CLIPS AND COMMENTARY FROM CANADA'S BEST KNOWN UNDISCOVERED OLD WHITE BLUESMAN

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Brian's End of September Blaincast

Blainletter #140 | End of September Edition | Brian Loses the Pandemic Ponytail | Up The Street | Adventures with Ableton (beta 11.1)

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End of September 2021
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Watch the Blaincast

It's on Facebook and YouTube:

https://youtu.be/i7Q2hXvreYA

You'll see me getting a haircut for the first time in two years and losing that pathetic pandemic ponytail. Linda Singer is back in town and she brought her scissors. I play my Cape Cod Blues in honour of the occasion and also dig up a tune I wrote back in the 90s and pitched to Liam Titcomb when he was starting out. Also a little stroll up the street to get a taste of old-school R&B and some obligatory noodling in the studio.
 

End of September

Well, I'm calling this the "End of September" Blainletter (even though it's October).  The last day of September was National Truth and Reconciliation Day and I wrote out some thoughts on that below.  Still nary a gig to promote but I'm happy to see a few venues coming to life. I haven't done a club crawl yet and it will be a while before I do.
 
After a couple of years I finally got a haircut and got rid of the "pandemic ponytail" thanks to my best ex Linda who made her way up from Cape Cod back to Canada (and they don't make it easy!). I play my "Cape Cod Blues" while submerged by Cape Cod waves lapping the shore.  Then I take a short walk up my street for another driveway concert – this time a pretty tight R & B outfit called the Hip Kings. I don't know how long they can keep this up – it's getting cooler out there – but what an amazing summer it's been.  Too bad I hardly got out of the house :-(
 
I finish off the Blaincast with a little session in the studio where I'm still beta-testing this most powerful music software called Ableton Live.  This latest update (11.1) seems to have improved the perennial problem of "latency" (a lag in the audio that makes it hard to play guitar) and I was able to avoid (mostly) the overload that causes glitches in the sound.  Waiting for the new Macs to come out then I hope I'll have enough horsepower to do the things I want. And then I dug up an old tune I wrote for Liam Titcomb when he was just starting his recording career (he's come a long way since then).  The song is called "The End of September" and it's a boy-meets-girl in the classroom and I had the feeling that Liam did not want to be singing about school (he was probably just thinking of escaping school at that age). 
 
Blainreaders will have followed along my adventures in ancestry and the DNA led to my birth mother and a couple of sisters that I've come to know a bit and sadly one of them passed away last week. Lynn was the sister who was most skeptical of this DNA matching stuff, but once she was convinced (with a separate DNA test) she and I had some great correspondence with and some nice long chats on FaceTime and now her son reports that she just laid down on her bed one day and never got up. I think that's how her/our mother died, too.  Seems like a good way to go.
 
…..but enough of this doom and gloom – we can get back to that.  Meanwhile here's that bit on Reconciliation that I intended to post on the 30th
 

On Reconciliation

Today is the inaugural "Truth and Reconciliation" Day – now a national holiday in Canada.  That is a worthy initiative, but of course it's just fancy trimmings on a national disgrace. How do you reconcile that 15 or 20 generations ago, a bunch of Europeans came and stole the land from the indigenous people who had been living here since time immemorial. 
 
In the early days of colonization they slaughtered anyone who defied them but even more insidious was the way they tried to "kill" the Indian in native children in order to make them assimilate into white society.  I suppose assimilation is preferable to enslavement and it's interesting that the colonizers recognized that the way to shape the future to their liking was to start with the kids and imprint them with a new way of thinking.  And to a certain extent it worked.  Many "graduates" of the most reviled residential schools went on to build successful lives playing by the white man's rules.  But so much was lost and so many were damaged.
 
Imagine how different it would have gone if the colonizers had recognized what a beautiful, respectful culture the First Nations offered.  Their knowledge of natural healing herbs, their responsibility to care for the land and the water and their respect for the elders.  All this knowledge, collected over millennia of living on this land, was just dismissed as "primitive".  And now, after all this time, white people are seeking out these natural remedies, some even delving into native spirituality with pipe circles and sweat lodges (call it appropriation if you will but the end result is kinder, gentler people).
 
I've often thought (and said) that the only way to change societies that thrive on mutual hatred is to start in the schools and make sure that little kids are spared all this vitriol and taught about compassion and kindness and discouraged from a natural tendency to look for reasons to feel superior to others.  Many will still be instilled with bigotry, prejudice and hatred from their parents at home, but if it's not reinforced in the school system, they might have a better chance to break out of that cycle and bring up their kids with more tolerance, embracing diversity instead of fearing it.
 
