Award season has erupted for 2014, with MonkeyJunk, the blues-trio from Ottawa, Canada, winning five Maple Blues Awards, including Recording of the Year for All Frequencies, the band's second release for Stony Plain, and follow-up to 2011's Juno award winning To Behold. The award evening, held in the exquisite Koerner Concert Hall in Toronto, was closed by an incdeniary performance by MonkeyJunk of "You Make A Mess," that lit up the sold out venue on January 20.
The Maple Blues Awards, presented by the Toronto Blues Society, are Canada's equivalent to the Blues Foundation's Blues Music Awards, which are given out in May. Rory Block and Ronnie Earl are both nominated for BMA's this year.
Stony Plain Records was delighted and truly honoured when the Blues Foundation named us the 2014 recipient of the Keeping The Blues Alive Award in the Record Label category. The award was handed out during the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis on January 24. The Blues Foundation is an organisation that works to preserve blues music history and promotes the musicians that work in this art form. Please consider becoming a member of this foundation.
As the fire rages on last year's releases from MonkeyJunk, Eric Bibb, Amos Garrett Jazz Trio, Rory Block, Tim Hus, Ian Tyson, Ronnie Earl and Duke Robillard, we're looking forward to the next batch of releases that will ignite your stereo's this year, including music from Kenny 'Blues Boss' Wayne, Ronnie Earl, Rory Block and Duke Robillard.
And the best thing with great music? It never stops burning. So browse our catalogue, read some of the reviews they've received, peruse the most recent CDs from US label, Blind Pig Records, that we distribute in Canada, then follow us on twitter and like us on facebook.
We know you'll find something that warms your soul, and be safe in the knowledge that any purchase you make on our site is totally secure.
By Chris Spector
When the new Duke Robillard record comes to town, it’s always a good idea to stop what you’re doing and check it out. Throwing away more ideas than most players come up with in a career, Robillard indulges his Stax/Malaco southern blues show band fantasies and they arrive as much more than a busman’s holiday. Chuggling, churning, wild and woolly, this set of mostly originals sounds like they were found laying in wait along the other end of highway 61 for the right interpreter. As always, the Duke delivers royally. Well done.
By Brian Cady
For over 25 years, guitarist Ronnie Earl and The Broadcasters have consistently released heartfelt guitar-driven blues, and Good News ably continues that tradition. Released on the heels of his third Best Guitarist Award win at The Blues Music Awards, Good News features a now-11 year old iteration of The Broadcasters that includes Dave Limina on keys, drummer Lorne Entress and bassist Jim Mouradian.
Good News is a nod to Sam Cooke’s Ain’t That Good News release of 50 years ago; fittingly, Earl’s album includes a soulful cover of “Change Is Gonna Come” which features vocalist Diane Blue. The counterpoint of Earl’s emotive soloing and Dave Limina’s inspired B3 behind the vocals make this one of the more memorable interpretations of this classic.
Showing Earl’s great diversity, “I Met Her On That Train” is a rockabilly swing in the vein of “Mystery Train” – definitely a departure from Earl’s normally blues-based stylings. Also included is a beautiful version of “Time To Remember” –originally released on his 1993 album Still River. This version features a slower, more relaxed groove that allows the sparse yet fluid guitar lines to interplay beautifully with the keyboards. The Limina-penned title track has a Gospel groove that really lets Earl stretch out musically. The most powerful track on the album is “Running In Peace” – a heartfelt, slow blues tribute to the Boston Marathon bombing victims.
With Good News, Ronnie Earl again demonstrates the musical mastery that continues to garner him both awards and accolades.
By David Whiteis
Along with upstate New York's Don "Papadon" Washington, Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne is one of the few younger-generation keboardists dedicated to keeping the art of unadorned acoustic blues piano alive, relevant, and contemporary. Like Washington, though, he's also proficient on Hammond organ and other amplified instruments, and when he's not pounding out updated versions of vintage era boogie and barrelhouse themes, he's perfectly capable of insinuating himself into a tightly wound ensemble and firing off juke-rocking, modern-sounding blues. His voice, while not necessarily the most emotionally expressive, is more than adequate for the tasks he usually sets it to.
