June 2019
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Warm summer greetings to my beloved blainreaders! It's festival season, of course, and I hope you'll all get out to a festival or two this summer and experience that great feeling of being showered with music by one great band after another.  My first festival outing was Orangeville on June 1 and we did two plays on the Saturday – that was a bit of a workout for this old guy but thanks to Patrick Merner (aka Cool Richie) he not only played some brilliant bass but did most of the heavy lifting and made sure I didn't get a heart attack moving all that gear.
Patrick will be joining me again at the Old Mill this Saturday Night, along with Michelle Josef on drums and a bluesician I've never played with – James Anthony, guesting on guitar. I've heard the buzz about James for years from many musician friends, but he rarely plays in Toronto and I had never met him until I saw him playing on the street at the Southside Shuffle last year and I asked my friend Mark to introduce me because I really liked what I heard.  I look forward to jamming with him and wrapping up our third season at the Old Mill with a bang!
I have to mention that as I was writing this, I had the Raptors game on the iPad.  You couldn't escape the fever.  Not a lot of gigs coming up but especially looking forward to playing the Kitchener Blues Festival this year. We're playing Sunday Afternoon, August 11 at 12:30 in the BIA tent, right after the Gospel Breakfast. 
I tell people all the time that I may be retired but that's only from the "hustle." I'm happy to play anytime I'm invited, and that usually adds up to 2 or 3 gigs a month.  A lesser man might be discouraged but whenever I start wondering what the hell am I doing, a little sign appears to remind me why I'm still doing this. This time it was a older couple sitting in the café where I was playing for Orangeville Blues and Jazz festival – and at the end of my set, I asked the small but appreciative crowd if they had any requests.  The gentleman asked for "Enfant Choisi" but I had to decline.  I would have messed it up.  Then they asked for another tune – from a different album. I was a little taken aback when the said they had both my recent albums and if I had a new one they would buy it, but, alas, it's still in the works… And last month I got a great compliment from the bar manager as we were packing up. He said, "I was so glad when I saw it was you playing tonight because only Brian Blain could fill this place on a holiday long-week-end."  Now I should be able to take that to the bank…
I won't be playing the Toronto Jazz Festival but I will once again emcee the Toronto Blues Society Talent Search which is happening on Saturday, June 29 from 4pm-8pm at the Hazelton Stage on Hazelton Avenue in Yorkville. And yes, I still work for the jazz festival and today I was adjusting sponsor logos on the jazz website, as well as dealing with the Blues Society newsletter, dealing with ads that did not print well in the MapleBlues (sorry, Dog) and getting the MapleBlues content over to Dan McKinnon who loads it up on the website and other chores but really… "I'd Rather Be Playing Guitar." In fact,I think that's what I'm going to call the new album! Which brings me to the…

Recording Update

That's Michelle Josef in her drum lair at Oz Land studios (with Margaret Stowe at the board). And in my home studio I've been doing some vocals on a couple of tunes.  I've borrowed and rented some different microphones and trying to find one that loves my voice.  I'm going to have to go ahead and say it's not "love at first sight" but we're getting some good sounds.  And I'm so excited to have a new guitar, a parlour-size steel-bodied resonator guitar which will be prominently featured on the new album. We've got bed tracks done for 5 tunes – only a couple of overdubs to go. And I guess we'll leave it at five because we're running out of $$$ - and trying to keep some aside to make sure that album gets a proper release with at least a little promotion.  And I'm still messing around in the wonderful world of electronica (my "guilty pleasure" for many years now) and still intent on exploring it further on my upcoming recording – though I'm now considering having a separate version of the CD (much like I did with New Folk Blues and New Folk Blues 2.0). One version would have the extended jams and synth sounds and the other would be stripped down and edited to leave a pretty traditional blues sound (as traditional as Brian Blain can get).
Below you see me with Pat Carey, L. Stu Young and Gary Kendall doing horn overdubs at Loudmouse Studios and on the right is Cool Richie at Studio B playing a radical new instrument called a roli. It's sort of a keyboard but responds to pressure in every direction - sounds amazing.

Out and About

Where in the Sam Hill is Steve Hill?  Sunday night I made my way across town to Hugh's Room where I expected to see Steve Hill.  When I saw the place was closed, I had that sick feeling that I had published the wrong date in the MapleBlues newsletter but when I checked, there it was, right on the back page in the Hugh's Room ad.  This is what social media is for – telling people about last minute changes or cancellations.  But alas, not a peep from the venue or the artist. Steve is a huge draw in Quebec, but Toronto has always been a hard nut to crack – even for an artist who has what Joel calls "the wow factor."
Anyway I got my "wow" moment when I heard a couple of tunes by Garrett Mason on  a break from my show at the lovely Fromage café in Orangeville. Everytime I've heard him (not enough) he has blown me away.  A couple of days later I was off to hear David Rotundo doing his annual show at Hugh's Room. His fans were out in force and he got a standing ovation. I shot an amazing video clip of David climbing up on the narrow railing right in front of me while blowing an amazing harp solo on a wireless mic, but the video is so dark, you can hardly make it out.  I'm still using an older iPhone but when I get the next one, it will make sure it functions in low-light.  Then we have one of my oldest musical buddies, Russ Kelley, who was in town to release a CD called the "Afro-Metis Constitution" A fascinating project, you can read about it here
I brought Russ along to Toronto Island for the Blues Society birthday party where we enjoyed Paul Reddick and Kyle Ferguson in a beautiful outdoor setting – you can get a taste in my mini-montage below.  Earlier in the week there was a fundraising event for the Blues Society where I performed (it was the first public appearance for my brand new parlour-size steel-bodied resonator guitar). It sounded fine (I'm told) and has been appropriately baptized by a spilt beer knocked over by one of our regular dancers – who is probably reading this (you know who you are!) No footage of me, regrettably, and the only picture I've seen was taken by Jim Casson, the drummer, so all you see is my back.  If anybody out there has a picture of me and my new guitar, please share with me.

a few clips from some of the shows I saw this month. Garrett Mason, David Rotundo, Russ Kelley and Paul Reddick. Read all about it on my blog
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). Every couple of days I get a notification that someone has just subscribed to the Blainletter - I don't recognize any of those emails and I don't know where they're coming from, but a hearty welcome to you.
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See you out there, 

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


Saturday June 15, 7:30-10:30pm Brian's Blues Campfire Jam featuring STRINGBUSTER w/Cool Richie and special guest James Anthony. The Home Smith Bar at the Old Mill Toronto, 21 Old Mill Road.  No Cover ($20 min food & beverage)

Saturday June 29, 4-8pm  Hosting the Toronto Blues Society Talent Search Finals at the Toronto Jazz Festival Hazleton Stage

Sunday August 11, 12:30pm  BIA Stage at the Kitchener Blues Festival

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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