Friday, November 22, 2002

Just when I thought the production blitz was over (4 newsletters in two weeks) I have to get ready to jump right in to the MapleBlues December issue. Tomorrow night I've got a gig. Saturday night is the Women's Blues Revue which I would not want to miss, Sunday it's Pat Carey's CD launch, then Monday, we have to put together a newsletter.

I have to start going through the pile of listings tomorrow because Jacquie, my assistant, just did something to her knee and is in excruciating pain. She's been to the emergency ward and tonite she called to say she won't be able to help with the listings. Oh, woe is the Toronto Blues community one could be as meticulous as Jacquie. Let's see who falls through the cracks

I took a moment after speaking to her to get into the right state of mind for reiki - did the Cook's Hook-up (left ankle over right ankle, left hand on right thigh, right hand over on left thigh, tip of tongue on roof of mouth) and started thinking of Jacquie, visualizing her left knee (I had to call to find out which knee it was). Then I just put out my hands, letting the reiki energy flow through like I usually do when suddenly my right arm was "pulled" suddenly into a full extension, fingers extended, and it continued to pull me right off the couch at which point I just left my eyes open enough to avoid tripping on anything and it pulled me right across the room, quite quickly, and led my fingers over a pile of papers and dug right in at the back of the desk, trying to get under a speaker. As I was standing there trying to figure out "what's under that speaker" I realized that my hand was resting on an ashtray that had been a favourite of my mother's. In fact it's the only hand-me down from her in that room (if not the house). There isn't even a picture of her in that room (I'm embarassed to say) even though there's pictures of bandmates, friends and my two sisters. The immediate message I read into this is that "she's OK" - which I might not have thought. I had a similar "message-from-beyond" experience from my father which I took as his acceptance that I was playing music (he never approved). You can read/see about that experience on my old Blues Diary on the icomm server. visit

This afternoon I dropped by the rehearsal for Women's Blues Revue. Haven't seen some of those girls since last year. Serena Ryder was there rehearsing and as they were leaving her manager turned to her with one of the newsletters and said "look they called you punk folk in here too!" and I had to cringe because I seem to recall that at the programming meeting I heard her being described as some wimpy folksinger and I said (having seen Serena play for the first time at the Peterborough Folk Festival) something like "she's more like punk-folk", thinking of Ani deFranco. Well she did not like being called "punk-folk"(maybe Ani doesn't like it either) (maybe I should forget about putting labels on people) and we had to change it on the website. I hate it when I have to face my incompetence like that - I know, I know, I just do too much. Lat time this happened, I checked the listings in the jazz newsletter and made a special trip to the Rex to see my buddy/bassman Victor Bateman doing a reunion of a famous group he led in the 80s (Vektor). Anyway, I got there and it was Tony Quarington. I had the wrong date in the newsletter...hopeless.

Tomorrow night I'll be doing a special evening in the Main Hall at the Tranzac. I was just running over a few tunes, but I don't think I'll be playing that much because Paul, my sound tech has rounded up a whole crew of musicians from Stratford and I will be the host-with-the-most. I'm sorry I lost my house gig but at the same time I'm glad to have my Thursdays off. It was a good run. I have been replaced by a band that plays very scronky jazz but who apparently have a big student following. Well, it wouldn't take too many students to surpass the bar sales that were generated by my tea-sipping fans. Jeremy Jenkins, who was always at my gigs wrote to say he didn't like the new set up very much. I guess I have to look for another house gig - but now I realize that I'm no good at promoting these gigs. At best, I get out an email on the day before - half the time, I forget to do that.

I hope some people do show up to hear these great kids from Startford.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

It's 3am and I'm sitting here sighing a breath of relief that i"m finished with putting out four newsletters in two weeks and get my mind back to music. I should really be working on my album, running over those tunes know, an amateur practices till he gets it right but a professional practices until he can't get it wrong! Homilies Schmomilies. I never had a guitar lesson in my life but the few times I tried to practice something, I did get something out of it. Had to write a song with the lick right away or I'd forget it. And I don't have that many songs and a lot of them use the same licks, too. I've got a great tune called "Just Leave" that uses the boggie-woogie style bass pattern that I learned off a Danny Gatton instructional video.

But I don't care - when I turned fifty, I said to myself I'm not going to end my days making newsletters and websites. I'm going to get the music back in my life because it's good for me to play and because most of the people that hear it feel better too. At least they spend a couple of hours distracted from their daily preoccupations. Then they probably forget me - more so if I was doing the opening set for a phenomenal artist like Harry Manx, as I just did for a couple of weeks last month.

