WINTER BLUES NEWS
Jan. 14, 2019
I'm a little late, but Happy New Year! I wish you all the best, and look forward to playing for you in 2019!! Last year ended off in style with a fun "Bluesy Christmas" show at Hugh's Room. Thanks to promoter Ross Robinson for putting this one together. One of the highlights for me was an impromptu harp trade-off with Monkey Junk's Steve Marriner. I was glad somebody captured this on video and here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwl6_fqyb7g This video got over 2,000 views when it was first posted on Facebook! I've since posted it to Youtube.
Back in November I went into the studio with producer/bassist Alec Fraser, piano man Lance Anderson and drummer Chuck Keeping. We played "live-off-the floor" over two days and recorded 13 songs, 12 of which will be included on the new disc. It was fun and loose in the studio, and these guys rocked! As an added bonus, it was a treat to have my old pal Morgan Davis drop by and play on a track.
After New Years, I was back in Toronto for an afternoon with Alec while we added some harmony vocals to finish off the recording. I left the session feeling quite happy with it and I look forward to hearing the mixes, which I'll get in a week or two. Watch for an early spring release. I will keep you posted.
Last newsletter, I asked for some album title ideas, and I want to thank those of you that took the time to send them to me. There were some really great suggestions, and I'm hanging on to them for possible consideration later down the line. However, after hearing all the songs together, I came up with the album title "Northern Bayou". It seems to suggest the gumbo-like mix of blues, roots and R&B that this Canadian boy is offering up for you, and it also evokes the place where I've been living for the past ten years.
Things don't get terribly busy until April for me, but there's still lots going on. Rehearsals start for the Maple Blues Awards this week as I play in the house band. Further ahead, lots of tour dates are already confirmed, and I feel this will be another busy year for me. There will be lots of Ontario dates, and I would love it if I could make my way to the east coast. I've put some feelers out so we'll see what happens there. Later this summer I'll be playing in BC and Alberta. Stay tuned...
DECEMBER BLUES NEWS
It has been a wonderful year, playing lots of high profile shows and festivals across the country. Now that winter is here, my touring schedule slows down considerably; I'm not a big fan of long drives through lousy winter conditions! I've done so much driving to and from gigs, I actually welcome a little time off. This has given me the opportunity to finish off some new songs and gear up to making a new album. I also have a couple people looking to record at my home studio, so while you may not see me out playing as much this season, I will be keeping busy in a slightly different musical capacity. On top of that, rehearsals will start soon for the Maple Blues Awards, and there is always a monumental amount of material to learn for this show. There are still a handful of shows to play before the year ends. Check my schedule here.
NEW ALBUM STARTS PRODUCTION
Last week I went into Toronto's E-Room studio with Alec Fraser producing and playing electric bass, Lance Anderson on piano & organ, and drummer Chuck Keeping, who is now a member of the alt-rock band Big Wreck. Not only are these great musicians, they are also great friends. We had a lot of fun laying down these songs. I had never played them with a band before and they came together very quickly. Thanks to my wife Dania, we were well fed as we wined and dined between takes. Twisting the dials on the console was Grammy Award winning recording engineer Peter Moore. We recorded more than an album's worth of songs "live off the floor" in only two days, and I am very pleased with the results. As an added bonus, my pal Morgan Davis dropped by the studio and played guitar on a rockin' instrumental we called "Delta Stomp". Great performances all around, and a sonically pleasing album. To sweeten the pot, there's still a few overdubs to add, which is always kinda fun to do. Those will probably get done over the next week or so before Alec starts mixing. Expect a late March release date. In 2019 I will be touring in support of this recording. I already have a August tour of BC and Alberta in place with lots more to come.
HELP ME NAME THIS ALBUM!
I've yet to come up with a title for the upcoming album, so if you have any ideas, please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the words "Album Title" in the subject box. If I end up using your suggestion, I will mail you the new CD upon it's release. A short, one, two or three word title would be best.
LATE SUMMER BLUES NEWS
So far, it's been a busy summer full of amazing gigs! I am recently back from a cross-Canada solo tour that went incredibly well. The highlight would have to be the Vancouver Island Music Festival. Besides my own solo slot there, which I'm happy to say received a standing ovation, it was a treat to be involved in several "workshop stage" performances. These are where musicians playing at the fest share a stage and jam songs together. It was a thrill to trade licks with Senegal's Elage Diouf, play Lebonese influenced music with Lamia Yared et Ensemble Zaman, rootsy country with BC's Duck Creak and Ontario's Gabrielle Goulet.
Pictured above is a workshop stage that included former Bob Dylan/Levon Helm guitarist Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, NYC based band Western Centuries, Mississippi bluesman Terry Harmonica Bean, and Montreal folkie Rob Lutes. I was also honoured that my friend Shakura S'Aida invited me up for the final two songs of her Saturday night closing show that also boasted Sacred Steel's Chuck Campbell laying down some cool grooves on pedal steel guitar. Lots of music industry people were there as well, and I am excited that I have been invited to perform at another major western festival next August. More on that at a later date. A big thanks to artistic director Doug Cox for staging this wonderful festival!
