Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Candor Is King (End Of The World Edition)

It's been a while since my last blog, so I have some catching up to do.

Since we last spoke, I have been producing recordings for Sarah Burton, Krista Hartman, Bryce Jardine and Young Running. I've also played on records by Andy Kim and Sean Burns. Plus a live video at Catherine North with Whitehorse. Not to mention, I am nearing the completion of my own record.

I have also played on stage with James Burton (Elvis' guitarist), Albert Lee, Nels Cline (Wilco), Sloan, Divine Brown, Ron Sexsmith, Serena Ryder, Kevin Drew, Cindy Cashdollar, Dan Mangan, Madison Violet, Colin Linden and a pantload more. Not bad for a few months' work.

I try to give a little advice with these blogs. Often, people ask me how I get to play with so many great players. I get calls almost every day for gigs.

"Do you search them out?" Not really.
I have worked hard on my playing from day one. Focus on playing to a click (or, metronome) to the point where you can't hear it while you are playing. They call that "burying the click". Your relationship with a metronome should be a life-long relationship. Once you start burying it, people will start noticing.

Let it be known, not every recording should be done to a click. The Beauties record wasn't working with a click because I was a click player, but the rest of the band wasn't. So we ditched the click and drank some tequila. Perfect.

But technical fortitude and choppery aside, there is one word that will always land you the gig.

Candor. (Or, candour, as the brits spell it.)

The mark of a true pro is someone who can get along with everyone. I am still nurturing my own candor. I'm not perfect, that's for certain. There is something to be said for humbleness and humility. I have confidence with my talents. However, I am open to suggestion, always.

Sometimes it's the least schooled musician that will teach you the most valuable lessons.

I always say, 80% of the game is getting along with the people you play with. The other 20% is your application of skills.

Also, leave your baggage at the door when in a session. At least wait until the session over before you cry, get angry, or punch a clown. Take deep breaths. The Buddhists have this technique down pat. Believe me, this will earn you a call back.

You don't want to bring stress to an already intense situation. Time is money in the studio, but being patient and zen-like is crucial. My friend and engineer John Dinsmore (of The Lincoln Country Social Club studio, bassist for Kathleen Edwards and NQ Arbuckle) carries this quality. That's why he gets the gig.

I hope this sheds some insight into "the game". Being a polite and fun to be around person are traits I strive for. Playing and technique, while of course important, will always come in a shy second place. How can you expect to make inspiring music if there is a storm cloud in the room? There can be inspiration therein, but it's tougher to find.

Tell your friends you love them, today.


Thursday, 30 August 2012

Heckleland's Who's Who

Warning: The content of this particular blog may be offensive to "Haters". It contains coarse language. Reader discretion is advised.


It's been a while since I've had one at a gig. It's usually just old, drunk high school friends yelling "F*ck you, Downham", or something like that. I occasionally throw out a funny rib to lighten a mood.

(I always get my back up when people take themselves too seriously. Lighten up, friends. Life is too short to be so uptight.)

The other night I had one of those hecklers that was trying to physically ruin my show. During the first set of my last minute performance, this guy and his brother thought it was cool to just hop up and play piano over one of my songs. The bartender was new, and also fairly busy serving, and didn't know that I didn't really know them. I can't really blame her. So, she did nothing to stop them. Much to the chagrin of the people in the audience, the guy and his brother, drunken and uninvited, kept playing. I even tried to give them an easy one with 3 chords, but they still couldn't find the key, or the beat.

I mean, these guys couldn't find a pocket in a Levi's factory.


Before I started my next set, I kindly asked the brothers not to play during my set. They were wasted, but agreed to lay off.

Later, I invited a few friends up to play with me. As I was playing, one of the brothers (oh, let's just call him local musician Tim) decided to start telling me, as I'm playing:

"You should stop. You're always selling yourself. You're not good."

I laughed at first, but this was no joke. He kept pushing towards me, agressively repeating himself. Eventually I just turned my head and proceeded to give him the ol' hand to the face. He was then escorted out by the owner.

So, thank you Tim. You have proven to me that people can be both terrible at piano AND oblivious to the feelings of others at the same time.


