BLOGGING AND VLOGGING FROM CANADA'S BEST KNOWN UNDISCOVERED OLD WHITE BLUESMAN

Monday, February 28, 2005

Day Two at the Folk Alliance was gangbusters. Of course I slept in past any of the panels and workshops - I was up till 4:30 am jamming with David Jacobs-Strain, Guy Davis, Syd Cassone and Linda Tillery and most of her Cultural Heritage Choir. Some beautiful harmonies were wafting through that hotel room. I was so glad I had brought my bass and amp. I played it real quiet - maybe too quiet because I realized at one point that I was guessing the ket because I couldn't quite see where Guy Davis had his guitar capoed. I realized after a chorus and a bit that I was playing in the wrong key (half a tone flat, actually). I stopped for a bit then slipped back in but I was mortified that someone with more sensitive ears than me would have had to endure that. Nobody said anything, or looked over so maybe it was so low that they couldn't tell either.

I guess I should say the best part of the day was my own showcase. There was a small group in the room and some lurkers in the hall. I think everybody had a pretty good time including Fred, the owner of my record label. I had a few friends in the front who sang along on Saab Story and that was cool. Fred told me that the NorthernBlues Sampler (which includes Saab Story) is currently in listening posts in Borders stores all across the US.

I was not very encouraged by the American agents I spoke to. They do not relish working with Canadian artists (unless they have dual citizenship like my pals Michael Jerome Browne and Alan Gerber) because getting them into the States is such a hassle. You have to request the visa way in advance or pay the extortionary $1000 fee for "expediting" the process. If I want to break into New England, I think I'll have to organize it for myself the first couple of times.

On Saturday there was a special presentation to Kate & Anna McGarrigle with special guest Emmylou Harris. Michael Jerome Browne was showcasing in the Borealis suite so I spoke to him for a few moments before he went on and gave him an advance copy of my CD (he plays on four tracks). He was heading off directly to Australia. The couple who were backing him up in the "Twin Rivers String Band" were great. They perform as a duo as well - I think they're called "Ball and Chain".

Got to see "The Bills" for the first time and they are "as advertised" - high-energy good time music. They came right out into the audience...that's what I like to see - that's what I like to do.

Mort Goss, who manages the Duhks, told me they had recorded one of my friend Allan Fraser's tunes on their new album. I brought Allan and his wife Donna over to the hotel the next day and the whole band got to meet Allan and they gave him a copy of the CD. They were thrilled to meet the composer of "Dance Hall Girls" and he got a real ego boost. Other people came up to him as well and you can bet half of the people at that gathering had a Fraser & DeBolt album in their collection.

Friday, February 25, 2005

A busy February winding yup with a fun week-end at the Folk Alliance Conference in Montreal. Day One included my showcase at the "Beaver Suite" which was pretty weird because the beaver suitre is actually two rooms, one with the performance area then a separate room where theyt had the beer and a video monitor showing what was going on on the performance side. When I started up my set there wre only four or five people in the performance room and god knows how many on the other side - all I know is they were making a racket and I asked that the door be closed. Then I made what was probably a classic carreer-suicide move and opened with my song called "One More Weasel" (talking at the back of the room) which is about a CD launch where all the music industry typed were not listening to the music but talking amongst themselves.

Anyway, I think just about everyone that took in at least part of the showcase had very nice things to say - once couple was all the way from Virginia (??) - they were called "No Evil" - must try to catch a set of theirs.

But here's where the conference is great - after the showcases were winding down, I got out my guitar and jammed with a few people in the hallway then settled in to David Jacob-Strain's room where I found myself jamming with Dan Frechette, a great multi-instrumentalist from Manitoba, Bill Bourne a music legend who I had never met or heard live before and a friend of his called Lan who was in Montreal playing with her (Juno-nominated) group, Orchid Ensemble. I was jamming with an erhu (two string chinese violin thang) and we were rockin'. That was the only expectation I had of this conference - to meet and play with some new musicians. Oh yeah, I was hoping to find some representation in New England. There's still two days left...