I guess I can blame Harry for the fact that I'm not using this precious time to work on my soon-to-be-recorded tunes and instead messing around with a newly set-up lap slide guitar, just like Harry plays. You couldn't spend that many nights watching him close up without being inspired to try it. I've never played slide or open tunings (in fact I remember that Lorraine from Blue Willow gave me a slide for a birthday present and I never made any effort to figure it out). But this time, I had an extra flat-top guitar hanging around (that's another heavy, sad story) so I bought a "thang" to raise the strings and Harry helped me pick out a proper slide. Now I'm into it, but my son has asked me to lay off, because all that shaky sliding is making him nauseous. He never complains about my playing in the house so I take this as a message that I better not inflict this on anyone for quite a while.

Last week-end I had a lot of musical activity (as (barely)managing editor, I get into a lot of shows for free and for the first time in months, I had a Thursday off. I was doing a Thursday house-gig at the Tranzac for almost a year, with an amazing lineup of guests (link) but not an amazing lineup at the door, unfortunately. Now they're trying scronky jazz on Thursdays and even that is doing better than my blues night. I will continue doing a series at the Tranzac but it will not be every week - rather try to make each time a special event. And here comes one now. Mark your calendars...

Friday, November 22

(in the Main Hall - $5.00 cover)

The The Entire Stratford Roots Music Scene

(well, maybe a few won't be there, probably not Loreena)

Lineup includes: Jamie Randsley, Michelle Hundt, Sophie,

hosted by Brian Blain

Yesterday, as I dropped by the Toronto Blues Society office I found in my mailbox two new blues CD releases. Two Walkers! Joe Louis Walker (releasing his 3rd album in 14 months - I'll be lucky to get 3 albums done in the next 14 years!) and Wailin' Walker, a Vancouver-based guitar hero. Never saw him in Toronto, though he must have played here. Five years back, a band I played with - Blue Willow - shared some tracks on a Peerless compilation CD with Wailin. And this new CD of his is still on Peerless, with the first 3 tracks produced by Fred Xavier. Fred lived in Toronto for a while and from what I remember he was very business-like. I always had the feeling that he was only interested in the two blondes and not the bearded guitar player.

That's my connection to Wailin' Walker - or, more precisely, Peerless Music. Hearing Joe Louis reminds me of the time I came along for the ride with an American label head and his A&R director as they auditioned artists while rolling down the highway in a big SUV. I seem to recall they had considered signing Joe when he was cut loose from Verve (was it Blue Thumb?). But they had discovered that his last two albums had not scanned well - in fact, neither made it near 5 figures. Shocking when you coniser he is one of the leading lights of the blues scene - hope he continues to be.

I just realized, I have the distinction of being his neighbour on the Northern Blues compilation CD, The Future of the Blues. He's on a track with Paul Reddick and the Sidemen from a CD he produced for them a while back. I have a song on there from my first CD. It features one of the all time great piano solos from "Professor Piano" Scott Cushnie - equal to anything from Otis Spann or Pine Top. You can order the sampler at the NorternBlues website -

Any way, in my (barely)managing editor role, I get a lot of promo CDs and I get to hang around music industry types. I dare say I know many music movers and shakers (disproving the theory that you make it based on who you know).

Saturday, November 2, 2002

It's great to be back in Toronto. Tonight I wanted to get out and hear a new artist called Nathalie Renault. She's from Quebec but I heard about her in Pisek, Czech Republic. I was sitting in the office of UrbanWorld (the booking agency that got me these gigs) and there was a large, attractive colour poster on the wall - and it was ...Nathalie Renault. They were surprised I had not heard of her. Last week, I saw her announced in a press release - she was the opening act for a French "flamenco" guitarist called Serge...

Nathalie played great - doing all original tunes and giving long chatty intros for each song (in French). She would end each intro with "and I offer it to you" . (note to self: treat every song as an offering to the audience)

I stuck around for the guitarist - he had an electric bass virtuso with him and an amazing percussionist. It finished off very much like the Gypsy Kings with only one guitar.

I had a chance to speak to Nathalie and she was pretty surprised when I told her I had just been in Czech Republic myself (she had toured just a little before me). I told her she had just had a great "entree" into the Toronto Market with this concert. Wish we'd had a chance to talk a bit more...

...or I could have dragged her along onmy little "club crawl". As I left the Music Gallery venue, I decided to head to the Silver Dollar even though I hadn' made a note (mental, or otherwise) about who was playing this night. I walked into the club thinking "I like surprises" _ Indeed it was, it was the Paul James Band. These guys have been doing it forever, and even though there was a small house, Paul gave the complete show along with spinning aroud and playing in the audience.

After that, I headed straight down to Chicago's to hearm some of the best harp players in the city. I know, because I've had them all at my Thiursday Blues Nights at the Tranzac which regretable ended last night (with a very thin audience and another fabulou player - Barry Mack). But it's hard to lament over a regular Thursday night gig - after a year of it, I'm ready to "re-claim" my Thurdsdays.

The harp players at Chicagos were all rockin out and not worried about tryin new stuff. The band had to figure out right on the spot - usualy successfully. I heard Mark "The Bird" himself, Dr. Nick, Lil' Bobby, Raoul Bhaneja.