There's lots of great gigs coming up. Check the "SHOWS" section often!
A BEAUTIFUL GIFT AS SUMMER IS IN FULL SWING!
Since moving out to the country nine years ago, I have been sitting in with some folks at the Havelock Town Hall most Wednesday afternoons. They play old time country music and fiddle tunes. They are warm, friendly people and it is always fun to hang out and sing some songs that I don't normally do in my shows. I was totally blown away last week when one of the jammers, Murray Henderson, presented my with a brand new 12 string guitar! He said he had never seen me play a 12 string and thought I should have one. It is a really nice guitar, hand-made in Canada with a cedar top, cherry body and mahogany neck. I will cherish it forever, not only as a fine instrument, but as a testament to how kind the people are around here. No doubt this baby will end up on a song or two on my next album!
Summer is in full swing and I have just returned from instructing at the Shared Harvest Harmonica Retreat, a three day harmonica workshop in Dunnville, Ontario. It was an amazing weekend with students coming from all corners of the globe. It was a treat to hang with everybody including the other instructors Joe Filisko, Roly Platt, Jerome Godboo and Carlos Del Junco. Andrew Zajac was also on hand, and I learned quite a bit from him about repairing harmonicas.
I am about to head out on a two week cross country tour. I'll be performing three shows a day on the VIA Rail train from Toronto to Vancouver. Once there, I play the Vancouver Island Music Fest for three days where other artists include Ry Cooder, Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, Arlo Guthrie and many more. After that, it's a house concert presented by the White Rock Blues Society, then a concert at Wise Hall in Vancouver. I fly home on July 18th, play a couple of Ontario dates, then take two weeks off for vacation. As much as I love playing, I look forward to spending some downtime with my wife and enjoying life here at home on the river!
Gigs and touring always slow down in the winter months, but now that spring is here my calendar is brimming lots of great gigs. I've got theatre shows, house concerts, festivals, guest spots, plus a whole lot more!
The songwriting muse has been kind lately and I plan to include many newly written songs in my upcoming tour dates. I also hope to record a new album later in the fall, so stay tuned on that news. I hope you can make it out when I'm playing close by. Check the SHOWS section to see where I'm gigging near you.
HARD CORE HARP!
I am incredibly happy that Electro-Fi Records will include a track of mine on a new album slated for a fall release that celebrate's the label's 20th Anniversary. The album will be called Hard Core Harp and will feature tracks by Snooky Pryor, Billy Boy Arnold, Paul Oscher, Mark Hummel, George "Harmonica" Smith, James Harman, Harmonica Shah, Little Mack Simmons, Sam Myers and more. I am in some pretty stellar blues company here. My track, "Liquified Boogie", is an improvised harmonica instrumental I cut a few years back with The Juke Joint Rockers, which featured Grammy winner and long-time Muddy Waters drummer Willie Big Eyes Smith, along with Chicago stalwarts Bob Stroger and Little Frank; Jack DeKeyzer, Kenny Blues Boss Wayne, John Mays, Alec Fraser and Michael Fonfara. That was such a fun session which I co-produced with Alec Fraser. A big heartfelt thanks to Andrew Galloway at Electro-Fi for including me on this compilation, and to Andrew Kempa who initially hired me onto the Juke Joint Rockers album project. Once the disc is released, I'll have some copies available for sale at my shows.
I was honoured to receive a recognition award for "Leadership In Arts & Culture", presented by the County Of Peterborough. It's been a very busy summer so far and I was glad I was able to attend the award ceremony. A few weeks later I got this certificate in the mail from the government of Canada. Sweet!!
SLOW BURN MAKES "TOP ALBUMS OF THE YEAR" WORLDWIDE
The Roots Music Report just released the world-wide list of the Top 200 Blues Albums Of The Year. I'm pleased to report my "Slow Burn" disc made the year end list, sitting at #54. The number one album was "Let Me Get By" by the Tedeschi Trucks Band, which is a fave of mine too. "Slow Burn" managed a spot on the charts every week (except for one) since it's June 2016 release. It had previously reached as high as #4. The RMR list is based on world-wide radio play, so it's nice to see this collection of songs is reaching a lot of listeners. I'm grateful to all the DJs that have played it and to folks like you that have bought it. So far, I have sent mail-order purchases to Canada, USA, Europe, The Netherlands, Australia and South America.
TOPS IN 2016
I just learned that my Slow Burn CD made the Top 40 for 2016 on "Inside The Blues", heard Saturdays - Noon to 1 pm ET on BLUES RADIO CANADA www.BluesRadioCanada.com - repeated Mon, Wed, Fridays noon to 1 pm and Sundays - 7 to 8 pm ET on DAWG FM Ottawa www.dawgfm.com - repeated Monday mornings from 8-9 am and Friday afternoons from 2-3 pm. Thank you James Doran!