BLOGGING AND VLOGGING FROM CANADA'S BEST KNOWN UNDISCOVERED OLD WHITE BLUESMAN

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Blainletter #71 - Giggin' in Guelph, tryin to fix my guitar, David Gogo, Downchild, Women's Blues Revue, SOCAN rant, Jian and more

Hello to my most cherished Blainreaders. Boy these Blainletters are getting fewer and further between.  Don't mind me if this one goes on a bit.  And if I don’t get around to sending Holiday greetings, consider this my best wishes and appreciation for your support this year.

I just got in from hearing Jack De Keyzer and I have to say “It doesn’t get much better than that.” What a crack unit! They were playing at Monarchs Pub in the Eaton Chelsea and we can only hope that venue will continue with their blues nights now that booker Mike Smith has moved on (but check out their new menu – deelicious!) More on my nights out on the blues scene later, but to start I’d like to appeal to any friends and fans in the Guelph area to come out and see me next Thursday.

Thursday, December 4, 7:30-10pm - Brian Blain and Mo’ Kauffey - Magnolia CafĂ© 88 Yarmouth St, Guelph (519) 766-4663

This is a new series in a relatively new venue and I’m the first guest at the “Winter Workshops with Mo.” Please come or if you have friends in Guelph let them know. It will be me & Mo’ swapping songs and stories, playing some originals and some standards. Admission is $10.

I have to say there hasn’t been much call for my services lately, and that’s probably how it will remain as long as I’m just sitting around waiting to be invited. Last month I did a little recording with Zoe Chilco and played at a Buddhist event with jazz legend Reg Schwager and his amazing wife Kiki Misumi. Still, I’m enjoying playing guitar as much as ever and I’m never going to stop so maybe when I’m 70 (which is only a couple of years away) I might get “discovered” and included in some kind of tribute to old Canadian blues guys…




Speaking of the guitar (the same one I’ve been playing for the last 50 years) it took another fall and this time it’s going to take more than a glue job. It’s going to cost a lot to fix and I’m reaching out with a crowdfunding campaign to finance the repairs. If you hate to see a guitar go to waste, please make a donation right here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-me-put-my-guitar-back-together/wdgt/2502992





Last Friday night I was listening to the blues show on the French CBC www.icimusique.ca and I went to their website to look for a playlist from last week to find who played that phenomenal version of “It’s A Man’s World.” I had already asked a few knowledgeable friends if they knew of a new version of that song with phenomenal guitar solo that went on for 5 or 6 minutes. Nobody had any idea but now I finally find the playlist and imagine my surprise and delight when I see that it was my friend David Gogo. Not just Facebook friend, but one who has helped me out on a couple of occasions (once when I needed a mic cable and another time when I was having one of my campfire jams at the Blues Summit and there were many musicians in the house but nobody wanted to play yet, but good ole David came up and I passed him my dear old Epiphone (the one that’s now in two pieces) and we kicked it off in style.

So then I go to iTunes and buy the track but then I notice that the version on the playlist is different…so I search again and now buy the new version as well (they both sound very similar – must be the same organist). Now I have bought both versions and it occurs to me I probably have a David Gogo CD in my collection. And sure enough, I find “Live at Deer Lake,” the CD with the live version. Would you say I can’t get enough of that song? Well, click below to hear young Emily Burgess tear up a solo on Divine Brown’s version at the Women’s Blues Revue. I’m sure David would approve.



Last month I met Divine when I was the special guest in Raoul Bhaneja’s play, “Life Death and the Blues.” Here’s a clip of me and Raoul doing “Overqualified for the Blues” (at the end you hear me trying to emulate the way Divine can hold a note forever – as seen in that clip of “Man’s World.”



Jian, Jian, Jian: Everybody’s talking about Jian so I can’t resist sharing my thin connection with him. After a JUNO Awards event a few years back, I found myself walking alongside him on Front Street so I mentioned that we had met at Derek Andrews’ birthday party many years ago where we jammed together - he was playing drums and had to repeat his name to me a few times before I got it. So now as we’re walking along I ask if he would like a copy of my new CD and hand one to him. He looks down at it and says “Brian Blain. That’s a good name. I wish I had that name.” I bet he’d be glad to have a new name right about now.

