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June 2022
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My first night out for live music since the pandemic (not quite, I also attended the first half of the Women's Blues Revue in November).  Took a walk through the park where we could already hear the distinctive wail of Paul's harmonica from the patio at Sauce. Left to Right, Michael Theodore, Kyle Ferguson, Harry Manx, Paul Reddick, Brian Blain. Photo by Dive Dave Dive

Happy Canada Day!

Well Blainreaders, I'm up to my old tricks again, sending this out on the last day of the month… 
 
It's still the June Blainletter! And guess what? There's a GIG to announce – I will be playing the Kitchener Blues Festival on August 6 & 7.  You won't find me in the programme – I'm a last-minute addition – thanks to the Blues Summit last week (even though I wasn't an official showcaser).  And the festival want me to bring my electronica alter-ego, The Stringbuster, so I'm getting that rig out of the covid mothballs.  Should be interesting.
 
So now I really have to get back in shape and get out there making music right away. Whether it's with Stringbuster or the old light-hearted Brian Blain show we all remember, I'm reaching out to my network (you) to see if we might get a house concert happening on short notice.  Any takers?
 
I've been woodshedding through the pandemic with this Ableton software – that's the software that makes beats and loops and amazing sounds.  I've been beta-testing their new version and I use it quite differently than most of the young sound designers and DJs.

Company Comes Calling

My little shotgun shack has been bustling with activity this month. I've had some old friends hanging out with me – sharing stories and swapping songs.  Russ Kelley came from Ottawa and Allan Fraser flew in from Nova Scotia.  So nice to hang out with childhood friends who formed my musical family.

Then Harry Manx was here for the Blues Summit and gave me a lesson in how to harden nails – and I'm going to need hard nails if I start doing gigs again. And I got to demonstrate my first attempt at open tunings (after playing guitar for 50 years!)
 
While Harry was here we walked up Monarch Park to the Danforth where Paul Reddick (aka Zeke Pippin) was playing at Sauce on Danforth. How sweet it was sitting back in an Adirondack chair (albeit a plastic re-creation) listening to Paul in a trio setting with his fellow Sideman Kyle Ferguson and Michael Theodore on piano also covering the bass with his solid left hand.  Here's a taste
 
I haven't been to Sauce since pre-pandemic.  Amazing that this little neighbourhood bar survived through this shitstorm. I believe the owner had to abandon his other bar down the street but it's great he kept Sauce going and after this I guess it now qualifies as a Toronto institution.

Now looking forward to a visit from my new nephew and his family at the end of the month.
 

Summit Showcasers

The showcases at the Summit were top-notch. I wanted to capture some video as I have in the past but I just caught the end of a couple on the first night and then I decided I would just capture the last few choruses of a song from the rest of them – a song is only as good as its ending (I don't know – I just made that up!) Here's a ten-minute clip of 20 bands' endings.

The Maple Blues Awards gala which followed was a fantastic evening and how nice to see old friends in person after years.  There were some moving speeches, one from Shakura S'Aida with some food for thought and Steve Marriner dedicated his harmonica win to the dearly departed Harpdog Brown and Alison Young dedicated her win to her long-time mentor Big Rude Jake who just passed away a week ago.
 
My highlights were performances by Colin Linden and Sue Foley, both at the top of their game and establishing a strong presence stateside. The lobby jam was going full tilt but I didn't stick around.  I wore a mask and avoided the crowd.
 

On Social media

Last week, I had a FaceBook friend request from somebody I didn't know and this time instead of ignoring it, I checked out the person and she was a very interesting woman with posts that I would find interesting but ever since I got on FaceBook I never friended anybody I hadn't met (with a couple of exceptions). 
 
After thinking about it a bit, I figure I'm going to make another exception and accept this friend request, and maybe rethink my (non)response for friend requests from people I don't know. But, wouldn't you know it, when I finally decided I'm gonna friend her, she had withdrawn the friend request and of course I can't remember her name. 
 
Too bad – she probably heard my music and reached out and what does she get??? No response.  Once I responded to a similar friend request by directing them to my "fan page" and I think they were insulted…so that doesn't really work.
 
I still don't know what to do about this. I guess I'm not very good at "fan engagement", which nowadays is considered the most important aspect in one's "career development."  Yikes – I've been shooting myself in the foot!
 
 

4 Tips for better nutrition (and no recipes)

Stolen from Sadhguru, the Indian sage who is on a global mission to revivitalize the soil all across the world.  None of these tips involve what you're eating but rather how you eat:
1- Two meals a day
2- touch the food before you eat it (or at least try to see if you feel the energy coming off it)
3 – take a moment for gratitude for the food you're about to eat (call it "grace" if you wish) and finally
4 – pay attention to how your body reacts to the food you just ate.  Did it energize you or did make you want to take a nap?
 
 
I guess I'll leave it at that.  I spent an afternoon writing a big long commentary about white people who love the blues and how can we be sure we acknowledge where this music came from – a lot of pain and suffering!  I was trying to respond to what my old friend Diana Braithwaite talked about in her Keynote Address at the Blues Summit – and it was also the topic of Madeleine Peyroux's Keynote Address at the Folk Alliance Conference. It's a hot topic and when why my level-headed son read my tome he just shook his head and said it's not my place to be going on about anything remotely racial and he's probably right.  That's what his mother would have said. The last time I got a bit political, one of my regular Blainreaders (you know who you are :-) wrote "I guess you've joined the baby-killers."  Yikes!
 
Wishing everyone a great summer.  It's been great to hear music outdoors and the Jazzfest is on until Sunday.  Check out the setup at "The Grove" (University and Charles). What a beautiful setting for Live Music.  And Saturday (3pm) at the Cumberland stage you can hear six up-and-coming blues artists (yes, they're all white) at the Toronto Blues Society's Talent Search Finals. I'm a little late to the party but I'll say it now – It's so great to be back to live, in-person, music.  Get out and support live music. We need you more than ever.

See you out there (eventually)

Thanks for reading this far. I see that the Blainletter gets opened by hundreds of people but not sure how many read through it. But I always seem to hear from someone or other that they enjoyed it and that's what keeps me going. 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

Shows

August 6 & 7 - Kitchener Blues Festival
Stringbuster  blues/electronica mash-up with special guest DJ

 

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 © 2022 Brian Blain, All rights reserved.


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