Sunday, January 19, 2020

Laurie Anderson Tai Chi

Who knew Lou Reed was a serious Tai Chi player. His widow Laurie Anderson gave a short demonstration at here phenomenal show at Koerner Hall in Toronto, January 18, 2020

Saturday, January 18, 2020

My day at BeKind Festival

Here's a 5 minute highlight reel of my night at the brand new Speak Music BeKind Festival. In order of appearance, Conor Gains, Maggie and Mr. Rogers w/Don Rooke, Shi Wisdom, Simone Morris, Chloe Watkinson with my discovery of the night, Mip, trumpeter Mike Field's Quintet, Ori Dagan, Tia Brazda and Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar with fill-in guitarist Steve Marriner who did a bang-up job (you can take that boy anywhere).

The Festival continues through the weekend and I hope more folks make it out despite the weather. I would be back but I'm seeing Laurie Anderson tonight and Ken Whiteley's Gospel Brunch tomorrow. I was a last-minute fill-in as MC on the main stage and I feel like I have to add a new self-deprecating moniker to my sig – (barely)managing editor, absentee listmom, intermittent IT guy and now, absent-minded MC. In previous MC gigs (usually last-minute fill-in) I have been known to leave out a sponsor or mispronounce an artist name. This time I was AWOL at the wrong time (mesmerized by the silky lap steel of Don Rooke) then I mispronounce Shi (should have been "shy"…I said "chai"). Then the last intro I had to do was Samantha Martin and I had a great story of how I met her and I'm sitting right by the stage waiting for them to finish their line check and then I'm joined by Rob Bowman, who is Sam's manager and biggest fan so I'm thinking I should let Tob do the intro – he's so good at this – but I've got this great story I want to share…but then Sam just dives right in and starts the set so…never mind.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Brian Blain House Concert Dec 29 Set 1

For the folks who missed this on Facebook Live, I've given a crop and trim to the first set. It starts with 3 tunes from the forthcoming CD and ends with an interesting medley of "Enfant Choisi", the song I wrote twenty years ago about the circumstances of my adoption and a two-day-old song called "The Mother I Never Knew" which I wrote because I knew some new cousins would be coming to meet me (thanks to Ancestry DNA) and I wanted to commemorate my birth mother in song, and from what I hear, she was a lady worth commemorating.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Blainletter 119 Old Mill w/Terry Wilkins, Mike Daley and Geoff Daye | On Customer Service | New Family Follow Up | Out and About

January 2020
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Happy new year to my beloved Blainreaders wherever you are. I don't spend a lot of time looking back...several friends thought 2019 was a pretty bad year. I can't say it was bad for me.  Can't complain, as they say. And there have been a couple of things that suggest 2020 might be a big year. A new CD…that award...even my runes were mostly encouraging:-).  So as long as there's not a World War III, I'm hoping to skate through 2020 without too much flack.  I wish us all a peaceful, joyful 2020.
The first Campfire Jam of the year/decade will be with the esteemed professor (Dr.) Mike Daley and Uncle Bass himself, Terry Wilkins. Geoff Daye will be rocking out on the Yamaha Grand. We shall have a grand old time
On Sunday the 9th of February (5-7pm) I'm guesting at Max Layton's "Songs & Poems" matinee at the Tranzac. There's always some interesting musicians sitting in.
At the end of February it's time for Winterfolk who will be releasing their schedule shortly. I'm on there along with Jack de Keyzer, Mr Rick, Alfie Smith and of course the irrepressible Danny Marks.

Family Follow Up

Blainreaders have been following my ancestry search and I've given a few updates but I had the great pleasure of meeting some new cousins last weekend - they came out to my (sold-out) house concert last week. What a delight. And for the occasion, I wrote a new song called "The mother I never knew".  I had been corresponding with two new sisters and a cousin who is a 90-year old nun who regaled me with stories about my birth mother and it was easy to put together a few verses about that amazing lady.  I did a Facebook Live video of the first set and so far over 300 folks have viewed it. Had some nice comments, too. I've trimmed and cropped that clip and put it up on YouTube so you can see it here.

For the folks who missed this on Facebook Live, the set starts with 3 tunes from the forthcoming CD  (yes, yes, it's coming along fine and so is the video) and ends with an interesting medley of "Enfant Choisi", the song I wrote twenty years ago about the circumstances of my adoption and a song that was just two days old called "The Mother I Never Knew" which I wrote because I knew some new cousins would be coming to meet me (thanks to Ancestry DNA) and I wanted to commemorate my birth mother in song, and from what I hear, she was a lady worth commemorating.

On Customer Service

I noticed that the frets were poking out a little bit on my new resonator guitar and I got out a file and then thought better of it and brought the guitar up to the 12th Fret guitar Repair Dept. I had to wait for quite a while while the tech was going over a rather low-end Epiphone electric for a young woman who was probably a beginner and explaining what was wrong with it. I think he might have adjusted the truss rod or something but when he was done she asked him how much she owed the tech said no charge and she was quite flabbergasted but I was not. On many occasions those guys have done a quick fix on one of my guitars for me and waved it off. We are so lucky in this town to have musician-friendly music shops like 12th Fret and Long & McQuade. 