Something to Celebrate: Last week I marked a milestone in my music career – I got my statement from SOCAN (they collect royalties for performances of your compositions) and for the first time in 42 years, it was not a negative balance. That’s right, all this time I’ve been paying back a $1000 advance that I received when I signed with SOCAN (then BMI Canada). Every few pennies I earned since then was deducted from my national debt until today, when I will be allowed to keep those pennies (and I do mean pennies).

Over years of management changes, mergers and many new names and logos, the one thing SOCAN never lost track of was anyone who owed them money. I wish their collections department was as proficient at finding ways to collect for performances (this statement was for performances at this time last year – a full year and this was for performances in Canada. Don’t ask how long it takes when the performances are in another country!) I just wish they could start compensating composers for every single spin. They’ve always maintained it can’t be done but they must know that eventually they will have to do it. There I go again, biting the hand that feeds me…

Out and About: Harry Manx breezed through Ontario after two back-to-back marathon tours of Australia and UK and we made our way down to Hamilton to see his show.  It was quite stellar, as always.  Steve Marriner played with him and they've done this together so much that it was second nature. I think the last time I was in Guelph was when I opened for Harry Manx (did I mention I'm playing in Guelph on Thursday?).

BrianB, Steve Marriner, Alyson MacGregor, Harry M and Lily Sazz



Earlier that week I had a nice evening at Monarch’s Pub listening to Gary Kendall’s band with some fine Gold-top guitar playing from Darren Poole and a couple of nights later I was off to the always impressive Women’s Blues Revue. Despite the unavoidable obstacles, a singer who got sick, a band member who barely made it to Toronto after being snowed in in New York State, a great show was pulled off. And most agreed it was one of the best ever. Better attended than the last couple of years – we even had a “virtual” attendee in the wings as former WBR guitarist Donna Grantis (now in tour with Prince) was Face-Timing with Shakura and the girls. There’s a photo gallery on the TBS website.

Here I am with WBR’s sexy saxist Carrie Chesnut and blues broadcasters Holger Peterson, and Julie Hill





Here's something you'll probably never see again - Canada's two pioneering blues bands, Powder Blues and Downchild, on stage together. The occasion was Downchild's 45th Anniversary. I may not have been around for the early days of the Downchild Blues Band but I've had the pleasure of attending several milestone events in their illustrious history, not to mention having their rhythm section playing on one of my CDs and having a surprise appearance by Mr Downchild himself to play harp with me on a couple of tunes at a festival appearance a long time ago.

Here I am backstage with Donnie and I should note that the guy who got me that festival gig a long time ago, "Sab" Sabourin, was sitting right behind me for the show Massey Hall last night. Sab has been fighting a battle with the big "C" and he was looking a little worse for wear but his indomitable spirit will surely pull him through. He's a full-tilt blues rocker but he saw something in my quieter approach and put in a good word for me on many occasions and I will never forget it. The Downchild celebration featured an opening set by Tom Lavin and Powder Blues, although Tom Lavin was using a local crew for this gig, some "ringers" that he picked up while he was in this part of the country. Ironically, he couldn't use his regular eastern crew because most of them happen to play with Downchild but his "B-team" was as sharp and solid as he could ever want, Tyler Yarema on keys, Tom Bona on drums and Leo Valvassori on bass - whom I hadn't seen in ages.

Leo's the guy who recorded "New Folk Blues" and we had a nice chat with Michael Fonfara - reflecting back on some of the recordings we made together including a song I wrote about Loreena McKennit. I had recorded it with the Downchild rhythm section and it was quite an epic tune, 8 minutes or so, with different sections and tempo changes (you don't get that very often in a Brian Blain composition). But alas a friend of Loreena's and her publicist, Richard Flohil, had both cautioned me that Loreena would not appreciate having her personal tragedy (the drowning of her fiancee and her subsequent abandonment of her music career) as fodder for somebody's blues song. So I shelved it before we even mixed it and just the other day I was going through an old hard-drive looking for some files and tried to find a rough mix but alas there was nothing to be found. I guess it's gone into the ether. All I remember is the chorus, "Sad Loreena, Lady Broken Heart, oh Loreena, don't put down your harp."