I am reminded of The Causey Way, the band I saw open up for Wesley Willis (RIP) about 10 years ago. A fresh faced member of the audience kept squirting his beer on the female bassist. The singer politely asked him to stop doing it. The kid squirted her again. The singer asked again "Please don't do that." The kid squirted again.
Suddenly, the singers guitar came at the kid's face like a 6-string missile, smacking his face open in a bloody barrage.

No one helped him up.

Except the paramedics.

I'm not saying this is the correct way to deal with a heckler.

But in The Causey Way's defence, they did ask him to stop.

Some classic "on-the-mic" retorts:

"I'm sorry, I can't hear you over my awesome job."

"I don't come to your job and kick the cock out of your mouth."

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

For free shows only: "If you don't like it, you can totally get your cover charge back. That, I promise you."

"Is it nap time already?"

Remember folks: When you have the mic, you win.

I guess the real point of this blog entry is a classic quote from our collective parents: "If you haven't got something nice to say, don't say anything at all."

As much as I agree, you should never show up to a gunfight with a butterknife. Be prepared. There's all kinds of people like the afore mentioned just waiting to bait and hate on you. Usually due to their own shortcomings.

(You can visit Tim Isherwood at

Also keep in mind: If you want a small world, become a Canadian musician. I get calls to play constantly, because I treat people as I would want to be treated. It's one thing to be a great player. It's another to be a great player with people skills. I aspire to be both, constantly. I have room to improve, and therein lies consistant inspiration.

Hug a musician today.

Know your worth.

You are where you are, because of WHO you are.

Hearts above all,


Monday, 20 August 2012

Let's Hear It For The Girl(s) ; Part 1

Upon listening to the incredible Suzie Vinnick ( at Summerfolk last weekend, I was reminded of how lucky we are in Ontario to have so many musically talented women. I feel so fortunate that I get to play with some of the most talented women in the country.

I would like to dedicate this blog entry to the women who consistently push the envelope. I hope that, at least for some of you, this will open your eyes and ears to some of Canada's finest female voices and players. These women are out there everyday, on the road or in the studio, carving a unique path in Canada's terrain.

I give you the first instalment of "Let's Hear It For The Girl(s)":

SARAH SLEAN: It goes without saying that Sarah is talented and beautiful. Throw in the fact that she is touring Europe with a small symphony in tow, completed a double record, and finishing her own musical, it's safe to say we all have some catching up to do.

SAMANTHA MARTIN: I had the pleasure of producing an album for this powerhouse vocalist, but what should be most noted for is her songwriting. Her newest record (with her band The Haggard) features gospel backup singers and yours truly on keys. For fans of Patsy, Lucinda, Janis and Mavis.

SUZIE MCNEIL: I had the pleasure of writing a song with her in Costa Rica on a recent trip, and can't say enough about her vocal dexterity. While the rest of us burned out our voices from singing every night for hours, Suzie could still belt out a Queen song without waning...while the boys croaked. She just released a new pop/rock album that is getting airplay all over the country. She plays harder than most, and deserves the credit.

MORGAN DOCTOR: I started playing with her with Andy Kim a couple of years ago, and have admired her enthusiasm for all things musical. She is not only a great drummer, but a songwriter, producer and even plays tabla drums. LA's loss is Toronto's gain.

SERENA RYDER: Serena Ryder sweats on stage. At least when I play with her. Over the past couple of years, I have watched her dedicate her entire being to song crafting, writing with some of the best in the world. I am honoured to have written with her, and look forward to hearing what she does with those tunes on her upcoming record. Watch her right hand, guitarists. Gibraltar has nothing on this rock.

DANI NASH: as either part of The Pining, or The Sure Things, Dani's energy is undeniable. A rockabilly/country soul with the heart of a lion. She's a small package waiting to explode. Keep your eyes open for her playing in Toronto at various venues. Deadly drummer, too.

ANNA RUDDICK and MAIA DAVIES: As the newest member of The Beauties family, Anna has been a delight. She graduated from McGill in the jazz program for upright bass, so she also has that in her back pocket. I've been enjoying watching her get her rock chops on with us, though. She is also a part of Ladies Of The Canyon with Maia Davies, who can throw down a country tune with the best of them. The rest of The Ladies reside in Montreal, where they began.

