sax man Anthony Brancati.

Luiu has a superb guitar tone that jumps out of Funky Bee and the opener You Don’t Love Me.

The album’s best track She’s Gone (not the Hall and Oates song) features the one and only Matt Schofield.

Tearing it up..  Very nice.

Michael Schatte-Conundrum-This is easily one of the top 5 roots albums of the year.


Mind blowing guitar work throughout and excellent production from Schatte.

Water in The Kettle and Dry Black Powder which open the album will knock you over.

Silly Old Man rips and the title track has a very cool standout Richard Thompson vibe.

Meanwhile Daria could easily make radio playlists.

Excellent work from bassist Ryan Spratt and drummer Riley O’Connor.

Rick Fines-Solar Powered Too-This is a gorgeous album of roots/folk.

The album was recorded in a little gazebo in North Kawartha with solar power during our current pandemic.

The aching beautiful One Lone Loon is probably one of the most heartfelt songs I have heard this year.

If that was not enough Jimmy Bowskill’s pedal steel is the icing on the cake..

Worry Be The Death of Me gets out the slide guitar and features the great Roly Platt on Harmonica, while the shuffle Yellow Moon, Indigo Sky with Suzie Vinnick and Laundry On The Line set each mood perfectly.

Producer Alec Fraser does a fantastic job letting the album breathe.

Other standout songs are the opening Below the Surface and the excellent cover of Jesse Winchester’s That’s What Makes You Strong.

Topics on Love and Life are plenty and carry the day.

Love it.

Beauwater-Who Works For Who-The East Coast Rock feel is well represented on this album.

The tracks are versatile in their moods and the superb groove is blues rock based and takes no prisoners.

Jonathon Reid has a powerful vocal and funky guitar presence.

Check out Flavour of the Week and the blues drenched The Real McCoy with harmonica from Kelly Hoppe.

They set the tone for this album.

Drummer Michael Maddox and bassist Greg Newhook are inventive and hold things down at the same time.

Tonight’s She’s Gonna Burn has tons of atmosphere and Long Way Down funks it up in a Wide Mouth Mason feel.

Elsewhere The title track and The New Disease have an almost Trews like vibe and kick butt big time.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, musician, Maple Blues Awards panelist,  Juno Awards Judge and songwriter.

Twitter-john emms (@emmsreviews) / Twitter



Songwriters and artists especially in the blues/roots music genre are always on the lookout to establish a confident way to share their new music.

In the end it comes down to letting the vibe that comes out of the artist to shine.

De Keyzer and James choose very different paths to leave their mark.

Jack De Keyzer-Tribute-A Multiple Award winner and an awe inspiring guitarist JDK chose to write, record, arrange and produce 12 new songs inspired by classic blues rock/R & B and soul.

This album’s vibe is not meant to be heard in the vein of classic De Keyzer songs like Soul Lover, Nothing in The World or My Love Has Gone..

This album is an homage. You put it on and turn it UP LOUD.

From the blistering blues boogie of Are You Ready and the George Oliver inspired and super tight On The Money De Keyzer lets loose with a surgeon slicing guitar and vocal attack.

Coming Up features a killer Freddie King workout riff while You Turned My World to Blue is great track inspired by some Clapton-esque solos and Duane Allman slide fills..

Sticking to the fact this album is called TRIBUTE De Keyzer tries on many styles (Reggae) Keep The Firing Burning (Funk) Just For the Funk and (Latin) Supernatural.

The band sounds completely at home throughout the recording.

Check out the smoky blues of If My Baby Left Me a standout track in the vein of Engine Trouble.

Sizzling stuff!

Any one of these tracks could easily make it into a De Keyzer live show setlist.


Casey James-If You Don’t Know By Now-This album is a vintage slice of heartland blues, roots, and Americana that sounds real and close to the bone.

Produced by Grammy winner Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Joe Bonamassa, Joe Louis Walker) and incorporating many genres somehow it all comes out sounding like Casey James.

That’s a good thing folks.

Shake Some Salt has a Memphis meets Black Crowes groove with a sturdy inventive solo while the opening Live Life with it’s Little Feat horn workout and excellent vocal is very impressive 

Elsewhere, Real has a percussive funky riff and excellent lyrics while the slinky and fun title track makes you smile.

Hands down the most identifiable track is Faith which is broken down into 2 parts. 

The first has a swamp gospel vocal not unlike Lynyrd Skynyrd while the latter is a ripping guitar workout incorporating slide and wah wah solos.

Better Life has a southern vibe Outlaws style, Come Out Saturday Night would impress the Neville Brothers and the outstanding vocal on Be Mine reminds me of Tommy Castro.

Considering this is only his third album (second in a blues base) the maturity of James as an artist is immense.

A standout album front to back.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, musician, Post Media contributor, songwriter and Juno Awards Judge

On Twitter 




fire Burning




For me the integration of Blues, Soul, Blues Rock, and Roots music has always been diverse and wide ranging.

I have been listening intently to a lot of new releases that weld together a lot of these elements. Here are the reviews.

Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar-The Reckless One-Passion, Pride and just great ensemble playing runs through The Reckless One from start to finish.

Due out November 20th this album will be a welcome tonic to this insane year.

Samantha Martin is in top form and the power pleading vocal on One Heartbreak and I’ve Got A Feeling  (not the Beatles track) due out in a few weeks showcase this yearning tone.

Elsewhere the rock solid Don’t Have To Be and the almost E Street Band vibe of Sacrifice are big winners.

All That I Am is a showstopper written with guitarist Curtis Chaffey (as are a number of others) and is easily one of the best songs Martin and the band have recorded.

Meet Me In the Morning finds the band covering Bob Dylan in a powerhouse arrangement.

It should be noted Delta Sugar is one a hell of band of excellent musicians.

Supreme stuff!


Dione Taylor-Spirits In The Water-The spiritual but contemporary potent mix of songs and studio production on this album is going to turn a lot of heads.

The percussive slam of How Many Times the first single is flat out dangerous, and the banjo/roots guitar tinged song Spirit would make Mavis Staples proud.

Co-writer/guitarist/banjo player Joel Schwartz creates a great ambient wash throughout the album.  Just check out the excellent Down The Bloodline.

Elsewhere Taylor a Regina Saskatchewan native who has been a musician since the age of four is both reflective and sophisticated on the haunting Water and the riff driven Workin’

As a songstress Taylor can perform superbly in many styles and genres.

This can sometimes be a problem when putting out an entire album, but that is not the case here.


Heathcote Hill-Stories We Are Told-This is an album that gets better with each listen and could easily be a radio favourite.

Each time out I hear something new.

In fact the album hangs together in a Fairport Convention/10,000 Maniacs Blind Man’s Zoo era vibe.

In case you’re wondering that’s a good thing folks.

Don’t Let Go, All I Remember, and Hey all sound like natural radio hits to me.

It should be noted that Megan Porcaro Herspring’s voice and indeed the band are much more confident and upfront on this recording than some of their live videos posted to their website.

You and Sunday Afternoons has a special almost Judy Collins vibe that gets right inside of you and the title track and Tell Me What Your Thinking has real time ambience with Tom Nelson’s excellent guitar work and songwriting.


