Friday, September 30, 2005
Here's a pic by Lily Sazz of me and the band at the CD launch at the Silver Dollar on September 30. That's Rod Phillips on organ, myself, Michelle Josef on drums, Victor Bateman on bass and out of the frame is sax player extraordinaire Pat Carey. I'd never played with Pat but I've heard him many times. I don't believe I ever heard him sound better than he did with me that night. Every solo he took brought the song to new heights. In fact, all the players were at the top of their form. Wish you were there.
I suppose we had about a hundred people but less than half paid - not surprising considering many of my friends are already on the media list at the Dollar. Northern Blues was very generous in buying a block of tickets and there were a few ticket giveaways from the local blues radio shows.
Note to self: If you're going to hire the busiest musicians in town, don't expect you'll be able to round them all up for a rehearsal at the same time and place. In fact it was very forward of me to expect these folks to rehearse but it's lucky that most of them did, because it made the whole ensemble seem pretty tight. I was complemented on my cuing of the band - not something I've ever done very well. In fact, many bandmates will attest that I've been known to give totally wrong cues - especially when I'm using a capo and shout out the chords as I'm playing them. Anyway, I'm beyond that now. I realize I just have to be very visible and articulate with my body language.
No reviews that I've seen for that show - maybe just as well considering it was the first time we played together as a unit. I have to say we rocked the house and a few people that thought of me only as a folk-blues artist got to see me kick up my heels.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
The Cd is supposedly in stores now and I've got a few launch parties
happening starting this week-end. I think every gig from now to February is
going to be a CD launch party. Since Monday I've been trying to have a
serious rehearsal schedule. Yesterday Michelle and Victor came over and
today, even though there was no-one but me, I managed to go over the tunes.
The big CD release batch is Friday Night at the Silver Dollar and the big
rehearsal is on Thursday. I shouldn't worry with musicians of this caliber
- they couldn't sound bad if they tried. I'm the weak link in this chain,
and as long as I am confident they will fit in just fine.
On Saturday I helped Julian Fauth celebrate his CD launch in Waterloo. Did
a few tunes and a couple with Julian. It was strange getting to the venue,
though. The Boathouse is located in the park in the middle of Kitchener and
when we went to drive into the park there were security guys keeping people
out because the park was set up for a big festival the next day. They had
their orders and they were unaware that there was something happening in
The Boahouse that evening. After driving around the park looking for
another entrance we came back to the gate and by then, the security guards
had been alerted. Makes you wonder how many people they turned away before
they figured out what was going on.
And this exciting news: I sold my first CD! I didn't want to sell it
because it's a promo and I'm not supposed to sell them but it was Julian's
mom and she wanted one real bad so I let her have it for a "special price".
I did three live radio shows in the last couple of weeks, playing guitar on
the air. Last night is was "Acoustic Workshop" and I played guitar most of
Last week I went to a media showcase for a group from California, Nickel
Creek. The label rep asks me if I want to meet the band...and what do I do?
I rush off to catch the tail end of a board meeting that was getting along
perfectly alright without me. There was nothing preventing me from hanging
in there for a while longer, and yes, meeting the band. We just don't
change very much, do we? Reminds me of a phrase that still echoes in my
mind like it was yesterday, "...but don't you want to came back to the
green room and meet Joni Mitchell?" Of course not! Who would want to meet
Joni Mitchell? I'm sure the fact that I'm beginning to recognize and
acknowledge this dysfunctional behaviour means maybe I'm having another
growth spurt (at age 60).
I'm in total work avoidance mode and it seems like everytime I've got lots
of work, that's when I feel like writing a song or playing guitar. Now I
think I'll cut this blog short, but what have I left out: I sat in with Rod
Phillips and the Pie Guys last Sunday - played Hi-Tech blues with a new
groove that I was diggin on a Duke Robillard CD. I did a couple of tunes at
a Hurricane Relief Fundraiser and I started writing a song for the next
Katrina concert I get invited to. I went to see Pinetop Perkins playing
with a bunch of local blues guys and Prakash John, who is a phenomenal bass
player, not particularly known as a blues player, but he can do it all and
he did. The show was a bit of a Canadian debut for Yossi Piamenta, the
"Hassidic Hendrix" and he sat in with most of Pinetop's set. He also can do
it all, I bet. Everybody was thrilled to be playing with "Pine" and they
all had smiles pasted on their faces. Rod Phillips was playing organ and he
told me he was quite surprised that they played straight through for an
hour and a half. "Pine" has been known to give some pretty short shows.
