Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Blainletter #89

** An old tradition gets a new lease on life at the Old Mill Toronto
We're kicking off the "Second Saturday" Campfire Jams at the Old Mill this Saturday (7:30 start) with 3 generations of blues masters.  Ken Whiteley was already blues royalty in Toronto when I arrived in 1990.  Then shortly after I arrived I was hearing about a young blues band called the Sidemen who were making a big buzz.  Paul Reddick has since established himself as the unofficial "poet laureate" of the blues - and still plays a helluva harp.  Then there's Sugar Brown, who crashed onto the local blues scene a few years back with an intense sound which was a little "raw" for me in the beginning but which really grows on you with repeated listening - and downright addictive as I've had the opportunity to play with him on a few occasions.  I've also played with Paul and Ken at different times so this will be a great get-together.

Unlike the previous campfire jams in clubs, this "all-star" jam brings together the top blues players on the scene today in a great venue with a beautiful grand piano. With musicians of this caliber, it will be a jam to remember.  The Blues Campfire took a bit of a hiatus for the last couple of years but I've been lured back to present an "invitational" jam, with people getting paid!  Wow, is that radical these days.  I went from paying my guest $50 bucks when I did my Thursdays at the Tranzac, then it was complimentary beverage for the jammers at Hwy 61, until we took it to the Gladstone where jammers got nothing.

You can see why I ran out of steam. A lot of people, even some musicians, don't like the  jamming thang. It does not really fit into a career-development strategy (It's never done much for my career development but I just love to jam - especially when I get to play bass),  I remember asking a busy guitar player to jam when I first got to Toronto and he hummed and hawwed a bit and I realized that when musicians got together in this town, it was usually a "project."  But we're going to raise the ante with this series at the Old Mill - I hope we get an audience and I hope they get us.

Thanks to Winterfolk for bringing me in to do a Blues Campfire at their festival (I also got to do a solo concert which was packed and appreciative). The Winterfolk Campffire jam featured Mr. Rick, Kim Doolittle, Julian Taylor, Danny Marks and I got to meet larger-than-life bassman Jerome Tucker plus I got to jam for the first time with a bona fide Canadian Blues treasure, David Essig. David, Rick and I also did a blues fingerpicking workshop (pictured) and passed along a few tips and tricks to the many guitarists in attendance.
This was all happening the same week-end as The Folk Alliance Conference in Kansas City. I've been to Folk Alliance a few times and I caught myself wishing I was there until I realized all those folks were showcasing so they could get to play at festivals - and here I was playing a festival.  Now of course there are festivals and there are FESTIVALS but for me it's always about discovery and even at a modest local festival like Winterfolk I discovered plenty of great music and I dare say I got discovered by a few new fans myself.  Of course, most people still don't know me, which was demonstrated by the review in Cashbox which praised the Campfire Jam I hosted and said nice things about a couple of songs I sang but thought I was Mr. Rick.(one of those "good news/bad news" reviews :-)  Below is a little video montage I made of some of the acts I was able to catch. The absolute highlight for me was the hilarious Wendell Ferguson. He was cracking us up and started to single me
out with his one liners but I got him at his own game when he was declining to do a special request because he thought he'd mess up some of the chords and I shouted out "that's alright, you messed up the chords in the last tune and it was fine!."  I got a big laugh from his crowd!  Of course, he couldn't mess up any chords even if he tried (tho he does have one tune where he plays some god-awful chords - on purpose!)
I keep hearing about all the great acts I missed at Winterfolk but here 's 4 minutes of the ones I caught starting with me kicking off the Blues Campfire

** Upcoming
Saturday March 11, 7:30-10:30pm Brian's All-Star Blues Campfire Jam with Ken Whiteley, Paul Reddick and Sugar Brown  The Home Smith Bar at the Old Mill Toronto, 21 Old Mill Road.  No Cover ($20 min food & beverage)

Friday March 24, 7:30  Brian Blain & Larry Kurtz    The Edge Wine Bar 205467 Dufferin County Road 109, Orangeville   519-940-1111.  No Cover

Saturday April 8, 7:30-10:30pm Brian's All-Star Blues Campfire Jam with Manitoba Hall, Bill King and more  The Home Smith Bar at the Old Mill Toronto, 21 Old Mill Road.  No Cover ($20 min food & beverage)

Sunday April 9 4pm  Brian Blain guesting with Julian Fauth and the Big Groove rhythm section  (Gary Kendall and Mike Fitzpatrick) at the Blue Goose Tavern, 1 Blue Goose St, Etobicoke   416-255-2442