Savoy Brown-Ain’t Done Yet-It’s crazy to think that Kim Simmonds who formed the band in 1965 is STILL making solid and very entertaining Blues Rock music in 2020.

All Gone Wrong and the minor chord beauty of Devil’s Highway swagger out of the gate making you just want to turn up the volume.

Borrowed Time and the first generation blues rock title track are evidence that Simmonds is indeed not done yet.

Throughout bassist Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnet Grimm leave a lot of room for Simmonds killer guitar tone (check out Feel Like A Gypsy )

Honest and true Blues Rock.


Northern Social-Self Titled-Infusing new ways to play as a blues rock duo Dylan Wickens and drummer Mike Rajna create a damn good whack of cool riffology on this 5 song EP.

Am I Wrong and Waiting rip and snarl their way into your conscience and Back For More shuffles it’s way through the back door after hours.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, musician/songwriter Juno Awards Judge and contributor to Post Media.








Alex Bird and The Jazz Mavericks reveal a vital, original, and intimate passion with their debut album Whisky Kisses.

The album is due out October 23 2020.

The magic of Whisky Kisses is borne out of original songs that reflect the ambience of let’s say the noted American Songbook (The Gershwins, Cole Porter)  without copying them.

The soundscape created by Ewen Farncombe on piano and Hammond B-3, bassist Scott Hunter and drummer Eric West deliver a cool bed for Bird’s direct and passionate vocals.

The opening track Fire Not Warmth percolates under a late night bass intro by Hunter, Farncombe’s B-3 and West’s stick work.

Bird’s unique and soothing voice is truthful and upfront on this song and throughout the album, but underneath there lies a type of danger not usually associated with short 3 minute jazz songs.

That’s a good thing folks.

Baby I’ll  Have You has a playful Sinatra feel but the standout for Bird’s vocal ambience comes on the simmering Now is The Night and the captivating The Way She Moves.

These songs are contrasts in tempo but Bird’s vocal interpretation of the songs is confident and grabs you right out of the speakers.


It’s notable Bird early in his life was taken to jazz clubs by his father and listened to and sometimes met many big time musicians such as Oscar Peterson and others.

It’s here on this album this absorption reaches critical mass.

The title track written by Bird with songwriter Charlie Angus (who also co-produces)  and the excellent I Almost Remembered with a great solo by Farncombe offer up an intimate kind of conversation on the poignancy of love.

This album is special and will launch a new career.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, musician/songwriter, Juno Awards Judge, Maple Blues Awards Nominating Panelist and contributor to Post Media








Crossing over from blues to blues rock, soul, and with some R & B thrown in is completely natural for any well rounded musician.

In fact a lot of the artists I listen to on a regular basis do exactly that.

Here are four new CANADIAN releases and earlier in the year albums that show off a unique evolution.

JW-JONES-Sonic Departures-Starting out with Blue Jean Jacket originally from 2014’s Belmont Boulevard Jones adds not just the horn section but an astounding outro guitar solo that raises the hair on your neck.

Elsewhere another standout Ain’t Gonna Beg a re-do from Seventh Hour 2012 and Drowning On Dry Land a funky blast by JW and his killer big horns ups the ante on both the OV Wright and Albert King versions.

BIG Sound and exciting….Swing on over and check this out.

Ben Racine Band-Live A Montreal-First off the orginal songs on this live album written by Racine are standouts.

Songs like Contagious, the funky and killer dynamics on One of a Kind and the swing of Southbound Girl are infectious and downright natural.

My oh my this band is HOT

You have to smile when you hear The Pleasure’s All Mine and the great vocal on Cuttin’ In.

Fine job on the recording by Nicky Estor.

The real thing?  THIS IS IT!

Wide Mouth Mason-I Wanna Go With You-Writing a new original blues song may sound easy but of course think again.

But the radio ready Every Red Light, and Anywhere are sure bets for WMM.

Also check out the slinky Stay For A Couple More and the slide wallop of Erase Any Trace.


Shaun Verreault and Safwan Javed create something familiar but also unique while offering us new blues roots music.

I love it.

Angel Forrest-Hell Bent With Grace-You may thought you heard everything from Forrest.


This studio album shines.

The acoustic shimmering Bea, the walk on power of Get It On and the great lyrics all over the album including the excellent Blame Game are very impressive.

Looking Glass and Ain’t No Doubt rock under the killer riffs from guitarist Ricky Paquette.

Grace may be the best song Forrest has written.  WOW

Songwriting by Coulombe, Forrest and Paquette is sharp and on point.

You can feel the emotion in this album..BRAVO

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, Post Media contributor and musician










I have to say that film, arts, and music has made 2020 bearable.

When I hear a new song like Bywater Call’s Talking Backwards it gives me faith.

The straight shooting track boasts a killer Meghan Parnell lead vocal and inspired tenor sax solo by Julian Nalli all embedded into a gutsy strut.

One thing’s for sure Bywater Call’s self titled debut is an inspired and exciting recording of excellent original songs in a Muscle Shoals soul type groove.

Did I mention they are Canadian.

Elsewhere, Over and Over gets a funky groove and an electrifying slide guitar solo by Dave Barnes who is also a primary songwriter.

Other standout songs are the slow burners Hometown and Bring Me Down.

A few more uptempo tracks like Forgive with it’s bright horn arrangement would suit me more but this 12 song set and whole band impresses.


Wayne Nicholson & John Campbelljohn- Elmore’s Blues.

I know what you’re  thinking what could go wrong?

Nothing of course.

Grab a couple of cold ones get a couple of steaks on the BBQ and put on this whole CD front to back and the world will be fine

Elmore’s Blues reminds me of the glory days of King Biscuit Boy.

But before we get to the charged up covers such as the ripping Standing at the Crossroads, the searing It Hurts Me Too and the reggae dip of I Believe you must hear Nicholson sing his butt off on the original If I Was Blue.


I have a “Strange Kind of Feeling” this is a winner for John Campbelljohn and Wayne Nicholson.


The Nighthawks-Tryin’ To Get To You

After 30 albums and touring worldwide since 1972 The Nighthawks have done it all.

On this album new guitarist/songwriter Dan Hovey and bassist Paul Pisciotta light up the original jazzy Baby It’s Time,  drummer Mark Stutso rips up lead vocals on James Brown’s Tell Me What I Did Wrong and the doo wop harmonies are excellent on the title track.

As expected band leader Mark Wenner’s unbridled and intense harmonica work is always a force and it shows no signs of letting up on this set of 13 songs.

Elsewhere Rain Down Tears is down home good like Levon Helm’s cover and Chairman of The Board has tons of mojo.

JOHN EMMS is veteran music journalist, Post Media contributor and musician.





This decade is coming to a close.
Heck I have to catch myself.
That’s 10 whole years John.

On the musical side in the last decade our band THE SHAFTMEN released 2 more original blues/roots albums and I released a personal singer-songwriter album Close Another Door

All these are available worldwide on Spotify, Apple, YouTube etc.

I also did some radio shows and recently some local television.

Personally I can say I’m glad to be still on the planet.

