Sunday, May 31, 2020

Campfire Cameo #4

Going Live at 2pm ET even though I'm feeling kinda sad about what's going on all around us. As if the pandemic was not enough, America is burning with rage. Bad energy all around. I didn't have a theme for this Sunday and didn't have any tunes in mind but now I decided to call this Blaincast the "Funeral Edition" wherein I will play all the saddest songs I know - St James Infirmary, Wade in the Water, Born Under a Bad Sign. I've got another tune for the "Write a Song with Brian" Segment (thanks to the folks who contributed some lines to the last tunes - I'm still plugging along with them). The Campfire Cameo this month is from January 2019 with Mark Stafford and Lorraine Ingle swapping Freddy King songs. Yes, that's the legendary Gary Kendall on bass.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Multitasking on a Saturday afternoon in lockdown

I was always doing a couple of things at the same time but this is ridiculous.
At top of mind is the MapleBlues newsletter which I have to wrap up but instead I'm sitting in front of 3 screens and flipping audio on and off from a couple. On the iPhone I'm attending an online webinar at a music convention that would have been happening in California but is now online (and free). At this moment, it's about songwriting "try to go deeper none idea. Instead of moving on after you have a couple of good lines, but asking yourself "what else can I say about this?" So the whole verse says one thing.
On the computer screen I just watched the Spacex launch (success!)

And, it just ended but one of my blues heroes was just on Facebook Live. The amazing Jimmy Johnson - surprised to hear him talking about his 90th birthday. But there he was, playing tunes and hoping for a few tips so he can get his amp out of the shop.

And if I had another screen I would have been watching the riots on CNN just to see if America will self destruct before our eyes. They certainly have a head start with the shutdown and incompetent leadership

Dream of the Month

I was playing at a music festival not far out of town (maybe it was Hillside). I don't have a guitar and I have a last minute opportunity to play on the big stage. I'm running around asking anybody/everybody if I can borrow a guitar but no will lend me their guitar. I wake up thinking I'm going to have to get back to the city to get my guitar but it will probably be too late. And then I remember the time back in the early 70s at the (first) Winnipeg Folk Festival when I was playing with Fraser & DeBolt. They were about to wrap up the night with everybody on stage (probably to sing "Dance Hall Girls") and Daisy comes up to me and says Bruce (Cockburn) is going to play with us but he doesn't have his guitar so can you let him use yours because mine doesn't have a pick-up. I said no - that I wanted to play my own guitar so Bruce played hers and it was all good except I'm probably the only person on the planet who wouldn't let Bruce Cockburn play his guitar. And now it comes to me in a dream fifty years later.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Brian's Backyard Blaincast - Episode 10 Bluesgrass Edition

Edition 10 of my weekly Blaincast - we have taken it outside and this one is all acoustic - shot on the iPhone. I went through my song list and pulled out tunes that will work with a flat-pick (because my nails are shattered). That led me to some of my old tunes that have a bluegrass flavour (I call it "Bluesgrass") I kept up the "Write a Song with Brian" segment and i have a new unfinished song called "You Gotta Walk (if You Want to be Healthy)" and I'm inviting contributions for another verse or two. Thanks to those who contributed to last week's song-in-progress, "Loyal to a Fault," and it's still a "song-in-progress." And wonder of wonder, I'm presenting a brand new song, as of a couple of hours ago, called "Loreena" and of course it's in a Bluesgrass style. We close with a "Campfire Cameo" from the Old Mill with Paul Reddick, Julian Fauth and up-and-comer Gavin McLeod

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Blaincast 9 Songwriting Session + Campfire Cameo

Here's a replay of Episode 9 of the Sunday Blaincast - A Songwriting Session, an A/B test of the iPhone vs. mixer along with a couple of rarely performed oddities from the Brian Blain Songbook. I tacked on another "Campfire Cameo" - back when the Campfire Jam hit the road and played a little town called Wallaceburg.  I brought along Ken Whiteley, Paul Reddick and Julian Fauth.  For the last tune,  I brought up the promoter, John Gardiner, to sit in with us on bass.