SCARLETT JANE: These gals seem to be perpetually on the road. I really enjoyed seeing them at Dauphin Countryfest this summer. With roots/folk hearts on their sleeves, they effortlessly bridge sweet harmony and rural road rhythm. Andrea Ramolo strums guitar, and Cindy Doire plucks bass.

SARAH BURTON: Here's another member of the perpetual-touring-team. Great songs delivered with a quiet conviction. Strength in the soft. A lovely piano player I must add. Her new album, Fire Breathers, is gaining momentum due to her hard working tour schedule. Oh, and because she's great at what she does.

GRAY: The artist formerly known as Brooke Harris has come to life as a pop/rock artist. Trained as an opera singer from a young age, she called me to produce some tracks with her. We wrote "Oh No", and I love the direction. I implore you to check it out at

CHRISTINE BOUGIE: I am always inspired by Bougie's work on guitar, but she's really shining as a lap steel and rummer, too. I consider her to be one of the tastiest guitarists in the country. Pure, understated excellence.

DANIELA GESUNDHEIT of SNOWBLINK: I saw her play with her partner for my first time last year in Saskatoon opening for Ohbijou (which also contains many formidable female musicians) and was lost in her tone and range. Elastic band vocals and a virtuoso of the delay pedal. Buy their record.

RONLEY TEPER: Very few artists what the artistic fortitude displayed by Ronley. In fact, dare I say, no one rivals her style as it is all her own. A visionary with stories to tell and the ability to leave your jaw agape.

JOAN SMITH of LITTLE FOOT LONG FOOT: Set your speakers to stun. A remarkably dexterous fuzzy blues player, with a voice to crush hearts and skulls simultaneously. Absolutely go see them if you like rock and roll in your rock n' roll.

Okay, I have realized that this list could go on for quite a while, so I'll leave it at this short list for now. I will make this theme a reoccurring blog, as the women of Canada are making more of an impact than ever. At least in my eyes. Please support any or all of the artists in this blog, and keep your eyes peeled in the papers. They may be playing close to you soon.

Please feel free to leave links to other amazing females in the comments section. I'm sure they will appear in the blog at some point or another.

To the thousands that have been reading this blog, thank you so much.

May your hearts be shielded by your souls.


Friday, 17 August 2012

Summerfolk, Summerjustplaincool

This installation begins in Vancouver. Beautiful, beautiful Vancouver. I have never been to Van when the weather has been so, dare I say it: Perfect.

So, The Beauties were hired to play the wedding of a celebrity. I was sworn under oath to not divulge the name of said celebrity on this blog...but just know that it was a comedian that I have the utmost respect for, and was honored to be in the company of so many actors and actresses I respect and adore.

Celebrity encounters have always fallen under the realm of the surreal for me. It's nice to know that most celebs I have encountered in my life have turned out to be fantastic souls. I don't gush over other musicians, generally...but comedians? I turn into a blathering mess. I have a deep appreciation for their timing and delivery. It's very akin to music in that sense. Plus, simply put, I just like to laugh as often as possible.

So, once the dust settles, I can probably divulge more names and tales. For now just know that it was possibly the coolest and most fun gig I have ever played.

But I digress...

After the wedding (which ended at 4am) we hopped on a plane from Vancouver to Regina. This was our first foray into The Regina Folk Fest, and they had us workshopping as soon as we hit the tarmack.

Workshops are exclusive to Canadian folk fests, and were originally used to keep traditional folk music and other world music alive. I've seen some of the greatest collaborations come out of these events. I've found more often than not that it's the least likely combinations that herald the most satisfying results.

We stared with a workshop hosted by Del Barber, and featuring us (The Beauties), Serena Ryder and the stacked lineup that is The Heartbroken. We were all pretty familiar with each others material, so the styles rarely strayed into unknown territory. Serena's new material I found to be very strong in particular. To hear her and Damnaiht Doyle harmonize is always a treat.

After that finished, we went off to another stage for a scheduled workshop with Great Lake Swimmers and Austra. Austra are kind of a wiccan-goth pop act, and GLS are a reverb-soaked folk/pop ensemble, so I was curious to see what we could collaborate on. I threw my hat into the ring first by throwing out "Play With Fire", a Stones song we like to play. It was the darkest version I have ever performed. The haunting voices of Austra enveloped the song with a shivering coo. Jay-Z recently tweeted that Austra was a band to watch. I'm curious to see where their output takes them.