It’s early but some health issues I hope are behind me for good.


In the last decade locally and in a few instances out of the city our band did a fair number of gigs and I humbly think I wrote a few quality songs.

All this while keeping up the journalism and attending, listening, and writing about music events here in the city as well as reviewing music and interviewing artists across the country.

It’s been been super cool to witness the rise in live local music concerts and new original music by local artists.
I have to say right here we will also have more features on artists and musicians who have been part of our Timmins and area music culture upcoming in 2020.

On the domestic and international side I will have more quality reviews and interviews in 2020.


We have to acknowledge streaming has changed the nature of how we all experience and find new and even old music.

Streaming has no doubt meant less money for songwriters, but that’s a whole other story.

This may surprise people but I enjoy the streaming aspect for convenience.

Streaming I can find most but not all of my niche artists I have downstairs in my vinyl collection which by the way I still play.

I still listen to new rock roots and blues.

New artists like Richard and the Young Lions, The Jellybricks and others have new exciting original material.
Decade speaking despite all tech advances I don’t find the past ten years as being musically innovative.

I realize music is very subjective but I can do without another Cardi B song.

Personally I always tell my grandson Auto tuned voices and cliche lyrics drive me to run and hide.

But at the same time we both enjoy some some hip hop artists like Madchild, Eminem and rock out to the Who, SRV,  Beatles, Rolling Stones and enjoy excellent country artists like Eric Church and Chris Stapleton.

You have to listen not dismiss music out of hand.

In 2020. Timmins music fans can celebrate because the music that brings us joy and makes us feel good will be back at ROTR, The Canadian Kayak Challenge and the newly christened Porquis Music Festival.

To all my family, friends and readers Happy Holidays and good health.



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Layla Zoe’s new double album Gemini is a deep and powerful original recording which to my ears is the best of her career.

The immediate and true sincerity of the first two songs “She Didn’t Believe” and “I’ll be Reborn Blues” on Disc 1 titled Fragility is startling.

The gutsy power of The Deeper They Bury Me and the tender I Can’t Imagine My Life Without You offer the two sided coin of Layla’s great voice.

On Disc 2 tilted Courage Zoe opens up the fluid and dynamic electric power on the track Weakness which is pure rock emotion.

This is followed by the riff heavy track Automatic Gun and stunning Dark World.

This new rock vibe is a good fit for Zoe and simply kicks ass.

The Hendrix vibe of Ghost Train and the title track should be all over rock radio.

Lord knows this should be a career changing album for Layla Zoe.

Substitute all the covers of classic blues songs on stage because these songs should be a focus.

Sensational guitar and production by Jan Laacks.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, Post Media free lance music columnist and singer-songwriter with Canadian Band THE SHAFTMEN

JOHN is also on Twitter



When I first heard Cream’s album Disraeli Gears and Johnny Winter’s Second Winter I was over the top a huge Blues-Rock fan.

I had already purchased Blues Breakers with John Mayall and B.B. King’s Live At The Regal so I did have some experienced listening

Don’t get me wrong, I was also a fan of The Beatles, and Rolling Stones.

But it’s safe to say I went backwards to get the real stuff from Muddy Waters, more B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf and Albert King to name a few.

This year I want to include some 2017 albums with the 2018 albums.

Some albums I received late. These include Layla Zoe’s fantastic double album Gemini and Chris O’ Leary’s superb new album 7 Minutes Late, which I cannot stop playing.

No particular order, here is my required listens in the Blues/Blues rock genre.

Colin James-Miles To Go-Mostly covers and one of the best recorded albums I own. Punchy, superb clean mix with guest artist the Mighty Steve Marriner. Fave tracks One More Mile, 40 Light Years and Soul of a Man.

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa-Black Coffee-Don’t even think about not having this baby. Superb vocals, killer guitar work, excellent production and great song selection.

Billy F. Gibbons-The Big Bad Blues-A stunning return and a highlight of 2018 this will blow you right out of the water. My Baby She Rocks, sizzling cover of Bring It to Jerome and killer production and superb feel

Jack De Keyzer-Checkmate-Blues album of covers that sizzles like the band is playing in your front room. One of the top 5 blues albums in North America in 2018.  De Keyzer’s guitar work is inventive and the band sticks to him like glue. Stranger Blues, Broke Down Engine Blues and All Your Love are big. Otis Rush is smiling somewhere!!!!

Kenny Wayne Shepard Band-Lay It On Down-Wow, this feels like a classic roots album but with soul, blues and R & B mixed in. Fave tracks Diamonds and Gold, the rock ballad vibe of the title track and the explosive Baby Got Gone.

Downchild Blues Band-Something I’ve Done- From 2017. Superb arrangements, well written songs and a great add to their extensive catalog. Can’t Get Mad At You has a Dutch Mason feel, Albany Albany is crisp and punchy and the title track swings like mad. A Must have!!!

Buddy Guy-The Blues is Alive and Well-82 years and still the master. It’s safe to say BG’s albums of the last 15 years are simply killer. This is produced so well, Guy and the band are on top of it. Check out Keith Richards and Jeff Beck on Cognac

JW-Jones Live-This cd is in my vehicle, on my stereo and on download. Check my original full review on this site.. Love it.

Sean Chambers-Welcome To My Blues-Chambers and his band are Loaded for Bear and this album again shows why he is known as a superb guitar man among other players. Cherry Red Wine, Black Eyed Suzie and One More Night To Ride are just the tip of this excellent release.

Rocky Athas-Shakin’ The Dust- From 2017. Athas’ guitar work is monsterous and loaded with soulful tone.  A standout with John Mayall or on his own, RA and his excellent band blast off with Dictator and You Pushed Me Too Far but check out the excellent ballad Time Flies.

Joe Bonamassa-Redemption-This is the best I have heard JB sing. The songwriting is really up there and the guitar work is total swagger.. Boom Boogie for sure!!!

Bernard Allison- Let It Go-So glad this makes my top list. It’s hard to think of an album that has this much variety and soul in the playing and the songwriting.

Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar-Run To Me-More R & B then blues but so good and in the pocket it’s crazy.

Ronnie Earl and The Broadcasters-The Luckiest Man. See my original review of this 2017 gem.

George Thorogood-Party of One-Back to 2017. An organic gem where GW does solo acoustic and some electric one man stuff. Astounding

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist for over 30 years. John is a singer-songwriter and fronts up blues roots rockers THE SHAFTMEN

The Timmins Daily Press/Post Media is a mainstay and John is on Twitter






There is still great rock n’ roll being made.

These ten tracks are essential from 2018

I know what you are saying it’s all been done before.

You’re right.

If you are into good songs, here’s 10

These tracks are not in any particular order.

The Trews-  Leave it Alone. From the album Civilianaires-Power, killer hooks and great vocals. Wow.

Paul McCartney-C’Mon To Me-Nobody saw this coming. Macca rocks it down. From the album Egypt Station.

Father John Misty-Mr Tillman-Possibly one of the best new songwriters in the last 5 years.  From the album God’s Favorite Customer…Love it

The Arkells-Hand Me Downs. Is there a better live and songwriting band then these guys? Don’t think so-From the album Rally Cry

Elvis Costello and the Imposters-Under Lime-From the album Look Now. This track is as potent as his early material.

