Friday, March 1, 2013

Folk Alliance Conference Rundown

Harry Manx a video by Brian Blain on Flickr.

Missed Harry's Wednesday Showcase at Folk Alliance but luckily he played again on Friday (with a gig in Quebec City between).

Our Folk Alliance adventures began on Wednesday night, a night that was dedicated to showcasing all the Canadian Talent - all the Canadian roots record labels were showing off their favourite artists in 8 different rooms. We had a blues campfire going in one of the rooms but it was hard to compete with all the amazing music that was going on all around us. Hell, even I wanted to skip out and go see Harry Manx, but I stayed at my post and had some consolation when Harry's keyboard player Clayton Doley dropped in and got the joint jumping with some Boogie Woogie. I had my buddies Allan Fraser and Russ Kelley jamming with me then Michael Jerome Browne showed up and that was a delight. Sam Turton and Jane Lewis dropped in to lead a couple of gospel-flavoured numbers. I stepped out for a moment and saw Darcy Wickham wandering around so I lassoed him into the jam (and got him playing some bass, too). He is one of Toronto's best and busiest guitar teachers and now he's got a uke. Look out! Glen Hornblast had fun at our Winterfolk campfire and re-appeared at the Folk Alliance to sit in (his tune "Freedom Train" is destined to be a folk classic). A couple of english dudes sat in for a couple of tunes - a handsome young man who didn't play an instrument, didn't want to start a song and didn't really do blues. Still, he extemporized some lyrics on a couple of tunes and his buddy played some bass. At the end of the week-end I poked in on one of the last official showcases and saw him front and centre. His name is Sam Lee and he was one of the "not-to-be-missed" buzz acts at the Conference. Who knew?

Allan and Russ joined me the next day for a session where we got together with Sue Lothrop (who had worked with both of them) and we sang tunes that we had written back in the 60s and early 70s. I sang a couple of tunes that I had never performed in public - and announced that I probably would never sing them again, though one of the audience members (I think he was from Vermont Public Radio) shouted that they were great country songs and should be recorded. He said the same thing when he ran into me in the hallway later. There were a few people in the audience who remembered those days and others who were just thrilled to hear and meet Allan Fraser because Fraser & deBolt had been part of the soundtrack of their lives since back then. Allan and I did a couple of private showcases in a hotel room (Allan has been away from the music scene for awhile and was a little surprised at the new "pay-to-play" paradigm in the music business but we had a good time and several folks mentioned to me how thrilled they were to meet the guy who wrote "Dance Hall Girls." Allan has a new CD in the works with lots of great new material - and hopefully we'll be playing around town some more. At our last showcase (2:30 am on Saturday night - or as Allan insisted, Sunday morning) two German blues musicians dropped in and it was a delight playing with Georg Schroeter and Marc Breitfelder. Marc is an amazing harmonica player who takes Carlos' "over-blowing" technique to the next level. Hope I get to play with him again sometime (maybe in Germany…)

There was so much music to see and I'm now kicking myself that I missed some great artists, Bottine Souriante for one. I really enjoyed hearing Gurf Morlix for the first time. He's a living legend. Saw Catherine Maclellan for the first time and I can see why people are quite enamoured with her. I had seen Tony Furtado a few years ago when he was a banjo hero but he has now re-invented himself into a singer-songwriter - and great guitarist. Jim Kweskin was a howl (see clip below) and so were the Howling Brothers. Ken Whiteley was terrific, as always and I enjoyed hearing Baskery (three gorgeous gals from Sweden who really rock). It was great hearing Rose Cousins again, though I made the mistake of coughing while I was sitting next to her and she was out of there like a shot. Can't be too careful these days.

I would say my "discovery" was a couple of young guys called The Milk Carton Kids. Understated, just the way I like it, so they might slip under the radar but they are worth a listen. One memorable highlight was sitting back and listening to a long set from Judy Collins. I had never seen her live and it was quite magic. She had the whole room singing along, too, and of course just about everybody in that room was a singer. The show started with a strict advisory that no recording devices were permitted, but then after a tune where everybody had sung along in a million harmonies she said "I wish we had recorded that"…Oh well. And I got to meet and hear Del Rey, a great singer-guitarist who Daisy deBolt had always wanted me to meet and now I have. We talked a bit about Daisy, and Del said Toronto was not the same for her anymore without Daisy .