Friday, December 27, 2002

Last week we finally got into the studio to do some tracks for the next album. I did the basic tracks with Victor Bateman on bass (he played on my first album) and Michelle Josef on drums and percussion. Richard Bell came in to play keyboards on the second day and Paul Reddick also made a guest appearance - more to come.

Michelle and I went up to the Studio at Puck's Farm over six months ago and we recorded several of the new tunes but the tunes were not settled and the grooves I though too frantic. Now the tunes have matured a bit, even got road tested on a couple of tours, and they seem a bit more relaxed now.

...though I was hardly relaxed myself with a million other things going on - plus the week before Christmas, what was I thinking. Then I had the small but irritating rash on my right thumb so I had to use a flat pick on the first day instead of the usual "country blues fingerpicking" that I'm so famous for...(ha, ha) Stay tuned for more updates. Let' see, do I have any tips so far...

...well, always make sure there's some food around.


Then just when I could play with the thumb again I broke the thumb nail and it is now piching the skin everytime I apply a little pressure. We may have to do some guitar overdubs though the album is pretty live. We recorded at Paul Benedict's studio - with Paul (sometimes know as "Eggs") at the helm. He's got big ears and has been my biggest supporter.

I was feeling a certain presssure to get this project going and since I was moving a little too slow when left to my own devices, I brought in David Baxter to act as producer. I'd only met David once but I heard great things about him from different people and then I heard the new Bob Snider album he just did and that clinched it.

I thought we'd spend a little more time with the songs but I had said I wanted to deliver this album before the end of the year and he proceeded to put the schedule in place and here we are in the middle of it.

I've been less than totally prepared but then again, I never will be so it's time to "print one" and give fy friends and fans a taste of Brian's mellow side. I found the first album too aggresive. My goal now is to produce a recording of myself that I can listen to without cringing. Something more relaxing.

Like just about every singer, I can't stand the sound of my own voice on tape (or now, digital) That's alright, I'll get over it.

I felt "underprepared" although I was told I didn't need to supply charts for all the songs since we had already played them with most of these musicians at one time or another. They said charts were uncessary because this was blues session but they would have been good to have. I had the words to each song for everybody, but when Richard Bell arrived, we were a little embarrased but ultimately whispered the melody in his ear.

(still trying to remember wjhat else I learned from this)

For bio info and some sound clips of the first album visit my official web page at Northern Blues

Thursday, December 12, 2002

What a week it's been. Not just my own musical breakthroughs (see below) but it's been sheer Toronto Blues/rock history. In the space of seven days, we've seen albums released by Mainline, Ronnie Hawkins and the Cameo Blues Band.

The Mainline release was at a new venue called club 279 (?) above the Hard Rock Cafe on Yonge St. It's a great, room, and that was my first time there. I don't know if they were charging at the door, they were certainly trying (unsuccessfully) to get people to check their coats.They were on stage, sitting down, ofcourse - they were know as the "sit down" band that plays "sit down" blues. I think the "sit-down" was more Mendelson than McKenna... Joe wasn't there and I suppose had nothing to do with it. After the set I went up to Ted Purdy and asked him if he remembered the day he auditioned for the band thirty years ago. I asked him if he played a Rickenbacker bass back then annd he did! Then I asked if he remembered lending it to this bearded guy who was also auditioning but had no bass. He did remember the incident and, of course, I was the guy with the beard. I told how I was in Toronto back then (1973) producing an album for Fraser & DeBolt for CBS Records and we had just finished a session with Joe guesting. If I remember correctly, Joe headed directly to the auditions from the studio and I just tgged along. To his credit, Ted got the gig. And went on to a long association with Joe, more than the others. Now I'm starting to wonder if I remember correctly about Ted being so willing to lend me his bass...Nah, I'm sure he was a real good sport about it. He's a corporate lawyer now.

Wish I had stuck around to say hi to the guys - at least the ones I know. Bob Adams was playing harp. He's a new addition but fits in great. I only met Mike McKenna a few times - starting back in '71 where he borrowed my '59 Strat for a while.

By the end of the 70's there were a few more great blues bands in Toronto and one of them was the Cameo Blues Band who were the house band at the legendary Isabella Hotel. Last night they too celebrated a new CD, a revival of sorts. I had never heard the band live, probably because I arrived in T.O. just as the Izzy was winding down. The were a little tighter than Mainline, I have to admit, and they put on a great show. I was standing at the back between Michael Fonfara and Rod Phillips, two of the top B3 players in town and they were in awe seeing their mentor at work. He's a little rougher than those two but they obviously learned as lot from him.

On the week-end, there was a huge all-star event at the colliseum in Hamilton for the launch of the long awaited Ronnie Hawkins CD (long-awaited? I *still* haven't heard it. Paul Benedict, who is recording my new album right now, was Ronnie's sound guy for five or seven years...a long time with Ronnie Hawkins, I'm sure. They called him "Eggs" Benedict.

Paul has been recording me for months witrh different guitars and amps and amp-simulators and we are getting to the main stretch - more on the recording in the next post.

Wednesday, December 4, 2002

I was just sitting back on the couch listening to the new live album by Mainline. It sounds fabulous from the next room, tighter than what I heard live when I just dropped by the Hard Rock Cafe where they were having their CD launch. They're allowed to be loose - they're Mainline for fuck's sake. I split right after the first set and didn't have a chance to say hi to Mike or Bob Adams, their harp player who is kind of a new kid on that block. I met bob when he was part of the crew filming the Danny Marks Stormy Monday blues jams at Albert's Hall.

