Colin James won the SOCAN-sponsored Songwriter of the Year honours at the 22nd annual Maple Blues Awards, presented by the Toronto Blues Society on Feb. 4, 2019, at Koerner Hall in Toronto.

Ellen McIlwaine

Ellen McIlwaine (Photo: Brian Zahorodniuk)

James was also the big winner of the night, taking home additional trophies for Entertainer, Electric Act, Male Vocalist, and Recording/Producer of the Year. The Blues With A Feeling Award for lifetime achievement went to veteran slide guitarist Ellen McIlwaine, for her longtime career and commitment to blues music in Canada. Emily Burgess won New Artist of the Year, and Angel Forrest was chosen Female Vocalist of the Year.

Many of the individual instrument-player awards went to female musicians this year: Sue Foley won Guitarist of the Year, Lindsay Beaver earned Drummer of the Year, Laura Greenberg took the trophy for Bassist of the Year, and Shirley Jackson garnered Horn Player of the Year.

In addition to the Maple Blues Awards, the fifth annual Cobalt Prize Contemporary Blues Composition Award was handed out to Ann Vriend for her song “It’s Happening,” with runners-up Son Roberts for his song “Down on Vaugh Rd” and Samantha Martin for her composition “Chasing Dreams.” A cash prize of $1000 was presented to Vriend, with the runners-up each receiving $250.

The Maple Blues Awards are funded in part by the SOCAN Foundation.

In the past few years, AHI has already won the Singer-Songwriter/Folk Award from the Canadian Songwriting Competition, and the Stingray Rising Star Award at the Folk Music Ontario (FMO) conference, and he’s been signed to the U.S.-based record label Thirty Tigers and booking agency Paradigm Talent. In a brief chat, he reacts to the latest accomplishment, his first JUNO Award nomination (for Contemporary Roots Album of the Year); the making of the record that earned the nomination, In Our Time; and his songwriting process.

Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet of Whitehorse discuss their 2019 JUNO Awards nomination – surprisingly, in the Adult Contemporary category – for their seasonal album, A Whitehorse Winter Classic. It’s their fourth nomination, in their third category (after Blues and Adult Alternative Album of the Year, which they won in 2016 for Leave No Bridge Unburned).