Thursday, January 19, 2006

Maple Blues Awards

Well, this is a new experience. I'm in that classic "waiting by the phone" mode that actors experience all the time, I guess. Yesterday I did the first audition of my life. It was for a TV commercial that required an old bluesman sitting on a porch. I had to make up a little blues tune about how happy I was now that I had this delicious...maybe I'm not supposed to say the product (there were lots of notices of confidentiallity on the paperwork). Anyway, I thought I did OK but, as they say, "One never know, do one"

The Maple Blues Awards soiree was a great evening, as always. I was not on a mission to schmooze this year, and I didn't even make it to the afternoon "Meet & Greet," I know, I've got a new CD and all, but fuck it, I just don't have it in me to go harassing people to give me a gig. As it turns out, I did get some encouraging words to "go west, young man" so maybe I will pursue some opportunities in the far west...I've never been west of Medecine Hat, I'm sure there's lots to see.

As usual, there's been lots of post-mortem discussion about what we could do better next time and of course lots of whining about deserving artists who did not receive a nomination (I guess I would count myself in that group with a new release that's getting lots of airplay and sits on at least a couple of "Best of 2005" lists). Since I know most of the people on the nominating committee, I guess this disproves that old saying that it's "who you know". In reality, it's "who likes your music" - as it should be. I've been judge, jury or committee chair enough times to know that!

The day before the Awards, I played a showcase set at Chicago's (haven't played there in years). Rather than bring in a couple of brilliant soloists to play with, I hired a (brilliant) rhythm section (Michelle Josef and Henry Heilig) and played all the (brilliant) solos myself. I don't think there were too many "talent buyers" in the house but we did sell a few CD's and make some new fans, in particular a couple that just moved here from Vancouver and felt like they had landed in "blues heaven" when I told them all the stuff that's going on in TO.

The day after the awards I headed out in nasty weather to Steve Payne's set at Hugh's Room and glad I did. Steve played great with Paul Reddick sitting in and I ran into a few people I needed to talk to - lined up a newsletter story and a gig and actually got the wheels in motion for a UK tour. Memo to self: "Even if the weather's lousy and you don't feel like going anywhere, probably a lot of other people feel the same way - so go anyway and you'll have the field to yourself."

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Happy New Year

Looking Back: A good day is one when you hear your song on the radio. It's interesting especially when you know you're going to get a spin but you don't know what track. Tonight I'm listening to the "Blues Doctor" Julie Hill and she was playing tracks from all the showcasing artists at the Maple Blues Awards, of which I am one.

Alas, I didn't get a nomination from the Maple Blues Awards (setting to rest the theory that it's "who you know") but I'm delighted to announce the first award I've won that wasn't for photography or copywriting, the "Golden Quill" Award for 2005, part of CIUT's Porcupine Awards. The citation reads:

"Brian has the ability to utilize a musical genre but not be limited by it when he composes his precious songs. He uses the blues and yet his songs weave in and out of them. Incorporating modern day life that fits in perfectly with this over-used musical style, he brings going to meetings, dating a girl with a Saab, or being a high tech guru with a slightly humorous detachment. He is the Buddha of the Blues."

I did many live radio interviews. played a few tunes sometimes. Steve Fruitman's Back to the Sugar Camp, I've played live on three different shows and had lots of spins (CKLN Top 25, Oct & Nov; CIUT Top 20 Nov) and Overqualified For The Blues received the most spins in September according to Canadian Folk playlists (14 stations) posted to folkdj-l. We've received as much support from the folk shows as the blues and one of my tunes, "Saab Story," is currently in rotation on JAZZ-FM, unusual for a blues/roots recording. At Jazz-FM the other day, I had the pleasure of meeting a radio pioneer, Reiner Schwarz. I was listening to him in the early days of CHUM-FM, and if you tune in his overnight show (Fridays) on Jazz-FM, you will be transported back to those days.

Overqualified for the Blues is now available at iTunes, Amazon,com and the All Music Guide ( reviewer Scott Yanow gave it 4 1/2 stars "...particularly recommended to fans of upbeat folk music.") Here's some more short takes (full length reviews ad nauseam at

"one of the wittiest songwriting pens on the Canadian blues scene" ***1/2
- Mike Regenstreif, Montreal Gazzette Dec 8/05

"Now here’s something you don’t hear every day: a bluesman singin’ the blues about how lousy the blues singin’ business is these days."
- Jeffrey Morgan, Detroit Metro Times Dec 7/05

"for mature, relaxed-fit acoustic blues, Blain's the man for the job."
- Brad Wheeler, Globe and Sept 30/05

"Brian Blain is one of the most important and popular figures on the local blues scene."
- Kerry Doole, TANDEM Oct 2-9/05

I have lots to be grateful for as we enter 06, even though my car's broke down and I've got no gigs (I guess it's convenient that it's happening at the same time). The CD's been out almost three months, and the reviews have been very encouraging. Click here to read some of the latest reviews. I wrote a song for Alice Brock on the 40th Anniversary of "Alice's Restaurant." I did a little house concert at Alice's Studio in Provincetown. They celebrated the occasion with a special boradcast from WOMR, the local radio station, and the station manager just sent me a note saying they loved the song so maybe they played it.

I've said it before on this blog and elsewhere, but I can no longer just sit around waiting to be invited to play. I'm getting pro-active. I'm going to be 60 this year, so no one is going to be looking at a 10-year plan to get me to the big time because I might not be around for the pay-off. I don't think I'm going to be the "buzz act" of this or any other year. But I'm reassured that I have an audience out there and if you're reading this I count you among that discriminating group. You know they give career development workshops for artists that help you realize that the audience is the "star." Thank you for being one of the stars in my skyscape and I will be out there playing for you one of these days.