Monday, January 28, 2019

Quote of the Day

from Bob Lefsetz (about Trump. of course)

"the most riveting entertainment of the twenty first century."

Thursday, January 3, 2019

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January 2019

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Happy New Year to friends, family, my beloved Blainreaders and a special hug to all the Blainbackers who sent $$ to help me record the upcoming CD.

And so much for any New Year's resolution to try to get the Blainletter out soon enough to give folks a little more notice for my gigs...the gig is TOMORROW!

We're back at the Old Mill for Year Three of the Campfire Jam. Still on the Second Saturday every month except this month where we have been bumped to Jan 5 (the first Saturday). We kick off a new year at the Old Mill with some old musical pals, Lorraine Ingle on piano, one of the first people to hire me for her band Blue Willow when I first got to Toronto in 1990, Gary Kendall, who hosted the first blues jam I ever attended in Toronto and Mark "Bird" Stafford, another long-time musical confrere playing drums & harmonica. It will be a blast.

I didn't get any details but I did get a contract to play Winterfolk this year.  I didn't do it for the last year (or two) so it will be great to get back.  Winterfolk is being held February 22-24. Before that I will be starting the big push to promote my CD with showcases at the Blues Summit (Feb 1) and the Folk Alliance Conference in Montreal on February 16th.  On Feb 10, I will be making a special appearance at my optometrist. Don't laugh, he has some great live music in his shop on Dundas West and he even has a Hammond B3 organ right there surrounded by expensive eyeglasses.

I was scheduled to start recording a month ago but I put it off because I'm still writing (and re-writing) the songs. Pretty soon I'll just have to force myself to settle on a "final".  I'll always remember David Baxter, producer of Overqualified, walking up to the stage at the CD Launch and presenting me with the CD saying, "now it's in shrink wrap and you can't change it anymore."

I don't know if this new material will have any mass appeal, but it's what I do and it's what I write. The latest tune is The Maple Blues,  a song about me grinding out the MapleBlues newsletter every month (for the last 25 years!) - and this time was a real grind with a new printer, the holidays, lots of last-minute info and the calendar software going wonky (because of the change of year).  But it's done now - and sorry about it being a little late this month. I decided to debut The Maple Blues at the Annual General Meeting of the Toronto Blues Society instead of my typical boring newsletter report and Huma, our office manager, captured it on Facebook. Check it out:

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.

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.


When we held a long-overdue tribute concert for our dearly departed Scott Cushnie, "Professor Piano"  last month, I wrote a tune about our time together.  I played it at the memorial, but I was on pretty early and most of the crowd was schmoozing in the other room... still it seemed even the folks that were in the "Great Hall" (as it's called) were not really listening.  Anyway, I guess some people were listening because a few 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 – Scott's band with Pete Traynor, Robbie Robertson and Gene MacLellan. This is a quick iPhone video I made for Ric Levenston who accompanied me on piano (you couldn't do a song about Prof without a piano!)

Oh, about my new CD...

I think I've finally settled on the tunes for the new CD, as yet untitled, and now I'm just playing them every day and have had two recording sessions so far.  It was meant to be pre-production but I think there's a couple of tracks I can work with, especially considering I announced it would be released in February...but now pushing it back to March.

A couple of the tunes from the first batch have been put aside for the moment - I was not getting the response I wanted when I played them live - and one of them, "Arrested for Stealing a Kiss" was getting a negative response from a couple of ladies before they even heard it.  I guess just the title was a turn off for some. I'll probably keep it in the repertoire, I think it's pretty funny (and innocent). It's about a guy who is rejected by his girlfriend, who happens to be a cop. The other tune might get me a "fatwa" if I don't lighten up the lyrics a bit.  Blainbackers will get a link to the audio files as I progress from demos to rough mixes to a brilliant final product.  And in case you aren't , it's never too late to become a Blainbacker by pre-ordering the CD for $25 (or more if you're inclined :-) Email me at

Out and About

I played a New Year's Eve gig for the first time in ages - playing bass with Sugar Brown at Castro's in the Beaches. Love playing with him - he lays down a good groove, especially with Michelle Josef on the drums. "Riding the One", as Paul Reddick calls it. That was a great way to bring in the New Year!  Ooops, I just realized I didn't cast my runes on New Year's.  I try to do that a few times a year on auspicious dates like New Year or Solstice.  Maybe it's not too late, but I'll bet you anything it will give me the same message as it mostly has for the last 25 years - "Do not rush into battle,"  "plant the seeds and wait for the harvest,"  "Stand still"...