We THEN played a "tweener" set...which I didn't get to do due to stage limitations...THEN we played the afterparty for the volunteers. 4 gigs in a day on no sleep can make for a peckish troupe. However, The Beauties realize that we could be doing something we hate for a living, so missing a few z's here and there can prove fun in the right state of mind.

I always get irked if musicians complain about playing too much. Have you ever worked drywall? Flooring? Built an olympic sized pool? I have. Suck it up, kids. We have it pretty good.

Fast forward. Tonight I played Summerfolk in Owen Sound with the incomparable Sarah Slean. I haven't played a show with her since our tour last year, so I was looking forward to playing with her, Paul Matthew, Karen Kosowski and Mark Mariash. Sarah always hires a band of the highest order and I am always honored to play with her. I am a fan of the consumate professional. Everyone shows up on time, knows the music inside out, and still carries a personal feel unique to the undividual. Stress is fleeting when these cards are in place.

"It's better to be an hour early, than a minute late."

Or something like that. Shakespeare, I believe.

Tonight I had the pleasure of seeing Royal Wood and his band perform pleasing pitch-perfect piano pop.

Sorry, I couldn't resist writing that.

What a band Royal has compiled. Dean Droulliard is a tone collecter to the highest degree. Everything in his pedalboard is boutique, but with a place and purpose. If you don't know how to play to a song, no pedal in the world will bail out your sinking boat.

Steve Zsarai is a stoic bassist, and great harmonizer. More bassists need to sing. He's in demand for a reason. 

You want gigs?
Sing as well as you play.

This also applies to Royal's drummer Adam Warner. He's the perfect mix of flair and function. A lefty who plays on a right handed drum kit, "open-handed", will always catch my eye. Plus he sings. The whole band sang.

I think it's important to any live show to have everyone singing. It's so much more engaging for the audience.

There are no wrong notes, if they are always delivered with conviction.


May all of your Riots be of the Pussy persuasion.

Love your own face.


Monday, 6 August 2012

The Regina Monologue

It's Monday at noon...or as I like to call it, "post-Sunday".

Last night saw us at The Dakota Tavern for our first time in about a month on a Sunday, Now, as you know, we (The Beauties) are the house band on Sundays, but due to a full summer touring schedule, we have had to sub the gig out lately.

It was nice to come back to such a rapturous crowd. I swear, every female in the room wore their most beautiful dress. Anna had to go out of town, so our dear old friend (and long time bassist) Paul Pfisterer sat in with us. Old hat. He delivered, and all was well. It was nice to play "Hearts Are Down" and "Southbound Suarez" (Zeppelin cover) with him again. Paul moved on from the band for reasons we all understood, but it's nice to know we can still play together and have fun. Therein lies an important lesson: Never burn the bridge with a band mate.

This week sees us travelling to to play a private wedding in Vancouver. Then, Sunday, we are playing The Regina Folk Festival. I am really looking forward to seeing some great friends on the west coast. The last time I played in Regina was last year with Sarah Slean at The Exchange, and despite the ragged setting for her specific brand of baroque-pop, it was an amazing show.

Everyone I meet from Regina seems to emanate pride and pleasantry.

Plus, they have a pretty sweet brew pub that delivers top-shelf ales, stouts and lagers.

Well played, Regina.

So, I leave for Vancouver on Wednesday. I have been many times, but does anyone have some suggestions to see/hear/taste? Please leave them in the comments section. I have 2 days to kill, and would love to see some fresh sights.

Keeping it short for now. Trust me, the next one is going to be a doozie. Consider this one the calm before the awesome.

Love your own laugh.


Saturday, 4 August 2012

What goes up...

...must come down...or, perhaps it gets crushed in the hold.
The bad news comes later in the blog. First, the good news from the past week:

Camrose, Alberta. A beautiful prairie town that's home to a couple of great music fests. We had the pleasure of playing at the brand new Bailey Theatre. Serena Ryder & The Beauties shows don't happen very often these days, so we made sure to bring the people something special. The crowd was a mix of young and old, and very open to different styles. Playing "The Funeral" is always a challenge and a pleasure. It's the best I've ever heard Serena sing, and it gives me goosebumps every time we play it. It's really the song that started me on my path of playing keys, drums and singing at the same time. We signed autographs for almost as long as the duration of the show. I am humbled by the affection.