There were many more great musical moments at that Downchild show. Phillip Sayce cruised into town from LA to make an appearance - he came a long way to play one song but he made a big impression.
A video posted by brianblain (@brianblain) on

Phillip talked about Jeff Healey and Jeff's spirit was omnipresent in that hall last night. Tom Lavin had a great story about when he met Jeff and Jeff told him about hearing Powder Bluesat the old rotating stage at Ontario Place (his mother had taken him). Ten years later he still remembered Lavin playing some high notes that are not reachable on a standard guitar neck and he asked Lavin how he did it. Lavin told him he was bending the string on the metal pickup cover of his Gibson guitar. Jeff told him "I've been wondering for ten years how you did that!" (Jeff played a Stratocaster and it doesn't have metal pick-up covers). Also great to hear Steve Marriner and the Monkey Junk guys - I will see Steve again when he plays with Harry Manx in Hamilton later this week.

Missed a couple of great shows this week (only because I was attending othe great shows). Anthony Gomes was playing Hugh's Room at the same time as Downchild and on the Thursday night, I was a Jordan Officer CD launch and had to pass on the Harpdog Brown CD launch. When it rains, it pours!

And here's a couple more Instagram clips from this week. Jordan Officer and Alex Pangman. Both shows were a real pleasure...

A video posted by brianblain (@brianblain) on



A video posted by brianblain (@brianblain) on


















PS:http://www.mapleblues.ca  is where you go to vote for the Maple Blues Awards.Only a couple of days left.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Out and About




Here's something you'll probably never see again - Canada's two pioneering blues bands, Powder Blues and Downchild, on stage together last night at Massey Hall. The occasion was Downchild's 45th Anniversary. I may not have been around for the early days of the Downchild Blues Band but I've had the pleasure of attending several milestone events in their illustrious history, not to mention having their rhythm section playing on one of my CDs and having a surprise appearance by Mr Downchild himself to play harp with me on a couple of tunes at a festival appearance a long time ago.
Here I am backstage with Donnie and I should note that the guy who got me that festival gig a long time ago, "Sab" Sabourin, was sitting right behind me for the show Massey Hall last night. Sab has been fighting a battle with the big "C" and he was looking a little worse for wear but his indomitable spirit will surely pull him through. He's a full-tilt blues rocker but he saw something in my quieter approach and put in a good word for me on many occasions and I will never forget it. The Downchild celebration featured an opening set by Tom Lavin and Powder Blues, although Tom Lavin was using a local crew for this gig, some "ringers" that he picked up while he was in this part of the country. Ironically, he couldn't use his regular eastern crew because most of them happen to play with Downchild but his "B-team" was as sharp and solid as he could ever want, Tyler Yarema on keys, Tom Bona on drums and Leo Valvassori on bass - whom I hadn't seen in ages.

Leo's the guy who recorded "New Folk Blues" and we had a nice chat with Michael Fonfara - reflecting back on some of the recordings we made together including a song I wrote about Loreena McKennit. I had recorded it with the Downchild rhythm section and it was quite an epic tune, 8 minutes or so, with different sections and tempo changes (you don't get that very often in a Brian Blain composition). But alas a friend of Loreena's and her publicist, Richard Flohil, had both cautioned me that Loreena would not appreciate having her personal tragedy (the drowning of her fiancee and her subsequent abandonment of her music career) as fodder for somebody's blues song. So I shelved it before we even mixed it and just the other day I was going through an old hard-drive looking for some files and tried to find a rough mix but alas there was nothing to be found. I guess it's gone into the ether. All I remember is the chorus, "Sad Loreena, Lady Broken Heart, oh Loreena, don't put down your harp."


