Wednesday, December 12, 2018

On finding listeners

It's always such a lift for me when somebody comes up and quotes some of my lyrics that they found memorable or amusing.  It happened the other day and the fellow quoted some lines from "Bulletproof", my song about Kathi MacDonald…"A floor-length leather coat and stilettos is a bad combination"…He loved that image but I often wondered if people were listening to the words when I was singing tunes about my colleagues or the state of the world or whatever. 

A couple of nights ago I played a tune I wrote especially for the Scott Cushnie Celebration.  I was on pretty early and most of the crowd was schmoozing in the other room but it seemed even the folks that were in the "Great Hall" (as it's called) were not really listening.  And I had written this tune about Scott and my time with him but…  Anyway, some people were listening because they made a special effort to come out and tell me they liked the tune…and then as I was packing up, one guy came up and said he played in the band I was singing about –with Pete Traynor, Robbie Robertson and Scott.

So I've come to accept that even if it's only one or two people who hear your song (and listen to the lyrics), it's worth the effort.  Others might have enjoyed it as a groovy tune, or danced to it.  I must admit it's not too often that lyrics jump out at me as I listen to others' music, but that doesn't lessen my enjoyment. But I feel for the guy who wrote the words.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Blainletter #107 | Campfire Jam at the Old Mill this SATURDAY | Celebrating Scott Cushnie MONDAY at the Great Hall | Out and About | and...Here Comes Santa Claus

Well I hate to be the first one getting festive, but this is probably the last Blainletter before the holidays, so…Holiday Greetings to all my Blainreaders. There's been a flurry of subscriptions and I have no idea how they came about – I certainly haven't been very pro-active rounding up subscribers/fans/followers! Anyway, welcome to our exclusive little (now 400+) group who are interested to one degree or another in what I've been up to – as well as all the scandalous gossip I pass along :-)

I love this town.  I've got an interesting group joining me for the Old Mill Campfire Jam THIS SATURDAY (Dec 8, 7:30-10:30).  Julian Fauth will be at the piano – I think he was with me on my first gig at the Old Mill, and I'm happy to report they have asked me to continue with my "Second Saturdays" for the new year, though January will be an exception and it will be on the first Saturday, January 5.

On guitar, I've invited Derek Downham who I've never played with and hardly met but I've heard him play (mostly drums – but he's one of those multi-talented, multi-instrumentalists) and last night I dropped in on his regular Wednesday gig with Paul Reddick at Sauce on the Danforth to say hello.  They were making some heavy music with Paul, Steve Marriner and Michael Theodore. I thought I might hear a tune or two of Derek's but alas, he was happily drumming.

The night before I dropped in on Julian at the same bar thinking I might get a preview of what he would be doing at the Campfire but the only song Julian sang was a special request that I don't think he would bring out at the jam.  Too many chords. I did a couple of my tunes and there were many more players in the circle including a very young Japanese piano player who did a competent version of the "Maple Leaf Rag" as well as "Take Five."

I've been starting to invite some younger players to the campfire and it's always a thrill for them to jam with us "old-timers."  This time I've got  Patrick Merner on bass and he is one of the most inventive musicians you'll ever hear.  You'll hear sounds like you never heard out of a bass!

On the recording front, I've been recording demos of the new songs in my basement studio and getting comfortable with them…tweaking the lyrics, eliminating a couple and writing a couple more to replace them, but everything is unfolding as it should.  I'm not going to run off to Bora Bora with that crowdfunding money:-)

I played a great gig with Julian last month in a beautiful century-old theatre in a little town called Wallaceburg.  It was an All-Star Campfire Jam with Paul Reddick and Ken Whiteley with Michelle Josef on drums.  I should have called it a "Legends Campfire" when you consider the accomplishments of these three.  The audience loved it and we all had a great time.  I was riding with Michelle and Julian when we passed a sign for "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (yes, it's in Canada) so we pulled over and took a peek.  We set off an alarm trying to get close up but we did manage a selfie...

On Monday (Dec 10), there will be an all-day, all-night celebration of the life of Scott Cushnie, Professor Piano at the Great Hall at Queen & Dovercourt.  Lots of his old bandmates will be performing including yours truly.  I even wrote a tune for the occasion and maybe, just maybe, I will include it on the forthcoming album.  I just did a quick iPhone video to pass to Dr. Ric who will be playing some barrelhouse piano with me. Check it out and try to come by the Great Hall on Monday.

Here's a little taste of the performances by Sarah Harmer, Jason Collett and Doug Paisley performing songs from the "Al Purdy Songbook" just out on Borealis Records and packaged with a DVD of Brian Johnson’s 2015 documentary, “Al Purdy Was Here." They have put out a beautiful package honouring the legendary Canadian poet Al Purdy, with musical performances and readings by Bruce Cockburn, Margaret Atwood, Greg Keelor and Leonard Cohen among others.

More Out and About

As I look through my computer I'm finding more great video clips from November but I think this will be enough for now.  I did get some feedback that people weren't really watching everything I was putting up in the last Blainletter (there were a lot of video clips) so maybe I'll go easy on you this time. Suffice to say I heard some great organ playing at my optometrist (you heard me right).  Opticionado on Dundas West hosts regular music events right in the shop (I'll be playing there on February 10th) and this month it was an organ showdown with 2 B3 Hammond's battling face-to-face with the B3 elite of Toronto, John T. Davis, Kingsley Etienne, Lance Anderson, Bernie Senensky and Denis Keldie. Last week I saw harmonica virtuoso Carlos del Junco at Hugh's then went down the road apiece to catch a bit of Bad Luck Woman at the Local and they had the place jumping and here's an Algerian guy playing some funky instrument

And then there's all the great shows I didn't make it to….Rob Lutes for one.  Oh well, next year…yes, it's just around the corner.  Hope you send off 2018 with a big bang and we'll see you out there,