Anyway, with a pick-up band like this, you tend to keep things simple and
he stretched the tunes out with a lot of rounds of solos. And the day
before that I was at my only Film Festival event - the "Gala" premiere on
"Walk The Line" the new Johnny cash biopic. The stars were in the house -
having arrived in 50's Caddilac limousines. An I loved the movie - I even
cried in one spot.
So what does any of this have to do with playin blues. Well I'm going to
stop typing now and get back to playing my guitar. Trying to make it a
daily habit. Stay well, B
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
opportunity for me to play with such great players as Burke Carroll and
Chris Quinn. I was supposed to be doing this with Dan Whiteley but it was a
bit of a stretch for him - all the way from Belleville. I think the crowd
at the racetrack liked it - we started on time and all wore suits, too.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
-- by Joe Curtis --
'Colorblind' Brian Blain is one of the best-known blues afficiandos in
Canada. He's more familiar to blues and folk fans as editor of some
prominent music magazines including Maple Blues and Downtown Jazz. While
he's busy promoting and plugging blues, jazz and folk/blues through these
highly respected publications, he still finds time to perform live shows
several times a month, with his own original, ingenious material in folk
and blues venues around Ontario and elsewhere.
Blain's lyrics are timeless in that they deal with the everyday real things
in his (and everyone else's) life. For example: "? meetings, deadlines ..
(in publishing) etc" are described effectively and believably in the
appropriately titled "No More Meetings". Blain's artistic frustration is
shared with us when he's soulfully lamenting that "All the good paying gigs
are way out of town" -- in the profound but simply put "Blues Is Hurting".
Upbeat optimistic blues complaining figures prominently in "Overqualified
For The Blues". Although some of the issues dealt with in this
storytelling blues winner are negative, they're put across as happy,
expected jaunts in everyday life. Some mighty fine barrel house piano
playing brightens this catchy, people-friendly tune, courtesy of iconic
piano man Richard Bell. Bell is a much-sought-after session man whose
impeccable credentials include stints on the ivories in Janis Joplin's Full
Tilt Boogie Band; as well as a Hawk with Ronnie Hawkins, and in The Band,
performing at the original Woodstock in 1969. Bell's also a much-respected
sound engineer and session man who's always a joy to see in live
performances and friendly conversation. He's even been known to play a
little accordion at times.
"Enfant Choisi" echoes back to Blain's earliest beginnings in music in
Montreal, Quebec ... one of the hubs of French Canadian culture -- be it in
classical music, sculpture, rock icons like Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush or
die-hard folkies like Brian Blain. He sings this tune in Canadian
'Francophone, which adds to the charm of artistic expression in the vocals,
as only the artistry of the French language can evoke in one's imagination
Speaking of ? Blain has plenty of heart, as exemplified in the rousing
blues/boogie whirlwind beat found in "Terrace Inn". His deep involvement
in the cyber world, whether it be for communication or publishing, is quite
evident in "Hi-Tech Blues". Lyrics like "My computer is crashing .. I get
a low down feeling with these high-tech blues", are a universal dilemma for
anyone 'hooked' up to the internet -- cyber junkies and casual browsers
alike. So a very apropos subject to talk de bluez away on ? these days.
The high-powered boppin' piano playing, combined with the urgency in the
frantic but mellow delivery in Blain's vocals, rocks like there's no end in
'site'. Mike Fitzpatrick of the Downchild Blues Band plays drums on this
tune. His hard-drivin' talent on the skins, ensures he puts every ounce of
percussive genius into complementing the hard-drivin' melody-infused
Blain bellows out "I'm a mixed up, mixed up, mixed up fool" in the upbeat
winner, "I'm a Little Mixed Up". The simplicity of its 'mixed-up' (play on
words) lyrics combined with the intense energy-laden delivery in Brian's
vocals, is pure genius at its very best! The impeccable rhythm section
backs Blain with a beat solid enough to bounce a ballistic missile off of.
