Friday, January 23, 2009

Maple Blues Awards

Well, I spent Saturday, Sunday and Monday hanging out at The Blues Summit IV, here in Toronto, Canada. This is the big (well as big as it gets for the blues) industry function for Canada. Held every two years, and organized by the Toronto Blues Society, the event features showcasing, seminars, and networking opportunities spread over three days. Following the Summit are the Maple Blues Awards— Canada's down home version of the Handy's (now BMA's). I had a great time, heard a lotta cool music, got to catch up with many of my musical friends from across the land, and did a pile of business to boot.

At the conference hotel I met Dalannah Gail Bowen, a tremendous singer who works out of Vancouver. Her Saturday night show was well attended, and her band was very good. Whenever you think you know everybody, you get surprises! I also heard my pals Fathead, Raoul and the Big Time, Ross Neilsen, Mike "Shrimp Daddy" Reid" and the Anderson/Sloski duo. At the reception I met musicians and promoters from all over North America. I spent a few minutes hanging with Chip Eagle, of Blues Revue Magazine. Chip has always taken good care of me in Memphis, and I've been talking up the Maples to him for several years now. He was having fun, and promised not to miss this event again! Chatted for a while with Jamie Steele, out of New Brunswick, Bruce Morel, out of Nova Scotia, Jeff Davis, from Omaha, Earl and Nancy Krushelnicki from Prince George, BC, Gord MacAulay from Saskatoon... Ran into Shakura, Mark Stafford, Brian Slack, John Valenteyn and David Barnard, Sarah French... Talked with David Gogo for a while about next year's (yes, thats 2010) blues tour... Well, you get the picture. A busy time!

Next day I went to hear Monkey Junk, a very cool trio out of Ottawa, Ontario. Individually, I've been running into Steve Marriner and Tony D all over Canada for several years now— but together it's a fresh and winning combination. They bring out the best in each other's playing. Kieth Hallett, a nineteen year old player out of Fredericton, NB, made the night for me with his great, electric take on Son House. We'd met a few times before, but I'd never had a chance to hear him play. Now I'm a fan! Go get 'em, Kieth! Also heard Amos Garrett (kills me every time), and Ray Bonneville. Heard Rob Bowman interviewed by Richard Flohil, and got to chat with him briefly after the event. I've enjoyed his writing so much over the years, especially Soulsville USA, but also all the liner notes...

Hung out at the Maples this year with Michael Jerome Brown, Paul Reddick, Brian Mortimer... A great night. The noms were pretty solid this year in every category. All in all, a productive and pleasurable weekend. Not performing gave me time to book up well over a dozen shows for the Century Blues Tour, so the whole thing is moving forward quite quickly. There's a little buzz out there.

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