One great benefit to this upheaval is that it is spearheaded by women. So many indigenous women taking on the role of leaders and even in the "Black Lives Matter" movement, it is women who set the tone, and even when they talk tough you know that with them in charge we won't be starting any wars.
 
In the modern world we have (mostly) overcome theocracy, but patriarchy is just as damaging and any society that is trying to keep women down should be ostracized by the rest of the civilized world until they come to their senses and realize that the "warrior class" is a thing of the past and it is the women who will lead us to a kinder, gentler future.
 
Here a little bit of obscure Canadian Music History. My old friend Maurice Singfield just posted a video with some of the early tunes from the band we played with in the 70s.  It was one of those "brother bands" where the core was siblings who had been playing together since they were kids.  In bluegrass music they call it "Family Harmony" – the blend that happens when you've been singing together since you were knee-high to a grasshopper.
 
Montreal's music mogul Donald K. Donald called them the original "D.I.Y" band. We had a lot of good times in that funky basement studio.

 

See you out there (eventually)

That's enough of my musings. Thanks for reading this far. I see that the Blainletter gets opened by hundreds of people but not sure how many read through it. But I always seem to hear from someone or other that they enjoyed it and that's what keeps me going. Feel free to forward this to any friend you think might enjoy my occasional ramblings (and maybe my music, too). These bits and more are always available on my blog, www.torontobluesdiary.com.

See you out there, eventually...

BrianB, aka Butch, Nappy, Shaker, Two-Lane Blain, Colorblind Brian, Stringbuster, Buddha of the Blues

Upcoming
Shows

Still no real gigs to report for this month, but Halloween is coming up so there will be a Halloween on...

Sunday, October 31, 4pm
Halloween Blaincast
(on YouTube and FaceBook)

For this album, I wanted to bring attention to the water crisis that is affecting 3 billion people on the planet. "Water Song" is a pretty dark "ear movie" with a global vibe provided by Sadio Sissokho (kora) and Harry Manx (mohan veena). The haunting vocals are provided by Ruth Mathiang. "I'm Not Fifty Anymore" kicks off the album with a little tongue-in-cheek  humour and some fine harp playing from Steve Marriner.  “The Not Worried Blues (An American Dream)” and “You Are Also His Son” were recorded with Julian Fauth and Gary Kendall, Mike Fitzpatrick and Pat Carey from Downchild.  “Blues Des Cantons (Goodbye Sherbrooke)” is a leaving-home barrelhouse boogie “en francais” with David Vest pounding the 88s. Patrick Merner added some bass & synth, and Clayton Doley overdubbed some organ from his studio in Melbourne, Australia. Ken Whiteley played some lap steel on "You Are Also His Son", Jesse O'Brien added some piano and organ to "The Mother I Never Knew" and drummer Michelle Josef provides a solid backbeat throughout.  Some songs end with extended jams (because I loves to jam) and the last track is a ten-minute acoustic soundscape with Michael Jerome Browne from the last day of recording my “Overqualified For The Blues” album years ago in Montreal. I call it “Tai Chi Ten,” …because it’s just the right pace and length for my Tai Chi set, but it makes for a fine meditation even if you aren’t moving.
 
 
Track Listing
 
 
1. I’m Not Fifty Anymore  3:07
  feat. Steve Marriner
2. You Are Also His Son  4:52
  feat. Ken Whiteley
3. Blues des Cantons (Goodbye Sherbrooke)  4:22  
feat. David Vest & Clayton Doley
4. The Mother I Never Knew  3:55  
feat. Jesse O’Brien
5. Not Worried Blues (An American Dream)  3:37  
feat. Julian Fauth
& Gary Kendall, Mike Fitzpatrick and Pat Carey from Downchild
6. Water Song  5:26  
feat. Harry Manx & Sadio Sissokho
7. Tai Chi Ten  (A Meditation)  9:54  
feat. Michael Jerome Browne

mixed by Margaret Stowe at Ozworld Toronto
mastered by Harris Newman at Grey Market Mastering, Montreal
art direction Linda Turu
photography Margaret Mulligan
design Keijo Tapanainen
 
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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Blainletter #139 | Watch the Blaincast 4pm on YouTube | New songs, new video | Jammin with Peter the Puppet | Programme Bilingue

 

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August 2021
View this email in your browser

Watch the August Blaincast 4pm Tues on YouTube (yes, it is still August)

Here's the YouTube link:

https://youtu.be/eLCCslb-Hgw

The link will still work later if you can't make it at 4.

