Over the past few weeks I have been taken back to my days with Fraser & DeBolt (60s & 70s). Last week I had the great joy to play with Allan Fraser a couple of times (he borrowed my guitar and I’ve still got his setlist taped to the side). On Thursday, Oct 4th, TOMORROW NIGHT, the Blues Campfire Jam at the Record Vault (7-11pm) will be dedicated to the memory of Daisy DeBolt who passed away exactly a year on that day. I’m hoping some musos who were inspired by Daisy will drop by. I just uploaded a music video she made in 1986. Dig it:
All Daisy’s friends, musical or otherwise are invited to Naomi Tyrell's on Sunday afternoon, October 21st (2-6pm), for a memorial pot-luck.
I’ve also been asked to host the Blues Campfire Jam at the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals conference in Mississauga on the week-end of October 12th. I’ve done this a few times before and I’ve met some fabulous musicians from all over Canada and beyond and we always have a great time. Unfortunately it’s only for the registered delegates.
The other half of Fraser & DeBolt, Allan Fraser has been spending a little more time in Toronto and we had a few opportunities to play together in the last couple of weeks. I just uploaded a tune from our impromptu appearance at Robert Priest’s regular Tranzac matinee. Impromptu for me, I’ll say, because when Allan starts playing you can watch my face as I’m trying to figure out what tune he just started. It was “This Storm Shall Surely Pass,” a tune I remembered because it was on the Fraser & DeBolt album I produced back in the 70s, but I don’t remember playing it in an awfully long time – and I don’t think I ever played bass on it.
But here you can watch me trying to sing along and it’s amazing that I remembered as many words as I did. It’s a testimony to Allan’s songwriting that his lyrics are so memorable. Twice in the last few months I’ve been in some casual song circles where somebody pulled out “Dance Hall Girls” and everybody knows the tune well enough to sing along. It’s a Canadian folk classic…it should be in the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. It’s on the new album by John Oates (of Hall & Oates) and that should give the tune a little international bumpf. Allan needs to get out and play more and if there’s anyone out there who can help, feel free to contact me. Allan is also looking for someone to help administer his catalogue and find an appropriate publisher. He’s got a whack of great songs.
Back to the Terrace Inn
Meanwhile, I’m preparing for the reunion concert with another pioneering group that I worked with in the 70s. Oliver Klaus was a “brother band” who had their own recording studio and record label back in the late 60s in the Eastern Townships. I wrote a song about my days with the Klaus and the bar where we played all summer, The Terrace Inn. The annual reunion concert will take place Saturday, October 27 at the Maison de La Culture in Waterloo, Quebec. Because it’s Halloween week, they’re making it a costume party and asking everyone to dress up like it was the 70s. I haven’t thought of my costume yet, but I’ve been running over some of the tunes. We’ll be playing all the same tunes we were doing back then, I Shot The Sheriff, Back in the USSR, Free Ride, Layla, Band on the Run….oh boy! And of course I’ll be singing “Terrace Inn.” Here’s a clip of me doing it at the last reunion – we’re going to try to rehearse it this time:
New Folk Blues 2.0
October 5 is exactly 2 years since we recorded “New Folk Blues.” It was just George Koller and moi, “live” at Reba’s Café. It is now becoming my “living” album and in the last few months we’ve made some great strides towards “New Folk Blues 2.0.” We’ve done a couple of “sweetening” sessions already and a couple more will happen in the next few months. You won’t recognize it! A big thank-you to those who have funded (and continue to fund) this recording project. I couldn’t do it without you.
Out and About
The Southside Shuffle is the last blues festival of the season around here and I was only able to catch the last day since I was gigging on the Friday and it was raining on the Saturday. They have definitely downsized as we noted with a drastically smaller programme and no big-ticket mainstage concerts. Still, I rather liked the new set-up in the park. They had two stages at one end of the park and two stages at the other end. Sound bleed was minimal and with the quick switch to the neighbouring stage, the music was pretty well continuous. They were charging $5 to get into the park. It is the harsh reality of the blues scene today that you can find world-class, award-winning artists playing to a handful of people. Harrison Kennedy is all the more authentic now that he’s playing a banjo and Michael Pickett had us believing he was on a chain gang in some southern cotton field with his soulful performance. But nothing could be more soulful than the Levy sisters backing up Ken Whiteley. He had a great new composition called “God is Bigger Than That.” Ken noted that at this time last year he was in a coma in the hospital and many of us wondered if he’d ever be back on stage (he must have wondered, too) but here he was sounding great and…well, inspiring. I also got to hear Bill Johnson again…one hard-working bluesman, and it will take a lot of hard work to make a buzz in this town even if you are a big deal out west. The unassuming Julian Fauth was pounding the keys in a restaurant patio and he was sounding great. Another great artist that we tend to take for granted (maybe because you can see him playing in this town just about any night of the week) I sure look forward to playing with him again. It was a lot of great home-grown blues for one Sunday afternoon.
Last Saturday I made it out to Nuit Blanche, a huge event that transforms downtown Toronto into one big art installation. I skipped last year, even though I really wanted to see Daniel Lanois’ project) so this year I made a special effort but I ran out of steam quite early and what I saw was...underwhelming. Walking up Bay street we were able to enjoy the free cotton candy – that was a good start, I guess. Projections on (and inside) City Hall were pretty amazing but the undergound Museum of the End of the World was downright lame. If it was meant to be dark and depressing, it worked. In fact the whole theme of the night seemed to be apocalyptic. I guess we’ll see on Dec 21st whether the Mayans were right about the end of the world. We cut the night short with cocktails in the Lobby Bar at the Ritz Carleton. Cotton candy and a $16 martini, that’s how I’m going to remember Nuit Blanche.
Thanks for reading this far. I’m trying to keep the Blainletter a little shorter but I’m adding pics & vids, which if they don’t display in this email, you can watch at www.brianblain.ca
Here’s the deets on the gigs:
Thursday, October 4, 7-11pm, The Record Vault, 2156 Queen St East (just east of Glen Manor Road). Brian’s Blues Campfire - special edition, dedicated to the memory of Daisy DeBolt. PWYC
Wednesday October 10, 5-8pm Gate 403, 403 Roncesvales. Toronto The Blain-Davis-Gould Blues Trio PWYC
Friday, October 12, 11:30-2am, hosting the Blues Campfire Jam at the OCFF Conference, Delta Meadowvale Resort and Conference Centre, Mississauga. Delegate badge required
Saturday, October 27, 8pm Maison de La Culture, 441, rue de la Cour, Waterloo, Quebec (450) 539-4764. Annual reunion of Oliver Klaus. It will also be a Halloween Party (dress like you did in the 70s) $29 (tax included)