Thursday, December 9, 2010

That Was The Year That Was

Three weeks (busy ones) left in 2010, and my new year has been made brighter by my acceptance at the Zihuatanejo International Guitar Festival in Mexico March 8-13 (an event I played in 2007 and very much enjoyed) . This has been a good year, even though I've toured only in Canada's 3 Western Provinces (except for an impromptu performance at a friend's hacienda south of Puerto Vallarta). Playing festivals with David Lindley, Little Feat, and others, and re-connecting with friends including Bryan Bowers and Paul Pigat (only a few among the many), and playing a ton of gigs solo, with my band (The Electro-Fires) and with friends Little Miss Higgins and Foy Taylor have all made the year pass in a happy blur. The re-release of my "live" solo disc "Evenings Among Friends", with a brilliant re-mastering by Dave Horrocks at Infinite Wave, and the release of my "When I Was A Cowboy" disc were both highlights as well.

In the next week I will finish recording and mixing a cd for songwriter Paul Saks, play CBC Radio's Homestretch program on the 16th, play three nights at the Blues Can here in Calgary and three (27-28-29) at Rusty Reed's House of Blues in Edmonton, plus the Saturday Blues Can Jams and Mikey's Juke Joint on Tuesdays. For 2011, I've confirmed the Filberg Festival (Comox BC), Islands Folk Fest (Duncan BC) Northern Lights Folk Club (Edmonton), and many more. There are at least four tentative summer festivals, and one for the autumn as well (confirmed).

Stay warm and hold close to you the people you cherish as the old year passes and the new one dawns, and keep on listenin'.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Goin' Where Them Chilly Winds Don't Blow

The middle of November and Calgary braces for its' first taste of autumn/winter weather. Cooling off and snow in the forecast. The gigs have (for the most part) been going so well I am deeply humbled...thanks to everyone who came out to share in the music. My gig at the Nickelodeon Folk Club here in town Saturday night was the stuff dreams are made of...John Reischman and the Jaybirds remind me of why I play music, and what it can be when you take away ego and flash, leaving only chops and commitment. Summer festivals are trickling in, as are the instructional camps, mostly from B.C. That's fine, the only summer I enjoyed this year was while touring out that way.

Home for most of the rest of the year, with gigs at the Blues Can, CBC Calgary's "Homestretch" show, Rusty Reed's House Of Blues (Edmonton) and my usual Tuesday solo spot at Mikey's Juke Joint. There will be more shows announced shortly, plus several more summer festivals/guitar camps, so keep on checking in !

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

October 27 (where did the year go ?)

I passed, of all things, what appears to be a Christmas Tree lot setting up for operation four days before Halloween. I appreciate that times are tough (believe me, I get it) but really, don't you think we should wait until the plastic skulls are packed away and the rotting pumpkins are composted (one hopes) ? A busy month. Release gigs for two cds I played on, gigs at Mikey's Juke Joint (solo every Tuesday plus a Saturday night with the 5-piece Electro-Fires), Saturday jams plus a solo gig at the new Blues Can, and one-nighters in High River and the Crowsnest Pass. I just had a re-order yesterday for the "When I Was A Cowboy" cd (from and have begun the annual grind of applying for next year's far I only have the Filberg Festival in Comox (Vancouver Island) for August long week-end. The re-released disc "Evenings Among Friends" is selling well at gigs (boy, do I miss Festival Distribution) and should be up on in the next few days.

If anyone had told me a year ago that Calgary would elect a liberal, Harvard educated, brown-skinned Muslim for mayor, while Toronto elected a boob who looks like Chris Farley and acts like an extreme satire of Ralph Klein on steroids, I would have called for an ambulance with restraints to take you back to the institution you'd so clearly escaped from. I now hope city council can stop their bickering ways and unite behind him, and that the populace doesn't expect a miracle in sixty days like so many former Obama supporters did.

I'm enjoying staying put for awhile, although I'm planning two tours of B.C. and one each of Northern Saskatchewan and Northern Alberta/B.C. in the new year. Still no word on the new blues mandolin dvd from, but how much longer can it be ? Surely by summer. Stay warm as the weather gets colder...many of the places I play get quite warm (they serve beer and cocktails to counterbalance that). Hope to see you at a gig soon !