There were many more great musical moments at that Downchild show. Phillip Sayce cruised into town from LA to make an appearance - he came a long way to play one song but he made a big impression.

A video posted by brianblain (@brianblain) on


Phillip talked about Jeff Healey and Jeff's spirit was omnipresent in that hall last night. Tom Lavin had a great story about when he met Jeff and Jeff told him about hearing Powder Bluesat the old rotating stage at Ontario Place (his mother had taken him). Ten years later he still remembered Lavin playing some high notes that are not reachable on a standard guitar neck and he asked Lavin how he did it. Lavin told him he was bending the string on the metal pickup cover of his Gibson guitar. Jeff told him "I've been wondering for ten years how you did that!" (Jeff played a Stratocaster and it doesn't have metal pick-up covers). Also great to hear Steve Marriner and the Monkey Junk guys - I will see Steve again when he plays with Harry Manx in Hamilton later this week.

Missed a couple of great shows this week (only because I was attending othe great shows). Anthony Gomes was playing Hugh's Room at the same time as Downchild and on the Thursday night, I was a Jordan Officer CD launch and had to pass on the Harpdog Brown CD launch. When it rains, it pours!

And here's a couple more Instagram clips from this week. Jordan Officer and Alex Pangman. Both shows were a real pleasure...

A video posted by brianblain (@brianblain) on




A video posted by brianblain (@brianblain) on

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Ghost of Clinton's Tavern




Happy Halloween from Brian and Joel

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Brian Blain & Raoul Bhaneja - Overqualified for the Blues

Another Lefsetz Rant

...if you didn't already see it on his blog

The hardest challenge facing musicians today is getting people to listen to their new music. Awareness campaigns are a thing of the past. They make people know you've got new music, but it doesn't make them listen to it, at most it gets them to sample a few seconds of a track. Which is fine if you're not about the new music, if you've got enough old hits to power a show people want to see, but not if you're starting out or truly want people to know what you're up to.

1. YOU'RE A FULL TIME MUSICIAN

You practice every day, right? So why do you only drop new product every couple of years? Open the doors to the public, show your warts, reveal your personality. The key is to keep people engaged on a regular basis. This is a huge sea change, but the most notable one in the business today. YouTube is the medium of choice. Put up a video of you practicing, doing covers, works in progress. The key is to speak to your hard core fans, who will continue to talk about you to their buddies and will spread the word on anything truly great. And don't worry if it's not great, it just gets plowed under beneath the endless tsunami of clips posted every single day.

2. KNOW WHO YOUR FANS ARE

Selling/promoting to those who don't care is completely worthless, it's so 1980s. Everybody's so busy that if they don't have an interest in you, you won't be able to convert them via endless publicity, which is either namby-pamby whitewash or shock value quotes. Never forget you're selling your music, your only goal is to get people to check out and keep listening to your tunes, everything else is irrelevant. Fame won't put asses in the seats.

3. REACH OUT TO YOUR FANS

This is what the youngsters do so well with social media, primarily Twitter and Instagram. If you're an oldster and you want people to check out your new tunes be on social media a year in advance, a minimum of six months, revealing truth, bonding your fans to you. This is much more important and dividend paying than a story in any newspaper. The paper is one day only, tomorrow they're flogging something else, social media when done right is an ongoing conversation.

4. HONESTY

Credit to Bono for admitting U2's Apple mistake, but not only did Mr. Hewson apologize, he gave an explanation, he humanized himself, which made me feel warm about him and his band. Don't let your handlers speak for you, Guy Oseary never should have taken that victory lap. You have to stand up for yourself.

"Bono apologizes for putting U2's new album in everyone's iCloud library": http://bit.ly/1w81QPF

5. HITS

This is the most important element. You have to create a track that those who know you, that those who are interested in checking you out, will hear once and need to hear again, it's just that simple.

It's not about what radio thinks, it's not about what you think, it's about what the consumer thinks, and the consumer pays your bills.

