Saturday, May 12, 2007

Celebrate Motherless Thursday

Happy Mother’s Day to all my fans and friends who are mothers, grandmothers, sons and daughters, orphans and adoptees. It’s becoming a tradition to have a show on the Thursday after Mother’s day – I call Motherless Thursday and this year it’s an early show:

Thursday, May 17, 7-9 PM
Free Times Café, 320 College Street
This is a warm-up gig for some festival dates with Colorblind Brian and the New Blainettes. The cover charge is $10 with a generous sliding scale for struggling artists, under-employed and working poor.

If you never heard it, got to and listen to “Don’t Forget Your Mother” a boisterous production of

I’ve been chained to the computer lately and had almost given up on the idea of a Motherless Thursday concert (a mostly annual event on my gig calendar but I am happy to announce that thanks to Judy Perly at Free Times, there will be a Motherless Thursday show. As Judy would say, “Come early. Eat!”

This will be a good warm-up for some upcoming festival dates, starting with The Twisted Pines Festival on the May long-week-end (May 18-21) in Midland. It’s a solid lineup – mostly blues on Sunday (I play at 3:45 in the afternoon) with Downchild headlining but I’m especially looking forward to hearing the great Fred Eaglesmith for the first time. He plays Saturday night. Friends of the Toronto Blues Society are entitled to a $20 discount if you purchase your week-end pass at and enter the code “tbs0407”

I’m not being much of a media mooch these days. I think I’m losing that craving for free shrimp. A couple of days ago was was the big media launch for North by Northeast and I just didn’t have it in me to go schmoozing. Hell, I didn’t even get to the launch party for the Jazz Festival (that was because I was back at home frantically updating their website before they went live). Not a lot of gigs last month but I don’t mind being home on a week-end because I love the radio. Friday nights it’s Reiner Schwarz on He’s one of the pioneers of underground radio and a guy who hasn’t lost that spirit. It’s a credit to jazz-fm that they’ve hung in with Reiner, even though I’m sure he’s considered a bit of a “bad boy” over there. Right now I’m listening to the inimitable Danny Marks (he’s interviewing Morgan Davis) and my Saturday nights at home are often spent channel hopping between Danny and Holger Peterson on CBC – at one time I even had it set up to record one while I listened to the other. Just flipped and Holger is interviewing Dan Aykroyd! And playing some great tracks, of course.

I got to play on the stage at the new Jeff Healey Roadhouse the other day, and it’s a beautiful stage with lots of monitors and a huge monitor board but I have to say it was not exactly a comfort zone for me. The problem with a big expensive PA system is that we tend to have expectations of a nice big natural sound. Not necessarily. Most of the time a bigger PA just sounds like a bigger box. I shouldn’t fault the monitor guy, it was a benefit concert with lots of acts and a quick turnaround. I saw him a couple of days later and I had the feeling he was a little peeved with me – maybe because I was the one that had to ask him to put the acoustic piano back on the stage. The young lady handling the mains is top-notch. Interesting that there are a respectable proportion of female sound techs (well, two) in the top rooms – Ann at Hughs‘s Room and Debbie (?) at Healey’s.

Harry Manx dropped by and we all went to the Reservoir Lounge where Marg Stowe was subbing with Bradley and the Bouncers, a group that my old buddy “Professor Piano”, Scott Cushnie was playing with until recently. Marg was playing up a storm – man when I watch a guitarist of that caliber playing it might as well be another instrument because they’re shaping chords and playing riffs that are so far beyond the simple country blues that I’ve been playing for the last 40 years (on the same guitar, as I am wont to say). The next day Harry tipped me off that Randy Bachman and Duke Robillard were going to sitting in with Jeff Healey at his club so I dropped in when it was almost midnight. When I walked in there was Randy Bachman on stage with a woman singing “You Got Me Running” or some such blues standard. Turns out it’s Denise his wife, and I listen to them all the time on the radio – they are a great team. Then Randy got a request to do “Taking Care of Business” but he announced that he was going to do it as a blues shuffle. The band was a little thrown off as he started up with those familiar chords in an unfamiliar rhythm but they caught on quick enough. I thought I wouldn’t get to hear Duke play, but he hung around and sat in for the last set, though by then the room had mostly cleared out and both Randy and Jeff and their respective entourages had left the building. After playing one tune on a borrowed Strat, he excused himself to go out to his car and get a big red Gibson that he had picked up that afternoon at the new Gibson showroom. He dug in with an old Room Full of Blues Tune that was requested by one of the horn players and it rocked. This was the first time I ever exchanged more than a couple of words with Duke, and when he heard my name he sort of recognized it and asked if we had ever played any festivals together. I realized afterward, he probably recognized my name from the MapleBlues masthead (…or maybe he saw it on my picture at the Silver Dollar Room, still hanging at the foot of the bar)

Next night we went to see Harry & Kevin at Hugh’s Room and it was a phenomenal evening. It was their first real gig together as a duo and they pulled it off beautifully, though reports were that the second night was even better, but I don’t know how it could get much better. Music, any music – not just blues, is about emotion and energy. And if you can pull out a bit of both in the course of an evening then you have created a moment that people will remember – and people were still talking about that show weeks later. The night after that, I was in the revered Massey Hall listening to Bettye Lavette and the Blind Boys of Alabama and they were all wonderful, of course, but I was still in the “Harry Zone”

Now the work has really piled up, and wouldn’t you know this is the time I get some inspiration to play guitar and work on some tunes. So deadlines or no, I take a liitle time out to play some guitar and I have no regrets. (it’s a good thing none of my clients read my blog, but I know there’s a few of you out there that get a kick out of this and that’s why I keep it up).