After Camrose on Monday, we flew back to Toronto on Tuesday, where I went straight from the airport to AXIS. For the past 8 years, I have hosted The Junction Jam at AXIS ( Dundas West and High Park Ave.) every Tuesday that I am in town. Players come from all over the city for this jam/open mic. Sadly, the P.A. system stopped working around midnight, so an early end to the night was forced upon us. I hope they will have it fixed by next week.

Here comes the bad news: Somewhere between Edmonton and Toronto, my lovely Martin acoustic got crushed by the airline. Thankfully, my management at Six Shooter are on it, and I anticipate a positive outcome in the near future. I'll keep you posted as news comes in. I never thought it would happen to me.
I guess the lesson is "Never say never". I am hoping my insurance will cover this.

The rain kept pouring, as I had all of my weekend gigs pull out on me. Those are the breaks sometimes. One night you're playing to 10,000 people, the next you're scrambling to fill out your calendar because of a double booking, closed venue etc. In math, they call these things "variables". ;) Every now and then, you have to take a punch. The older I've gotten, the more I have learned about deflecting the cheap shots.

Last night (after a lengthy rehearsal with The Beauties), I got a last minute call to play bass with Tom Barlow and his fantastic band at The Bier Market on The Esplanade. It's funny how the universe works in your favour when you least expect it. Call it karma, call it chance, but all of a sudden I didn't lose a gig and I'm playing to a packed house of live music fans and dolled-up damsels. Despite the leaky ceiling, the crowd was really, really into it.

Tom Barlow is a consumate performer. His swagger and diverse repetoire make him a hot commodity for any establishment. I've always enjoyed playing with him, mainly due to his hard-working, fun-before-flash ethos. He sweats. That is important, kids. Most musicians could learn a thing or two from Tom. Tom looks like he's having fun, because he IS having fun. It's that projection that makes a show infectious. Never forget to enjoy yourself when you are playing, friends.
(Plus, he's a really nice guy, who puts others before himself. Thanks again, Tom.)

I have another "last minute" gig tonight (Saturday) at The Hole In The Wall. THITW is owned by some dear friends, and is already established as a staple of The Junction. Dundas West and Keele has never been this cool. The decor is reclaimed warmth, and the sound is surprisingly rounded and full. Plus, they have great booze, food, and fresh oysters (!). What more do you want?

Tonight, I'm playing a solo set opening for Young Running. I just produced an EP with them at The Lincoln County Social Club, and couldn't be more proud of their achievements in the studio. It's always a treat to work with a band who wants to be their own entity, and will work hard to get there. See them tonight, and keep your eyes open for them in the future. I anticipate success won't be far away. Their song "Coming Home" will coddle your core. I will probably sit in with them tonight on banjo and slide.

Thanks again for reading. See you tonight.

Subscribe to your soul.


Monday, 30 July 2012

Interstellar Rodeo: Lost Together

Edmonton, you may have a new legacy to be proud of. But instead of Gretzky, Kurri and Messier, your dynasty just might be lead by Six Shooter Records.

The inaugural Interstellar Rodeo took place at Hawerlak Park over the course of the weekend, to much fanfare. They welcomed guests such as Randy Newman, Gillian Welch, Hawksley Workman, Richard Buckner, Jason Plumb & The Willing, Blue Rodeo, Cadence Weapon, Wagons, Jenn Grant, Shakura S'aida, Whitehorse and many more. Oh, and The Beauties. ;)

It was nice to witness a city embrace such a varied playlist of styles. People came in droves. I really think this is the way more festivals need to happen in Canada. If your programming sticks to one specific genre of music, you really alienate yourself from discovering something truly inspiring. You don't have to look any further than Guelph's Hillside Festival to realize this is the truth. Good music is good music, no matter what genre. If it's played with conviction and honesty, I could never speak ill of it.

A fresh and open ear keeps the soul anew.

This is where Six Shooter succeeded.

We played a tight and spirited set to a responsive audience who was trickling in to see headliners, Blue Rodeo. I like playing to an audience who aren't really familiar with the band. But by the end, everyone was singing "Devil Do". Mission accomplished.