This "songwriting session" features a couple of offbeat tunes that I never play, "The 17-Day Diet Blues" and "Arrested For Stealing a Kiss" and a Campfire Cameo with Julian Fauth, Paul Reddick and Ken Whiteley at the end. I also did a little A/B test to compare streaming with the iPhone vs a mixer. This Sunday (2pm ET) I will be exercising my flat-picking skills because my usually well-maintained nails are all broke up (whaaa, I need my nail technician!). So it's been a great opportunity to pull out some of my tunes with a bluegrass (or, in my case, "bluesgrass") flavour and last night I found a long-abandoned tune that I am re-inventing in a bluegrassy style. The tune is called "Loreena" and I recorded it back in 04 for the "Overqualified" album. Loreena McKennit had just experienced a great tragedy in her life and rumour was she was about ready to quit music. The tune was an appeal..."Loreena, Lady Broken Heart, Don't put down your Harp". It was an epic, fitting for the subject, with tempo changes and key modulations and great playing from the Downchild gang. Anyway, to make a long story short, a couple of friends of Loreena heard it and said she would be pretty upset if that came out, and I didn't want to be profiting from someone's misfortune so I never mixed it and just put it away. Years later I went looking for the rough mix and never found it. Everybody that played on it asked what the hell happened to that I said, it was Epic. But it's a lost epic. And I couldn't remember all those chords if my life depended on it. So last night I'm looking through old lyrics because I'm trying to come up with a new tune for the flat-picking edition of the Sunday Blaincast - and I come upon the lyrics for "Loreena" and I'm thinking, well, it's been 15 years, and the lyrics seem to fit nicely with this bluegrassy idea, so that's what I'm working on today and I may or may not do it on Sunday. 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Friday, May 1, 2020

Blainletter #124

May 2020
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Isolation Week 7 - Hello Blainreaders one an all (and farewell to the one who unsubscribed).  As a bona fide elder (a vulnerable elder, according to my son), I wish I had some great words of wisdom and hope in these dark times.  We may have to stay 6 feet apart but at least we're not 6 feet under.  The wonderful Dawn Tyler Watson had a great quote, "Mother Nature is giving us a time out." 

Just when I was mentioning to a fellow septuagenarian how lucky we were to slip through this lifetime in a country with a social safety net, without ever being drafted into a war, or living through a natural disaster (until now). And now I'm confident that by the time I end up in a nursing home, there will be better care for seniors and better pay for the caregivers. Maybe some positive things will come out of this. Apparently there's people in India who can see the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years. And the air quality in Los Angeles is fine now. A small silver lining in a very dark cloud. In appreciation of my lifetime of good fortune, I hope I can keep making music, bringing good cheer and nourishing hungry ears.
This Mother's Day is a double whammy in the midst of all the other stuff going on. Double because for the first time I celebrate BOTH my mothers. For the last ten years or so, every Mother's Day I've put on a special show which I called my "Motherless Day Blues Concert". Had some great guests, Harrison Kennedy, Clayton Doley, Chris Caddell, Jesse O'Brien and I remember one "ladies night" with Roberta Hunt, Alison Young and Carrie Chesnutt.  Of course I would always perform the song about my adoption, "Enfant Choisi"  as well as my 1973 cult classic "Don't Forget Your Mother".

Well, since then, there's been a new development (and a new song).  Through Ancestry DNA, I have come to know my birth mother, even though she is passed away, and I have even more reason to celebrate Mother's Day. Now I've got two mothers, and a couple more sisters and more cousins and nephews some of whom may be reading this and enjoying my tunes.
Like so many (ok, every) musician on the planet, my plans for getting some new music out to the world have been totally disrupted.  The kick-off to my album release (dare I call it "strategy?) was the release of the single "Water Song" on International Water Day, March 22.  Well whatever splash I might have made was derailed by a more urgent crisis - though there will still be a water crisis for 3 billion people even after we get through the covid crisis.