Back to the Mailnline story, I was so happy to meet Ted Purdy. I reminded him that 30 years ago we were both auditioning to play bass with McKenna Mendelson Mainline. He must have been very young (so was I, I guess) but he had a bass (I remembered it was a Rickenbacker) and I didn't. Anyway I reminded him how much I appreciated it when he let me use his bass and congratulated him on getting the gig. When I suggested he had benefiited with a lot of work with the band he corrected me and said "with Joe" and I guess that's where I've seen his name over the years.

Now I'm thinking maybe he wasn't so thrilled to let a stranger (and competitor) use his bass. Maybe there was some pressure because, I think I arrived with Joe himself. If I recall correctly, we came directly from a recording session I was producing for the folk group Fraser & DeBolt. Joe had played some harmonica on the album - he and Daisy had been friends from her first days in Toronto. That project was the first paying customer at Manta Sound - then the brand-new, starte-of-the-art, money-is-no-object ultimate recording studio. And now it's been gutted - the condo contractors are probably using it as a workshop & office until it, too, gets torn down.

Anyway I was glad I made it to a bit of the Mainline Party. I couldn't believe the venue! It's above the Hard Rock Cafe and the inside glass walls look down on the legendary restaurant , where there's even a radio booth where they broadcast "classic rock radio". Big stage, lights, large capacity room - and I hear they've been packing it for the Saturday afternoon matinee - Mary deKeyzer's Melody Ranch.

All week end - since Thursday - I've been getting to shows just in time to hear the closing chord and thundrous applause. Thursday was a group from cuba & montreal and Friday was a french/afro band. I would have loved to see both, but it was not to be. Then on Saturday - I should have gone to see Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels at Healeys. The publicist had even given me a pair of tickets...and I forgot completely. I can't keep track of these things. I can hardly keep track of my own gigs!

The reason I was delayed on Thursday was because I dropped in to the Tranzac to see how the Thursday nights were going now that they replaced my Acoustic Blues nights with some very scronky jazz. Well the scronk did seem to be doing a little better that I - especially getting out young people (who tend to drink other than tea and a lot of it). Saw Victor Bateman sitting in with the group on bass and I remembered what a pleasure it is to play with that gentleman. Saturday night I went to hear Johnnie Johnson, the piano player behind all those Chuck Berry hits. There he is at 81 - still having to get out and play the blues circuit. It makes you wonder. I hope he's doing it because he wants to. The performance had me wondering how much he *wants to*. I took a walk down to Grossmans and there I heard a set by Mark "Bird" Stafford - playing and singing better than I've ever heard him. He had that hot young guitarist Darren Poole with him. I'll tell more about it later - or not. Time to crash. We4 started pre-production on the 1st of December and I intend to have an album by the end of the month. Wer'll keep you informed.
Mark wrote:

of the women's blues revue!!

can someone please share the wealth.......and let us know how it went.....

*****You missed a great night, Mark. Here a re-post of my late-night reply on canadianblues-l. Joe Curtis sent me a more detailed review which I won't be able to use in the newsletter (sorry, Joe) but maybe he'll post it here - (or maybe he has already - Joe, is that *you* posting to mapleblue under the pseudonym music1won???) BrianB

At 11:16 PM 11/23/02 -0600, you wrote:

>Could anyone provide a quick recap/review on the Women's Blues Revue show.

>Could not afford the airfair from Manitoba to see it in person.

Manitoba's own Tracy K really got things off to a great start and Dawn Tyler Watson brought the house down at the end. I was especially delighted to see Diana Braithwaite on the stage doing her thing with a voice that is so distinctive and emotive that she could go away for ten years and you would remember it the minute you heard it again (which may have been the case for some in the audience). Diana has been out of the scene for a while but the audience was immediately swept under her spell. She followed Anne-Marie Woods was making her debut as a solo artist - and boy does she have a voice! You wouldn't believe it was her first time fronting a band. There was not a weak set in the whole evening, though some may have thought there were too many slow tunes, but it was an older crowd and they appreciated the quiet stuff as much as the shouters. Serena Ryder made a lot of new fans and sold a whack of CDs. She nailed the Etta James classic "At Last". Lee Aaron gave a great performance, too and must have surprised many of her old fans with the "softer side" of the former "metal queen". I didn't see all of Georgette's set but she owns that stage when she steps up and, like Diana, has a such a distinctive voice that you would recognize her on a car radio 2 blocks away. She was the evening's favourite to at least two people I spoke to. But there was no way to pick favourites among such a bevy of talent. Even Suzie Vinnick's one tune at the start of the second set many hearts aflutter, too, and was a big after-show buzz.

Many of the singers referred to family in the audience and the whole thing has a real "family" vibe. The WBR Band has become a de-facto family and this is their annual get together. It's a real love-in and mutual admiration society. Colleen Allen who missed last year's show was welcomed back like a long lost sister - and boy did she play her heart out. Her solos melted the audience. Someone who really helps make it feel like "family" is Shelagh Rogers who was still making friends with everybody at the after-concert party long after most had left. She even got her sister to fly in from Vancouver to see the show! And, despite a grueling schedule, promises to be back next year. Next year I want to hear Shelagh sing more than "Happy Birthday"! (she did a spontaneous a capella version for Holger Peterson).

As we left the Music Hall, I dropped in on Bradley and the Bouncers with my old buddy Professor Piano playing and singing and the lovely Maureen Brown on drums, one of the pioneers of the Women's Blues Revue. After schmoozing a bit at the Swan I drove Canada's pre-eminent music publicist to the Dollar to hear the the last of Duke Robillard's set. Dawn and another group went down to Healey's to catch Sue Foley (and by all accounts, she was rockin'). When last seen, Tracy and Dawn were making their way out of the Silver Dollar (as they were closing up the joint) to head back to the hotel and enjoy a late night snack in their jammies. I wanted to come along but that was not to be. Oh well. What a great blues town this is (I'm sure Winnipeg is fun, too, though a little more chilly).