Dawn Tyler Watson walked away with the highest honours in this year’s International Blues Challenge (IBC). Competing in the band category, Dawn was one of over 260 blues acts from around the globe that came to Memphis earlier this month to compete in the annual 6-day event hosted by The Blues Foundation. Dawn is the first Canadian artist ever to win the prestigious award and she is also the first woman in a quarter century to take home the IBC.
Last October, Dawn Tyler Watson, backed by members of The Ben Racine Band, earned the right to represent the Province of Quebec in competitions sponsored by The Montreal Blues Society. Soon after her victory in the provincial competition, it became uncertain if Dawn would be able to go to Memphis at all, when she found out that she needed triple heart bypass surgery right away.
Following the successful surgery in November, Dawn took a few months to recover and to make sure she could bring her A-game to the IBC.
Dawn appeared the first night of the IBC competition in the international showcase that features acts from outside the US. It marked only her second public performance since recovering from her surgery. Judges and fans alike agreed that she was better than ever as she rose through the ranks, making her way to the quarter finals, then the semi-finals to earn one of the eight coveted spots in the finals to be held on the last night of the competition at the legendary Orpheum Theater.
Despite some tough competition from incredibly talented acts from around the world, Dawn and her band delivered an electrifying performance that wowed everyone in the house and won her the top prize. Additionally, Ben Racine walked away with the “Albert King Award” for Best Guitar performance in a Band category.
Coming exactly three months to the day after her triple bypass surgery, the victory is particularly sweet for Dawn. “It’s a thrill and an honour to be back on stage and recognized in such a wonderful way for doing what I love to do,” she commented.
First place winners receive a cash prize and the opportunity to perform at prestigious festival gigs all over the United States including the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise sailing from Florida to exotic locations in February, The Blues Bender held in Las Vegas, The Daytona Blues Festival and The Heritage Blues Festival in Tampa Bay. Susan Tedeschi, Tommy Castro, Delta Moon, Trampled Under Foot, Sean Costello and Grady Champion are among the previous winners of the International Blues Challenge.