If you read my last blog, you remember that Anna (our bassist) cut her hand open on the handle of a rented amp. Basically, she missed her window to get stitches, but still pushed on though the sets. Thankfully, the cut wasn't near the fingers that do all of the walking. Painful, still. A trooper, that Anna.

It was nice to see Luke Doucet & Melissa McClelland as Whitehorse, finally. Their re-working of Passenger 24 had an increase in intensity that was appreciated. I look forward to hearing new material from this astonishingly talented duo.

As always, a show with Blue Rodeo is somewhat of a love in. Michael Boguski joined us on keys for a couple of songs, and chilling with Glenn Milchem is always a pleasant time.

Sadly (for us), Jim Cuddy called us up to sing the last song of their set, and one of my personal favorites, "Lost Together". Unfortunately, we had already left to set up for our perfomance at the afterparty. He filled me in on this at The Pawn Shop, where we were performing for the vollunteers. I've sang and plaued it with them before, and am always honored to be asked up with them.  He understood why we had to leave, so all was forgiven. You don't want a surly Cuddy on your hands, friends.

It was great to see Greg Keelor, Colin Cripps, Bob Egan and Bazil Donovan, too. Truly a Can-Rock supergroup that I am proud to look up to.

Our evening ended with us setting the dancefloor afire at The Pawn Shop. Wagons shared the bill, again. I get the feeling those Aussies are having a blast. I am also pretty sure we will be seeing more of them down the road. Great blokes.

As I write this, we are travelling to Camrose to play the new Bailey Theatre with Serena Ryder. Back home, tomorrow. Wherever that is...

Link arms with love.


Sunday, 29 July 2012

Calgary Folk Fest: Day 2

Calgary. You have to love a city that has separate streets for public transit.
We started yesterday by playing a rousing set of 100% Beauties gems on stage 4 to a large crowd of folk fans. I think people enjoyed the change of pace, as we were one of the more "rocking" bands. At first we thought we might get rained out, but just before we hit the stage, the sun burst through the clouds. Thankfully.

After our show, we were part of a workshop with The Barr Brothers, Serena Ryder and Blackie & The Rodeo Kings. Wow. A remarkable myriad of talent.

(It should be noted that Colin Linden of BARK first inspired me to play standard-tuned slide many years ago, when I saw them do a secret show at The Horseshoe Tavern with Bruce Cockburn under the name Bambi & The Deerhunters.)

We all went song for song for a couple of rounds. Serena has performed and recorded with BARK several times, and played like old friends at a campfire. It was and honor to have all the groups playing along with "Play With Fire" while I sang and manned the keys. Hearing Tom Wilson's deep sub-tenor voice and Colin's unmistakeable slide work under my voice was possibly the highlight of my summer. Colin has played on some of my favorite records.

The Barr Brothers lead the last "jam" of the workshop: a beautiful re-working of Neil Young's "Don't Let It Bring You Down". Jud let me play his Gretch alongside Colin Linden. Double slides. I didn't want it to end, frankly. A perfect finish to a stellar set.

The great part of festivals is meeting up with other bands on the road. Jon Langford (of the legendary Mekons) is always good for a larf. As is Pokey LaForge and his band of misfit cowfolk. Junior Brown and his band showed us that you don't need a kick drum to deliver the country-fried goods. Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel showed us what NOT to do, by insisting the cameras on mainstage were off during his performance. I had never heard of someone clearing out 16,000 people before, but here we are. Bravo, pal.

Anyway, our mainstage performance with Serena Ryder was very well recieved by the capacity crowd. I still get teary-eyed when we get a standing ovation. I hope I never lose that feeling, ever. I am very fortunate that I get to do this. However, I don't consider myself lucky. I worked very hard to get here. Fortunate is the word I use.

So, off to Edmonton we go, playing Six Shooters' Interstellar Rodeo with Whitehorse and Blue Rodeo. Yet another stacked playbill.

Poor Anna (our bassist) just cut her finger open on a rented Traynor amp. Shawn just bought some Barbie band aids, and she seems to be in better spirits now. Barbie. Is there anything that gal can't do?

Music has never been a job to me.
It's hard work, but will never be a job.
It completes me.

