Saturday, May 22, 2010

When's that guy gonna make another record?

I get asked that once in a while - less often than "we still play your album" (or some variation thereof) but it's going to be 5 years and I've been feeling the pressure. A recording fund is in place, thanks to a couple of generous benefactors, and I've downloaded some grant applications...we'll see what happens with that! I've got a new batch of songs - well not that new anymore - and the good news is that I've been out there playing them for different audiences and with different accompaniment. I had pretty well decided to make an acoustic album and I had talked about it with some of the top bluegrass players in town, but then I did an abrupt turn and decided to make it a band album with Michelle on drums and feature the wonderful horn players Carrie Chesnutt and Colleen Allen. I had a vision of going in and recording live with the horns but then there were a lot of practical considerations, mostly that we haven't been practicing the songs with horns, there's no arrangements or charts. So then we were going to overdub the horns, and then we even talked about doing the bass after and that's when I realized that this is no way to make a blues record so I pulled the plug (at some great inconvenience to myself and others). So now I'm right back where I started, except in the process I've come out with new (bluesy) arrangements for some of the more folky tunes. I'm now back to recording alone at home and fine-tuning some of those songs. I guess it can't hurt. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brian Blain Missing

Everytime I walk into the Silver Dollar Room, the first thing I see is this picture of myself hanging in its long-standing place of honour at the end of the bar. Until last night, that is. I dropped by the Silver Dollar to hear the bluegrass guys and noticed that my portrait was missing from its spot. It wasn't replaced with anything else - there's just a big blank space where it used to be...Wot happened? They're looking into it at the Silver Dollar. Gary Kendall thinks it might have been stolen right off the wall, as were portraits of him and Donnie Walsh a while back. This feels a bit like the time I discovered a web site that was "sharing" my music for free. Part of me was kinda happy that someone out there thought it was worth stealing. Nowadays there's a lot of music you can't GIVE away...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Blainletter #28 May 10, 2010

Tomorrow’s Campfire at Highway 61 (maybe today’s by the time you read this) is my “Motherless Day” Special with the inimitable Carrie Chesnut as special guest and who knows who else will show up.  That 7-10 pm at 1620 Bayview. Every year on Mother’s Day week-end, or close to it, I like to have a special show for folks who no longer have their mother, like myself or orphans who never knew their biological mother (also like myself). Some of you may be acquainted with my tune “Enfant Choisi” which is about my adoption by the dear lady you see pictured with me in a 70s promo shot.

It’s also the only show of the year where you’ll hear me sing my “cult classic,” “Don’t Forget Your Mother”. You can hear it here: mother.mp3. We recorded three sides at those sessions in 1973 and the two othere were released on Good Noise Records, but “Don’t Forget Your Mother” was never released (for a variety of reasons).  But it was a bit of an underground favourite in Montreal in the early 70s. Everybody remembered that tune and just a few years back I ran into one of the guys who played on the session, Tom “Bones” Malone, who was in Toronto filming a Blues Brothers. I was just starting to ask him if he remembered that session and he began singing the chorus. Wow! After all those years. The drummer for the session was Jim Gordon, a first-call studio drummer in Los Angeles who had just finished touring and recording with Derek and The Dominoes. He wrote (and played) the piano part in “Layla”. He was later institutionalized for killing his mother in a schitzophrenic episode  but that’s another (hopefully unrelated) story.

The Campfire was amazing last week.  I love it when I get people to perform who have hardly ever (or never) done it. I remember when Tony Burns got up and did a couple of Delta Blues and when I commented later that I bet he didn’t do that too often he said he’s never done it (and probably never would again,  but we’re working on that). This night, Willy “A”, long standing Blues radio host on CKWR in Kitchener was in the house and when I asked innocently if he or his buddy played they had a good laugh but after the night was underway Willy said maybe he would get up and sing “Stormy Monday”. Well he nailed it, putting on a real show for the folks – at one point he was even down on one knee – and later when he was leaving the club one rowdy table would not let him leave until he performed another tune – which he did!

There will also be a special Campfire at the Toronto Blues Society’s 25th Anniversary bash at the Gladstone Hotel on Friday, May 28. I’ll be lighting up the campfire in the Art Bar starting around 7pm. Harrison Kennedy is performing in the front Room and Shakura S’Aida and Fathead are featured in the Ballroom. It will be a grand celebration. There’s also an art display, blues poetry and blues Karaoke – I’m anxious to see that! Look out if Willy “A” is in the house.

For the benefit of some folks who may not have made it out to Highway 61, I put together a few guidelines…Colorblind Blain's Campfire Credo

- Welcome to the Blues Campfire where long, self-indulgent solos are not only tolerated but welcome.

- We stick to straightforward blues so everybody can play along (unless told otherwise).

- We're not big on introductions, just pull up a chair and plug in.

- We go round-robin, taking turns playing a song or two.

- If you're playing the house guitar, please wash the BBQ sauce off your fingers first.

- Please leave us your email/website and have a drink on the house.

- We’re a very generous and accepting group, but if you play slide you better be good!

don't forget...


