Friday, July 19, 2013

Mosquito Season

Well, it's been an interesting time (but then, aren't they all ?).  After a flurry of late May gigsJo and I drove to California to visit family in Lancaster and Alameda.  Calgary-Lewiston Idaho, Lewiston - Winnemucca Nevada, on to Bishop CA next day, then Lancaster.  Visited with my Mom for two days, and had lunch with two brothers and a cousin (then evening with neices and nephews and their broods).  104 Farenheit with blowing sand and sagebrush.  Then to the SF Bay area where we spent a day in the city with Jo's sister and kids.  Coast route stopping in Sonoma County to buy some favorite wines, then Brookings for the night, just across the Oregon border.  Giant redwoods and sensational coastlines.  Next day Portland, and a few glasses of wine with brother-in-arms Robbie Laws, before driving to Sandpoint, Idaho for a final night in the US.  I had probably the finest biscuits and gravy ever in a place there...even better than the old May's Diner in Diamond Springs CA.  We crossed the border just outside Cranbrook BC, paying an outrageous extra penalty on our wine because BC is protecting its' wine industry (it's all they have left besides tourism).  A set at the Pincher Creek Cowboy Poets Gathering (nice to see Allison Brock, Martin Hill, and other friends for a brief visit ) then home.

I had a bit of a cold/flu thing settle in, and then put my back out while hooking up a new printer.  The off-shoot was that I couldn't breath after a few days, and spent the evening of the worst of Calgary's flooding in an emergency ward.  After every test known to man, they agreed I simply had put my back out and had a lung full of crap, gave me half a dozen Percocets and sent me home (a marathon 90-minute journey around closed bridges and flooded streets).  I'M FINE !

To the folks at The Works Fest in Edmonton and The North Country Faire, I'm sorry I had to miss 'em.  Thanks to my buddy Paul Pigat for sitting in with my Western Swing band, The Hackamores, in my absence at NCF.

Next up, after a great bunch of gigs with The Hackamores over the first half of Stampede, we headed to Vancouver Island Music Fest for two performances of the play Big Mama ! (me as musical dire3ctor and Jo as stage manager) plus some workshops.  The play was a howling success (I thought I was done with it at this point but we're looking at touring it more), and I got to shake hands with James Burton (totally one of my Telecaster and Dobro heroes) and sing with Terry Evans (check him out either solo, with Bobby King, or on any number of Ry Cooder cds).  A visit with both sons and daughters-in-law plus grandkids Charlie,Vada, Jennings and Xavier, and we were home.  Now it's play some local (nice) gigs while getting ready for Canmore Folk Festival and Foothills Acoustic Music Institute's August camp (teaching songwriting).  Also I have to fit in hang time with my friends Greg and Mary from San Jose del Cabo, and hang out with Blind Boy Paxton, whose acquaintance I joyfully made on Vancouver Island. September brings a more intense tour of BC, and Saskatchewan is being planned for October or January.  Lots more touring in support of the Blue Highway cd to come over the next months !

My heart goes out to my fellow Calgarians and those so deeply affected in High River after the floods...chins up and carry on.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The middle of the merry month of May

Wow, where does the time go ?  I think I can answer gets poured into a million different projects and a few distractions.  Things have been a little bit hectic since the crash of my Spanish tour (tied directly to the crash of the Spanish economy, and indirectly to letting a well-intentioned amateur set it up).  While we both had the time off Jo and I headed to Seattle for a week-long getaway...I play Seattle area now and then but Jo had never been.  We stayed in a boutique hotel mid-way between the Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square, walked the block and a half to the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal, spent a lovely afternoon there Christmas shopping, and had to go twice to Ivar's Acres of Clams (yummmm).  We went to the Experience Music Project to catch a horror and science fiction movie memorabilia display, plus a film about friend Jim Marshall (one of the premier LP cover photographers of the '60s and early '70s).  I held my hands in the air over Hendrix' Stratocaster trying to catch some vibes.  Back to Calgary and back to work...I produced two outside projects (those are getting harder and harder for me to do, because my chops are holding up way better than my patience), and finished my new CD The Blue Highway, on Lowden Proud Recordings...a very cool, mostly solo recording I did with my pal Russ Broom at his studio (The Broom Closet).  It includes covers of numerous traditional country blues, plus a Pachuco blues by Lalo Guerrero (check out Ry Cooder's "Chavez Ravine" cd or the movie "Zoot Suit" to hear more of Lalo's stuff); a Hawaiian tune by Sol Ho'o'pi'i (one of my fave steel guitarists ever); five new songs of mine including a short rag from Alberta Theatre Projects production of Intimate Apparel; and a re-make of a tune from the cd I cut with Big Dave Maclean years ago.

