Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Maple Blues Awards 2018

Here's a few moments from the Maple Blues Awards gala at Koerner Hall. The complete list of winners is available here.  During the day there were some interesting panel discussions and Q & A sessions with publicists, grant givers, and booking agents.  Here's my take-away:

Booking a Festival: Don't send attachments (MP3s or otherwise). Offer links to 2 or 3 recent video clips with decent sound - preferably in asetting similar to the one you're pitching. They love it when the video shows a great crowd reaction.  The single best way to get a gig is to be recommended by another festival director or "influencer."

Getting a Grant:  FACTOR has a 2k grant that seems quite approachable and a quarter of the applicants receive it.  I might try for it but the deadline is only a week away! And grant expert Barbara Isherwood advises that you to give yourself plenty of lead time. Well, maybe not this time. It seems to be important to have a "team".  Oh well, that leaves me out. For their purposes, an album is at least 6 songs or 20 minuts.  And what do you know...FACTOR doesn't require a budget anymore.  That was the part that always confounded me.  Though I'm sure they're still sticky about receipts.

Social Media: Facebook is changing their algorithms so that you will mostly see posts from your family and friends.  It is worth it to spend a few bucks to "boost" your post but space it out over a period of time - don't spend it all at once. When you have an opportunity to put some keywords, put the names of artists whose crowd you would like to appeal to.

And remember the most essential thing is to have your website with your home page (which should include samples of your music, a bio, photos and upcoming shows)

I've got some other notes from similar conferences.  I should dig them up and flesh out these tips.  Everything is changing anyway.  I asked about Next Big Sound - which had been touted as an essential online "chart" of your social media activity - which in some musical genres can be a very influential factor.  Anyway, that Eric Alper seems to think it's not relevant any more - or maybe just not at our level. Never Mind...

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Brian's Blues Campfire kicks off second year residency

The Campfire Jam found a new home in 2017 and it has been a big hit with the jazz crowd at the Old Mill.  We're happy to announce that we'll be back in 2018, still on the "Second Saturdays" of the month.  This Saturday (Jan 13) I will be jamming with a couple of folks I've never played with: Adam Solomon (actually I did jam with Adam a few years back in the livingroom of a CBC producer – I had just discovered Ali Farka Touré and was very anxious to pick up some Afro-Blues licks on the guitar and Adam was so generous in showing me (they don't call him "The Professor" for nothing). His "African Guitar Summit" CD won a JUNO in 2005 and he has been a mainstay of the African music scene in Toronto and Canada.  Raha Javanfar is better known in blues circles as the leader of "Bad Luck Woman and Her Misfortunes" who are nominated for Best New Artist at this year's Maple Blues Awards – and will be hosting the Nominee Jam after-party to close out the big gala at Koerner Hall on Monday night at Koerner Hall (I think there's still tickets available). Check out the new campfire webpage at  Coming in Feb. it will be a bit of a 24th St Wailers reunion with Jesse Whiteley, Emily Burgess and Jon Wong then in March, I will be joined by the Blackburn Brothers

These Campfire Jams at the Old Mill have been a real highlight of the last year – and my only steady gig, actually. Thanks to all the amazing blues artists who joined me 'round the Campfire last year: Julian Fauth, Sean Pinchin, Kim Doolittle, Raoul Bhaneja, Manitoba Hal, Bill King, Mike Daley, Geoff Daye, Mark "Bird" Stafford, Jesse O'Brien, Rick Taylor, Roberta Hunt, Carrie Chesnutt, Alison Young, Ken Whiteley, Paul Reddick, Sugar Brown, Jenie Thai, Chris Whiteley, Diana Braithwaite, Don Vickery, Michael Fonfara, George Koller, Michelle Josef and Steve Marriner.

I cannot believe how Trump took up so much of my attention in 2017 – it was the most engrossing (emphasis on "gross") reality TV show ever. Everyday I was turning on the news to see what he's done now. I've become a CNN junkie which brings me to the little video clip below.