Lastly, I would like to thank the thousands of readers who have already read these blogs. I am humbled, and thanks to everyone for spreading the word.

You actually gave me something to cry about.

Hold the hand of health.


Friday, 27 July 2012

Calgary Folk Fest: Day 1

Calgary. Surprisingly cooler in temperature than Ontario. As you may have read in my last blog, Calgary Folk Fest is very dear to my heart. We just played our first of 4 shows (3 tomorrow).

Our workshop consisted of us (The Beauties), Little Scream (from Montreal, fresh off the road with Beirut), The Barr Brothers (also from MTL) & The Magnetic North (Calgary).

The Magnetic North hosted, and did a fine job of leading the other bands through their material. Actually, every band did a great job of doing just that. Therein lies the biggest challenge of a workshop: choosing the right material that everyone can follow. Otherwise, it can become a jumbled mess, quickly. I played drums with TMN, and really got to dig in to their pop-in-a-blender sound.

The Barr Brothers were easy to enjoy, with their soft-yet-seasoned delivery. Their use of Pump Harmonium, Harp (yes, they had a giant harp on stage), and wild percussion (Waterphone anyone?) made for a myriad of tones and flavours. Plus, the song they dedicated to the late, great, Lhasa (who, evidentally, helped start the band) was nothing short of breathtaking. Oh, and their drummer SMOKED. Tasty chops to spare on that guy.

Little Scream was a pleasant surprise. They were essentially a female singer/guitarist, another guitarist, and a drummer. Air-y, thoughtful, angular pop; not unlike Beach House, The Cranes, and my favorite, My Bloody Valentine. Actually, comparing anyone to MBV might be the highest compliment I can give to a band. Yet, Little Scream maintains their own sound. I found them to be the least "conventionally accessible" band, but that's what made them so special. I anticipate great things from this crew.

I felt we more than carried our own, hammering through Devil Do & Without You with enough guitars to cripple the front row. The crowd responded positively, so, I guess we did something right.

I'd like to take a moment and say how greatful I am that Anna Ruddick is playing bass with us. Stepping into a position with a 5 year old stomping, clomping machine like The Beauties is no easy feat. I really feel like we are growing together as players, and with every show she gets better and more adventurous. I can't wait to get her singing more. She has been more than we hoped for. Thank you, Anna.

Tomorrow, we play 3 shows, including a mainstager for 16,000 folks with Serena Ryder. Not too shabby. Uhh, wanna buy a cd? ;)

Until tomorrow, friends.
Hold your heart high.
(Oh, did I mention Charles Bradley is playing at my hotel tonight? Bravo to The Weston!)

PS: Check out the Star Wars Lego rock concert someone made at the Artists Liason at The Weston. The little soundman is so cool!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Tour Of Beauty: Wax Giddy-otic

Canmore. Mountain air. Last night's show was a glorious event. Wagons from Australia proved to be funnier than I had anticipated. I liken them to Nick Cave, if he had a sleeve-worn sense of humor. Great group of fellas, too.

The Communitea Cafe was more than accomidating, providing us with lovely, fresh food and smiles galore. Thanks Marnie, Erica, Mike and Rose.

Today, we travel to Calgary to enjoy a couple of days off. However, Calgary Folkfest is already on, and if I have to spend a night watching Beruit, Charles Bradley amd Chris Issak, well, I guess that will suffice. ;)

I haven't been to Calgary Folk in many years. I recall meeting Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle at the same time there. That will probably never happen again. Also, jamming gypsy-jazz songs I wrote with Jon Jourgenson of The Hellecasters (and some guy named Elton John) while bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs nodded along was a memory I won't soon forget.
I asked Jon, "Who are you here with?"
Jon replied "Earl Scruggs".
I then gushed about how much I wanted to meet him. Everyone around us started laughing, for a reason I wasn't privvy to. I recieved a tap on my shoulder, and an old hand was then outstetched in front of my guitar.
"Earl Scruggs. Nice to meet you."
He had been sitting beside me the whole time we were jamming.
He told me he enjoyed my playing, and I joked about how I wanted that statement in writing.
It was a meeting that will forever be etched into my thoughts.
No matter how much Wild Turkey made its way into my bloodstream that day (thanks, Carolyn Mark).