I figure the Runes know something I don't know - maybe they're protecting me from myself. In any case, I've never been known to rush into anything.

Speaking of Reddick, I've dropped in to Sauce on Danforth for his Wednesday residency and he's got some heavy hitters sitting in, Steve Marriner when he's in town as well as the talented multi-instrumentalist Derek Downham, who I invited to the Campfire Jam last month and he was great to play with.  I hope we get a chance to do it again.

I dropped in to the Rex and caught a couple of sets of Dr. Nick playing some very official Chicago blues. I said to the young folks I was sitting with that this is what they would have heard if they walked into a blues bar in Chicago back in the 50s

The Ancestry DNA thing has generated lots of "probably" cousins and even closer connections but I haven't exactly jumped on the re-unification bandwagon. However, 'twas the season, so I sent out some holiday greetings via Facebook to some of the folks who have popped up in my DNA search for my birth parents - some got back to me and some didn't.

On the home front, we have our own special kind of disfunctional family.  My best ex Linda has been in TO for a record run (she's usually out of here after a month or two) but we have a lot of laughs and it's been great having some semblance of normal family dinners when Joel comes by, which he does a lot more when his mother's around.

I don't know how much music we'll be doing together now that he's embarked on  a new career - he's going to be an arborist. But he found some time over the Xmas holidays to get together with Patrick Merner, who is a brilliant young bass player - he played at the last Campfire Jam and mostly played string bass but here he is messing it up with Joel.



Thanks for reading this far.  Feel free to forward this to any friend you think might enjoy my occasional ramblings (and maybe my music, too).  If it's been forwarded to you or if you're reading this on Facebook, you can sign up to the Blainletter at

Have a great New Year!

BrianB, aka Butch, Nappy, Shaker, Two-Lane Blain, Colorblind Brian, Stringbuster, Buddha of the Blues



Saturday January 5, 7:30-10:30pm Brian's Blues Campfire Jam with Lorraine Ingle, Gary Kendall and Mark "Bird" Stafford. The Home Smith Bar at the Old Mill Toronto, 21 Old Mill Road.  No Cover ($20 min food & beverage)

Friday, February 1  8pm  The Marriott Courtyard Downtown Toronto Hotel, 475 Yonge Street Brian Blain Blues Summit 9 Industry Showcase

Saturday February 9, 7:30-10:30pm Brian's Blues Campfire Jam. The Home Smith Bar at the Old Mill Toronto, 21 Old Mill Road.  No Cover ($20 min food & beverage)

Sunday, February 10, 1-4pm  Brian Blain 

Opticionado, 2919 Dundas St W, Toronto, (416) 604-2020 (Free Admission)

Saturday, February 16  1:30am  Brian Blain 

The Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal -  Folk Alliance International Industry Showcase

February 22-24  Brian Blain 

Winterfolk Festival, Toronto (wristbands)

I call it my "living" album because it started life as a solo "live" recording with bassist George Koller and has now been "sweetened, stacked, mixed and mastered" with new instrumentation on all the songs. It starts with New Orleans marching horns from Alison Young and Colleen Allen on "Forgotten",  “Alice“ gets violin and banjo from Drew Jurecka and Tim Posgate. There's a reggae percussion workout with Trinidadian Wayne Stoute and the wonderful Michelle Josef, some sweet slide from Harry Manx on the French tune, barrelhouse piano from Toronto expat Patrick Godfrey and organ grooves galore from Australian B3 sensation Clayton Doley. "The Ghost of Clinton's Tavern" is a full-tilt electronic ambient remix by my son the DJ. 

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