…the jam went on longer with some great guitar interplay between Sean Pinchin and I but I've cut it short mostly because I screwed up the last verse trying to re-write it on the fly.

This tune was written after one too many reports on refugees who were displaced, starving and dying of thirst.  The song is called "Donner Moi De L'Eau" (Give Me Some Water).  When I get around to recording it I want to do it with a kora player (are you out there, Mansa Sissoko?). Let's call that my New Year's Resolution! I had just written it that afternoon and played it for the first time at the Campfire Jam. Steve Marriner, who had been playing mostly piano that night, grabbed my bass and dug right in with a solid bass line (and, in the Campfire spirit, he later pulled out a tune he had just written a couple a days before). 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Blainletter #97

Welcome to the December Blainletter.  And a special welcome to my two new subscribers. That's right, all of two new subscribers this month.  So I'm launching a social media campaign and if you're reading this for the first time on Facebook or Google+ or otherwise, please swing over to and sign up to receive it every month in your email (apologies if you got multiple copies - this is a one-time blast). 

And if it's not too early, let me wish you a great holiday season to celebrate whatever you celebrate.  I'm celebrating that we actually made it to the end of the year without the sky falling.  Then again, the year is not over.

Anyway, the next time you hear from me it will probably be the new year (unless I get a last-minute gig…). And speaking of gigs, I'm excited to have Kim Doolittle, Steve Marriner and Sean Pinchin joining me for the Campfire Jam at the Old Mill on THIS SATURDAY (7:30-10:30)

I'm always being encouraged to have more women at the Campfire and Kim Doolittle will bring some powerful female energy to our jam with her down home sound steeped in roots blues, folk, and a hint of alternative country. Steve will be holding down the piano bench for this one, but he is the consummate multi-instrumentalist and he'll be also be playing whatever. Steve’s band, MonkeyJunk, is a multiple Maple Blues and Juno Award winner and Steve has won numerous awards and accolades on his own and in collaborations with Colin James, Harry Manx, Paul Reddick and many others. Sean Pinchin plays a gritty, authentic blues and I've been looking forward to playing with him ever since I first heard him. His recent album, Monkey Brain, was nominated for a Juno Award. Monkey Brain meets MonkeyJunk at the Campfire Jam.

On The Home Front

As I write this, I'm watching the Neil Young webcast on my computer. Live from a little Ontario town I never heard of (his birthplace, I think). I was never a huge Neil Young fan but I'm a big fan of this new technology. There's a democratization happening in the media – You don't have to be Neil Young to go live on Facebook.  We might not have all the production values of this Neil Young event, but if it's all about the music like they say, then you just have to make sure the sound is not distorted and that you've got enough light (wow, the NY stream just ended and I'm watching all the credits roll by and there must be a hundred people involved in this production). I will be curious to hear how many people tuned in.

Some things happen faster than expected in this wonderful world of technology, and then others just take time.  I've been watching the development of webcasting from the beginning, (I was right there at the beginning when we tried it at the Toronto Jazz Festival in 96 or so).  Lately I've tuned in to webcasts of the East Coast Music Awards, the Canadian Folk Awards and next month I suppose the Grammys will stream the "day before" award presentations – and those are the ones I'm most interested in.  Check out the National Blues Museum Facebook Page for live streaming of local St. Louis bands every Sunday Night.

The streaming audience numbers grow every year and kudos to those who didn't abandon the idea because they only had 20 or 30 viewers the first time.  I think growing an online audience will be about as hard as growing a walk-up audience. It's pretty slow (until it blows up!) This is the future. Home phones have been replaced by cell phones, terrestrial TV was replaced by cable and now cable is being crushed by Netflix and other online outlets. Broadcasting will be replaced by "narrowcasting" where your device will only offer content that is of interest and spare you scrolling through the rest. And now, artificial intelligence to suggest "If you liked that, you're going to LOVE this!"

