Sunday, November 9, 2014

Out and About

Here's something you'll probably never see again - Canada's two pioneering blues bands, Powder Blues and Downchild, on stage together last night at Massey Hall. The occasion was Downchild's 45th Anniversary. I may not have been around for the early days of the Downchild Blues Band but I've had the pleasure of attending several milestone events in their illustrious history, not to mention having their rhythm section playing on one of my CDs and having a surprise appearance by Mr Downchild himself to play harp with me on a couple of tunes at a festival appearance a long time ago.
Here I am backstage with Donnie and I should note that the guy who got me that festival gig a long time ago, "Sab" Sabourin, was sitting right behind me for the show Massey Hall last night. Sab has been fighting a battle with the big "C" and he was looking a little worse for wear but his indomitable spirit will surely pull him through. He's a full-tilt blues rocker but he saw something in my quieter approach and put in a good word for me on many occasions and I will never forget it. The Downchild celebration featured an opening set by Tom Lavin and Powder Blues, although Tom Lavin was using a local crew for this gig, some "ringers" that he picked up while he was in this part of the country. Ironically, he couldn't use his regular eastern crew because most of them happen to play with Downchild but his "B-team" was as sharp and solid as he could ever want, Tyler Yarema on keys, Tom Bona on drums and Leo Valvassori on bass - whom I hadn't seen in ages.

Leo's the guy who recorded "New Folk Blues" and we had a nice chat with Michael Fonfara - reflecting back on some of the recordings we made together including a song I wrote about Loreena McKennit. I had recorded it with the Downchild rhythm section and it was quite an epic tune, 8 minutes or so, with different sections and tempo changes (you don't get that very often in a Brian Blain composition). But alas a friend of Loreena's and her publicist, Richard Flohil, had both cautioned me that Loreena would not appreciate having her personal tragedy (the drowning of her fiancee and her subsequent abandonment of her music career) as fodder for somebody's blues song. So I shelved it before we even mixed it and just the other day I was going through an old hard-drive looking for some files and tried to find a rough mix but alas there was nothing to be found. I guess it's gone into the ether. All I remember is the chorus, "Sad Loreena, Lady Broken Heart, oh Loreena, don't put down your harp."

There were many more great musical moments at that Downchild show. Phillip Sayce cruised into town from LA to make an appearance - he came a long way to play one song but he made a big impression.

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Phillip talked about Jeff Healey and Jeff's spirit was omnipresent in that hall last night. Tom Lavin had a great story about when he met Jeff and Jeff told him about hearing Powder Bluesat the old rotating stage at Ontario Place (his mother had taken him). Ten years later he still remembered Lavin playing some high notes that are not reachable on a standard guitar neck and he asked Lavin how he did it. Lavin told him he was bending the string on the metal pickup cover of his Gibson guitar. Jeff told him "I've been wondering for ten years how you did that!" (Jeff played a Stratocaster and it doesn't have metal pick-up covers). Also great to hear Steve Marriner and the Monkey Junk guys - I will see Steve again when he plays with Harry Manx in Hamilton later this week.

Missed a couple of great shows this week (only because I was attending othe great shows). Anthony Gomes was playing Hugh's Room at the same time as Downchild and on the Thursday night, I was a Jordan Officer CD launch and had to pass on the Harpdog Brown CD launch. When it rains, it pours!

And here's a couple more Instagram clips from this week. Jordan Officer and Alex Pangman. Both shows were a real pleasure...

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