Sunday, July 26, 2009

Magic Numbers

Yes, it seems like the Tour has finally reached the Magic Numbers. Over 100 stops! So, this is good. I still have a very few dates I'd like to fill: a couple on the East Coast, a couple on the West Coast, a couple in Quebec, and a couple in Ontario. The Prairie has got one date left. So, I could fill seven more shows over the duration... These won't make the poster. DPI Graphics gets the print work in the morning with 100 stops, and these posters will be up all over Canada before you know it!

Diva's working on the Tour Jackets, including some special orders already in... We're counting down. I'm booking flights and trucks. Can't wait to see you all out on the Blues Highway!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Long & McQuade Joins Tour

I'm really quite proud to announce that Long & McQuade will once more be a participant in the National Steel Blues Tour. With Long & McQuade on board we now have over 100 stops scheduled for this year's version, the National Steel "Century" Blues Tour. Big Dave McLean and I will be visiting select locations across Canada to present workshop/masterclasses as part of our Tour schedule.

Long & McQuade is Canada's largest music retailer, with over 30 locations across Canada. More than a store, Long & McQuade provides a full range of services including rentals, financing, and music education. I've been a customer since the early 1970s, and as a hard traveling musician I've had a chance to visit many of their locations across the country. It's more than a business. They participate and contribute to their communities in many ways, helping to nurture and support a broad based music scene and aiding a wide variety of social causes. I'm really impressed with how they run the business. Great employees, many who have been with the stores for years and years, and who really seem to love their jobs. They know how to treat their people. How cool is that? I'm very pleased to endorse Long & McQuade, and am actually excited about conducting these workshops. I had some wonderful experiences last year, so I'm looking forward to these stops.

Our visits will be laid back and social. We will focus on resophonic guitars, fingerstyle playing, open tunings, slide stylings, various equipment and accessories, set-up, mic techniques, the history of resophonic "dobro" guitars, and the history of the blues. We're relaxed enough to go with whatever skill levels or interests present themselves. Last year we fielded questions that took us in some interesting directions: touring, songwriting, the future of the blues... Muddy Waters, Son House... Come out and visit with us at one of the following Long & McQuade locations—

Ottawa, ON, Saturday 12 September
Fredericton, NB, Thursday 17 September
Charlottetown, PE, Saturday 19 September
Halifax, NS, Thursday 24 September
Calgary, AB, Saturday 24 October
Kamloops, BC, Saturday 31 October
Nanaimo, BC, Saturday 7 November

WCMA Nomination for Big Dave

Wouldn't you know it? ANOTHER nomination for Big Dave McLean! The West Coast Music Awards announced nominees earlier this week and Dave's latest CD "Got 'em from the bottom" is nominated for Blues Recording of the Year. Congrats to Dave, and to the other nominees. The Awards and Conference will be held in Brandon, Manitoba, September 17 through September 20th.

During the Awards Dave and I will be playing in Fredericton, NB, at the Harvest Blues & Jazz Festival, and doing a masterclass at at the Fredericton Long & McQuade location. Then we'll be moving on to Nova Scotia where we'll be playing the Bicentennial Theatre in Middle Musquodoboit (great venue!), after which we'll be playing the Dunk, at Breadalbane, Prince Edward Island, and giving another masterclass at the Charlottetown Long and McQuade store. So we won't really have time to sit around worrying about how to pack a trophy in the Tour truck. We hope to be in Brandon on the 25th of November, so I guess if Dave wins maybe they can hold it at the front desk until we get there.

Western Canada has a great music scene, and I am always struck by how the artists there tend to support and promote one and other. If you are not familiar with the western Canadian music scene, check out the nominees for these awards— I'm sure you'll discover some artists who will impress and inspire.

Big Dave McLean is a Stony Plain recording artist, and his much nominated recording "Got 'em from the Bottom" is available worldwide.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tour Gears Up, Jackets, Logo, CD, Sponsors

Odds and ends are slow this year. With the close to 100 dates on the go I've really got my hands full here in the virtual, National Blues Tour office. Here's what's up—

Tour jackets are being manufactured— artwork finally delivered after some hardware/software issues were resolved. These are the nice, white stripe, east LA street gang style, satin jackets. I love these coats, and they sell out on every tour. Do you like this year's logo?

Licensing is complete for the new CD, and I had a session with Andy Krehm at Silverbirch Productions in Toronto— just reviewing the master and making sure it's good to go to the plant for manufacture. It's a really nice little mastering studio, and there are very few people with as much experience as Andy. I always come away from Silverbirch with a positive spin, and better informed than before my visit. Cover art should be done over the next week, and then it will just be a waiting game. The release will be held at Hugh's Room, Toronto, at the gala kick-off of the Tour. I expect that I will get copies out to all of our radio friends well in advance of this.

Ran into Jimmy Bowskill at Silverbirch where he was finishing up the artwork to his new CD. We compared notes about opening shows for Johnny Winter. Jimmy's not little anymore— and I like him better since he's stopped dressing like me! Seriously, he's working in more of a rock format now, but you can bet that his blues roots will be re-visited time and time again. Always nice to run into him and his Dad.

Posters are all-but ready to go to print. I've been holding out to get location confirmations from our corporate sponsors, but I fear I may need to do a second run of posters in a few weeks time if these don't come in right away. It's a long list of towns and cities this year, still fluid with late adds to Atlantic Canada and Quebec... but this will need to be announced and go to print very soon. I probably shouldn't have waited this long— still hoping to get 100 stops on the poster. I think we're up to about 91 entries at the moment.

For any geeky, arts business types out there— I've been revamping the Excel spreadsheets I've developed to track and project the Tour. Every year this gets a little better. I can't stress enough that independent touring artists need to keep track of all their data for each Tour or project. You gotta know where your money comes from, and where it goes. The spreads travel along on the laptop and are updated continuously to keep track of all aspects of the Tour.

And hey, all you runners who followed last year's blog— I'll be running across Canada again this year. I'm hoping that my favourite shoe company and my favourite sports retailer will get on board as Tour sponsors. I should add that I don't accept sponsorships from companies I don't actually use, respect, support, ordinarily promote and recommend! Mizuno makes the greatest runners I have ever had, so it would be great to see their logo along on the Tour.

I've been running High Park in west Toronto pretty much daily, as well as doing some longish runs up the Humber River. This morning I did 15- 20 km and actually saw a couple of deer down by the Humber. This is in the middle of a big, big, city— so that's why I mention it. I've also seen fox and probably coyote in High Park. Life is good, and these runs give me time to plan my days, and cut down a little stress.

Other news: I was invited to the Riverboat Coffeehouse dedication in Toronto's Yorkville a couple of weeks ago. Met my old partner Mose Scarlett, visited with David Wilcox, Dan Hill, Murray McLaughlan... Finally met Gordon Lightfoot, and had an uneventful chat with him. Mose and I have mostly seen one and other at funerals of late. We attended the memorial service for Tom Evans of the Original Sloth Band perhaps three weeks ago, and tomorrow, sadly, we'll be paying our last respects to our dear friend, Jackie Washington. But on a brighter note, here are some pics my pal David shot at the dedication—