Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Blainettin #1

For those who are not familiar with the (mostly)monthly Blainletter, it’s a long rambling chronicle of my attempts to develop a music career in the Toronto music scene. This is an abbreviated version with less stories and gets right down to the blatant self-promotion:

Tuesday Night (tonight!) it’s the First Anniversary Campfire at Highway 61 Southern BBQ. Actually, the Campfire has only been going for 7 months, but the club has been open a year. My special guests this night will be Robin Banks, Son Roberts and barrelhouse piano player Roberta “Bertie” Hunt. I’m sure they’ll be a few surprises, too. Apparently Roots & Music Canada folks will be by to do their “reportage”. The address is 1620 Bayview, a couple of blocks south of Eglinton. We play from 7-10.

Thursday Night (Feb 25) I’ll be doing an opening set (8:30) for the Alfie Smith concert at Free Times Café, 320 College St.

“Blain Mops Up at Winterfolk” - Mose Scarlett

When I hit the stage for my first set at Winterfolk, the stage floor was so sticky that my feet were practically glued to the ground. Whe I lifted them up, the made weird squishy sounds and everybody laughed. After a couple of songs I asked the waitress to bring out a mop and I was thus able to spare all the performers that followed me at the Willow. I was subbing for Howard Gladstone, and also subbed for Mr. Rick and ended up playing bass with Mose Scarlett twice. Well, it will take more than a couple of passes to learn all those changes but Mose had good advice: “Don’t play what I’m playing, just be sure you’re following the melody.”

NEWS FLASH! “Two hardened Winterfolk soundmen reduced to goose bumps by Brian Blain song.”

It’s true, after my first set at Winterfolk, the sound man at the Willow said “I got goose-bumps when you sang that song about Lenny Breau”  Then a couple of days later, I did the same song and told the story of how I gave the soundman at the Willow goose bumps and a burly guy with beard shouted from the other side of the room “Well I’m a soundman and I just got goose bumps.”  That’s two, count ‘em, TWO, soundmen won over in one week-end.

My “discovery of the week” at Winterfolk was a great blues guy from the London area called Rick Taylor. Some may remember him from a long time ago, before my time in TO. He was away on the west coast but he’s back now and playing wih a vengeance! Honorable mention to the soft-spoken Rich Burnett from Guelph who shared the City Roots stage with me and played exquisitely on a beautiful hand-made guitar.

Out and About

Just in from hearing the “new” Sisters Euclid at the Orbit Room. The new guy is organist Mark Malana, a phenomenal player – this was the first time he played some of those tunes but you never would have known it. Kevin Breit would be hard to follow at the best of times but tonight he was giving the new kid a taste of how it’s going to be. Wild, unabashed improvisation – with Kevin taking solos by flipping his guitar backwards and rubbing the strings against his shirt opr by unplugging the guitar and making a rhythmic pattern by tapping the live plug with his thumb.  They’re only playing the Orbit on the last Monday of the month, but I plan on catching them again. Yesterday, I heard bluegrass at it’s best – James King from Virginia, with a new tenor singer/mandolinist Ron Spears who knocked me out.

If you’re my age, you might remember a folk-phenomenon called Fraser & DeBolt. They were the original “acid folk” and they came by that label honestly. I worked with them in those days and we’re still great friends  and they’ve asked me to help with the Fraser & DeBolt website – I put in a Flickr slideshow and a video of Allan and Daisy performing at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in 1971.  That reminds me, if you go to,  you will see another Flickr slideshow, this one with lots of cool old posters and promo shots. Some pretty funny (check out the Alligators, Butch Coulter, Allan Fraser and me, circa 1974)

If you’re reading this at 9am or before, tune in CIUT.FM and you’ll hear hear Harry Manx playing some new tunes live in the studio (how often does that happen??) Hey, that sounds like my guitar!

If you’d like to receive the Blainletter (and these occasional Blainblasts) go to and sign up!  Thanks for your support, BrianB

Out and About

Thursday, February 11, 2010


It’s Winterfolk week-end (a long week-end this year) and for those not glued in front of their TV watching the Olympics, the Danforth/Broadview area will be brimming with folk music lovers...and there’s quite a bit of great blues too, including moi on the following occasions...

11pm Friday at The Willow I’ll be subbing for host Howard Gladstone at the late-night Toronto City Roots Presents in the back room. Howard Gladstone will kick it off then race off to the airport or something. The guests are Rich Burnett, Crabtree & Mills and Jessica Stewart Few.

3pm at the Dora Keogh on Sunday, Valentine’s Day, I’ll be doing a set. I just started writing a Valentine’s Day song but don’t think it’ll be finished in time. It’s called “The Woman Done Left Me Come Back Baby Blues” - maybe not so appropriate for Valentine’s...

8pm Sunday evening I’ll be downstairs hosting Colorblind Brian’s Blues Campfire with Alfie Smith, Rick Hodgson, and Rick Taylor. Gary Kendall will be sitting in on bass and maybe a few surprise guests.  They also have me down at a “Meet the Artist” thang which is the same time as the Campfire so I hope you slip in to the back room if you’d like a CD signed...

3pm Monday the 15th (Family Day!) I’ll be doing a solo set downstairs at the Black Swan.

As I look over the Winterfolk Schedule, there’s so many artists I want to see...lots of them playing at the same time as me. Oh Well. Kudos to Brian Gladstone and his team of volunteers. They do a lot with few resources

And later in the month....

Thursday, February 25th I’m back at the venerable Free Times Café at 320 College. I’m on at 8:30pm followed by Hamilton slide-meister Alfie Smith

[MOATM (Music On At The Moment) Chris Rawlings classic album “Pearl River Turnaround” with lots of familiar voices (the McGarrigles) and the sweet pedal steel sounds of the dearly departed Ron Dann] They should get Chris up to Winterfolk...he lives just down the street.

What Happened to January?

I woke up on New Year's Day feeling sick as a dog (no, it wasn't because I overindulged on New year's Eve - I had a very quiet night at home). I was supposed to play at the wedding of friends Paul and Debbie but had to bail and for the next two weeks I was nursing a nasty cold that wouldn't quit. Then, just when I got back on my feet I was felled by a gall-bladder attack and missed out on the Maple Blues Awards and the Songwriters Hall of Fame event the next morning. Anyway, I'm feeling better case you were getting worried about me. My visit to the emergency ward turned a little viral at the MBAs with folks hearing that “Brian is in the hospital” and I’m still deflecting concerns for my health...I’m OK, you’re OK.

I mustered up enough strength to cast my “runes” on New Year’s Day – I try to check in with “the oracle” on auspicious days. Well, as ever, the message from the runes was “Stand Still”,  “Plant the seed and wait for the harvest”, “now is not the time for drastic action” and “wait and watch for signs of Spring”...argh, when are we gonna get the bloody harvest?

Had some great gigs at the end of the year, but what does it say about your music career when the most memorable gigs are Christmas parties in someone’s living room or sitting around the kitchen table with old musical friends? I made an appearance at the Toronto Fingerstyle soiree – I got up to do a couple of tunes and one of them was “Another Song About Alice” but when I was introducing it and referred to “Alice’s Restaurant”, there was an audible gasp in the room as they contemplated the horrible prospect that I was about to launch into that 20-minute ramble of Arlo’s. (for those who haven’t heard it, I’ve written a “where is she now” song about Alice Brock. There’s a video clip on the website.)