It will be a new world after this and perhaps a new collective consciousness that we are all in this together.  I heard a young native woman from the far north talking in a "zoom circle" today and she said "The world needs to look to the indigenous people to guide us through these times" and I think that would be good advice for our world leaders. The First Nations people know a lot about survival in hard times and they have a world view that the rest of us could learn from.

Anyway, back to the album, it would have been released this Sunday, Mother's Day but since we can't get it out right now,  I decided to put out another single for the occasion.  "The Mother I Never Knew" is a brand new song, written after the album was recorded, but I stopped the presses to include it. I had just discovered my birth mother through Ancestry DNA (yes, I was adopted ) and my new relatives had so many wonderful stories about her that this song practically wrote itself.
I had put aside my "guilty pleasure", all that loopy electronica stuff, but with all this time on my hands, I've been sucked back in and just today I discovered a project called "Endless" which is a new paradigm for music making.  It's an iPad app that you can make interesting music with but you can also jam with collaborators across the net in real time and those of you who know me will know that I'm all about jamming :-)  I miss it. 
I'll be doing more electronica under the moniker "Stringbuster" but for the moment I'm trying to stay focused on getting this album out before Judgement Day.

Blaincast #7 - Goin' Country

wherein you will hear my take on some country/blues/bluegrass classics as well as playing both parts in my rarely performed boy-girl duet, "If You Marry a Musician (You'll make a wreck out of your life)"  and I share the kernel of a new song - a riff and a first verse...and an interesting story. It wasn't even 24 hours old. I call it "Press Secretary Blues" and it's dedicated to President Trump's new Press Secretary who made her first appearance at the podium last week. We end this Blaincast with a couple of tunes from the Campfire Jam" at the Old Mill, Toronto featuring Lance  Anderson, Rick Taylor and Jerome Godboo.

These Blaincasts have provided the opportunity to play tunes I would never otherwise play but for the Mother's Day Edition, I'll be playing songs from the new album. Please join me at 2pm Sunday and 2pm every Sunday on Facebook Live. Some folks have missed these Blaincasts because they're not on Facebook but you can see replays on YouTube or here on my blog.

Remembering The Prof

As I write this, I'm seeing lots of Facebook posts reminding us that today is/was Scott Cushnie's Birthday. He was a "national treasure" and a barrelhouse piano man.  I played with him many times and it was an education.  I wrote a song about him too - I played it on episode 3 of my self-isolated Blaincast  if you care to hear it.

In and About (formerly Out and About)

I've been seeing lots more great blues and roots music on different streams. Can't Stop The Blues, National Arts Centre, Blues Radio International have got a lot of programming. Suzie Vinnick, Sue Foley and many others are doing regular streaming. Tedeschi-Trucks, Joe Bonamassa and others have been posting great concert footage in lieu of FB Live, which can be a bit of a crapshoot for audio quality. Look up your favourite artists and take in some "live" music. It's mostly free and truth be told, it means more to an an artists to get a Share or a Subscribe than a couple of bucks (in the case of YouTube, it means the artist might even get a share of the advertising revenue.

Maybe next time I'll compile a list of favourite streams (everybody's doing it) For now, I think I'll just end this edition of the Blainletter by saying Stay Safe and we'll see you on the other side

Quote of the Day

"Anything more than four chords is just showing off"
- Woody Guthrie
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). These clips and more are always available on my blog,

See you out there, eventually...

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


On Mothers' Day Sunday May 10 at 2pm I'll be doing my regular Sunday Blaincast and this is when we would have been having a big launch party with special guests but as it turned out, I'll be on the FaceBook Live

Previous Blaincasts have always had a "theme" but this is the launch of the second single from the new album, so I'll be playing mostly tunes from the new album. If you haven't heard "Water Song" yet, here it is on Bandcamp to listen/buy and there's a great video on YouTube

If you enjoy the Blaincast, please Share, Subscribe and/or tip! It's all a big help. Special thanks to the folks below for contributing to the recording project

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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