MonkeyJunk, Steve Strongman win big at Maple Blues awards

Ottawa-based band MonkeyJunk and Hamilton, Ont., guitarist Steve Strongman were among the big winners at the annual Maple Blues Awards, held in Toronto Monday night.

MonkeyJunk added to its recent awards haul with three wins at Monday's performance-filled ceremony, taking trophies for electric act of the year, harmonica player of the year for Steve Marriner and drummer of the year for Matt Sobb.

The group also took home three trophies at last year's Maple Blues gala, as well as winning the 2012 Juno Award for best blues album (for the release To Behold).

Strongman's impressive night included wins for songwriter of the year, recording of the year for Natural Fact and guitar player of the year.

Saskatoon folk and blues singer Suzie Vinnick, now based in Toronto, was also a repeat winner. After taking two Maple Blues Awards in 2012, she earned two more on Monday: acoustic act of the year and female vocalist of the year.

Versatile Vancouver-based singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer Colin James picked up the coveted entertainer of the year honour.

Blues fan Laureen Harper, wife of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was among the evening's presenters. She joined veteran guitarist Jack de Keyzer to award two trophies: Marriner's harmonica player of the year award and horn player of the year to Jon Wong.

The evening also included several special tributes.

Organizers honoured Nova Scotia veteran Matt Minglewood's lengthy, storied career with their Blues with a Feeling lifetime achievement award. Meanwhile, Toronto Blues Society founding member and longtime volunteer John Valenteyn received the Blues booster of the year award.

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