On the other hand, after all these years working for the TD Jazz Festival I finally came around to joining all my colleagues and start banking at TD.  And to top it off they had a special introductory offer for new customers who set up 2 automatic bill payments and one auto-deposit. There was a lot of paperwork to be done but I got it all done but apparently I did not do it fast enough because when I checked with the branch it would appear that I had not met all the conditions as the deadline approached and when I asked for a little consideration from the manager all he could say was "good luck".  I'm still waiting to see how this is resolved but I was not feeling much an effort at customer service.  And we didn't get off to a very good start either. The first deposit I made was from a gig and when I went to withdraw money to pay the band and there was a "hold" on the funds. That was a big inconvenience. I blamed myself for using an ATM and made sure to make the next deposit in person at the branch and still they told me there would be a hold on this cheque too...Yikes. Nobody told me this when I signed all those papers but I'm sure it was there in the small print.  So even though TD  is very music-friendly with all the festivals they support, they weren't very friendly to this musician. I'm just glad I didn't close the BMO account. 

RIP Nick Blagona

Facebook has been blowing up with tributes and memories of renown recording engineer Nick Blagona who passd away last week. I was relating to a mutual friend about the song I recorded with Nick in the early 70s at Andre Perry's Montreal Studio (before they moved to Morin Heights) and she thought I should post it - that Nick would get a kick out of it. Well, it's a bit late but I'm posting it now for anyone who'd like to hear Nick firing on all cylinders. I started reading a long interview with Nick where he quotes his mentor Roy Thomas Baker, "anything worth doing is worth over-doing" and here's a tune that is a good example of that theory. Nick had just arrived from UK and this might have been his first job back in Canada. The song is called "Don't Forget Your Mother" and if you search my blog ( you'll find many interesting stories and references.  Here's a comment I got on my Facebook post from Bob Segarini whose band, The Wackers, were recording in the same studio and whose life was dramatically altered that day:
Bob wrote: "You recording this in Montreal introduced me to Nick and 3 long term friendships that continue to this day. I love this song and all the stories that go with it. 
Seems like yesterday, Brian, which makes it even more difficult to believe that Nick is gone.
All my best to you and yours, old friend. next time we run into each other, let's tip one back for one of our favourite people and a hell of an engineer."

More Mem'ries

My friend Gerry showed up to lunch the other day with a couple of old High School yearbooks from our alma mater in Sherbrooke, St Pat's High School.  I took a couple of snaps of some of the pages (you'd think I'd have a copy of my own considering I was the EDITOR!).  This one is precious.  Probably taken around 1962-63.  It was a class trip to New York City and what you see is me and a couple of buddies gazing out at "The Big Apple" for the first time.  Then I remember Father Brault took us to Greenwich Village, which was like Mecca for this aspiring folksinger (I had not discovered the blues yet, I was still into Peter, Paul and Mary)

Out and About

I got to hear Jimmy Bowskill ripping it up at Terry Wilkins' Saturday afternoon residency at the Rex and that boy never ceases to amaze me.  Every solo he took became an event.  Even a couple of blues standards that might be considered a little "banal" came to life with Jimmy's magic. I shouldn't call him a "boy" anymore, and he lost the "Little Jimmy" moniker a long time ago but I still remember the 11 year-old kid jamming with a young drummer about the same age at one of Gary Kendall's residencies at a pub in north Toronto.  Gary had called me and said "you've got to see these kids - it would be a good item for the newsletter"  so I made my way up there and ran a picture in the newsletter and I guess it was shortly after that that Jeff Healey "officially" discovered him. Not sure what happened to the young drummer but Jimmy has been forging a great career with nowhere to go but up.

And we'll finish off with a clip of Raoul Bhaneja guesting at Gary Kendall's Sunday Afternoon matinee at Alleycatz.  I dropped in to get a little preview because Raoul was to be my guest at the Old Mill Campfire Jam the following week.  Man, it sounded so tight with Gary and Mike Fitzpatrick - a solid rhythm section and Darren Gallen was playing some mighty fine blues guitar. 
That Alleycatz gig was also the Blues Society Christmas Party and Volunteer Appreciation and we had a great time.  I even danced a bit.  The next week was another Xmas blues bash – put on by Ross Robinson who brings a lot of Blues shows to Hugh's Room.  He brought in an American group, The Ghost Town Blues Band and they were the house band with several special guests including Paul DesLauriers and his new wife, Annika Chambers (who, by the way, was just nominated for a Blues Award from the Blues Foundation alongside a couple of great Canadian blueswomen, Sue Foley and Dawn Tyler Watson)
I captured a few tunes on the iPhone and later tried to cop a few licks from Darren so I would be more prepared to play with Raoul but in the end, he did different tunes at the Campfire…mostly because we don't have drums.  But this tune in particular, "Everything Gonna Be Allright" by Muddy Waters is a guitar lick that I've been trying to master ever since I started playing blues.  I guess you could say it's "deceptively simple."
Thanks for reading this far.   As I write this there's a shooting war starting up in the Middle East. I hope for 2020 we can keep are heads down and avoid all the craziness that's going on south of the border.  See you at the Maple Blues Awards, February 3 at Koerner Hall - if you don't have your tickets, get them now because it will sell out.

Feel free to forward this to any friend you think might enjoy my occasional ramblings (and maybe my music, too). These clips and more are always available on my blog,

See you out there, 

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


Saturday January 11 7:30-10:30pm Brian's Blues Campfire Jam - "Second Saturdays" at The Home Smith Bar at the Old Mill Toronto. Special guests Terry Wilkins, Mike Daley and Geoff Daye. 9 Old Mill Road.  No Cover ($20 min food & beverage)

Saturday February 8 7:30-10:30pm Brian's Blues Campfire Jam - "Second Saturdays" at The Home Smith Bar at the Old Mill Toronto.  9 Old Mill Road.  No Cover ($20 min food & beverage)

Sunday February 9  (5-7pm) guesting at Max Layton's "Songs & Poems" matinee at the Tranzac. 

February 21-23, 2020  Winterfolk Festival, The Tranzac, 292 Brunswick.  

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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