The rest of the month was pretty musically active and I hope it keeps up. I got a return engagement at the Shalom Village in Hamilton - but this time I didn't do "Chicken Cordon Blues" and wasn't going to play "Sta James Infirmary"...till I got a request. Played this one with Lily on piano (a very out-of-tune piano) but Lily couldn't do then next date with me a Chicago's East, so I called upon Roberta Hunt who I had only played with one timne before and she was great!

There was lots of other stuff going on this month - the JUNO announcement of nominees and I am pleased to note that five of the folks playing on my CD wre among the nominees. One of them, Harry Manx, invited me to open for him on the southern Ontario leg of of his tour. That was a blast - great, attentive audiences. Harry was playing with Southside Steve Marinner on harp and that's a great fit - though I always though Harry was a prettty fine harp player himself. Steve and I went to the local campus radio station and did a live interview and even played a couple of tunes.

Hope I can keep up the music momentum for March. I'll post more on my folk alliance adventures later - right now I have to run to a lunch get-together with an old friend.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

My first post of 2005! (Actually I had a January post written up but it was still sitting in my outbox - unsent...) Best wishes to my friends and (may I call you) fans! Anybody that's made their way to this page has probably taken some interest in my musical aspirations and adventures.



If you've been following this blog for the last couple of years you've been watching me struggle to record my second album. We started recording on Dec 22, 2002 and I'm happy to report that we finished mixing on January 11, 2005. Yes, it's done! (insert applause here)



Some of the team have ceased to believe that it would ever be finished (they say I have completion anxiety).



In addition to the mixing (which we did in Montreal at Fast Forward with Rob Heaney at the helm), I played my first gig of the year in Lennoxville, Quebec, a stone's throw from my birthplace, Sherbrooke. I played the Church Street cafe to a great crowd who were most attentive and appreciative. Look at the nice message I got after the gig:



"You are something else!!!! A truly enjoyable, entertaining evening it was Friday at "The Church St. Cafe" in the Gertrude Scott Hall of the United Church in Lennoxville.... Just wanted to let you know that you gave me a few smiles and laughs which I think I needed just about then."



A new fan! Now if I can just get it together to put her email address in my database (I have been remiss, lately)



I did a showcase at the Blues Summit, a national conference for the blues music industry - or what there is of it. I was also the MC for the opening reception (Dawn Tyler Watson did a couple of tunes) and I kicked things off with my "State of the Blues" song - Blues is Hurting:



Blues is Hurting, Blues is Hurting/My favourite club is closing, CD sales are down/And to get a decent paying gig you've got to drive way out of town/Blues is Hurting, Blues is Hurting/The Blues musician's wages haven't changed in thirty years/And there's still clubs downtown expect the band to play for beers/It's enough to make a grown bluesman break down in tears/Blues is Hurting, Blues is Hurting/If you ask any kid on the street who he'd like to hear sing/They only blues singer he ever heard of is B.B. King/What about all the great bluesmen still out there doin' their thing/Blues is Hurting, Blues is Hurting/But those of us that love it we know it's here to stay/And we're not discouraged if the blues is having a bad day/Blues is Hurting.



I got a lot of great comments all week-end about that tune. I couldn't hang around for the whole party because I had taken a gig at the other end of town and had to race ovewr there. It was the "Acoustic Harvest" Concert Series and I didn't expect there would be too many people but the place was packed. It was an older crowd but they got a kick out of my tunes.



Back at the Summit next day, I took part in a panel discussion on the "digital revolution" and looked into my crystal ball - actually I had asked around and I predicted there will soon be a price war in the cost of song downloads. We'll see.



Saw some great showcases - and played a great showcase too. I felt good about it. I think it was the only showcase I attended where the house was quiet and the audience was paying close attention. I think I got the interest of a few western festivals and Bruce Iglauer himself was in attendance. Next day I saw him and he said "I liked your set...a little on the folky side for me." I'm thinking..."this is a good thing" considering I'm on my way to the Folk Alliance Conference and will be trying to make an impression on a lot of hard-core folkies.



A couple of nights ago I attended three CD launches in a row...Fathead had an early launch at the Silver Dollar and they had a good turnout but the other two were dismal. Not just Blues is Hurting! It makes me wonder if I want to do an actual CD launch party. I better start thinking about it, because this album is mixed andf soon to be mastered. And today I meet with "a man" who is considered the guru of CD design and it looks like he will be taking on my project.