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Falling Into Autumn

October got off to a crazy start for me with two gigs on the 2nd...the inaugural jam at the Blues Can, Calgary's newest blues venue in the old Ironwood space in Inglewood, where the place looked great and there were a slew of familiar faces, and Mikey's Juke Joint for the release (vinyl !) of Erin Ross's new recording. Tomorrow I drive south to Crowsnest Pass for a gig at the beautiful Blackbird Cafe, a former Catholic church with great acoustics, great food, and a great staff, in the town of Coleman. Early start on that show (7 pm). Tuesday is my usual solo gig at Mikey's, and Wednesday night I'll be putting in an appearance at the Ironwood Stage & Grill open stage.

I'm enjoying playing my newest acquisition, a trade, a lovely little Aria electric mandolin. This one is very nicely built with extremely nice pick-up and hardware, and will save me beating up Old Buckwheat, the all-birch Stella mando from the '20s which is now an acoustic-gig-only instrument (I'll still plug it in, but it won't be lying around on cluttered stages or having the crap beat out of it in loud rooms).

For the immediate future I'm hosting the Saturday afternoon blues jam at The Blues Can, Calgary's newest Blues venue on 9th Avenue in Inglewood. I'll also be doing my usual Tuesday solo gig at Mikey's, along with two private functions, an appearance as sideman with Little Miss Higgins and Foy Taylor at the Bow Valley Music Club on the 16th (a great double-bill with Ray Bonneville...if that one's not sold out don't miss it) and a gig with the five-piece Electro-Fires at Carlson's On Macleod in High River on the 22nd. Coming up in November is a gig at the Nickelodeon Folk Club with the brilliant John Reischman and the Jaybirds, one of the best bluegrass bands out there, led by one of the best mandolinists anywhere. I have a soft spot for the Nick because it was the first of Calgary's several folk clubs to give me a job, and I've played there so many times over the years with so many great acts (shows with Tom Russell and Ian Matthews spring immediately to mind).

I find myself wishing I could vote in Calgary's upcoming mayoral election, because I think if enough people cu through their apathy to check out Naheed Nenshi, they'll see there is (finally) a real alternative to "business as usual" at City Hall, with all of us paying to keep the land developers rich and busy. MacIvor is a back room boy so dishonest he can't even look a camera in the eye, and Barb Higgins reads the news...if you think media celebrities make good politicians (Ralph Klein, Arnold Schwartzenegger, or my favorite, Ronald Reagan) then what are you doing reading this ? Enough...just look at their platforms (or the lack thereof) and do what your brain tells you to.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2010

The leaves are turning, while the flowers are still in bloom. That doesn't usually happen here in the foothills of the Rockies, and the colours make up in small part for what a shitty summer we've had. Only weather-wise...musically the season was great, with fun shows at a number of festivals and clubs. Last night's show was the Rocky Mountain Folk Club, and it was great. A big audience for the inaugural show of their 2010-11 season, lots of music and laughter. Tonight's gig is at Mikey's Juke Joint, home of my weekly Tuesday solo gig when I'm not touring. I'm joined by my Electro-Fires rhythm section (Suitcase James on bass and Kevin Belzner on drums) and Mike Clark on tenor sax fo an evening of electric/eclectic roots & blues, kicking off at 9 pm.

So, as I mentioned on Facebook, if the "Reverend" Terry Cook thinks he can ignore the parts of the constitution he disagrees with (freedom of religion is very carefully and specifically protected) then he shouldn't have a problem with anyone else doing the same...telling him to shut the fuck up (1st Amendment) and taking away his guns (a fanatical "christian" minister from Florida ? I'd be amazed if he didn't own a few under the mis-applied 2nd amendment). And if he really wants to live in a country with essentially one religion and basically no separation of church and state, I know just the place for him...IRAN.

Next week is a quiet one, Tuesday at Mikey's and a fund-raiser for the Alberta Wildlife Association on Saturday (Red & White Room at McMahon Stadium).

Monday, August 23, 2010

Still A Month From Autumn

If, like me, you are driven crazy by talking heads who start moaning on June 1st "Where's Summer ?", you probably are smart enough to know that seasons change by the solstices and equinoxes, not by the school calendar and the advertising schedules of shopping malls etc. That being said, with approximately a month until Autumn, man it feels autumnal out there. Here's hoping for a nice September/October !

A big thanks to everyone at Rusty Reed's House of Blues (management, staff, and the kick-ass house band) and everybody who came down to see the show. Saturday night was exceptional fun - the band was on fire, the house was full, and numerous musicians in town for the Labatts Edmonton Blues Festival dropped by. "Hurricane" Dave Hoerl and Brandon Issaks of Hurricane and the Twisters, Steve Kozak and Roger Brandt all sat in and numerous local and traveling musicians sent the good vibes to the stage. The new club is great, with a menu to match. Although next time I either want a higher stage or my own "dancing Drunks" police (I took a microphone to the head both nights).

