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 you up this winter, and be comfortable knowing any purchase you make on our site is totally secure.
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)
By Eric Thom
"Exquisite interplay for those who love emotional expression and delectable tone."(more)
By Robert Myers
"This is unforgettable songwriting."(more)
All the Good 'Uns Vol. 2 (Stony Plain)
Some of the finer things, like good wine, whiskey and cigars, get better with age. Ian Tyson is living proof that the same can be true of singer/songwriters. All the Good 'Uns Vol. 2, volume two of his greatest hits collection, makes clear that Ol' Eon is an international treasure. Tyson, who has been doing this for more than 50 years, has become the finest interpreter and creator of traditional American cowboy music.
Tyson is blessed with the best voice to emerge from the '60s folk boom. Warm and smooth, everything he sings sounds authentic. Seven years ago, tragedy nearly struck when his voice was very badly damaged. The golden throat became rough and sinewy. Six tracks here reflect the "new" voice, which remains compelling and convincing; take note of "Fiddler Must Be Paid," an achingly beautiful song about lost love that is as timeless as its theme. "La Primera," in particular is another standout. Who but Ol' Eon could write a song told from the point of view of the mustangs brought over by the Spanish explorers? This is unforgettable songwriting.
Buy this album (and the companion first volume, released years ago), sit back with a glass of aged whiskey and a fine Cohiba cigar, then listen and be thankful that Tyson has crafted such a priceless legacy.
By Drew Amendola
New Jersey native Rory Block is often hailed as one of the highly regarded blues musicians of her generation. At the age of 15, Block set off on a cross-country hitchhiking road trip to the West Coast (via the South). Along the way she learned more than a few lessons in playing the blues. Her travels took her to meet many of blues' founding fathers. As a performer, she played as many as 250 shows a year during the late 1970s and early 1980s, recording 22 albums and receiving four W.C. Handy Awards.
Block has a remarkable talent for re-imagining blues classics and has released four tribute albums, dedicated to influential blues mentors in her musical development. Her latest, Avalon: A Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt, features ten celebrated Hurt songs as well as a Block original (Everybody Loves John). Produced by Block and Rob Davis, the album features rich, delectable acoustic guitar tones, with skillful fingerpicking and slinky slide work (courtesy of a 14mm deep well socket), and Block’s instantly recognizable, muscular vocals.
For the uninitiated, Block’s voice is at once ethereal and guttural, a dichotomous delight that never grows tiring. At its times of seeming fragility, her voice coyly belies a barely-contained ferocity—a simmering intensity Block lets boil over in just the right amounts at just the right times.
Block chose to record her newest album without excess polish or studio finagling: “One of the things I have endeavored to capture in this tribute series is a return to a more earthy, natural approach,” Block explains. “We don’t love the old recordings because they are crackle-free, or fancy, or have clever formats.... This is part of what I love. So instead of sweeping the tracks clean of all noise, sanitizing, bleaching, disinfecting and straining the music, Rob and I feel compelled to let it be real.”
And real it is; the sound is close and personal, as if she’s singing directly to us, while her guitar is wonderfully huge (I commend her choice to fearlessly mix the guitars so prominently). Hurt's lyrics are familiar friends to Block, as if penned by her own hand. And she successfully channels him while seducing the listener with titillating narratives of love, betrayal, revenge, and murder.(less)