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February 2021
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Hello dear friends followers and fans.  If you pre-ordered the new CD it's probably in your hot little hands by now (though I know some of you don't even have a CD player anymore) and all week I have been overwhelmed with the calls and emails of praise - it's enough to give me a big head!

So glad people are enjoying it - many reporting repeated listenings, and especially happy to hear feedback on that long instrumental meditation, including this morning from Michael Jerome Browne who plays on it and has absolutely no recollection.  Well, it was recorded in 2005....seems like a lifetime ago after this year we just went through.

I can't resist pulling a few quotes:

" I dimmed all the lights, turned off the TV, opened your CD...turned up the volume to an ideal listening level, and OH MY GOSH!  PURE ENJOYMENT!!!!"

"have been enjoying it all day . Still loving I'm not fifty anymore, not worried blues speaks to me , love the instrumental might try some stretches to it"

"The album. First off, I really enjoyed the lyrics on all the songs, and you have a great bunch of musicians!"

We will be playing this cd very often.  The musicianship is just divine!  Bravo to you. 
 
"Sounds fabulous! "

"Brilliant!"

...etc, etc, etc

My cup runneth over.  It makes what at times felt like an ordeal all worthwhile.  Folks who know me might remember that I am not crazy about the recording process and I HATE mixing! 
 
it's February and what is traditionally the most depressing time of the year.  Somehow this year I haven't even noticed – it's been kinda dark all year long. 

The sun was shining bright and I intended to take a walk but the next time I looked the sun was gone.  I did take in a little sun by doing my tai chi in the sunniest room in the house.  Doctor says I'm deficient in Vitamin D and the best source is the sun, however I have some early onset skin cancer from sun damage on my forehead so I have to choose my poison, as they say.
 
Like everybody I'm experiencing some kind of low-grade depression. Is it PTSD if you're still in the middle of the trauma?
 
Picking up the guitar last night I realized that my fingers are getting soft, callouses are fading, hardly have enough strength on my left hand to play barre chords.  Must make sure to play a little bit every day.  At least when I was streaming every Sunday, it was keeping me in shape.
 

Streaming My Life Away

The Blues Society always has a party to show our appreciation to all the volunteers and this time it was virtual, of course.  Suzie Vinnick and I played a few songs and then surprised everybody (including ourselves) with a duet on a song we co-wrote 15 or 20 years ago
I'm spending an awful lot of time watching music streaming sessions and I'm digging it. I keep discovering new artists (this week's discovery: Kyle Rowland) and when there's someone playing a style that is within my comfort zone, I get out the guitar and play along.

Lately I saw streaming from friends Suzie Vinnick, Michael Jerome Browne, Ray Bonneville and Dawn Tyler Watson with Ben Racine Band.  Then there were some legends like Anson Funderburg, playing in a living room somewhere.  Just finished watching Chris Cain singing "I'm sitting here wondering what's gonna become of me."  That would be something on the mind of every musician I know, or anyone in an enterprise, artistic or otherwise, where success is measured by the size of the crowd.
 

Read All About It

There's a nice article about the CD and some of the stories that inspired the songs on rootsmusic.ca.  Check it out, and if you'd like to hear from some of the musicians who participated, check out the replay of my zoom launch.
 

Ramblin' On

It's Black History Month and I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge all the Black History which nurtured the music that I/we love.

My earliest recollection of anything musical was as a toddler who crawled up to the stage in the lounge at a summer resort in the Townships.  It was called Le BeauSite and it was on Lake Magog.  I found myself at eye level with some stocking feet pushing on these big pedals and I could literally feel the music coming from the rotating speaker of the Leslie cabinet and when I looked up I saw a giant of a man - and he was black.  I had never seen a black person in my short life in  lily-white Sherbrooke, Quebec.  It was a lasting impression and the B3 organ is still my favourite instrument.

Black folks are still hurting after living with the short end of the stick for several generations, I'm feeling the pendulum swinging and maybe black folks, and disenfrachised people of all colours are going to see justice.  But to get to that place, the pendulum has to swing the other way and that means there will be some unpleasant effects for folks who have enjoyed the pendulum effect when it was swinging to their benefit. 

So as we wait for the pendulum to settle, some folks (white folks) might have to suffer a little whiplash.  In the music world, which has always been obsessed with "young and fresh" (no matter what colour), the short end of the stick has landed in my cohort:  Old white men who sing the blues. We are now on the margins and have to pay for the "sins of our fathers".  No special consideration for elders these days. Eventually, the pendulum will settle and we'll be back to an even playing field, but many of us won't be around to see that day.

We had it good for a long time - myself more than most, I think.  I was abandoned then adopted into a comfortable home. Never had to go hungry or fight in a war or deal with a plague (until now!).  Had good health, never broke a bone or had an operation (oh yeah, I think I got my tonsils out as a kid.) Got a modicum of education and managed to live by my wits. Was never rich but tasted the trappings on occasion, managed to see the world and get paid for it - even had a few times when I was treated like royalty - all while doing something that I loved – playing music.  And even if I wasn't playing, I was always surrounded by music and musicians.

