Three blues artists fought for podium time at Koerner Hall in Toronto, where the annual Maple Blues Awards were handed out on Monday. New Brunswick’s Matt Andersen won recognition as the year’s top male vocalist and best acoustic act, Montreal’s Dawn Tyler Watson pulled the rare trick of winning in both the songwriter and recording/producer categories, and Kingston’s Emily Fennell, who trades under the name Miss Emily, accepted applause as the year’s top female vocalist and new artist.
The national Maple Blues annually celebrate Canadian blues music in both its recorded and onstage forms. Regina singer-guitarist Colin James was judged the year’s best electric act, while the venerable Downchild Blues Band, no stranger to the proceedings, added the Entertainer of the Year award to its reinforced trophy case.
It was one more honour for the group responsible for the 1973 song I’ve Got Everything I Need (Almost), the first Canadian blues recording ever to sell gold. Written by Downchild co-founder Don Walsh and recorded by the Blues Brothers for its hit 1978 album Briefcase Full of Blues, the song was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2019.
Other notable 2020 Maple Blues winners included Montreal’s Paul Deslauriers (top guitarist), Toronto-based Steve Marriner and Vancouver’s Harpdog Brown (who tied in the harmonica category) and Montrealer Michael Jerome Browne, recognized for his career achievements.
In other Canadian blues news, Ottawa’s Horojo Trio took top honours at the International Blues Challenge competition in Memphis over the weekend. As well, the threesome’s guitar player, JW-Jones, was named the year’s best guitarist. The annual talent competition is international in scope.
Maple Blues Awards recipients
Entertainer of the Year: Downchild Blues Band
Electric Act of the Year: Colin James
Acoustic Act of the Year: Matt Andersen
Male Vocalist of the Year: Matt Andersen
Female Vocalist of the Year: Miss Emily
New Artist of the Year: Miss Emily
Recording/Producer of the Year: Dawn Tyler Watson
B.B. King International Artist of the Year: Buddy Guy
Songwriter of the Year: Dawn Tyler Watson
Blues with a Feeling Award (Lifetime Achievement Award): Michael Jerome Browne
Guitarist of the Year: Paul Deslauriers
Harmonica Player of the Year: Harpdog Brown and Steve Marriner
Piano/Keyboard of the Year: Kenny (Blues Boss) Wayne
Horn Player of the Year: Chris Whiteley and Mat Mousseau
Drummer of the Year: Tom Bona
Bassist of the Year: Alec McElcheran
Blues Booster of the Year: Brian Blain
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