Got up on 5 hours sleep to make my afternoon gig in Calgary, only to be held up for AN HOUR in downtown Edmonton by runners for a marathon. I reached the booker for the venue (Parkland Community Association) and he decided between the shitty weather and my likely delay we should cancel. However, Parkland is planning some events over the coming Autumn so look for a re-booking there.

This week it's Mikey's Juke Joint solo on Tuesday night, Mount Royal College for a guitar clinic on Wednesday afternoon, the Ironwood Stage & Grill on Friday (wih Suitcase and Kevin on bass & drums and accordionist Howard "Schmengie" Chapman. I'm waiting for one license from CBC to send the re-master of "Evenings Among Friends" (a "live" solo disc) for manufacture, so stay tuned for a "re-release party."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Turning A Page

Last night at Mikey's Juke Joint was a total blast ! Thanks to John and Oli from the land down under for the opening set, and thanks to buddy Bryan Bowers for joining me ( sans autoharp) on a version of "Po' Lazarus"...he hung out at my gig before getting up at 6 a.m. on his birthday to go hiking in the Rockies. Speaking of birthdays, I want to thank all the well-wishers for the outpouring of birthday greetings last week; it was truly great. One of the many non-negotiable percs of being a roots artist is the sense that time doesn't run out on you and you can keep doing what you do. No messy hair-pieces or dye-jobs, and no oldies packages in casinos (thank the stars).

The rest of this week is busy, with a private function on Thursday, two nights at old pal Rusty Reed's House of Blues (Edmonton) and Sunday afternoon for the Parkland Community Association. I'm in the very last stages of re-releasing "Evenings Among Friends" (my live solo disc from 2000) with a couple new tracks and a wonderful re-mastering job by Dave Horrocks of Infinite Wave Mastering. Pending manufacturing delays I might have it in hand by Labour Day. Also on the horizon is the release of my blues mandolin instructional dvd from Learn Roots Music.

I had to go yesterday to Megatunes, Calgary's great indie music store, to sort out our business dealings before they shut their doors. Although there was good news (they were sold out of my stuff and instead of carrying cds home I'm waiting on a check) it was like sitting at the death bed of a dear friend. I keep reading about vinyl and even cassette making a come-back, and yet distributors and retailers of independent music keep dropping like flies...will it ever end ? Keep on supporting the music you love by attending shows, purchasing worthwhile recordings, and in general keeping the faith.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sweet Home Alberta

After a crazy five weeks, I'm home for most of the Autumn now, and my Tuesday nights at Mikey's Juke Joint resume tonight. It was a great condensed rush of the summer festival season and I want to thank the Pincher Creek Cowboy Poets Gathering, The Solstice Festival in South Calgary, Vancouver Island Music Fest (and Derek Bird at Vancouver CBC who recorded the mainstage for "Canada Live"), The Harrison Festival of the Arts, The Dream Cafe (Penticton, BC), The Island Mountain Arts School and Arts Wells Festival in Wells, BC, The North Country Stomp (Driftpile First Nation, Alberta), The Blue Loon Grill (Clearwater BC) and the Calgary International Blues Festival.

There are upcoming gigs at the Ironwood, Rusty Reed's House of Blues (Edmonton) and others, so please check the calendar from time to time. R.I.P. Megatunes - another of the brilliant independent recorded music stores expires at the end of this month.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Summer tour, 2nd leg

A week of teaching slide/fingerstyle guitar at Island Mountain Arts School and performances in the Sunset Theatre and St. Gregory's Church (all in Wells, BC) finished out July in high fashion. It was good to see friends Linda McRae (too brief) and Ken Whitely (too much fun). Then it was on to the Driftpile First Nation at Lesser Slave Lake for a set at the First North Country Stomp, followed by a hang with Romi Mayes and Jason Nowicki (Romi's guitar player and a member of the Perpetrators). A long holiday-clogged drive home where I'm doing the rock star stuff : bank, litter bokes, laundry, change strings and re-pack the car for tomorrow's drive to Clearwater (North of Kamloops on the Yellowhead Highwayin BC) for 2 nights at the Blue Loon Grill. Home in time to play with old pal Morgan Davis at the Calgary International Blues Festival (a late show in the ballroom of the Ramada Inn) on Saturday. Tuesdays resume at Mikey's next week, and there's lots more going on, so check the calendar !

