Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Pierre Kwenders at Folk Alliance 2019

Kwenders has become a favourite of the folk crowd and it encourages me to pursue more electronica in my blues.  If he can do it here and Mellisande [electrotrad] can do it for Quebecois music, then it shows that people will buy in as long as it remains musical.

Eric Anderson singing "Thirsty Boots" at Folk Alliance 2019

Ken Whiteley's Sprit Connection

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Rob Lutes

Mike Biggar from New Brunswick

Mélisande [Electrotrad]

Day One at the Folk Alliance

I wasn't even out of Toronto before I got lost. At Union Station, which I haven't seen since the big reno, I got totally lost as I was making my way back to the Departures from a Tim Horton's. Then I saw a young gal with a guitar on her back and just followed her. I knew where she was going!

After a long train ride (but so glad I wasn't driving) I arrived in Montreal for the Folk Alliance Conference where 2 or 3 thousand earnest folkies gather for a love-in. How appropriate that it's taking place on the 50th anniversary of John & Yoko's Bed-In For Peace - in the same hotel, the grande old Queen Elizabeth - now totally remodelled. Due to a mix-up with my reservation I was upgraded to a suite. Nice! The elevator only stops on this floor if you swipe your room key. Exclusive!

I took in the Folk Awards show where I heard some beautiful words from Buffy Sainte-Marie (and got to tell her), a tune from Bill Bourne and Madagascar Slim (Tri-Continental minus Lester Quitzau who who was stranded by the storm - many more were also MIA. Melisande [Electrotrad] also played a tune - they've been incorporating some electronica into their Quebecois routine of step dancing and fiddles and they haven't been run out of town yet. In fact, they've become "darlings" of the trad scene.

But after the Awards I kinda crashed in my room. Woke up at 1:30am - at which point I missed the song-swap in Margo Parks' room where I was going to do a tune or two...oh well, I'll be playing in that room on Saturday night.

Anyway where else can you hear world-class music at this hour? At 2am I venture down to the music floors where I caught some blues from Mike Biggar and some grooves from Rob Lutes. Not a big audience at 2:30am on a Wednesday but I enjoyed both. Rob did a tribute to guitarist Joseph Spence with some spectacular picking. Still I wondered if I would use up my precious twenty minutes with two instrumentals and one that required a big re-tuning. And some pretty long spoken introductions. But the overall impression was very good so I shouldn't be trying to tell Rob what he's doing wrong. He's a great artist

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Blainletter 109

Blainletter #109 | Campfire Jam Saturday at the Old Mill | Winterfolkin | Blues Summit Highlights

February 2019

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Hello Blainreaders!  I'm writing as I gaze out onto a nasty ice-storm that has paralyzed my street and a lot of Southern Ontario. Most of the folks who were in Toronto for the Blues Summit conference and Maple Blues Awards have made their way back to their home turf (and they got out of town just in time). Thanks to all of you who took a moment to comment on the Blainletter (mostly asking how come there hasn't been one recently :-) but I try to get one out every month, especially if I have a gig to promote. Every few days I get a notification that someone has subscribed. I don't know where they heard about it and it's never a name I recognize. The most recent is from a guy at a furnace company so rest assured next time I need a furnace I'll be calling you!

This Saturday at the Old Mill Campfire Jam I welcome Chris Murphy, who signs off every message "I'm a Happy Guy" and he's also a very "Busy Guy" in his hometown of London. He's a fabulous sax player as well as vocalist, frontman, bandleader, festival organizer and a big part of the London blues scene for many years. If you were at the Maple Blues Awards, he was the guy honkin' on the baritone sax. And I've asked bass player/MIDI magician Patrick Merner to come back again.

The day after, Sunday February from 1-4, I will be doing a free show at a unique venue, Opticionado – a high-end optician on Dundas West.  He has music events every month and it's always a lot of fun with free snacks and libations.

I'm in Montreal from February 13-17 for the International Folk Alliance Conference.  Imagine a couple of thousand earnest young folksingers taking over the Queen Elizabeth Hotel on the 50th Anniversary of John & Yoko's "Give Peace a Chance" bed-in. All conference attendees and all our folk friends around the world will join in a live-streaming performance of “Give Peace a Chance” from their own beds on Saturday, February 16th at 9:30 am ET. Watch for it on Facebook Live  HASHTAG #GiveFOLKaChance.