We're all listeners, we all know what grabs us. Stop asking your friends whether they liked your new music, but how many times they listened to it. If it's once, you're toast, sorry.

Forget about radio, forget about filters. You know who your fans are. Do they want to hear the new track again and again?

Taylor Swift has embraced this paradigm, realizing how tough today's landscape has become, unfortunately she has gone lowest common denominator with "Shake If Off." You too can do this, if you know Max Martin and the usual suspects, but that does not mean you cannot do it yourself, that you cannot shoot higher. But we can only listen to one song at one time so what you cut has to have the catchiness of "Shake It Off."

No bitching. This is the story of all media today. Check out the movie business, it's either a blockbuster or it's a stiff. If you're happy with a stiff, be my guest, but you're not allowed to complain you've got no audience, that no one cares.

6. ALBUMS

Stop thinking about them and stop making them. You start with the hit, if you haven't got one, keep trying to make one. Without one, you're sunk. If you have a hit, people will want to hear more of your music, so then you can build around the hit. You can release four other tracks that are ear-pleasing but might only be listened to by fans. Then you need another hit. And know in the streaming universe, the album makes no sense. The CD allowed shuffling, the ability to play only the songs you wanted to hear from the collection, streaming doesn't even force you to buy the LP to begin with! Don't overload your audience on Spotify and its ilk, it's too confusing when someone goes to check you out. In other words, put a plethora of material on YouTube, but only the limited, authorized stuff on Spotify. You're not making albums, you're creating a body of work. Listeners don't care if you cut it yesterday or a year ago, or even five years ago. And to force people to wait for years to
overwhelm them with product is a mistake.

7. TELEVISION/EVENTS

I'm not a big Foo Fighters fan but their HBO show is a masterstroke, going with the true Tiffany network to showcase excellence without commercialism. The same show is a stiff on another network, the Foo Fighters are piggybacking on HBO's cred. And with no ads, HBO is the antithesis of the modern world. People hate the endless selling and commercialism. It burnishes your image to avoid it. But, once again, you must have hits. And, once again, a hit is something that many people want to hear over and over again, it doesn't matter if it's played on the radio or not.

8. GENRE-HOPPING

The rappers have been doing it forever, dropping in on pop songs. Today's country is yesterday's rock and roll. Want to expand your audience? Play with today's country stars, who can play, and likely are fans of your material. We're all in it together, and only the biggest of stars can go it alone.

9. NO SHORTCUTS

They leave the audience with a bad taste in their mouth. If your face is everywhere, if you force your music upon them, backlash will begin. Money and connections will get you press, but the truth is in today's music world it might be working against you. Used to be the press was tied in with radio and MTV, which everybody listened to and watched. Today, your music can be completely ignored. When your face appears in a non-genre-specific publication, trolling for fans, the readers laugh and make fun of you.

10. TAKE A JOKE

We live in hater culture. If you're going to respond at all, have not only a sense of humility, but a sense of humor. There's no need to immediately apologize, then you look like one of the TV drug addict nitwits. Stand your ground, but be three-dimensional, wink your eye.

Everywhere I go I quiz people on the new releases. Consensus is the Thom Yorke album is already over. The inane press release wherein they said there were a million downloads, was laughable, they had very few PAID downloads. This is the worst case example, where the press trumps the music.

At least U2 got to perform their song at Apple's shindig. If only it had been a hit. It was very good, but you never needed to hear it again.

As for Tom Petty, I'm a huge fan, but when he appeared in every publication known to man and exuded grumpiness in the process and came out with an album without one repeatable track, it was just sad.

That's right, your A&R man said he couldn't hear a single.

But today your A&R man is your audience. And it's not their job to listen to your new music. And chances are there is no radio single...radio, radio that counts, doesn't play your music, your single is for your fans. And your single is a repeatable track. Because no one's got time for less than great.

And we're constantly in search of great, which is how Lorde can come out of nowhere, but now, more than ever, it doesn't matter what you've done in the past, but what you've done for us lately.