Tribe Royal-Holding On-Wow., simply gorgeous track. Like a throwback of Big Star meets the pop side of Sloan-From the EP The Road to Muscle Shoals.

Marcus King Band-Where I’m Headed-The best new musicians are few and Marcus is on the short list. An astounding guitarist and killer band.-From the album Carolina Confessions.

Liam Gallagher-I’m All I Need-Love this track which was released in 2018, but the album As You Were came out in 2017. Killer!!!!

Arctic Monkeys-Anyways-Straight out of a John Lennon solo album sound. OMG for sure. The b side of their new single 2018

Paul Weller-Mayfly-The acoustic side of the Modfather. Superb track from the album True Meanings.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist. Freelance music guy for Timmins Daily Press/Post Media.  Singer, songwriter and guitarist with Canada’s Blues Rockers THE SHAFTMEN

JOHN is on Twitter



Ray Bonneville writes great songs and the 11 songs on his new album At King Electric features songs that are like short films.

That says a lot considering he never started writing songs till his early forties.

Waiting on the Night and the shuffle of Next Card to Fall put you in Bonneville’s cinematic scope.

Electric piano player Richie Lawrence makes a huge impression throughout the album and Bonneville’s voice on Codeine and The Day they Let Me Out is almost in the room with you.

Haunting Americana from a Canadian in the best possible way.

Cary Morin can do it all by myself and the Montana born picker does on a lot of that on his new album When I Rise.

However he kills with a full band on the Grateful Dead cover Dire Wolf, Carmela Marie and electric whip of Jug Of Water.

It makes you want to hear more of him in this context.

Elsewhere the title track, the gorgeous Devoted One and the excellent track Sometimes are just standout acoustic songs.

Sean Chambers’ new album Welcome To My Blues is just flat out great electric blues.

Out of the gate the title track grabs you in a stranglehold and next up Black Eyed Susie conjures up some Skynyrd type slide mojo.

One More Night To Ride could be in the realm of Walter Trout and You Keep Me Satisfied is Gator-Florida blues rock that is rough and ready as you can get.

Then there is the cover of T-Bone Walker’s All Night Long..


Note that John Ginty on Hammond B-3 and Piano is true blue throughout.

All killer no filler as they used to say!!!!!!!

Rachelle Coba has got soul. She rolls you, she rocks you and on Blink her second album she pulls out all the stops.

High and Dry gets it done, No Deals kicks the Devil’s ass and You Stole My Soul, and the title track are both examples of superb R & B songwriting.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, Post Media contributor, and singer-songwriter with Canuck Blues Rockers THE SHAFTMEN




JW-JONES LIVE showcases an artist and his band who are not afraid to take blues in new directions while still retaining the original vibe of the masters.

Opening with Robert Cray’s A Memo (Nothin” But Love) and then letting his guitar do the talking on B.B. King’s Need You So Bad Jones comes off as an authentic blues man.

Having said that even when I first saw him play live with harp player Steve Marriner in the 90’s it was clear Jones’ knowledge and feel for the blues was for real.

His take on Howlin’ Wolf’s Moanin’ at Midnight is direct and brash in Jones’ fierce heavy and distorted solo with a slice of Jimi Hendrix’s Third Stone From The Sun in for good measure.

Don Cummings on Hammond organ adds nice dimensions to the normal trio format.

Think of Cummings work on here as a sublte Al Kooper vibe.

Laura Greenberg (Bassist of the year Maple Blues Awards 2018) and the interesting fills and sturdy stick work of drummer Will Laurin are a complete joy throughout the album.

Other highlights are a crazy good take on Albert King’s You’re Gonna Need Me, the band’s 17 riffs medley to end the album as well the jazz inflected rip on Early Every Morning scaled to an insane height via Jones’ guitar solo.

Texas, Chicago, West Coast Blues all show up on this album while his excellent original work from Belmont Boulevard, High Temperature etc does not.

Do not hesitate to make this album part of your collection.

It’s totally authentic!!!

Album release September 28th 2018

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, columnist with Post Media and singer-songwriter and band leader with Canuck Blues Rockers THE SHAFTMEN




The re-release  of the Joanne Shaw Taylor album Wild proves that Blues Rock is above all about well written songs.

She could play this album live from front to back and it would still kill.

Besides when you check out selected tracks from Gary Moore, Buddy Guy, Foghat, Johnny Winter, Cream, SRV, etc it comes down to how good the songs are.

Sure, Shaw Taylor has great guitar chops but she has become such a good vocalist.

My Heart’s Got a Mind of It’s Own with it’s killer horn charts, I Wish I Could Wish You Back, the slow excellent vibe of Wild Is The Wind and the opening salvo of Dyin’ To Know show off those vocals.

Blues Rock could easily become a major commercial force again.

I put this album up there with Joe Bonamassa’s superb Driving Towards The Daylight as proof.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist,  bandleader with Canadian Blues Rockers THE SHAFTMEN and Post Media contributor.


justin saladino band, sons of rhytmn, steve krase band, angel forrest-cd reviews john emms

Toronto’s Sons of Rhythm debut EP is a consistent, infectious and soulful debut.

The band shows deep respect for the Toronto sound steeped in George Oliver, The Lincolns and Domenic Troiano to name only a few

Six songs including a smoking cover of Allen Toussaint’s Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky and originals like Talkin’ Bout My Baby, the Boz Scaggs vibe of You’ve Got A Friend, and the torrid rockabilly tinged Swing Thing are key.

The acoustic Will I Ever See You Again is nice but seems a bit out of place considering the Jimmy Reed on steroids vibe of the opening track My Time Is Gonna Come.

All songs were written by bassist Mick Maratta and the band is anchored by ace drummer Mike Carbone, the gifted axe work of Federico Luiu guitar and a complete wicked star turn by Keyboard/Sax  player Anthony Brancati.

Whether the band does more original work in the future is anyone’s guess but what a start!!!

Justin Saladino Band A Fools Heart their second album falls into a more rock/roots territory. Tracks like Honey which works a Jack De Keyzer R & B vibe, the slower Memphis sound of Put The Hammer Down and A Fool I’ll Stay which has a kind of Sheepdogs vibe work very well

The band touches a lot of different vibes which include funk and acoustic based material.

You’re gonna like it!

Steve Krase is a crazy good harmonica player but Just Waitin” his new album with his solid band is uneven in a few places.

I have to say I prefer his last album I Should’ve Have Seen It Coming.

On the new album covers of Settin’ the Woods On Fire and the the zydeco bend on The Ballad of Jed Clampett rub me the wrong way.

However, Tracks like Just Waitin’ on My Baby  the J Geils band vibe of Blame It All On Love work great as does the excellent cover of My Baby Walked Off

Great guitar work from David Carter throughout.

Angel Forrest is a top live draw with her great band anywhere across Canada.

That is a fact.

This double live album Electric Love is flat out a mix of very good covers of House of the Rising Sun, Walkin’ Blues and the excellent material of All The Way, Spoil Me Up and the killer track Crucify.