So, in lieu of these memories, Calgary Folk 2012 has it's work cut out for it. It will be nice to see Charles Bradley and his band again. Such nice blokes.

The night of our Saturday performance on the main stage finds us going on after Junior Brown (of git-steel infamy), and just before Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Revival is one of my favorite all-time-cry-my-face-off records.
Listening to: Only One And Only by Gillian Welch.

Thanks for reading.
Kiss a friend on the forehead.


Monday, 23 July 2012

Tour Of Beauty: Day 2.0

Travel Day. There's not much out there in this great world that can visually top the clouds in the Canadian prairie sky. More often then not, they hardly look real, almost watercolour. Mind=blown.

I am looking forward to playing in Canmore tomorrow. The Communitea Cafe seems to host some great acts, like our friends Jen Grant amd Royal Wood. We are sharing the bill with Wagons, an Aussie band who is on our label, Six Shooter. I don't really know their stuff, but I look forward to meeting them. I'm sure some great music will follow.

If there's one thing I love about mountain towns, it's that they almost always have a great coffee shop with a nu-hippie, organic ethos. I can't wait to explore the town in search of one. Nelson is pretty hard to top for this one. Bring the bean, Canmore!

Listening to Radiohead's "In Rainbows", en transit. Our tour manager Reuben (we poached him from Timbre Timbre for this run) has great taste in music. This band is thankful for him.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Tour Of Beauty: Day 1

Fort Macleod, Alberta. A lovely little town, home to the South Country Folk Festival, a small but spirited fest.

We were about 3 songs into our 60 minute set when the power went out...I don't think they saw our brand of high octane rock coming. After a few minutes of backstage deliberations and possible buck-passing, the power came back on. The air is very dry out here, so water is crucial to holding notes. Thankfully, the staff and vollunteers were armed with all things quenchable. A beer mysteriously made it's way beside my kit during the set. Nice touch. The crowd were enthusiastic, and certainly so when Shawn took his Theremin solo.

It was lovely to run into Miss Quincy and her sweet band, The Webber Bros., Scarlett Jane and other various Ontario ex-pats. The nearby river was freezing, but great for bringing down the core temperature.

Now, we are in the town, relaxing. Off to Canmore tomorrow. But first, dinner at Johnny's which was praised by folks on my Facebook page. Everyone has eaten here. From Randy Bachman to, er, Randy Quaid!
(see pic).

Until every show like it's your last.


Saturday, 21 July 2012

All your place are belong to us

So, The Beauties just finished playing Yonge & Dundas Square in our fine city of Toronto, and I was astounded by the amount of support this city provides us. Thank you to all who attended. It's nice to spend an evening with a couple thousand friends. The band was on fire tonight. I'm so proud to be in this band with my friends.

Tomorrow, we rehearse with our friend Serena Ryder, then head to Alberta to play the South Country Fair. I am looking forward to seeing some great acts, and meeting with old friends. Oh, Alberta, indeed.

I am especially piqued to be playing in Canmore with The Beauties. The backdrop of one of Canada's most beautiful areas. I feel fortunate that I am able to return there. Last time I was there was when I was playing with The Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir, at The Drake. Afterward, I went up to The Canmore Hotel ( The Can-Ho, to the locals) and jammed on guitar with a local band all night. What a glorious slice of Canada.

Thank you and goodnight.
Hug something.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Welcome, Crybabies

Since people were constantly asking if I had a blog, I have decided to start one. Thanks to my dear friend David Vasey for designing it, and my website,
I am hoping to give you all insight into the crazy musical world I live in. There will be travelling tales, photos, and even some video. Being the luddite that I am, the latter will require some patience ;)

Today, I am off to throw some ideas into the pot for Andy Kim's new recordings. (Note: for those who don't know, Andy is the guy who wrote Sugar, Sugar for The Archies, plus many other huge hits, and who is also my dear friend. I am the musical director for his band, too). My friends Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene) & Ohad (Do Make Say Think) are at the dials, and I am looking forward to working with them again.

Tomorrow, The Beauties play Yonge & Dundas Square from 8-10pm. Free outdoor show. Tell everyone!

Saturday, we leave to Calgary to start a 2 week run of gigs in Alberta and beyond. Check for all of the dates. We are coming for you, Canada.

So, that's my first blog. How's my driving?


Test from phone