Interesting that when I went to to see if there was any social media integration, you couldn't enter his website without registering your email. Hmmmm. I remember when David Bowie's manager spoke at a music conference a long, long time ago and said that a mailing list was "gold" and every artist should be trying to capture their fans' email addresses – this was way before social media.

What a revolution.  I was in the ad business in the 60s (in fact I was hired as a junior copywriter at an ad agency when I was 19 because someone told them they needed to get in touch with the "youth market".  Well they got more than they bargained for when the guy in the mail room figured if I had a beard he could grow one too. Then he turned on half the creative department at the Christmas party and all hell broke loose. Ah that was the summer of love, 1968. Wait a minute, I'm starting to ramble….

Out and About

The Big Event for November was the Women's Blues Revue and it lived up to its reputation.  A great evening in a great hall with a great band.  I will say the highlight for me was the intense guitar duel between Sue Foley and Emily Burgess (pictured below with me and the Mississippi Queen).  Emily just put out a solo CD and you can read John Valenteyn's review here

I captured a video clip of that guitar duel - maybe I'll post it later, but I think there's one floating around the interweb already. For a terrific slide show of the entire Women's Blues Revue evening, check out James Dean's Flickr album in the post below.

Let me finish by saying I've got some new tunes in the works – and I might even get into the studio in the new year.  There's not a lot of gigs coming up but I'm amusing myself with all my electronic music gadgetry (actually one of them is called "Gadget") and somehow not getting discouraged by the one-step-forward-two-steps-back process taming this beast.

Thanks for reading this far.  Feel free to forward this to any friend you think might enjoy my occasional ramblings (and maybe my music, too).  If it's been forwarded to you or if you're reading this on Facebook, you can sign up to the Blainletter at

Holiday Hugs from BrianB, aka Butch, Nappy, Shaker, Two-Lane Blain, Colorblind Brian, Stringbuster, Buddha of the Blues

Quote of the Day (overheard at the Old Mill):

"The difference between blues and jazz? Jazz is playing a thousand chords in front of three people while Blues is playing three chords in front of a thousand people" (in my case, blues is has often been three chords for three people, but anyway…)

Friday, November 24, 2017

2017 Women's Blues Revue

Check out James Dean's photos from the Women's Blues Revue.  It's just like being there!

Women's Blues Revue 2017

It was another great Women's Blues Revue - the last one at Massey Hall for a couple of years while MH undergoes a massive restoration.

Friday, November 10, 2017


It seemed like the best-kept secret but the cat is out of the bag and Taivi has launched her new CD in style with a packed Heliconian Hall and The Claire Lynch Band backing her up.  They're all over the record, too, and Taivi acknowledged from the stage that it wouldn't have happened without Claire.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Blues at the Folk Music conference

Here I am arriving at the Folk Music Ontario conference and showcase.  I brought Huma Uster, the new office manager at the Toronto Blues Society and the first person I ran into was Stevie Connor from (that little sock puppet Huma is holding is their mascot). Stevie introduced me to Mike Biggar, who was in town checking out the scene - he just won Blues Artist of the Year at the Music New Brunswick awards and I've just been digging his CD, Go All In, on Busted Flat Records.  Looking forward to hearing him play live.

Arrived at the 2017 Folk Music Ontario conference & Showcase feeling like there will not be very much blues content this year - there's no blues showcase and just a handful of blues artists on the delegate list - but what do you know, the first folks I run into, at the hotel entrance, are blues folks. Stevie Connor from and Mike Biggar who just won Blues Artist of the Year and The Music New Brunswick Awards.  Then I ran into Michael Schatte, who just moved to the country (Coburg) and of course there were the usual suspects, Suzie Vinnick and Ken Whiteley and not too many more blues folks.  Then in the course of the showcases, there were a couple with a bluesy bent but all around I would have to say "The Blues is Hurting" in the folk world.  I joked that I was going to make a sandwich board that says/shouts "BLUES IS FOLK MUSIC" because from what I see folk festivals are presenting less blues, and even blues festivals are presenting less blues. What are you gonna do...