Superb work from the whole band which includes the monster axe work of Ricky Paquette.

Forrest can’t miss!!!

JOHN EMMS is veteran music journalist and Post Media contributor. John is also a bandleader with Canadian Blues Rock/Roots band THE SHAFTMEN …..available worldwide



The Joe Satriani Band in full flight with bassist Bryan Beller drummer Joe Travers and guitarist/keyboard man Mike Keneally (SCAMBOT 2) is something to behold.

In support of his latest album the very accessible What Happens Next and playing before an audience of “Satch” heads at Centre de Congrès Rouyn which seats maybe 1000 people JS and his killer band showed why this group is one of the most dangerous bands on tour.

To put it simply his new material like the hard driving Sci Fi vibing number Catbot, the gorgeous Cherry Blossoms ( a fave among female fans on this night) which Satrani called Cinematic and the explosive Energy fit very well with his classic material.

Satch Boogie and Flying in a Blue Dream came early in set 1 and later his classic fan fave Always With Me, Always With You dedicated to his super fan base of 30 years found Satriani in blissful tone mode.

Satriani is a private but gracious man and even though I was I was attending NOT in my OFFICIAL capacity as freelance music journalist with The Timmins Daily Press we did meet by accident.

Myself and neighbor(Taco Bob) both big fans ran into JS the afternoon and he was more than happy to spend some quality time with us realizing we were humble long time fans.

Of course I was there also to review this show before my summer long official festival shows start in earnest next month

Throughout this show the fans were on fire. Chants of “Joe Joe Joe” rocked the walls and fired up the band to big time dynamics.

The title track What Happens Next and the Hendrix overtones of Super Funky Badass had the crowd on their feet.

I can’t say for sure but maybe instrumental music of this quality is in for a big comeback.

Satriani drew some of the biggest fan response I have witnessed in the Rock genre in many years.

This event was very well run and festival staff were courteous and that goes a long way and YES I would recommend this yearly festival.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, RADIO podcast host and musician.

Catch JOHN on Twitter



Joe Satriani’s musical evolution never gets old.

Simply because it’s always based on killer melody and song structure.

What Happens Next his latest album is a stunning melodic return to his roots of rock with a distinct soulful element.

Recorded with the unique and gifted bassist Glenn Hughes and the powerhouse and at times subtle stickwork of Chad Smith the album breathes deep.

I like to tell my friends “These are songs in the key of Joe” and once we slip this on at a summer get together on the patio heads turn.

Why not?

Even my wife will say who is that?..when the gorgeous melody of Cherry Blossoms  or Santana-esque Smooth Soul is wafting through the summer heat.

If Jimi Hendrix was alive today he would flip for tracks like Super Funky Badass and the lyrical approach to Thunder High On the Mountain and Invisible which both contain some crazy stone cold lock and superior work by Hughes and Smith.

Catbot and the title track show complete different sides of Satriani’s gift for technique and composition.

A Cup of Joe goes a long way morning or night.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist and interviewer with Post Media/Timmins Press

JOHN is also a Songwriter/Vocalist with Canadian Blues/Roots band THE SHAFTMEN

visit JOHN ON TWITTER https://twitter.com/emmsreviews

JOE’s current mini Canada tour is now on




Run To Me by Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar contains fantastic slices of deep soul sung gorgeously by Martin and played with groove and finesse by her 10 piece band

For starters if you took equal parts Carla Thomas and Etta James and dropped it smack dab in 2018 you would have an  idea of this great voice.

Not only that but tracks such as Wanna Be Your Lover,  Gonna Find It or Good Trouble are good enough to reference Staple Singers or Otis Redding recordings.

Elsewhere  songs such as Over You and Will We Ever Learn could crossover to pop, soul or R & B audiences in Europe or the USA.

The beauty of this album is that Martin’s voice and the band play with restraint and dynamics instead of blowing it out.


If Martin and this album does not hit big, there is no soul justice!!!!

JOHN ERMMS is a veteran music journalist, songwriter and band leader with THE SHAFTMEN




Dulcie Taylor’s new album Better Part of Me is a fine roots recording blending personal poetic songwriting and accomplished playing on every track.

Tracks like Long Gone, the opening chime of Used to Know It All  and the title track blend atmospheric shimmering soundscapes behind Taylor’s vocals and thoughtful lyrics.

Having said that 2 or 3 more Americana uptempo driving tracks would have really boosted the overall song order on the album

Halfway To Jesus an environmental track that has a Folk/Americana jump is a single but not as strong as the Folgelberg-esque God Did Me A Favor.

Whether Taylor is going for a more contemporary Christian audience with these tracks is not fully revealed throughout the album’s 11 tracks.

Personally, this album sounds fantastic.

Produced by George Nauful who also plays and co-writes and engineered and mixed by guitarist Damon Castillo it hits a sweet spot.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, freelance writer and songwriter/musician with Canadian blues rockers THE SHAFTMEN



On his latest album Checkmate Jack De Keyzer and his band prove that passion and chops for the material equals superb distinctive blues that rocks!!!

Covering a ton of Willie Dixon’s Chess Records material and some slow burn Otis Rush songs De Keyzer boasts an amplified blues passion that is fresh and potent.

It’s clear from the first count in on Howlin’ For My Darling with Richard Thornton’s hot tenor sax solo followed by De Keyzer’s Clapton-esque guitar tone the band is on.

From there De Keyzer holds court on the jump of Stranger Blues and has a ton of fun with the Otis Rush nugget All Your Love and the slide potent Talk To Me Baby.

There is a great Muscle Shoals vocal and feel on Do Right Woman and a very hip arrangement on I A’int Superstitious.

De Keyzer has an impressive band.

Thornton’s sax fills and horn arrangements work really well.

Bassist Alan Duffy is inventive while drummer Rick Donaldson and keyboard man Joel Visentin keep it snug.

A blues rock album that does not lose sight of it’s blues roots.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, Post Media contributor and songwriter/musician with Canada’s Blues rockers THE SHAFTMEN.





Ally Venable is a no nonsense 19 year old blues rocker who hopes to start diving into the world class blues rock territory of artists like Joanne Shaw Taylor and Ana Popovic to name just a few.

Venable’s new album Puppet Show out April 13 2018 shows a young woman who has the chops and attitude to push the limits.

In fact,  Devil’s Son a whiplash guitar duet with the amazing Gary Hoey, and the sturdy Bridges to Burn with Lance Lopez get the party started.

Vocally Venable gets it done easily and in time may match up to artists like Larkin Poe in that department.

Having said that check out her passion vocal on Comfort in My Soul with it’s killer end guitar conviction.

The fiery passion she displays on guitar is a no brainer on tracks like Backwater Blues, the solid title track, and Cast Their Stones.

Bassist Bobby Wallace and drummer Elijah Owings are tight as hell and it’s easy to imagine with this material adding a keyboard player/or extra guitarist into the live show would be huge asset.

Elsewhere the track Survive kicks it big with another killer solo by Venable and wicked organ workout from Eric Steckel.