Colorblind Brian's Blues Campfire

7-10 PM

Highway 61 Southern BBQ

1620 Bayview


(all musicians welcome)



As part of the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival I will be performing at the Grace Tipling Hall,  203 Main St. E. Shelburne  on Sunday June 6th at 2:00 PM I will be sharing the afternoon with another Townshipper, nternationally renowned mystery writer Louise Penny who will be reading from her latest best-seller, The Brutal Telling, and I will be playing some of my Townships blues (in both official languages) Call 519-925-2600 for reservations



Had a great time playing with Jerome Godboo and Burke Carroll at the Kentucky Derby. Naaaa, we weren't in Louisville - we were playing at the Woodbine Racetrack out by Toronto airport. They take their Kentucky Derby quite seriously at Woodbine, even though people have to watch it on the big screen, but they can place their bet and feel like they're at "the track." I got a nice lapel pin with "136th Kentucky Derby." I placed my first bet ever, even though I've played numerous times at racetracks. Anyway, Linda, there was no horse with a flower in his name so I bet on the horse that had "music" in his name and he came fourth - even though he was a real long shot. We started at 11am (even though the actual Kentucky Derby main race was much later) and this was the first of 3 gigs for Burke on that day – he raced off to play at the Cameron House (this may have been some kind of "farewell concert" for the Cameron House. And later that night he had a show for Riverdale Share, a community event in my community. I played it once - I hope I get another chance! What a treat playing again with Jerome! He is an amazing harp player and a very respect-worthy person. He is also a new daddy! The next day I was playing a gig in at the  “Old Home Show” in Oakville with Larry Kurtz and boy, Larry was wailing! He can hold his own with any of them.

After the gig in Oakville, I tried to drop by the Sky Lounge to give Jerome back his tuner and thought I was taking the back way but I couldn't find it and even when I tried to backtrack to the route I used to take, I still couldn't find the damn place. And the whole time I was talking to my self and planning what to say to that club owner, who OWES ME A GIG! He was kind enough to call me personally to apologize for a double booking and that George Oliver would be doing the date...but I was supposed to get another date. Note to self: get that gig.

After resting up from the “Kentucky Derby gig”  I dropped in to the Silver Dollar for Raoul Bhaneja’s Tribute to Little Walter. I was kinda late but I liked what I heard and what a crowd they got out for that. The front and back rooms were packed. Apparently, if you didn’t have a reservation you had to sit in the back room – that’s a first! When I mentioned to one of the participants that it was a big crowd his response was that everyone had really worked this show, ie, called all their friends.  That’s the secret to filling a blues club, I guess. Have five special guests and get them all to bring their crowd. I hope it works for the Sockman on May 31 – he’s got all of Downchild (except for Donnie Walsh), David Rotundo and two very sexy, talented singers, Cheryl Lescom and his new protégée, Viviana, and oh yes, yours truly has been invited to do a number with the band. That’s at the Dollar.

At one point in the evening I heard a crash behind me and turned around to see that someone had passed out. A minute later he was back on his feet and saying he was OK and just as he was saying that, he went down again, this time knocking his head on the giant fan they have at the back of the room. Everybody, including me, was telling the staff to call 911 (even though most everybody had a cel phone in their pocket). Curious. But’s Andie Maranda did not hesitate a moment and sprung to his aid like a trained EMS person and watched over him for the next little while. Now I know the Canadian blues scene will survive with a formidable woman like that looking out for us.



Yesterday we had the first meeting of the Colorblind Blain Support Committee and we are looking at the song selection for the new CD. I have arranged a studio and engaged some of my favourite musicians so we’re committed and not looking back. I remember 5 years ago when a similar group gathered in my kitchen and as I recall were not exactly blown away with the material but it’s reassuring to see a song like “Saab Story” achieve a lot airplay and comments when it got nothing but quizzical looks as a brand new tune.  And speaking of “Saab Story,” I’m still miffed at myself for cutting out a verse because some producer thought it was too long – I always sing all the verses and if I could I would re-record it. Note to self: follow your heart.

I mentioned last time that we had a  “recording fund” , and I’ll mention it again because some of you didn’t get the last Blainletter - you can deposit directly into account 00646842698006400101 at Alterna Savings and Credit Union, Danforth Avenue. (or talk to me). And thank you for your support, even if it’s only reading these ramblings of mine.



The much anticipated Fraser and DeBolt radio documentary has a broadcast It's going to be on the program Inside The Music on CBC Radio 2 at 3 pm on Sunday May 23rd (and I think it airs again that night on Radio One at 9 pm.) Some information about the episode should appear on their blog at at some point earlier that week. And episodes of the show are posted online at once they've aired, so people will be able to hear it even if they miss the radio broadcast. I had a rather lengthy interview with the young lady who undertook this and I’ll be anxious to see how much she used. Not too much, I hope. Hopefully this will help bring some attention to a 60s folk music phenomenon that was born in Canada – and partially took shape in my living room in Hamilton -  and, after 40 years, still has fans searching for replacement albums for their worn-out vinyl (none of it was ever reissued on CD). If Fraser & DeBolt had been as popular in Canada as they were in the states, they would be regarded as Canadian folk pioneers. Instead, they are mostly ignored or forgotten in Canada, even though I remember well that they fought tough and nail to stay on their farm in the Eastern Townships when their US manager and record label were pressuring them to move to a little town none of us had ever heard of…called Woodstock.  

MOATM (Music on at the Moment): Allison Krauss and Robert Plant.  When I made the last album, I asked everyone to listen to the John Hammond album “Wicked Grin” and this time I’ll be asking them to listen to “Raising Sand.” Now last time, the only person who listened to Wicked Grin was drummer Michelle Josef, and that was probably enough to capture a bit of the vibe I was looking for.