I shall endeavor to be on Facebook at the same time...Trying something different again.

Thanks to those who have stuck with me as I try to up my streaming game. You wouldn't know I'm a streaming "pioneer" (Horseshoe Tavern, 96 Jazz Festival, Rene Lussier avant-garde thang,13 listeners)

Anyway, nothing I learned back then is any help figuring out the lighting or the audio routing on my current setup. 

Well how was your summer?  Hot enough for you?  The heat didn't bother me but then again,  heat is less of a problem if you just stay relaxed and do…nothing.  Yes, I've been taking it easy. So sue me. I've written a few tunes and you will hear a couple of them if you tune in to the Blaincast on Facebook and YouTube. Yes I've put together another Backyard Blaincast that I'm sure you'll enjoy.  Check it out!
 
I was watching the Dalai Lama on Facebook Live and he was taking questions from a group of students and one young gal stated "this younger generation is not reading books – what can we do to get these kids back in the library?"  I think he surprised her when he pulled out his smartphone and said, in awe, "…with this device you have all the information from all the books at your fingertips…" then he took off his glasses and made a comment how it was also a good thing for people with failing vision, like himself.
 
Well, I've got the failing vision, failing hearing (on one side), failing memory (it never was that good but getting worse), a left hand that seizes up when I play too many chords, and…knees and teeth and you don't want to hear all this...

I'm not taking all kinds of meds and supplements – just letting the body wind down on its own.  I'll keep doing these Blaincasts because I'm still getting a handful of people coming to me and saying they watched and they liked.
 
I've been hearing a lot of talk about how music has been devalued but, in truth, art has never been given its true worth and artists will be the first to tell you that they're not in it for the money. There was a time in the evolution of the music industry when your music might get the attention of some A&R person, and then if you had all the pieces in place, a manager, an agent, a publicist, a PA and a van, they might give you the big push. And those eager A&R guys really tried to sift out the special stuff. Now the only thing special is how many fans/followers do you have.  There is so much music coming out that the gatekeepers and influencers have thrown up their arms in exasperation.  There's no way to hear everything. But you have to be satisfied knowing that there will always be some folks out there who will like what you're doing.
 

Open Letter to D'Addario Strings

Dear D'Addario Strings,
 
I've been meaning to write for decades on behalf of all colourblind guitarists who have trouble distinguishing the colours on the ball ends of your colour-coded guitar strings.  It was much better when the strings were in separate envelopes marked "D", "G"….but I get it. You saved a tree.
 
And now today I go to put on a set of your new line of premium strings, the XT (upon recommendation of JP Cormier).  I figured I would treat my old Epiphone since she hasn't had new strings since the pandemic.  And now I'm having trouble reading some of the text on that package - even after several tries. I think I got it now…it was black on blue.  Just sayin'. 
 
Your faithful client for 50 years, Brian "Colorblind" Blain
Daniel Racine made this stunning video montage of scenes from the Eastern Townships of Quebec. He also wrote the lyrics back in '78 and I added the music and ultimately recorded it on New Folk Blues 2.0 with George Koller, Clayton Doley, Stacie Tabb and Harry Manx in 2005
 

Brian Gets a New Mic

If you knew how rarely I spend $$$ on equipment.  But when it's necessary... and this time I needed a better mic so on my rare outing to Long & McQuade to get some stuff repaired, I decided to buy a mic.  Just tried it tonight and I think I'll keep it.  It's an Audio-Technica, not a brand I'm fond of, but this one was the right price and it's a condenser mic so I tried it and I think it will be fine.  Always looking for a mic that will love my voice and I can't say I found it yet! But I'll let you know how this one works out.

The miracle of streaming

Just watched a livestream of a Keb Mo concert and was totally knocked out. He was playing for a live audience in a place called Beaver Creek. It sounded great, beautiful setting. And I think that was a capacity crowd. No doubt there was some promoter-type insisting that a free livestream would affect ticket sales, but if it's sold out already then that settles that. He is a great guitar player and what a band. I'm re-watching the end because I fell asleep.  That's another wonderful thing about this livestream thang, if you fall asleep you can catch the end later. Now when I went back next day it was set to "private"
 
The thing I remember most about Keb' Mo was when he played the jazz festival, back when we had the marquee tent in a parking lot on King Street (where you now have the TIFF Lightbox). I had been at the Horseshoe, I guess, and as I was making my way back to the main stage, I could hear that the show had started and as I got closer I was digging the groove even though you couldn't tell who was playing, but it sure sounded like a full band but as I got closer I realized it was just a guy and his guitar and his name was Keb' Mo.  His energy is what carried 6 or 7 blocks – I was feeling it.  And then to experience him close up was a marvel. I'm a big fan.
 