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Next Leg

The next leg of my summer touring starts today, after watching my pal Tom Russell play a great set at the Calgary Folk Festival yesterday (the workshop after, with Ian Tyson, Corb Lund, Geoff Muldaur and Tom was also excellent). I teach and perform from Monday the 26th to Saturday the 31st at the Island Mountain Arts Festival in Wells B.C., just a stone's throw from the historic gold rush town of Barkerville. Then on Sunday I play with The Electro-Fires at the North Country Stomp, Driftpile First Nation Reserve, Alberta. Wednesday- Thursday August 4th-5th I'm at the Blue Loon Grill in Clearwater, B.C. and home in time to play with old friend Morgan Davis at the Calgary International Blues Festival. All these good folks have websites with schedules posted, so please check them out, and catch a show if I'm in your neck of the woods.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Last show this leg of the summer tour, at the Dream Cafe in Penticton BC. One of the finest music rooms in the country, definitely the best in Western Canada. Dinner with my wife, son and daughter-in-law, two sets, and back to Calgary for a week. Amazing music this time out from Adrian Belew, Joan Osborne and the Holmes Brothers, David Lindley, and Debashesh Battachyria (and a brief visit with Cassius Khan and Salil Bhatt - too brief). Back to Calgary for Mikey's on Tuesday !

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Island Times

After a long hot drive out (ah, Abbotsford, where the very hot air is redolent with pig shit...and all that wonderful construction delay) we arrived at Courtenay, B.C. for the Vancouver Island Music Fest. After an interminable delay while they cleared the stage of Roberta Flack stuff, and after I verbally re-capped the missing stage plot I had faxed them, we took the mainstage and had a ball. My band (Suitcase James, bass; Kevin Belzner, drums; Ron Casat, Hammond; Mike Clark, sax) plus the great Amos Garrett and myself on guitars, were joined in succession by Lester QuitzDave "Slim" Harris, Gary Preston, Roy Forbes and Paul Pigat for a rockin' good time. A mandolin workshop next day with Slim and David Essig, then a sidestage concert where the stage plot was exactly right from the get-go. Seeing Joan Dsborne with the Holmes Brothers was a highlight, as was guitar virtuoso Adrian Belew (also David Lindley and Little Feat on Sunday). Another highlight of the fest was getting to play Bryan Bowers' 1928 Gibson mando-cello (gorgeous). Thanks to AD Doug Cox, general get-it-done person Marcie Cox, and the sound crew and volunteers who work to make it one of the great festivals, and listen for it on CBC (thanks, Derek Bird).

Today we drove south to Nanaimo and caught the ferry to Gabriola Island, where I played a fun show at the Roxy (not bad for a Monday) and spent some interesting time in front of our B&B (The Hummingbird Lodge - beautiful) finding the several hundred dollars which fell from my vest pocket when I bent to pet a cat...miraculously we found all of it in the windy darkness and now it's bedtime. Tomorrow, a day off in Vancouver, and then the Harrison Festival of the Arts at lovely Harrison Hot Springs (may get the set recorded to dvd). Then listen to David Lindley again and head for Penticton to play maybe Canada's best small music venue, the Dream Cafe, on Saturday. Sunday Home !

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 22 - No Jazz Fest gig

Well, my noon gig for the Calgary Jazz Fest was cancelled on 36 hours notice (I've sent them an e-mail reminding them they still owe me for the gig). I'll be at Mikey's tonight, however. How does a festival get in that kind of shape ? My intrinsic suspicion of Boards of Directors is somewhat aroused.

The past week-end was brilliant - dropped off one of my vintage instruments at Schifflett Guitars in High River, had a beans-and-cornbread dinner with old friends Mel Wilson and Ian Tyson (hardly any stories got told at all...), and played with my rhythm section at Carlsons On Macleod, a wonderful club in an old heritage building where the hosts, Don and Brenda, treat performers and audience alike as if they were honoured guests instead of employees and customers. A few hours sleep in a cheap room, and off to the Pincher Creek Cowboy Poetry Gathering where I performed two sets from the "When I Was A Cowboy" cd, visited with numerous friends I hadn't seen for a long time, and watched the afternoon's Ranch Horse competition (cutting/reining/ranch roping). I got back to Calgary just past midnight and was up at 8 to teach a guitar clinic and perform one mainstage set with my band at the Parkland SummerFest in South Calgary. The weather was gorgeous and the crew at the festival are superb...we had a great time (Howard "Schmenge" on accordion doing a great job replacing Ron Casat, my usual keyboardist) and so did the crowd. Dinner with my wife while watching "Shutter Island" and a few beers, and 9 1/2 hours of the best sleep I can remember in months.