You’re going to love it.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, songwriter/vocalist with Canadian Blues Rockers THE SHAFTMEN and Post Media contributor



As far as debut albums go Logan Magness’ Memphis on My Mind has an immediate warm and inviting “lived in” feel that makes you want to hear more.

These are introspective songs, singer songwriter material.

Certainly not as rockin’ roots or band dynamic as albums by The Jayhawks, Wilco or Blue Rodeo by any means.

Songs like the lonesome Bed of Nails and the introspective Thin Red Line make you a fan.

Magness grew up in Memphis, lived in San Francisco for years and then came back home.

Lyrically the excellent title track and True Love and others reflect this intimacy and the fact of being away and coming back home.

What’s missing is some sturdy roots rock uptempo material like the opening track Don’t Leave Me Alone that would benefit the laid back feel over 11 songs.

Without a doubt a clear passion for songwriting!!

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, songwriter and Post Media Contributor.

John heads up his own outfit Canadian blues/roots rockers THE SHAFTMEN.




Considering John Mayall has spawned guitar greats like Mick Taylor, Eric Clapton, and Peter Green just to name three you would think touring without a lead guitarist would be tricky to say the least.

This album puts that to rest with a jazzy swinging ode to blues classics and Mayall originals recorded trio style in East Germany

Bassist Greg Rzab and drummer Jay Davenport are not only strong but firmly in the pocket.

Mayall’s covers fit the trio very well.

Eddie Taylor’s Big Town Playboy and I Feel So Bad jump right out but Lionel Hampton’s Ridin’ On the L & N really swings and bops to Mayall’s killer piano solo.

Elsewhere Congo Square ends the album in a  blowout 11 minute blues rave up.

A lot of magic here and if you are a Mayall fan you will want this one for it’s very personal band dynamics.

Mayall heads into the studio possibly this year with strong guitar great lineup TBA

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, songwriter and blues rock bandleader with THE SHAFTMEN



Fix Your Words Chip Taylor’s new album due March 2 2018 is a thoughtful blend of themes dealing with sadness, love, loss and most of all humanity.

Taylor’s narrative warm beauty on his later work and here again puts him in a very special category of must hear singer-songwriters

Up front I have to say this album is intimate spoken word with a spartan background on instruments in the manner of his classic Little Brothers/I’ll Carry for You 2016 work

“We are in this together, and I can feel it’s a good place to be” seems like the current theme of Taylor’s life.

That line comes from the long track The Ground Moving Around Me.

It is is a standout song that would not be out of place on let’s say a Willie Nelson album.

That theme is the main link to the entire album’s passion that holds up If I Am, Crazy Dreams Crazy,  When I Was A Kid and the title track

If Bob Dylan stopped playing rock n’ roll and American standards he may end up here in the restrained warm glow of James Wesley Voight.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, songwriter and contributor to Post Media.

JOHN also heads up his blues rock/roots tradition with THE SHAFTMEN





With her finger picking and vibrato in high form and a host of Texas Guitar Slingers “sittin in” Sue Foley is on fire on her latest album The Ice Queen.

If any artist incorporates and fuses together a better contemporary blues album than Sue Foley’s Ice Queen in 2018 it will be have to be really special.

When you soak in the music chops and vibe of Jimmie Vaughan, Antone’s, Albert Collins and live and breathe Austin Texas it affects your whole career.

The Ice Queen for lack of a better term is as Billy Gibbons would say “the real thang”

The title track would make Albert Collins and John Lee Hooker proud.

I can’t stop playing this 3 piece minimal track.

The Lucky Ones with guest Jimmie Vaughan would get anyone about and “struttin” the room, while Fool’s Gold written with organist/producer Mike Flanigin and performed with Billy Gibbons is what I like,  a well written new blues song.

Gaslight and the Otis Redding-esque If I Have Forsaken You are flat out innovative considering these are new blues songs with horns that sound “lived in” and classic.

Did I also mention that drummers George Rains and Chris Layton are on this album as well as upright bassist Billy Horton

Natch baby!!!!

Elsewhere, Come to Me features Charlie Sexton in a almost Little Feat slide zone, and Sexton again compliments the essential track 81.

The Dance features Foley in solo flamenco mode and the real acoustic traditional solo stuff comes at the end of the album.

This album is a new blues classic!


JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, Post Media contributor and well know freelance music writer

In his spare time John fronts up Canuck Blues Rockers THE SHAFTMEN




Everybody and their dog has made a blues covers album.

Having said that Shawanda is an known as an excellent country singer and vocalist and until 5 years ago country is where she hung her hat

It’s not her first foray into blues  (2014 and 2016) and nor will it be her last.

Having said that Shawanda can easily do another country album or Indigenous music.

She is unlikely to go fully into the territory of blues/soul belters  such as Susan Tedeschi or Sue Foley or the volcanic style of Layla Zoe, or Finnish powerhouse Ina Forsman

What makes Crystal Shawanda’s Voodoo Woman different is that her soulful voice and the sheer depth of feel is right off the floor powerful.

Her take on Ball and Chain and Hound Dog known from big Mama Thornton has a Janis Joplin feel, and her own original Trouble track is a real dandy.

Her cover of Koko Taylor’s Voodoo Woman has a blues rock feel as opposed to Taylor’s funky original or Susan Tedeschi’s  blues roots cover.

Fave track has to be Misty Blue. Aching and gorgeous this could be a radio add anywhere.

The musicianship on this album is absolute killer.

And without a doubt Crystal can sing it out with emotion.

JOHN EMMS is a musician, songwriter for blues roots rockers THE SHAFTMEN


JOHN is also a Post Media contributor and freelance music journalist.

John’s Twitter page



On sheer musicality and composition Jim Cuddy’s new solo album Constellation is a Home Run.

If you mix the in the emotion and reflection that shines throughout, it’s a Grand Slam.

The sweet spot comes early with the killer bridge on the opening track  While I Was Waiting bursting into Colin Cripp’s atmospheric guitar solo.

Jimmy Bowskill’s mandolin work and Steve O’ Connor’s piano lends a mid period Byrd’s like vibe to Where You Gonna Run.

However, the real honesty and soul of Cuddy’s songwriting comes through with the ballads Constellations and You Be The Leaver.

Both songs about loss are gut punch reflective yet reveal a theme of carrying on.

Through the album  Cuddy’s ear for the human narrative is front and centre.

It’s remarkable that songs like the excellent uptempo Hands on the Glass (check out the bridge on this baby), Cold, Cold Wind with Oh Susanna including solos by Anne Lindsay, Bowskill and outro with Cripps have a gorgeous stereo mix.

The ballad Roses At Your Feet  and the rollicking groove of Things Left Unsaid close the album.

Co-produced by Cuddy and Cripps with engineer Tim Vesely I have to say right now it’s very possible this recording may even sound better on the vinyl copy which is also available.

The musicianship on this album bolsters how good the songwriting is and that is never a bad thing folks.

Cuddy continues to evolve this late in his career and we are along for the ride!

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist and contributor with Post Media.

JOHN also fronts up Canadian Blues rockers THE SHAFTMEN






Peter Parcek creates an entire album full of prime atmospheric blues on his latest album Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven

Excellent star turns from the great Luther Dickinson, Mickey Raphael and legendary keyboard man Spooner Oldham are very cool.