This musical intensity is followed by the deeply intrinsic "Sailing" - a 4
minute melodic cruise, in which Blain shares his feelings about those whose
"time with us is past". For some strange, inexplicable reason, images of
the movie "Ghost Ship" come to mind in this writer's imagination. This
kind of underlying imagery is always a special feature of a great song,
that it can take the listener to other places not necessarily intended by
"One Way Ticket", bounces along nicely. Blain's vocals declare "I'll take
a one-way ticket" - followed with this welcome nostalgic imagery: "Home run
hero on a small town team ? Had Johnny Bench written all over me." This I
believe is Brian sharing his interest in sports; coupled with his nostalgic
memories of long ago/but fondly remembered baseball games in the local
small town outdoor 'stadium'. Blain's guitar licks move along like a
home-run king's in this beautifully composed and very much nostalgic winner.
"Peace" speaks volumes of the peaceful '60s hippy movement, with its laid
back simply put message -- "We need peace in the world". These peaceful
sentiments echo back in the supportive background vocals, along with the
call and answer response from Harry Manx's lap steel guitar and Paul
Reddick's harp playing.
"One More Weasel" speaks with knowledge and experience of Blain's trials
and tribulations in attending and covering other artists CD release
parties, with "One more weasel talking at the back of the room." Blain's
vocals are backed with vigor by the genius of award winning and much
respected folk/blues/acoustic guitarist Michael Jerome Browne - one of the
finest talents on the Canadian and international acoustic blues scene today.
"The Big Fire" is the heartwarming and very special finale to this
beautifully crafted Brian Blain CD. Blain combines both French and English
language lyrics together with charming, whimsical guitar riffs that can
make the soul cry -- and cry out for 'more' of this impeccable artist's
deeply creative endeavors of the finest 'muse'-ical kind.
Artist: Brian Blain
CD: 'Overqualified For The Blues'
Label: Northern Blues # NBM0011
BRIAN BLAIN: OVERQUALIFIED FOR THE BLUES (NORTHERNBLUES)
Brian Blain is a singer/songwriter who always speaks precisely what's on
his mind, and he presents it through some highly affecting tunes, like the
baker's dozen delivered on his latest CD Overqualified For The Blues. His
engaging stage personality reflects his wide-ranging interests. The
unifying themes throughout much of OFTB are the small challenges posed by
ordinary life. They are given wonderful life by wry, perceptive, and gentle
observations on topics that run the gamut from the current state of Blues
(Blues Is Hurting), to reminiscences of a summer spent long-ago in a house
band in Quebec (Terrace Inn), and even the prevalence of boorish behavior
by the music media (One More Weasel). There's even a good-natured riff on
the complexities of modern life (Hi-Tech Blues). No More Meetings is quite
endearing with its revealing laundry list of meeting-related jargon,
obviously dedicated to people who work behind the scenes in Blues Societies
and other arts organizations (Brian's an expert in these matters). It'll
leave you chuckling like a finely honed George Carlin routine. Saab Story
is a poignant vignette about a boy, a girl, and a car. It's been garnering
lots of well-deserved airplay. On the occasions when Blain shifts emphasis
away from the folksy, easy-going side of the Blues, the results are equally
compelling. Sailing is a moving homage to a real life long-lost cousin who
died shortly after Brian began communicating with her, followed within
months by her husband's passing too. Enfant Choisi and the universal
message of Peace also explore serious themes with poignancy, passion, and
sensitivity. There's an army of collaborators too, most having played with
Blain at one time or other over his lengthy career. The overriding
impression remains that this is a winning combination: a warm, minimalist
sound in unison with Brian Blain's low-key, innovative muse that affords
everything an intimacy that will tug at those all-important heartstrings.
Here is Dr. Feelgood in the brand new control room at CKLN.
This was the first of a bunch of interviews - we're already scheduling at least one radio interview per week and so far they all want me to bring a guitar and play a couple of tunes. Last Wednesday with Dr. Feelgood at CKLN was painless. Great to have someone asking questions who actually listened to the record. Davis even quoted some lines from a previous blog entry of mine. Megawd, some people are reading this - I better check my spelling. The station has moved into brand new studios
that were very well air-conditioned, as opposed to any other campus radio
studio that I've ever attended. I think I must make a point of bringing a
guitar tuner next time. I think I could have used it, but most people don't
notice these things.