The rest of this week : Mikey's tonight, solo; a session on Allison Demeter's cd tomorrow; Quincy's (downtown Calgary) on Saturday with my long-time bassist Suitcase James and the great Thom Moon on drums. Hope to see you there !

June 22 - No Jazz Fest gig

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sun-day indeed !

Finally the sun is out for a few days...time to take a coffee on the deck and watch the flowers grow (and the cottonwoods and carrigana take over the back yard). When festival season kicks into high gear next week-end I'll have to figure out someone to feed the cat and tend the flowers for the one road trip my wife is accompanying me on. Next Friday (June 18th) is Carlson's on Macleod in High River, a lovely music bar in a lovely old heritage building; Saturday is the Cowboy Poets Gathering in Pincher Creek, where I'll perform songs from the "When I Was A Cowboy" cd; and Father's Day Sunday I do a morning guitar workshop and a set with the Electro-Fires in the early afternoon, at the Parkland Solstice Festival, Parkland Community Association in South Calgary. My long-time keyboardist Ron Casat is away on the West Coast, so we'll be joined by ace accordionist Howard Chapman (anyone familiar with the late Back Alley John has heard Howard's swirling bluesy/cajun accordion chops). The following week it's two gigs on Tuesday under the banner of the C-Jazz on Stephen (8th) Avenue at 4-ish, and Mikey's Juke Joint in the evening. That festival features a great line-up this year with (among others) Poncho Sanchez and Cedar Walton. I'll be at the Last Chance Saloon in the Rosedeer Hotel, Wayne, Alberta that Friday-Saturday, maybe fitting in a game of golf in Rosebud, where I've often had to hold play while wild game of various sorts meanders across the fairways. The new instructional dvd on blues mandolin should be out ( pretty soon, and I'm working on the re-release of my "live" solo disc, "Evenings Among Friends" for release this summer as well !

Monday, June 7, 2010

The calm before...

Ah, one more quiet week to plant some flowers and hope they don't freeze, to finish the taxes and the arrangements for this summer's festival season. The Friday night mainstage at Vancouver Island Music Fest is looking like a great one, where I play with my band, the Electro-Fires (Ron Casat, keys, Mike Clark, sax, Suitcase James, bass, Kevin Belzner, drums) with friend and guitar hero Amos Garrett. We'll be joined by a host of other pals for a tune here and there, including Roy Forbes, Gary Preston, Dave "Slim" Harris and Lester Quitzau...should make for an entertaining 75 minutes to close out the Friday night mainstage. We'd better be good; we're following Roberta Flack !

This week it's Mikey's Juke Joint on Tuesday, a corporate shindig on Wednesday, practice the bajo sexto and button accordion, and prepare for some session work on upcoming recording projects. My new instructional dvd on blues mandolin should be coming out on in the near future as well.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May 25, 2010

Home from a great week-end, teaching blues guitar and mandolin for the Foothills Acoustic Music Institute's Spring Camp. Great students and a very welcoming board of directors make this camp a joy to teach at. Got back in town Monday around 2, caught a quick nap and off to sound-check for last night's Bob Dylan Birthday Bash at the Ironwood Stage and Grill (a packed house and a great night). So today is a day of catching up...the laundry is going and there are instruments to unload and put away...change some strings before my weekly Tuesday gig at Mikey's Juke Joint , update this blog, answer 4 days worth of e-mails and phone messages, you get the idea. Mikey's again on Friday night, an electric gig with my rhythm section and then a solo show in Fernie on Saturday. The Arts Station in Fernie is a performance hall created from an old railway station, and the sound in the all-wood room is amazingly warm (the cafe there is awesome, as well). Should be a good one. My instructional DVD on blues mandolin should be out next month on, and I'm looking to re-release my live solo cd, "Evenings Among Friends", with a slightly altered set list and a new mastering job, sometime this summer as well. Until next time...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Spring Break 2010

After some quiet weeks, I slip into Summer madness this week with my Tuesday gig at Mikey's Juke Joint, four days of teaching/performing/jamming at the FAMI camp in Bragg Creek, then an appearance at the Ironwood Stage and Grill on Bob Dylan's birthday with some of Calgary's best roots musicians.