Monday, September 22, 2008

A new album

Yesterday I borrowed a couple of good microphones from my friend Don
Richardson and cleaned up the studio to prepare for some serious recording.
I moved my noisy mac G4 out of the room and man did that make a big
This is as close to a c-c-c-commitment as I ever get and when I announced
my plans to start a new album at the Borealis/NorthernBlues office
I heard a voice from the back of the room saying "so I guess that will be ready
about 2011." It's a running gag over there but we'll see how fast I can put
this one together.
Of course, the minute I try to settle into a recording schedule,
the distractions begin and Thursday was a banner day for distractions - tow
big ticket CD launches (Michael Jerome Browne and Chris Whiteley and Diana
Braithwaite), the opening of a phot exhibit by rock & roll photographer Bob
Gruen at a fancy Yorkville gallery and the official launch of the Small
World festival. They used to call these "press conferences" then "Media
conferences" but nowadays they don't expect much of a turnout from the
working media unless it's the film festival or some huge sporting event. Now
it's an occasion to invite the "VIP's" and tastemakers... Anyway, I got out
to 3 out 4 of the events - I had just seen Chris and Diana at the Southside
Shuffle, so that was the one I skipped.

Speaking of the Southside Shuffle, I made my way out to Port Credit and did
the walkabout on the street to see lots of friends and familiar faces
playing up a storm. Lots of great talent on one street at one time but in
their effort to hire all the bands they want, everyone is just to close
together and the sound bled into a caucophony that made it hard to enjoy
anyone. Surprisingly, they had the same problem on the big stages in the
park and I felt sorry for the Blues Society Talent Search Winners playing on
the side stage while the Jeff Healey tribute band blasted through the park.
At the risk of eliminating a gig for myself, I have to say they need to hire
less bands, put them further apart, make sure the bands start and stop when
they're supposed to and maybe try to introduce some new faces...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Back from NB

I spent last week in Fredericton, New Brunswick at the Harvest Jazz and
Blues Festival - what a well-run event and what a great town. Hospitality
Central! I was met at the airport and kept on schedule the whole time I was
there by a wonderful couple of volunteers, Cathy and Jerry, who made sure I
was where I had to be at all times and became my number one fans for the
duration. I think we made a few other fans, too, walking though the tent
after my set at the late-night finale jam I encountered many smiling faces
and congratulatory pats on the back.

My highlight was discovering Eric Bibb. I can't believe this guy has slipped
under my radar all these years - I even had one of his CDs on the shelf! He
was positively inspiring and I had the chance to tell him so. He had the
best guitar sound I ever heard - I was sure he was using some kind of octave
pedal to give his guitar that incredible bass. There was no pedal, but he
did tell me that tunes his guitar lower (and probably uses fatter strings).

I was anxious to hear Ana Popovic and she did not disappoint - in fact, I
owe her one because I got to fill in for her at the Guitar Workshop when she
was delayed at the border. She is a phenomenal player, I only wish she would
get her foot off that wah-wah pedal once in while. Derek Trucks is a
beautiful player too, but I wish he would put down the slide. Alas both
those thangs are part of their respective "signatures" so I better get used
to it. I discovered one great Chicago blues guitarist who I had never heard
of - Nick Moss. He is, as they say, "the real deal" and it's not just
because he's from Chicago. He was part of Colorblind Brian's Blues Campfire
along with Treasa Levasseur (& David Baxter), Steve Marriner and Stuart
MacDougal from Alberta. We had a big crowd for the Campfire so the usual
guidelines for the more intimate campfires (ie, brand new original tunes)
went out the window and we just played a lot of favourite blues tunes and
passed around the solos. I did start it off with my newest composition, "The
day Coke saved the blues" and late that night as I was jamming with Steve
Marriner and Shirley Jackson's band, Nick was at the side of the stage
shouting "play the day Coke saved the blues!" When you meet Nick Moss you
will see that he is one of the "larger than life" characters whose requests
you should heed. So I played it for the crowd though I wondered if it might
be a little "inside" for public consumption. It is the story of how a song
saved my record label, Northern Blues, from going under. Now everybody in
New Brunswick is humming it!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ontario Place

Speaking of legends riding on their rep, one of the most notorious is Buddy Guy, and against my better judgment I went to see him again, this time at Ontario Place, only because it was a beautiful outdoor setting and because he was appearing with Koko Taylor and John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers. Mayall has introduced so many great guitarists that I was anxious to see what he had in store for us this time. Well the demographic of his band was quite telling: You had the old guy (Mayall, looking fit as hell), a young bass player, a bald drummer and an overweight guitarist. But the guitarist did manage to slip comfortably into the boots left behind by such legendary players as Clapton and Mick Taylor. He was playful and restrained throughout the set but when his spotlight came around he played a blistering solo that brought the crowd to its feet and was so hypnotizing that even his own band were so transported that they lost their place for a split second. At the end of the song, he flicked his pick into the audience – a nice touch, only slightly diminished when he tossed out a dozen more at the end of the set. I wonder if he’s got his name on that pick. I never got it but it sounded something like “Coco Montoya”. At least Mayall introduced his musicians. Buddy Guy probably didn’t even know the names of the young white kids in his pickup band. His performance deserves no comment except to say that he did show up, he was on stage from the first tune (I’m sure he wasn’t too happy about that) and his exit tune was “Sunshine of Your Love”. What is this man trying to tell us? And Koko Taylor was great as always. It’s just too bad she didn’t follow Buddy Guy to leave everybody with a little better taste of the blues “legends”. So we saw the legend that was, the legend that is and the legend that will be (who was that guitar player anyway???).