In this new consciousness of reconciliation and reparation, me and my peers are trying to do the right thing but some of us are more fixed in our ways than others and might occasionally misstep in this new culture where you could lose your livelihood for making someone else uncomfortable.

The latest demonstration of an old white man trying to do the right thing was folk-singer John McCutcheon withdrawing his name from the list of nominees for the Artist of the Year award at the International Folk awards. You can hear his message on YouTube: 
 
He says, "To me, folk music has been diverse and participatory – and always about something greater than us….what would it look like if a 68-year old white male won "Artist of the Year" in this year of all years?"

The other nominees were a black couple, two indigenous  artists and a queer Latina. The Grammys also got a wake-up call when three of the five acts nominated for the 2021 best children's album Grammy Award are saying "no thanks." They're upset that the contenders in their category are all white. One of them, Alastair Moock, said "After this year, to have an all-white slate of nominees seemed really tone-deaf." Moock is protesting by turning down his nomination. So are fellow nominees Dog on Fleas and the Okee Dokee Brothers.

So we celebrate Black History Month with a renewed vigour, hoping that finally Black history will be as important as white history.

I remember doing Blues in the Schools presentations in previous February's and always felt it was a bit of a stretch having this old white guy who had a privileged life singing blues songs and telling blues stories to a classroom of mostly black and brown kids who didn't have a clue about blues music, or black history for that matter.  One time the teacher shut me down when she thought my graphic description of slave ships was too much for the little ones.

Not only did they not have a clue about blues music and the awful experience of slavery from which it blossomed (like the lotus flower growing out of a muddy swamp) but if they knew any black history it was more likely about Haile Selassie than Martin Luther King. Some of these kids had even experienced first-hand persecution resulting in them being refugees in our land so they were no stranger to oppression but it was not like many black kids in the US  who are descendants of slaves and victims of anti-black racism.
 

Quote of the Day

Thanks for reading this far and let's just try to get through this. Music will help.. Feel free to forward this to any friend you think might enjoy my occasional ramblings (and maybe my music, too). These bits and more are always available on my blog, www.torontobluesdiary.com.

See you out there, eventually...

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

Upcoming
Shows

Join me for another live stream TODAY at 5pm on my Facebook Page. The theme is "Songs I wrote about other musicians."  It's not something that has much mainstream appeal - sometimes it doesn't even appeal to the musicians I'm writing about...but it's how I keep myself amused.  Tune it. it will be fun.  And if you get bored, pan over to Michelle Rumball's Facebook - she's streaming at the same time, and she plays a lot longer than I do.
 

For this album, I wanted to bring attention to the water crisis that is affecting 3 billion people on the planet. "Water Song" is a pretty dark "ear movie" with a global vibe provided by Sadio Sissokho (kora) and Harry Manx (mohan veena). The haunting vocals are provided by Ruth Mathiang. "I'm Not Fifty Anymore" kicks off the album with a little tongue-in-cheek  humour and some fine harp playing from Steve Marriner.  “The Not Worried Blues (An American Dream)” and “You Are Also His Son” were recorded with Julian Fauth and Gary Kendall, Mike Fitzpatrick and Pat Carey from Downchild.  “Blues Des Cantons (Goodbye Sherbrooke)” is a leaving-home barrelhouse boogie “en francais” with David Vest pounding the 88s. Patrick Merner added some bass & synth, and Clayton Doley overdubbed some organ from his studio in Melbourne, Australia. Ken Whiteley played some lap steel on "You Are Also His Son", Jesse O'Brien added some piano and organ to "The Mother I Never Knew" and drummer Michelle Josef provides a solid backbeat throughout.  Some songs end with extended jams (because I loves to jam) and the last track is a ten-minute acoustic soundscape with Michael Jerome Browne from the last day of recording my “Overqualified For The Blues” album years ago in Montreal. I call it “Tai Chi Ten,” …because it’s just the right pace and length for my Tai Chi set, but it makes for a fine meditation even if you aren’t moving.
 
 
Track Listing
 
 
1. I’m Not Fifty Anymore  3:07
  feat. Steve Marriner
2. You Are Also His Son  4:52
  feat. Ken Whiteley
3. Blues des Cantons (Goodbye Sherbrooke)  4:22  
feat. David Vest & Clayton Doley
4. The Mother I Never Knew  3:55  
feat. Jesse O’Brien
5. Not Worried Blues (An American Dream)  3:37  
feat. Julian Fauth
& Gary Kendall, Mike Fitzpatrick and Pat Carey from Downchild
6. Water Song  5:26  
feat. Harry Manx & Sadio Sissokho
7. Tai Chi Ten  (A Meditation)  9:54  
feat. Michael Jerome Browne

mixed by Margaret Stowe at Ozworld Toronto
mastered by Harris Newman at Grey Market Mastering, Montreal
art direction Linda Turu
photography Margaret Mulligan
design Keijo Tapanainen
 
Copyright © 2021 Brian Blain, All rights reserved.


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