Yet it’s the covers of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s See that My Grave is Kept Clean and Parcek’s very different take on the title track written by Don Nix that create a big buzz.

Elsewhere Parcek goes instrumental on Every Drop of Rain and Pat Hare with good results but it’s his own Things Fall Apart that comes up aces.

Excellent work from producer and drummer Marco Giovino on keeping the whole album tucked in tight and focused.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist and Sun and  Post Media music contributor

JOHN  also heads up Canadian Blues Rockers THE SHAFTMEN



From the count in on the opening track Collide with it’s gut level mojo set to stun and over to the closing mid tempo versatility of When The Morning Comes BCC have created an intelligent modern day rock classic with BCCIV.

If you want to call Over My Head radio friendly then go ahead. With Glenn Hughes’ memorable vocals at times hitting a falsetto on the chorus, a superb bridge and a quick harmony guitar solo by Joe Bonamassa it makes the case for radio.

In 2017 or at any other time Over My Head  would be considered an instant rock radio add, simple as that!

The Celtic/Zep  influence of Bonamassa’s The Last Song For My Resting Place and his  mid song guitar solo is electrifying.

In fact it should be said right here that Bonamassa’s guitar work on this album is totally in the pocket while being improvised.

A total joy.

Along with producer Kevin Shirley this is a team effort by all concerned and should be noted.

For example throughout the album drummer Jason Bonham’s power and groove hits an all time high. Just check out the chops on The Crow and the already mentioned Collide.

Elsewhere Keyboard man Derek Sherinian is the weld on all the material. Whether it’s  his chops on the superb 7 minute power of Wanderlust, or the  introspective mood he creates on When The Morning Comes, Sherinian is the glue.

Again, on the individual and collective side it’s hard to believe bassist and and lead vocalist Glenn Hughes can be hitting his peak this far into his career.

But folks it’s a fact.

His soul and vocal power on tracks such as The Cove, The Crow, and Love Remains is mind blowing.

When you have four musicians at this level creating, giving, and exploring their musicianship and most importantly committed you have excellence.

Of course throughout the opus BCC wears the influence of Blues Rock, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin proudly.

Folks this is one hell of a ride.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, Sun and Post Media contributor, former radio host and musician with Canadian blues rockers THE SHAFTMEN.

JOHN is on Twitter



“Psycho Twang” in full heat is the best way to describe Kevin Breit’s wacky and brilliant new instrumental album Johnny Goldtooth and the Chevy Casanovas.

If you can’t smile when you hear I Got “Em Too, and Knee High Fizzle, then you are not having a laugh.

The harmonic sparkle of Breit’s guitar solos and string poppin is in full bloom on the opener Chevy Casanova and the spaghetti western soundtrack vibe of Dr Lee Van Cleef which Clint Eastwood would certainly approve

A lot of the tracks are Zappa cool with bass clarinet, upright bass, some organ swirls and the guest spots from the great Davide De Renzo (Tom Cochrane) on drums and sax work from Vincent Henry.

Don’t go on a Crime Holler folks, but the select tour dates tour throughout Canada over the next few months will be a great evening out.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, Sun and Post Media contributor and musician . John rocks THE BLUES with THE SHAFTMEN




Great playing, good taste and a deep faith stacked high in the blues spills out generously on Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters intimate new album The Luckiest Man.

The reliable smooth Chicago texture of Southside Stomp a staple feel on any Earl and the Broadcasters album is set against the deep warmth of Jim’s Song written and performed by Earl for the memory of bandmate and bassist Jim Mouradian.

Vocalist Diane Blue throws out excellent phrasing and soul on Heartbreak (It’s Killing Me) and just kills on Never Gonna Break My Faith surrounded by supple chops from Dave Limina on Hammond B-3 and Earl’s guitar solos and fills

Personally speaking Sugar Ray Norcia’s song Long Lost Conversation is total blues bliss with Earl and The Bluetones.

It is magic pure and simple.

That song is followed by the gorgeous and soulful Sweet Miss Vee written by Earl.

A cover of Reverend Gary Davis’ Death Don’t Have No Mercy goes deeper than deep in true Davis Piedmont tradition.

You better believe Earl and the Broadcasters are digging deep on this recording.

Ain’t That Loving You?


THIS CD is available on NOVEMBER 17th worldwide.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist and musician. John is also a Sun and Post Media contributor.

You can also find John on Twitter



Groove is everything and Casey James’ latest album Strip it Down has tons of it.

If you can’t get your groove on and tubes warmed up with tracks like Bulletproof featuring Texas Titan Delbert McClinton or the Tommy Castro-esque I Got To Go then you are not alive with the blues.

Tom Hambridge produces, writes, drums and finds the “inner” Casey James. The ballad and Little Willie John cover Need Your Love So Bad has a great feel that might hypnotize you under a Texas Moonlight night.

Elsewhere Hard Times Heartaches and Scars is one of the best blues-rock tracks of the year and Supernatural is an easy cross over rock track that James sings the hell out of.

Kevin McKendree pounds the 88’s on the rocker Makin Up and James rips up a cool solo gtr, while Stupid Crazy has a Van Morrison feel.

Title track is one of the best vocals and performances on the album.

An album you can put on from start to finish and feel good about it.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, Sun Media contributor and singer/guitarist and songwriter with Canadian Blues Rockers THE SHAFTMEN




Punchy, and with great guest vocals MDBB proves you can never underestimate the backing band on their own original album.

Right out of the gate both guest vocalists John Dickie and Cheryl Lescom up the ante on Hammered and Nailed and Don’t Send Me No Valentine the first 2 songs.

Guitar work by Dave Curry (check out Castaway) rips and tears through and the band anchored by bassist Gary Kendall, drummer Jim Casson and organ man Dave Torosian can’t miss.

Chuck Jackson simply one of the best blues singers on the planet struts the edge gorgeously on 3 AM Blues but gets drowned out a bit out by Curry’s loud guitar mix on Cha- Ching

Love the way drummer Jim Casson completely transforms the Queen classic We Will Rock You in under 2 minutes in 18 seconds, while Paul Reddick pulls out a Springsteen meets Tom Waits vibe on Hurricane (not the Bob Dylan song)

Elsewhere Kendall nails his own vocal on  You’re Driving Me Crazy powered by the rolling piano of Lance Anderson and Curry’s guitar solo.

Whether they are backing the best blues artists in Canada or carving up their own songs MDBB  play it it tough on this rocking set.

JOHN EMMS is a Post Media journalist, former radio host, and singer-songwriter with Canadian blues rockers THE SHAFTMEN





Break the new album by Andre Bisson and his excellent band showcases an artist who simply sings, writes and performs with conviction.

The tasteful title track could easily have been recorded by an artist like the late Joe Cocker, while the Ray Charles vibe of The Reason Why is a showcase for his vocal work.

All the horn charts throughout the album never overshadow the strong material. Feelin’ Fine and Next In Line are perfect examples of this.

Elsewhere The Beatles Eleanor Rigby gets a smoky rendition and his own funky I Got The Right could power up any set.