Then at the end of the month it's the Winterfolk festival (Feb 24 & 25) where I'm participating in 3 workshops and doing a concert set at the Black Swan at 5pm Saturday (the 24th).

I'm hoping Patrick will be along for some of these gigs. He's a great bass player and then some…We played together at the Blues Summit showcase (along with Michelle Josef on drums) and he got a lot of notice from our showcase where we pulled out all the stops and fired up the laptops & loopers for the last tune. I wish more people had heard our set but we were the first band in the programme and half the crowd was still partying at the opening reception – and those who did come in to the showcase hall were still in schmoozing mode so there was a lot of chatter in the background.  At the end of my set I did suggest to the crowd that people came a long way to hear these artists and it would be great if they took their conversations into the hallway. Several people told me they were annoyed by the chatter and one presenter even said, "I wish more artists had the courage to admonish their audience like that." 

Oooops, did I just admonish all my potential employers? Yeah that sounds like a typical Brian Blain career suicide move. I was already taking a risk pulling out the MIDI stuff at a blues showcase, but it paid off when I got booked on the spot (with a time slot) at the best blues festival in Ontario. I am reminded of all the times I have encouraged new showcasers that even if there's only one person listening, he might be the producer of a festival you want to play (and he was!)

It's hard to list all the highlights from this action packed week-end but beyond the music it was such a pleasure to catch up with Stephen Barry and even had a nice lunch with Harry Manx before he crashed exhausted from some intense bad-weather touring in Quebec (but Harry, the intrepid road-warrior that he is, is back there now doing more of the same).  Harry & Steve Marriner gave a stellar performance at the Maple Blues Awards gala. Sue Foley's guitar playing just keeps getting better and better and I love it (we are both big fans of Gatemouth Brown) but the guitar player who really caught my ear was the guy Lindsay Beaver brought up from Austin, Brad Stivers. He's got a great touch.

There was a sweet moment when teen-age showcaser Gavin McLeod got to play a set in front of his guitar hero, Matt Andersen, who was sitting right up front

It was wonderful to see the return of Tri-Continental and was happy to see my buds Madagascar Slim and Bill Bourne renewing their project with Lester Quitzau.

The Summit even featured a bona-fide rock star, Myles Goodwyn. I got to tell Myles about the time I was on tour opening for April Wine and abrubtly quit the tour when I had enough of people shouting "A-PRIL-WINE-A-PRIL-WINE" throughout my set (he didn't remember any of this).  I remember because his manager Donald K. Donald had done a lot for me and was more than a bit upset about me bailing. It was one of those "you'll-never-work-in-this-town-again" moments. And I never did - still can't get a gig in Quebec, but maybe that will change – I made some good contacts at the Summit.

There were some interesting panel discussions during the day but I had to miss the one I had suggested (on musicians' hearing loss) because I had a spur-of-the-moment recording session with David Vest, who was only available that day – the day of the Awards (and as editor of the newsletter, I already knew he was going to win so I had to make sure I didn't let the cat out of the bag). He must have wondered about me – asking a piano player from Alabama if he can sound like a Cape Breton fiddle accompanist… Which brings me to the subject of…

My New CD

I've been meaning to send an update to all my Indiegogo contributors but I think most of you are on this list…so here's an update. As you probably noticed, the CD isn't done yet, but the good news is that it's started. I've had a couple of sessions and I'll be posting a link to a Soundcloud where you can follow the development of the songs. Still doing a little lyric tweaking on a couple but there will be another session or two before I head off to Montreal for the Folk Alliance Conference. I will be doing a couple of private showcases and I've been invited to play in the "official" blues jam, which is taking place on Thursday night – the same night as the Toronto Blues Society showcase.  So there will be lots of blues on Thursday and probably not much for the rest of the week-end. I keep reciting the mantra: "Blues is Folk Music" but I'm sure there's some folk purists who would not accept electric blues (not to mention the electronic blues that I'm bringing forth).Here's a little montage of some of the showcasing artists at the Summit this year:

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

That's all she wrote, 

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



Saturday February 9, 7:30-10:30pm Brian's Blues Campfire Jam with Chris Murphy, Patrick Merner and more. 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)

Friday & Saturday, February 15 &16  1:30am  Brian Blain  The Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal -  Folk Alliance International Industry Showcase

February 22-24  Brian Blain 

Winterfolk Festival, Toronto (wristbands)

Saturday March 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)


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. 

Copyright © 2019 Brian Blain, All rights reserved.

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