Wednesday, September 15, 2004

August Notes

Just in from playing the Southside Shuffle in Port Credit. What a great

festival. I played outside the "Second Cup", alternating with a band

called Blueshound. I think i made a few new fans - plus the Second Cup

manager said he'd like to hire me to play there again sometime.

The people that were interested in hearing songs with lyrics and

stories stayed close to the stage and we had a great connection. Last

month I played the Markham Jazz Festival where it was a different

challenge: The audience were there for dinner and conversation, not to

listen to a show but by the end of the night they were right into it.

Well, to cover off the first few days in September, I can report that I

had three days of recording in Montreal with the mega-talented

multi-instrumentalist Michael Jerome Browne. I had a couple of new

tunes and was looking for somebody who could play some blues fiddle and

it turned out that Michael could do that and much more. On the tune No

More meetings he's got us sounding like a black string band from the

20s. Here's the lyrics (I sang this at my final meeting as Secretary of

my housing co-op)

No more meetings - no more committees

No more agendas - no more assemblies

No more protocol - no more decorum

No more worries - 'bout making quorum

No more deadlines - no more time limits

No more notes to take - no more minutes

No more discussions - no more proceedings

Just one more motion - no more meetings

Sat Sept 11 - Had a small house concert at the Downtown Jazz office. I

was joined by Ed Vokurka, a Czech jazz violinist, and Michelle Josef

joined in on drums and it rocked. Forgot to run over the one tune that

I'm getting Michelle to overdub drums on this week-end. It's one we

recorded in the last batch but which I was not entirely happy with. I

was ready to dump it but my beloved label president, Fred, said it was

one of his favourites and had to be included. So what else to do but

re-record it, and I'm glad we did. I just did it with two guitars but

once it's got bass & drums, it will rock as much as the band track and

I will feel much better about the arrangement.

For the entire recording session, engineer Rob Heaney had me singing

through an old vintage mic - a Neumann 47 which had been stripped of

all the internal switching, pads, patterns, etc but when it came to

this tune, he was not satisfied and kept pulling out different vocal

mics until he finally settled on â?|an SM 57. Go figure. Still, it's

running through a 1940s McCurdy mic preamp, a Pultec equalizer and a

Universal limiter - all vintage gear.

It took me 4 days to clean off enough space on my hard drive to load up

the tracks from Montreal and then I spent a whole night listening to

them over an over. They sound pretty damn good to meâ?|this is going to

be one of those times when you just hope that you don't lose the magic

when you do the mix.

A big thank you to Rob, Barney at Fast Forward Studio and especially

Michael Jerome Browne - an impeccable player with a great instinct. And

a friendly nod to Derek Andrews who was the matchmaker in this little

affair (returning the favour, as it were).

I don't know if it was being in Montreal or just being away from the

house, but I got a lot more done than I ever would have at home with

the never-ending distractions. It was the same when I wrote most of

these tunes - they all came together when I was camped out at the

Rounder "mansion" in Newburyport, Mass. (Note to self: I am definitely

more productive when I'm away from home)

I scouted out the studio in August when I was in Quebec for a birthday

party for an old friend. The party was at the Glen Mountain Ski Chalet

in Knowlton - where I spent a winter playing string bass with the folk

duo of Allan Fraser (later of Fraser & DeBolt) and Sue Lothrop (now of

Bill Garrett and Sue Lothrop). I think I was about 17 at the time and

that was the first time I ever became aware of the "wacky tabaccy" -

and I never tried it (then) but walking around that old resort was

flashing a lot of memories. At the party I played with a young woman

called Athena - maybe 15 years old. She was learning sax and still

preferred playing along with a Rolling Stones to jamming but I was glad

to explain to her the I-IV-V blues notation system.

After the birthday party, I ended up at a hillside chalet in the

Eastern Townships. Totally french-speaking scene. When I came up that

hill with my guitar it was very welcoming. Then I just played along

with a bunch of drummers that were banging away. They love their

drumming in Quebec - a djembe is practically a standard household

fixture in every home.

Back in TO, I did my shift as a judge at the TTC Subway Musician

Auditions. It was at the CNE again, always a nice set up. Maybe I've

been doing this too long, I knew half the candidates. This was a great

set with Doc Maclean, Adam Solomon, Achilla Orru, Shelley Coopersmith.

All top notch and deserving. I've done a few years where the music got

pretty painful. but this shift was very pleasant. After my shift I

wandered around the CNE - looking for music, mostly unsuccessfully.

Thurs, Aug 19 - Saw Ruthie Foster at Hugh's Room. here's a girl whose

reputation precedes her. She lived up to the hype, but not until she

was well into the set. Opening for Ruthie was David Jacobs-Strain. He

had a great sound and some great tunes. I don't think he remembered me

as a fellow NorthernBlues artist, though we had met a while back.

Sat, Aug 21 - Played the Markham Jazz Festival - shared the bill with

David Staines and it was very encouraging to prove to myself that I can

win over an audience. With all due respect to Elaine Overholt's "The

want to love you" I think there's some audiences that *don't* want to

love you. But if they are outnumbered by an attentive crowd they become

less significant.

Early in the month, Harry Manx's Urban Turban bandmates were in town,

Emily Braden, Wynn Gogol and Neil Golden. They were in town en route to

a rendezvous with Harry in Ottawa. I got Emily to do some vocal

overdubs on Saab Story. She is phenomenal. A week later, Harry shows up

but alas I'm on my way to Montreal to record with Michael Jerome Browne

again. There's a certain irony that Harry and I tried repeatedly over

the last year to find a window of opportunity where we could do some

recording together and it was impossible with his brutal touring

schedule. Now it turns out he's got a couple of days lay-off in Toronto

and now I'm booked in Montreal. Anyway he does play on a couple of

tracks on the album, but as I'm being told repeatedly, I can't just

keep adding stuff forever, I have to wrap it up and put out what I've