Also have to say there is a great mix on this cd

Without a doubt this Hamilton Ontario native displays chops and integrity throughout this set.

JOHN EMMS is a Post Media contributor, veteran music journalist and singer-songwriter with Canadian Blues Rockers THE SHAFTMEN





If it’s 15 years since you made an album and you have already sold 75 million albums exacting the same formula would be the smart thing to do.

But in 2017 Shania Twain is going to do things her own way.

Looking for the inner voice.

To me this album sounds personal.

In fact her most personal album of her career.

Twain decided to write all of the songs on this new cd.

Off the top you should know this is a very diverse set of songs.

I applaud Twain’s courage.

This album has no reference to the Mutt Lange blockbuster hooks of her career.

For this fact only you don’t know how this album will be received worldwide

This is a pop personal recording.

Not Bruce Springsteen or Chris Stapleton personal.

Twain personal in a pop world.

She could have had 20 or more different c0-writers like every other top artist in the industry.

Personally I don’t like that trend.

It waters down the music to a bland formula.

In fact, over the radio in the last few years I have heard some of the worst songs.

For some reason some of them are hits.

With Now the Timmins’ Ontario hometown sweetheart and international star goes inside herself.

Swingin’ With My Eyes Closed opens with an Any Man of Mine riff  but leads to a sing a long anthem that will have audiences fist bumping and swinging.

Home has a distinct folk but courageous feel and Light of My Life has an almost Nancy Sinatra via 2017 sound.

Personally this alternative feel you would never think would come out of Twain’s songwriting.

It’s a beauty.

Four songs into this album and you realize Twain is getting emotional.

Again Poor Me goes far inside “it’s not white it’s not black, can’t believe he would leave me to love her”

Holy crap you gotta love this folks.

Soldier the piano ballad is a killer vocal performance with no fluff, and that goes ditto for the simplicity of the track Because of You.

We Got Something They Don’t and the first single Life’s About To Get Good sound like solid radio fare but are not the best of what this album offers.

In the end there is a lot to love about the independence of Twain on this album.

Her fans will be behind this album and the tour.

Make no mistake.

Come On Over part 2 this is not.

But that’s ok, this album connects big time on an emotional level.

This album is available Sept 29 2017

JOHN EMMS is a Timmins born songwriter/musician who fronts up Canadian Blues Rockers THE SHAFTMEN

John is also a Post Media music contributor and veteran music writer.

Hear John and the band and their albums on Itunes, Spotify,  Youtube and Facebook.






I have been saying for the last 20 or so years that blues music has to grow.  Songwriting and playing the blues can be influenced by the roots of Texas, Chicago, Memphis etc that is cool.

Besides you can’t be beat original artists like Muddy Waters, BB King, Howlin’ Wolf.. etc. and later Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble…but you can take the inspiration and away you go.

New albums reviewed here are inspired by the past and in some places often they create something new.

Delta Wires-Born in Oakland-Right out of the speakers blasts Sunny Day a funky riff with an almost BS&T horn chart, just killer. Sure this band started 30 years but just listen to Vacation a jumpin’ Huey Lewis and the News vibe and Devil’s In My Headset which reminds me of Al Kooper’s early solo stuff.

This band has groove and feel.

Sure, you can call this West Coast Blues but as the song says “good songs to sing about the feeling love can bring”..Delta Wires are bringing it, on this their 7 th album.

Milligan-Vaughan Project-The first thing you notice about this record is how the soul of vocalist Malford Milligan intertwines with guitarist Tyrone Vaughan’s (Jimmie Vaughan/Stevie Ray Vaughan) riffs.

On the opening ripping power of Soul Satisfaction to the gentle Here I Am both written by David Grissom and Davey Knowles they never lose sight of the song, and they never step over each other.

Covering Gene McDaniels nugget Compared To What (Ray Charles) and Buddy Guy’s Leave My Girl Alone (Stevie Ray Vaughan) has been done many times and will draw comparison.

Having said that both songs have real feel and intensity on this album.

A couple of more originals like the slinky Driving You and Little Bit Of Heaven would have been nice.

Both men have deep roots and you won’t be disappointed.

The Nighthawks-All You Gotta Do-Covering Brenda Lee’s That’s All You Gotta Do jump starts this record and then digging deep with Larry Campbell’s When I Go Away (Levon Helm) again shows superb taste.

Sonny Boy Williamson’s Ninety Nine just grooves as Mark Wenner rips. The Standells Dirty Water goes from garage to blues and back again..with axe man Paul Bell sliding in riffs from Gloria, The Yardbirds Under Over Sideways Down and Satisfaction just for fun. Let’s Burn Down The Cornfield  Randy Newman’s classic is devil and spooky.

Having a patio party? Put on this whole cd and just leave it.

Gary Cain Band-Twangadelic Bluesophunk-Talk about an accomplished guitarist, Gary Cain is the real deal. If that was not enough his bassist Tom Nagy and drummer Donnie Mcdougall slip, slide, and groove like nobody’s business.

This album is HOT!!!

The first 3 songs Live Wire, Pipes and Spoons and the funky Thought I Heard You Say with it’s Stevie Ray Vaughan’s flourishes are fiery and dynamic.

Twang Strut is Jerry Reed on steroids and Got Me Where You Want Me gets on the patio ZZ Top style while the ripping Last Dance bares all.

Watch out for The Gary Cain Band in a BIG WAY.

Tucci-Olivia-One dose of Tucci’s latest album Olivia featuring Larry McCray and the late Dan Toler is all the blues inspiration you will need.

I Don’t Need It and the opener High Roller both with McCray reach for the sky and achieve it, Hey Florida and the superb Third Eye recalls The Allman Brothers, while Shawn Murphy rips up a killer vocal on Train Blues.

The band expands on the 4 man format listed on the cover with horns and some excellent organ work by Donnie Richards. (check out his solo on Third Eye)

Larry McCray is such a big presence on this album it will be hard to replace.

Having said that killer axe work from Steve ‘”Doc” Tucci and the consistent stickwork of brother Michael Tucci and bassist Harry Debusk are the glue.

Olivia is one of the best blues albums of 2017 hands down.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist, Sun Media contributor and songwriter/guitarist with Canadian roots rockers THE SHAFTMEN





” “I wasn’t just broken, I was shattered” sings Shania Twain on her new single Life’s About to Get Good.

When Twain writes and sings about pain and the thrill of making a new life she makes you a believer on this new single

“Life’s about joy, Life’s about pain,  It’s all about forgiving and the will to walk away”

And BTW Life’s About to get Good….I agree with Shania who would use the hook “About to get Good”..maybe it’s a Timmins thing!!!

Musically there’s a touch of Four Tops Motown in the chorus and the mix is cool and transcendent amidst it’s pop perfection

“It took me so long to be strong
But I’m alive, and I hold on to what I can feel
It hurts to heal”

If the search for love and good music is what Shania is looking for she’s got it here.

JOHN EMMS is a veteran music journalist/Post Media contributor and songwriter with Canada’s Blues Rockers THE SHAFTMEN

AND yes John hails from TIMMINS ONTARIO


December 2022