Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Blues with Joe Murphy- Windsor, NS

 What it looks like rolling out of NewBrunswick. Rain. Empty roads. Trucks full of logs. Dead bear on the side of the road...

High gas prices today. I don't know what's going on, but I'm going into higher priced Nova Scotia with a full tank. As I cut across rural Nova Scotia I see gas posted for $1.47.3. That's pretty scary in the context of driving 25 thousand km. And recently I've heard talk here in the Maritimes that a $20 ticket is too much. One theatre has insisted on $10 tics AND a cut of the box office. Damn... that's not much more than a beer and a tip in a bar. My share will buy a couple of litres of gas. It's a good thing I don't smoke...

Windsor, Nova Scotia is the Spitfire Arms and a much anticipated date with Maritime legend, Joe Murphy. We played together a little bit last year and had fun, so we thought we'd need to do it again.

The venue is way better than I had remembered! Joe and I play two relaxed, fun sets, for a listening crowd. If I can pry Joe away from Halifax for a few weeks next year... Serious blues from a guy who can do it all. I'm just very grateful to have had the opportunity to share one night of this Tour with him! Thanks, Joe!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Harvest Jazz and Blues, Fredericton, NB

 I've got about two hours of driving on roads like this to reach Fredericton, NB. Barely enough time for an extra large Tim's coffee to cool down. Incidentally, the Tim's outlet in St. Andrews made dreadful coffee... The Tim Horton chain of coffee stops services travelling Canadians from coast to coast. It's a blue collar, working class come suburban sort of stop. Always the same. Or should be! Now they have free wifi, so I can skip the more expensive, yet more culturally satisfying Starbucks stops. You can't buy CDs at Tim's, but you can buy a giant coffee ordinare and a hunk of baked dough for pocket change.

I'm in Fredericton right on schedule, so I stop by the festival office and pick up my tags, check into my hotel, and grab a quick bite. I've got an early evening, outdoor show and they'd like me to arrive early for set up and sound check.

The Festival has the greatest volunteer network I've ever seen. One of the services they provide is an on call shuttle which will drive the performers between hotel and festival locations. Leaving the Lincoln at the hotel, I'm taken to Queen St., where I'll be setting up. There's something like 400 performers at the festival, and 27 stages. And there's stuff going on all around the edges.
My crew is great, and I'm set up, line checked and ready for action pretty quickly. This outdoor, no top show reminds me way too much of busking. I LIKED playing the old HooDoo Tent! But here I am, set up and glad to be part of the hustle and bustle. I'm not going to waste any time, so I've got CDs set out and I'm out prowling the area with a stack in hand. "Genuine blues cds, folks! Step right up!"

Through some glitch I didn't appear on the schedule- it just reads TBA- so I'm pretty sure I'll be meeting a new audience tonight.

Darkness comes. The lights power up. These are tanning lights, for sure. I mean these are close and these are hot. And these are bright. I've got my dark glasses on and my eyes closed. I can't see my guitar or my hands. Interesting, and a little painful. I sure can't see anything looking out! But there's a pretty good crowd out there by the end of my set. CDs are sold and signed. Thanks are given. I'm packed and off to adventure!

My first stop is the Snooty Fox to see Morgan, but he's got a line up outside the club which extends half the length of the block. The doorman won't let me in even with my festival tag ID and instruments. (This is a pattern repeated at other venues over the weekend, with other performers as well. Stupid not to let us in, or to demand a cover charge. We're coming by to sit in with our pals, to introduce other musicians. The coming and going of festival artists is what makes these nights exciting. If the venue wants every seat for retail sales all of the time, they are shooting the goose that laid the golden egg...). I go around the corner to the Lunar Rogue where my pal Matchstick Mike is playing. Here, there is no cover, and they think I'm part of the band anyway. I'm in. Above I hang with one of Maritime Canada's most storied blues/rock/soul singers. Good to meet you, Sam!

 Mike and the band kick it off and tear it up. Tonight he can do no wrong!

Sam sits in for the better part of two sets. He's actually Mikes featured guest for the Festival, and they've spent some time working on arrangements for these tunes...

 Love the Buddy Guy Strat. It's in good hands, too.

I do end up in the band before the night is done. Mike calls me up to close out the night with a couple of tunes. We do "Charlie James," and then "Angola Prison Rodeo," which Mike just pushes right over the top. Thanks, dude! Great night. Mike will be appearing with me at Plan B, in Moncton, NB, in a couple of weeks time, and then we may also do some winter shows next season...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Road to St. Andrews, NB

Creeping out of Nova Scotia on an empty tank of gas- it was as much as eight cents cheaper on the New Brunswick side last night. A little game between me and the car... how far on how little? I put in only a few litres of gas this morning, and I've already had a rural adventure to buy a few more litres. Always do math after coffee, not before, as I did this morning! The digital gauge had actually reached "distance remaining: 0 km" when I rolled in to buy yet more of the expensive gas.

At the first station inside New Brunswick I run into Morgan Davis! Are we on the same page, or what! Both of us are distressed to learn that the price of gas in this province has jumped by four to five cents overnight. Gas Buddy- my trusty phone app- had flagged $1.30 in Moncton just last night. Now we're paying $1.38.9 at the side of the road. The Lincoln drinks $82 at this stop. I get a coffee for $1.70. Hey, who's the star of this show anyway???

Morgan and I will try to catch up in Fredericton. He's on his way to set up at the Snooty Fox, where he will hold court for three nights of Harvest Blues and Jazz festivities. I've got to make St. Andrews, NB, where I've got a pub show tonight. I'll hit Harvest tomorrow. Right now, we're back on the highway. It's all on schedule, but neither of us has time to spare. We form a little blues convoy for the next half hour until the roads diverge. Harvest Blues and Jazz is one of North America's great music festivals. There are bigger festivals, but few can rival the comprehensive festival experience offered here. I'm always thrilled and grateful to be invited.