Occasionally, as in the faux rave-up Hootenanny Boogie-Woogie, he sounds a bit self-conscious in his efforts to claim his place in the vaunted rent party/after-hours keyboard tradition, but for the most part he delivers a satisfying blend of good-time entertainment and deep-hearted blues expression. Roadrunner, a pop-rock tinged ode to the footloose lifestyle of the hard-traveling bluesman, appropriately balances exhilaration and driven obsessiveness; the modernist soul ballad Baby, It Ain't You, featuring Diunna Greenleaf on guest vocals, is shot full with both regret and wounded righteousness; Two Sides, a jivey, semi-novelty romp with a strong New Orleans tinge, finds Eric Bibb contributing a tubular-toned acoustic guitar solo along with some well-honed vocal harmonies alongside Wayne; Out Like a Bullet, the set's closer, is a piano workout that kicks into a torrid, window-rattling boogie-woogie cadence early on and never lets up. It's the perfect finisher for a roots-rich celebration infused with a powerful spirit of adventurism and forward-looking imagination.(less)
By Mark Uricheck
"Canadian garage/soul trio Monkeyjunk has a sound that falls somewhere indiscriminately between the slop-barrage ofThickfreakness-era Black Keys and the sinuous R&B of the Ohio Players’ Honey....Set apart from the current pack of Hill Country-inspired blues trios by its knack for freewheelin’ soul, Monkeyjunk is an exciting name in an often stagnant niche scene." (more)
By Barry Hammond
"There doesn't seem to be any limit on where Hus may wind up in the history books."(more)
Western Star is the sixth disc for Tim Hus and his third for Stony Plain Records. These last ones (including Hockeytown and Bush Pilot Buckaroo) have pretty well enshrined him (along with Corb Lund and Stompin' Tom Connors) as one of the giants of Canadian country. He seems to crank out song after song with effortless skill. This disc has some new classics: Chruch of Country Music, where "we believe in George Jones," has got to be one of the best but there are many others on this disc, particularly incuding Halifax Blues, Hardcore Apple Picker, and Wild Rose Waltz, where his eye for Canadiana detail and a great turn of phrase combine to make an instant standard.
Obviously other musicians are also taking note. This disc has the best backing lineup yet. From producer Harry Stinson on through studio whiz Kenny Vaughn, Tim Graves (nephew of Uncle Josh Graves, the original Dobro player for Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs), Fats Kaplan, Billy MacInnis, Riley Tubbs, Wanda Vick, and Chris Scruggs - it's top-flight talent all the way. There doesn't seem to be any limit on where Hus may wind up in the history books."(less)
By Melanie Young
Freedom is the unifying theme on Jericho Road, Eric Bibb's latest release. Whether it is from earthly troubles or found in heavenly peace, the Finland-based singer-songwriter's new collection gives elegant voice to the heart's yearning for liberation.
A subdued cover of folk song Drinkin' Gourd sets the tone for the album, with world music accents from producer Glen Scott's djembe and Ale Moller's clarino. The lush production suffuses even the more rousing tracks, such as the hand-clapping gospel of Can't Pease Everybody, The Lord's Work and the With My Maker I Am One, with the quiet grace. Freedom Train gently rolls along to the sound of the children's laughter, while Let the Mothers Step Up declares "it's time to let the women lead" us to a better world. Have a Heart asks the listener to consider the plight of the immigrant; Ruthie Foster is among the guest vocalists. The Right Thing observes that "The ghost of slavery still haunts the nation," manifesting itself in today's dire poverty; the prisoner's lament Death Row Blues could be a sad postscript of the same story.
She Got Mine and Good Like You celebrate love, the latter featuring a roll call of musicians past and present and cooing guest vocals from baby Oscar Bibb. Immediately following album closer One Day at a Time are two hidden bonus tracks: the soft jazz of Now and the haunting Nanibali, preformed by West African griot Solo Cissokho on kora.
Full of tranquil beauty, Eric Bibb's Jericho Road is an ultimately uplifting journey, ideal listening for Sunday morning - or every morning.(less)