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Sunday, September 11, 2005

More Reviews

CD review - Brian Blain - 'Overqualified For The Blues'
-- 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
and heart.

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
passages.

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
its composer.

"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
Year: 2005

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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.

--Gary Tate