Dave and I did a two-week whirlwind tour in February, catching amazing luck with the weather and having a ball...I love hanging out with no-drama, no bullshit cats who can actually play the music with some passion and some feel.  After some very cool western swing gigs with
The Hackamores (Lolita's Lounge and the Willie Nelson tribute at Ironwood, Carlsons on Macleod in High River, and the Lethbridge Folk club), a killer evening at The Bassment in Saskatoon, a show on the Vulcan, AB arts & culture series, and my cd release party at The Ironwood, it was time to pack up and head to Ottawa for a month-long gig at the National Arts Centre...a run of Big Mama ! The Willie Mae Thornton Story (starring Jackie Richardson, and with myself, Ron Casat and Kevin Belzner in the band).  A beautiful theatre, a great staff, and standing ovations every show from opening until closing.  Had a great time hearing and hanging with Tony D and Steve Marriner (Monkeyjunk); Pat Braden, Bob Hamilton, Brandon Issak, Keith Picot, and Paul Pigat (all in town for Northern Scene fest); Morgan Davis, and Doug Cox.  I always feel blessed to be a part of such a talented and cool floating community.  I appeared twice on CKCU FM's "Canadian Spaces" program (RIP Chopper McKinnon), and once on John Tackeberry's "Black & Blue" show on the same station, and really enjoyed discovering Steve's Music on Rideau Street and The Ottawa Folklore Centre on Bank Street (I brought home a beautiful old bandurria which I'm in love with).

Since I got home it's been the usual madhouse of catching up correspondence and bills that pile up when one's gone, booking a BC swing for September, and gearing up for the late spring and summer season.  I taught three nights at Mount Royal Conservatory's "Campfire Guitar" class, today I resume jam-host duties at The Blues Can for the next 3 weeks, Mikey's on Tuesday nights for the next 2 weeks, a guitar clinic (sold out) and house concert at Asylum for Art on Saturday May 25 (oops, almost forgot The Ironwood's annual Bob Dylan Birthday Bash on Friday the 24th).  The following week I am at The Grandview Stage (outside Rocky Mountain House) for a dinner concert, on the Saturday I return to Carlsons On Macleod for a solo show featuring tunes from the new cd.  Then Jo and I are driving down to California to visit my Mom who will turn 85 next month.  I have to be back for the Pincher Creek Cowboy Poets Gathering June 14th, but if time allows we'll make day-stops in the Bay area and Kelowna on the way back to visit family.  Then it gets really crazy for a bit...The Hackamores play Lolita's Lounge on Sunday the 16th of June, then we're off to the North Country Faire at Driftpile, AB (I also have a 1 set gig in Edmonton on the way through). I play Bookers Crab Shack in Calgary June 28-29 with the 4-piece Electro-Fires.  Then the Calgary Stampede, with The Hackamores playing The Ironwood July 6, Palomino the 8th, and Mikey's Juke Joint the 9th.  Hop in the car and head for Vancouver Island for the Vancouver Island Music Fest where Big Mama! runs one show each on the Saturday and Sunday (plus a side-stage concert for me).  Home to appearances at Legacy Guitar House in Cochrane July 20th, South Calgary's Sundays in Parkland concert series on the 21st,  Canmore Folk Festival on the August long week-end, and teaching at Foothills Acoustic Music Institute in Bragg Creek August 22-5.  Plus the regular Staurday and Tuesday gigs at The Blues Can when I'm in town.

It's also been a tough time the last while with the loss of so many friends and co-workers...RIP Johnny V, Bob Brozman, Si Garber, Barrie Cline, and Donny Cummings.  Go out and hear some music (or make some) and try to show your family/friends how you feel about them every chance you get.

Hasta Luego, Amigos !

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Damn Near Spring

I can't believe I've let this blog sit idle since August or earlier...time flies, but like a jet !  So many changes...the new cd, The Blue Highway, will be coming out (after many self-inflicted delays) in about a month, on Lowden Proud, which makes me label-mates with my friend Stephen Fearing !  Cover art is done and masters go to manufacture Monday (watch here for posts).

I didn't tour Spain in the Autumn, as was the plan; a combo of flaky promoter and economic disaster caused me to pull the pin on that one, triggering a small economic disaster at my house (lost a few grand on that turkey, I'll tell ya).  But, by producing 2 other cds while working on mine, playing every gig that came along here in Southern Alberta, and touring with Big Dave Mclean I've returned things to their normal, shaky footing.

The tour with Big Dave was a riot, mostly sold-out houses.  Thanks to all the presenters and audiences alike.  It also kept me from being able to attend the Folk Alliance conference in Toronto...I'm not sure that's a bad thing, as I haven't left a FA conference with any new work for some time now.  It strikes me a little bit as a party for the entitled (presenters/managers/etc.) and the desperate (performers).  I'll probably do it again but not at the drop of a hat.

My wife and I spent a lovely week in Seattle before the holidays, a consolation prize for the collapse of the Spanish tour.  I've played there many times over the years but Jo had never been.  We had a lovely time and I got to play tourist (The Underground Tour) and visit the Experience Music Project again, while Jo shopped for yarn.

I'll spend mid-April to Mid-May at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa as musical director for the play, Big Mama : The Willie May Thornton Story; then drive to California for a visit with family; then it's festival time (more on that soon !)>