Author Archive for john emms



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

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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



October 2020