I wish I could give you gigs to put on your calendar – Not much shakin,  but I will definitely be popping up online on my birthday, September 11.  I don't know when I'll be out gigging in clubs or halls but I do plan on getting a decent set-up to jam with others online.  The technology is coming together, driven by demand, of course.
 
I've been pushing my hardware to the limit and I've had to keep things pretty slim and trim so that nothing craps out, But it would be nice to have a computer that can handle a little reverb and guitar effects without pushing the CPU into the danger zone.
 
And, as you know, all this boy wants to do is jam!  I've tried JamKazam, Jamulus and a new platform called Syncspace which has finally found the trick to enabling musicians to play together in real time across the internet.  Without any lag or latency (well, it's about the same latency as playing 6 feet apart in the same room). But it does require a fast internet connection and a new computer – and it helps if you're in the same town (though I've seen sessions with musicians in Hamilton, Ottawa and Toronto).  Maybe one day we'll jam!
That's enough of my musings. Thanks for reading this far. I see that the Blainletter gets opened by hundreds of people but not sure how many read through it. But I always seem to hear from someone or other that they enjoyed it and that's what keeps me going. Feel free to forward this to any friend you think might enjoy my occasional ramblings (and maybe my music, too). These bits and more are always available on my blog, www.torontobluesdiary.com.

See you out there, eventually...

BrianB, aka Butch, Nappy, Shaker, Two-Lane Blain, Colorblind Brian, Stringbuster, Buddha of the Blues

Upcoming
Shows

I wish I could give you a few gigs to put on your calendar but there's not much shakin...but I will definitely be popping up online on my birthday,

September 11, 4pm
Brian's 75th Birthday Blaincast
on Facebook, Zoom and YouTube
(contact me if you want to be part of the Zoom - or send me a FaceTime greeting I can play)

For this album, I wanted to bring attention to the water crisis that is affecting 3 billion people on the planet. "Water Song" is a pretty dark "ear movie" with a global vibe provided by Sadio Sissokho (kora) and Harry Manx (mohan veena). The haunting vocals are provided by Ruth Mathiang. "I'm Not Fifty Anymore" kicks off the album with a little tongue-in-cheek  humour and some fine harp playing from Steve Marriner.  “The Not Worried Blues (An American Dream)” and “You Are Also His Son” were recorded with Julian Fauth and Gary Kendall, Mike Fitzpatrick and Pat Carey from Downchild.  “Blues Des Cantons (Goodbye Sherbrooke)” is a leaving-home barrelhouse boogie “en francais” with David Vest pounding the 88s. Patrick Merner added some bass & synth, and Clayton Doley overdubbed some organ from his studio in Melbourne, Australia. Ken Whiteley played some lap steel on "You Are Also His Son", Jesse O'Brien added some piano and organ to "The Mother I Never Knew" and drummer Michelle Josef provides a solid backbeat throughout.  Some songs end with extended jams (because I loves to jam) and the last track is a ten-minute acoustic soundscape with Michael Jerome Browne from the last day of recording my “Overqualified For The Blues” album years ago in Montreal. I call it “Tai Chi Ten,” …because it’s just the right pace and length for my Tai Chi set, but it makes for a fine meditation even if you aren’t moving.
 
 
Track Listing
 
 
1. I’m Not Fifty Anymore  3:07
  feat. Steve Marriner
2. You Are Also His Son  4:52
  feat. Ken Whiteley
3. Blues des Cantons (Goodbye Sherbrooke)  4:22  
feat. David Vest & Clayton Doley
4. The Mother I Never Knew  3:55  
feat. Jesse O’Brien
5. Not Worried Blues (An American Dream)  3:37  
feat. Julian Fauth
& Gary Kendall, Mike Fitzpatrick and Pat Carey from Downchild
6. Water Song  5:26  
feat. Harry Manx & Sadio Sissokho
7. Tai Chi Ten  (A Meditation)  9:54  
feat. Michael Jerome Browne

mixed by Margaret Stowe at Ozworld Toronto
mastered by Harris Newman at Grey Market Mastering, Montreal
art direction Linda Turu
photography Margaret Mulligan
design Keijo Tapanainen
 
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