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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 




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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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February 2023