Saturday, March 22, 2008

Blainletter for March 2008

Greetings faithful Blainletter readers and new subscribers (I¹ve been trying
to update the list and I may have subscribed a couple of folks who didn¹t
specifically askŠ.please excuse me if I did and I will unsubscribe you).
Even though I'm plugging a gig TOMORROW NIGHT (THURS), I'm glad I waited a
few days to send this out because I received lots of good news today: I got
confirmed for two festival gigsŠthree if you count this one:

Monday April 7
2 shows 4:30 PM and 8:00 PM
Galaxy Theatres, Orangeville, Ontario
Film Presentation of ³The Honeydripper² starring Danny Glover . it will
feature a live blues performance in the theatre by Colorblind Brian Blain.
a co-presentation of Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival and Monday Night At
The Movies

I did get the guitar out of the case today and ran over some tunes for my
gig tomorrow night in Thorold.

TOMORROW Thurs Mar 20 EARLY START: 8-12pm
Moose and Goose
54 Front Street Thorold 905-227-6569
Jack de Keyzer w/Brian Blain opening

Yes, I¹m opening for Jack De Keyzer and this gig is also for a festival -
it's the folks who do the Canal Bank Shuffle every October. For two years
I've had to decline their invitation to play the festival because that was
my time in Europe (hopefully this fall, too). So this will give me a little
taste of the canal bank vibe...

It'll be great seeing Jack. He never gives a bad show. I¹ve shared a
festival stage or two with him but never an opening set per se. I¹ve opted
to keep it ³peppy² ­ which means the Thoroldites (Thoroldians?) won¹t get to
hear some of my brand new soft and sensitive material like The Whaler¹s
Confession and Last Time I saw Lenny (but now anyone hear them by going to and searching for ³Brian Blain² (I¹ve also got the same video
clips on <> ).
Tonight I just dug up a clip from a gig at The Silver Dollar a few years
back with the dearly departed Rod Phillips (Blues Is Hurting) and I will
load that up too. Pat Carey rips it up on the sax.

It¹s been a couple of weeks since the passing of Jeff Healey but the town is
still reeling from his loss. I heard beautiful tributes on the radio from
Colin Bray and Danny Marks and Jazz-FM has been re-running his old shows.
They just played a show I heard when it was first broadcast and it¹s
interesting to note that the only conversation I ever had with Jeff, besides
standing outside the Reservoir Lounge, was shortly after this show was
originally broadcast. I was at his club (I suppose he had just finished
playing a blistering setŠand the rest of his band would always rise to the
occasion). He was standing at the bar on a break and I went up and said how
much I enjoyed his radio show and asked about a piano player he had
featuredŠI couldn¹t remember the name, but he said right away ³That was
Herman Chitteson, he wasn¹t very well known in America because he worked
mostly in EuropeŠ² and proceeded to wax on enthusiastically with all kinds
of minutia about this obscure musician and you could tell he was so pleased
that he had been able to introduce someone new to this great unknown piano
player.² I was just listening to Jeff playing two recordings of Mae West
with the Dorsey Brothers (and finding out that she only did 3 recoding
sessions in her career!). On Danny Marks¹ show he played an old interview
with Jeff and a sneak preview of Jeff¹s new CD, coming out at the end of the

May 3 & 4 there will be two special evenings for Healey fans to come
together and pay their respect. As has been repeated many times by different
friends and colleagues, ³Jeff was all about the music.² I only wish I¹d had
a chance to play with him once ­ probably could have if I was a little more
pro-active and came out to those jam sessions once in a while. I did play
with many of his bandmates though, Al Webster, Alec Fraser (who recorded my
first CD) and the wonderful fiddle player Drew Jurecka. My sympathy goes out
to those fellows and all who were close to Jeff. At the end of the re-run,
I hear Jeff saying ³we¹re going out on a high note as we like to do² Well
did he ever! I don¹t know if it was on purpose but there was almost five
minutes of dead air after Ross Porter¹s outro. A very deep silence, indeed.)

Speaking of being pro-active, I was starting to beat myself up because I
didn¹t apply to any summer festivals until this week and of course I¹ve
missed most of the deadlines. Needless to say, if you, dear reader, are
producing a festival this summer and and haven¹t quite filled your quota of
old Canadian bluesmenŠlet me direct you to my space where I just loaded up some video clips of
me with band and solo. The solo tunes are all brand new (some not quite
finished) but we got these video clips from my set at Winterfolk at the
beginning of the month. One song is about Lenny Breau, ³Another Song About
Alice² is about Alice Brock (Alice¹s Restaurant) and there¹s my tribute to
the musicians of New Orleans (³Forgotten²) and a song about whaling (³The
Whaler¹s Confession²). Some years I¹ve made a big effort to get gigs and
other years I¹ve done nothing and it seems that either way, I end up playing
3 or 4 festivals. Anyway, it¹s always nicer to get invited than to go
groveling for a gig.