I've got an early evening show scheduled in the postcard town of St. Andrews, NB. It's a coastal town tucked way down in the southwest corner of the province, near the US border. I roll in early to the Red Herring. They've got a pretty good little house PA, but I'm darned if I can get it to work! It's a bit of a mind twister, but eventually I tear it down and snap it back with my own cables and mics. Works good now! Amazing what a single bad cable can do to a whole system! Reminds me of why I like to arrive early...

It's a low key show delivered to a track and field club, some Brit tourists, some bikers from Maine. I'm done before I know it and soon I'm sitting in the expansive kitchen of Salty Towers, Jamie Steel's rambling old guest house mansion on the edge of town. A nice way to wind down the day, chatting with travellers. I climb to my bed far too early, but sleep is good and won't wait.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Roads to Miramichi

Waking up to hustle and bustle. It turns out that I've parked the Lincoln Hotel in front of the local farmer's market. I'm up early, but the car is a pretty good sleeper, so I don't feel too bad... Anyway, I've got breakfast on my doorstep and I can smell the coffee!

I guess I do need that coffee. An extra large, please.

I was originally scheduled to play Sackville tonight, but as the date fell through on short notice, I've had to scramble to try and fill it. My pal Matchstick Mike came up with a gig for the two of us over in Miramichi, NB. I've never been over there before, so I jump at the opportunity. Also, it's going to be fun playing with Mike. He's a regional legend- a great guitar and mandolin player, bandleader, singer, writer... And I have plans for driving up through Hartland. I've got to backtrack north a little to get to it, but there are no straight lines to follow around here.

Hey, I'm a tourist, too. It's a grey day, just off season, and I have the place to myself.
The highlands, in places where they are more cleared and sheltered. Rolling farms here in the river valley, far from the roar of the TransCanada Highway.

I live to ride roads like this one. Just beyond the frame some guys in a big Ram pickup truck are hitting a moose about... now. When I get there, a dead cow is on the side of the road and the fellas are looking a little dazed. The front of their big, new truck is completely destroyed. The airbags have gone off, there is no windshield left. But these lads are lucky- they walk with only bruises. I ask them if they would like me to help them hide the moose. They look at me blankly. "It did wreck your truck, why waste it?" I ask. But they are not in the mood to poach their roadkill, so I head on my way. I don't have time, strength or tools to quarter it up myself...

I've got pics of the Miramichi, NB gig coming soon... So this day is to be continued! Thanks for dropping by.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Nova Scotia Hello- The Trellis, Hubbards, NS

Matchstick Mike and I- looking better than we ought to after an evening of playing and hanging out. It was great to see Mike again, and even better to hear him play. I think we'll be doing this again. Mike is a real "gentleman guitar player," in spite of his over the top reputation. We sounded really good and had fun. Now I'm going to drive for five hours... and Mike will be going back to bed for a nap!

A pleasant drive down past Moncton, over the great gas divide, into Nova Scotia. The first view of the province is now marred, or enhanced, by a skyline of giant props. I understand this windswept flatland is a practical place to build something like this- but I'm not sure it's the welcome I want as I roll in from away.

I usually stop here and stretch my bones. I think I've heard pipers here in the past. Today, I roar by in the Lincoln. I've got to make my gig in Hubbards. I'm not in a big rush, but I don't have time to spare, either.

It's nice to arrive at Hubbards. Fog just picking up in little patches. Rain. Then sun. The coast is like this. It's warm, but I can taste the sea.

Wilma and her brilliant staff feed me well, fill my wineglass with local red, and help me set up. It's a good sounding room. A few folks come out from Halifax- not as many as I might hope for, but enough for a comfortable little show. I play really well. Some nights are just like that. I hear it all, I tell some stories. It's good to be back in Nova Scotia.

After the show the staff go dancing at the Oceanside. I decline. Tonight I sleep. Lotta shows between now and Christmas time.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Night on the Town of Woodstock, NB

Big, bold slashes of highway across the New Brunswick highlands. The Lincoln is purring along under cruise control and I'm enjoying the ride. This car got me from Cornwall, ON to Edmundston, NB on a single tank of gas. The overdrive is quite cool...

I came down one of the old, back highways for part of the day. Strong resemblance to rural Quebec here, except I can order food in English without the guilt. Actually, my broken french seems to work better here. God is always standing in the distance, trying to figure out what to do with me next...

Clearly, Woodstock, NB is to be spared my devil's music yet once more. I'm a little early for soundcheck, but apparently a little late to learn of the venue's closing! I head up the road to Tim Horton's, where the wifi is free, to plot my night on the Town. Damn!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mobile!! It's A Go!!

Mobile this morning in just a few minutes time. Not without the odd glitch- damned if I can find the camera to computer cable I need to transfer pics- I'll have to buy a new one on the way out of town. Other, less visible, parts of the Tour are way behind schedule, but nothing I can't manage via wifi in a Starbucks parking lot. It has been a slow process this year, but here we are at launch looking at about 85 shows. Dinner tonight at Smoke Meat Pete's in west Montreal. I may even play a few tunes as well. The genuine satin, white stripe tour jackets look great, and I have plenty of them to scatter across Canada. I'm really looking forward to visiting with musical friends like Matchstick Mike and Joe Murphy in the Maritimes. In the west I will, of course, be joined by the great Morgan Davis for about six weeks of shows. Morgan's got a great new, Colin Linden co-produced CD, called "Drive My Blues Away." It's on Electro-Fi records and if you listen to blues radio in North America you are probably hearing tracks from it now. Classic Morgan Davis in a mostly solo setting. Now I'm out the door!