After the show, we went out for a drink to a club where Julian Fauth was supposed to be playing - according to the MapleBlues magazine listings (yes, that's the one i (barely) manage. Well Julian wasn't playing, but a very earnest young woman was playing keyboards and singing jazzy/poppy stuff. Speaking of newsletter screw-ups, photographer Eddy B collared me at Healey's to tell me that (once again) I had run a photo he took without giving him credit. I was mortified - and here's a public apology to Eddy B for this and all the times I left off a photo credit. I don't suppose it's any consolation that, as he pointed out at the same time, I have give him a photo credit on the new CD and he doesn't have a photo on it. Well, ass they say in the world of desktop publishing..."Arghhh"
Friday, September 2, 2005
Here's the Shawn Kellerman Band at the House of Blues Voodoo Louge just outside the Molson Amphitheatre. It was a post-concert party to celebrate BB King's 8oth Birthday but BB couldn't make it. As the man said, "he *is* 80 years old." The Voodoo Lounge is a multi-level south-sea style patio bar. They gave away a beautiful Gibson BB King model. I never did see a cake. Maybe it came out later. Shawn Kellerman's band (with Douglas Watson on bass) were cooking up a storm - no let up - just one high energy blues tune after another.
For whatever reason, I received media accreditation for the House of Blues presentation of BB King's 80th Birthday concert at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto. I could never count on a media ticket with HoB - I think they have a limited (very limited) amount of media tickets and if all the daily papers and the TV stations want in, then forget this (barely)managing editor of a little blues newsletter. However Barry, a photographer friend had asked me to fax them a request so I put my name on it too...never expecting to get approved. In fact, I was planning on seeing British bluesman Steve Payne who was playing in town that night with Al lerman. Alas the approval came in the same day as the show and I made my way over in my car (first mistake). The CNE was on (that's the big national fair), Cirque du Soleil was also set up in their big top and when I got close to the Amphitheatre, I could see that parking was going to be a problem. After inching along for twenty minutes (the show had started by now). I pulled a quick u-turn into the CNE parking. I had to pay $23 to park there, and I still had a long walk but my trial was not over.
When I got to the box office there was no record of me. Finally after checking on every possible publication or organization I might be listed under, they finally gave me my ticket. And even though the box office was filled with fresh-faced kids, they were all working on their most intimidating expression and you could tell no one was ever going to pull a fast one on these kids. They would have fit right in with the civil-servant (fonctionaire) mentality of the 50s and 60s. Everything by the book. No power of discretion or individual thinking.
So what about the music? Well by the time I stepped into my (very good) seat , David Gogo was finishing his set with a big wah-wah finale and his own rousing tribute to BB. I missed Shawn Kellerman but then he was playing at the after-party so I got to hear him there and he too was on fire.
Kenny Wayne Sheppard played just before BB and he rocked the house. Three guitarists in a row that were putting out more notes than you would think possible - sometimes jaw-dropping virtuosity, other times a little over-excited. All this leading up to the most restrained (and refined) blues guitarist still living. Someone who would pride himself on mostly playing just one note at a time...but the *right* note.
BB played eight or so songs and he was in fine form. He might have been wiped when he finished the set, but you never would have known it. Except for the fact that he was sitting down throughout the performance, he sure was in good spirits and playing just fine. Even though he talked a lot in this show, it did not drag things down because he would start the song (usually with a guitar intro) before the applause had died down from the previous song. He gave his all to every song and when the fans were clamoring for an encore, when he stepped back on the stage he was wearing his hat and overcoat...his way of saying "I'm outa here".
Oh yeah, what about my little album??? Well, besides the fact that I should have been at home practicing instead of out listening to BB...a couple of reviews have floated in and as I bop about the web I find myself on various websites besides www.northernblues.com - there I was on Festival Distribution's website and Crowsfeet, our US publicist. Ontario and Quebec tours are taking shape and I'm gearing up for the big time. Today I did a big cleanup and found a whack of flat picks and I have strategically placed them throughout the house. Now I should put some in every guitar case and pocket. Never again will I be caught without a pick when I need one - although I mostly just use my fingers. Now I must remember to get to the nail salon this week and get some of that acrylic stuff put on my three most important nails...then I'm really ready for the big time