Renowned blues artist Colin James was the big winner at the 22nd annual Maple Blues Awards on Monday night, taking home five awards including entertainer of the year.

The 54-year-old singer and guitarist from Vancouver was also named electric act of the year, male vocalist of the year, recording/producer of the year and songwriter of the year. Last year he released his 16th studio album, Miles to Go.


It was also a big night for Canadian women in blues. Awards went to Ottawa’s Sue Foley for guitarist of the year, Halifax’s Lindsay Beaver for drummer of the year, Ottawa’s Laura Greenberg for bassist of the year, Halifax’s Shirley Jackson for horn player of the year, Toronto’s Emily Burgess for new artist of the year and Quebec’s Angel Forrest for female vocalist of the year.

The night also honoured Calgary-based singer-songwriter Ellen McIlwaine, a.k.a. the Goddess of the Slide, with the Blues with a Feeling Award for lifetime achievement. McIlwaine recorded and released a dozen albums between the late ’60s and mid ’00s – her latest was Mystic Bridge in 2007 – along with being featured on a number of compilations.

The Toronto Blues Society also awarded another special honour, the Blues Booster of the Year Award, to the Hornby Island Blues Society. The volunteer-driven organization promotes Canadian blues musicians by hosting the Hornby Island Blues Week and Music Camp every May in the small B.C. community.

Actor and blues artist Raoul Bhaneja hosted the awards gala, and the night featured performances by Jenie Thai, Earle & Coffin, Sue Foley, Emily Burgess and Harry Manx with Monkey Junk’s Steve Marriner, along with a finale by Raoul and The Big Time with a surprise guest performance by Colin James.

Full list of Maple Blues Award winners:

Entertainer of the Year
Colin James

Electric Act of the Year
Colin James

Acoustic Act of the Year
Big Dave McLean

Male Vocalist of the Year
Colin James

Female Vocalist of the Year
Angel Forrest

New Artist of the Year
Emily Burgess

Recording/Producer of the Year
Colin James – Miles to Go / True North (Colin James & Dave Meszaros)

International Artist of the Year
Buddy Guy

Songwriter of the Year
Colin James

Blues with a Feeling Award (Lifetime Achievement Award)
Ellen McIlwaine

Guitarist of the Year
Sue Foley

Piano/Keyboard Player of the Year
David Vest

Harmonica Player of the Year
Steve Marriner

Horn Player of the Year
Shirley Jackson

Drummer of the Year
Lindsay Beaver

Bassist of the Year
Laura Greenberg (JW-Jones)

Blues Booster of the Year
The Hornby Island Blues Society