Out and About: As usual, I enjoy listening to music almost as much as
playing it and therein lies the reason that my career is not skyrocketing.
I¹m spending most of my time boppin around town hearing all kinds of
incredible music. Even though I¹m usually on the guest list, I¹d be broke if
I was a drinking man (hey, I am broke!). There¹s just too much good music in
this town. The other night I heard Charlie Hunter the renown 7-string
guitarist. This time he was playing for a young crowd and it was real loud
(but clear and loud - beautiful guitar sound). It's like listening to Robben
Ford or John Scofield in a bluesy mood except Charlie is producing the
thundering bass part with his thumb on that low B string.

After a stop-over at Thymeless where my son Joel (aka DJ C.O.I.) was
spinning I caught the last set at the Crazy Strings Wednesday at the Silver
Dollar. I thought I would be seeing a "skeleton staff" with Folk Alliance
Conference starting that day but they were all there in full force. I didn't
even count how many people on stage but there were lots - twin fiddles and a
great vocalist (Kristin, Christine?) I've always said that bluegrass is one
genre where you can't fake it. If you haven't been playing (or especially
singing) it all your life, it¹s so obvious. Well these guys are now old
enough to have been playing it "most" of their lives and it sounds pretty
official to me.

The next day I decided I¹d like to see Buckwheat Zydeco at the Horseshoe,
but didn¹t get in motion till late in the evening and all I heard was the
last couple of songs. In the old days, Buckwheat would have come back for a
half-hour encore but he¹s not a young man anymore and I heard he had
actually left the bandstand at one point and left the band to play a few
tunes on their own. On the week-end I saw two powerhouse guitarists - Johnny
V from Alberta and Big Gilson from Brazil.

On Saturday I took in three shows,,,first Laura Hubert and band at the Rex
(she had two great horn players, Chris Gale and Bobby BroughŠbut where was
the baritone?), then to the Silver Dollar to hear a touring outfit called
Big James and the Chicago Playboys (a blues funk outfit fronted by a
trombone player ­ he had played with many great blues stars and is now out
doing his own thing). Then to finish off the night I dropped in to a
neighbourhood bar where Michelle Josef was playing with David Wildsmith
doing a lot of cover material and packing the dance floor. David¹s
girlfriend Sarah works for Jeff Healey and she spent the whole time checking
her phone for an update on Jeff. Regretfully, the next day her worst fears
were realized.

I probably heard a dozen different bands during Canadian Music Week and
maybe I¹m getting old but they all sounded the same. They all had this
two-guitar thing with one guitar playing a repetitive riff high on the neck
so that it sounded sort of like a synthesizer. Roman Carter & Tom Rothrock
were the real dealŠnever mind three-chord blues. This was one-chord blues -
but Roman pulled it off. The film he premiered featured a whole bunch of
blues old-timersŠPrecious Bryant was the only name I recognized. Turns out
five of them had passed on by the time the film was finished. It¹s called
³Songs From The Soul².

Son Roberts Band and Steve Strongman made the best of a bad situation when
he was told he couldn¹t play ­ that the schedule had changed. He did manage
to hit the stage for a fiery fifteen-minute set and he did great. After
Steve, Son Roberts and the boys played. It did not have the intensity of
Steve but they take the blues to a different place.

This weekend I did an end-run across town and saw Roxanne Potvin at Hugh¹s
Room then Garret Mason at the Silver Dollar. Roxanne had Christine Bougie
playing guitar for her and Christine did a fine job but I know for a fact
that Roxanne can pull off a great solo and I couldn¹t figure why we had to
wait till the end of the show before she showed off some of her blues
soloing. Garrett Mason was quite the contrary ­ tearing it up with his
3-piece unit. Very Solid. I told him I had seen anybody using those big
Fender Showman amps since Johnny Winter in the 70s. He had this pedal that
made a real underwater warbling sound. I loved it.

Did u know? As I observed Conrad Black going to jail today, I had to say to
myself ³there but for fortune go IŠ² His publishing empire got a little
bigger than my non-profit desktop-publishing ³empire² but it¹s interesting
that we both got our start in publishing at the same place, The Sherbrooke
Daily Record. It was the first paper he owned and the first one I worked for
(actually John Bassett owned it when I started at the Record).

Today I was at the funeral of a fine gentleman who was probably my oldest
fan. Fred Houston was 92 years old. Five years ago he was celebrating his
60th wedding anniversary and I wrote them a tune called ³Together Sixty
Years²Šand they made it to sixty-five. Imagine being with the same partner
for sixty-five yearsŠ(hmmm, that could go either way, I guess). One time he
came up to me and said ³Brian you really make that guitar talk². I never
received a finer compliment.