Wednesday, October 31, 2007

More Guitar Trouble- and Get the Fuck Out

It was a good thing that Paul was at the show last night- he was able to jimmy Dave's National between sets! The cone dropped again part way through the set. Funky, with the 6th string sitting right down against the fretboard... For the second set it had held up nicely, but we were back to Underdog Music this morning for another round of repairs. A little Viagra under the biscuit this time, and now the strings are up and sounding good. Good and loud! I think the guitar is probably better now than it was when we started the tour. Or mine's getting quieter!!

While the Blues Society had put us up in a fairly nice hotel, we had the day off- so back to Bud's on Broadway where the owners extended another night's hospitality to us. We hung out in our rooms, slept, played some guitar. I thought I'd work on some new songs- and did- but was pretty much too tired to do much except noodle. Still, that was fun- I have not had much noodle time over the last two months of hard travel. It's Halloween Night and the band downstairs kicks off with "Spooky" (by the Classics IV?), closing their first set with "Monster Mash." I rolled out of bed and came downstairs to catch the last set, meeting Dave, Harmonica Donna and some others in the bar. There were a few folks out in costume, but generally it seemed to be a pretty quiet night.

After the show Donna took me down the street to visit a club called Lydia's. I was told that this was a pretty good local venue, so I thought I'd check it out with an eye to coming through solo in a few months time. When we entered Lydia's a big guy with a shaved head came running up and screamed in my face "who the fuck let you in here??? get the fuck out!!!" He meant it, too. So apparently customer relations are not necessary at Lydia's. They didn't know who the fuck I was, and it didn't fucking matter. When a club runs it's fucking business this way it probably won't be in fucking business long. Not with help like that, anyway. Lydia's, Saskatoon, Canada. Fuck 'em, too. The only unpleasant moment in 25 thousand km of touring this great land, so natch it made the blog.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Saskatoon- Another Sold out show!

Down to Underdog Music first thing this morning for urgent guitar repairs. We've called ahead, so Paul is waiting for us, and soon Dave's National is in pieces on the table. Something to do with the cone partially collapsing. This is interesting stuff, and we pow-wow over how to raise the action enough so that the guitar can be played in tonight's show. Eventually, Paul ignores all of our suggestions and figures something out.

I took a few minutes to catch up on email in the store office and found out that Big Dave has been nominated MBA (Maple Blues Award) for Acoustic Act of the Year! This was an entirely unexpected surprise, and I am thrilled that the Big Road Blues Tour featuring Big Dave McLean and Doc MacLean has apparently had a national impact. I'd certainly be more thrilled if we shared the honour, but Dave's nomination is a nice and well deserved nod to all the hard work. Congrats, Dave!! I went upstairs to tell him, but he thought I was joking- it wasn't until later in the day I finally convinced him.

Other "Acoustic Act" nominees include the duos:

Diana Braithwaite & Chris Whiteley
Harry Manx & Kevin Breit
Dawn Tyler Watson & Paul Deslauriers

Guitar fixed, Dave bought a Dan, and we both bought new tuners. Off to the new hotel to sleep before sound check. The gig tonight is sponsored by the Saskatoon Blues Society, and we are pleased to learn that it is sold out. The West has been good.

A quick sound check with a good sound man. Josh is on the case- everything sounds good on and off stage, and the place is packed. It's an upscale sort of supper club, and it looks like about two hundred people, maybe more. Show time, and Dave and I have a ball. This crowd is with us, and this duo can do no wrong. These last shows have really been fun- more and more fun. We're getting pretty comfortable working together and it's having a big impact on our delivery! We end up with a gospel encore which I take off-mic and through the house. A ton of CDs get sold, we raffle off one of the last tour jackets... A great night. Saskatoon Blues Society member Al Wood took a pile of pictures, here's a few samples:

Back to the hotel to drop our gear, and then down to Bud's on Broadway to hang out and sit in with the band. We'll go back to our hotel and sleep late. A rest day! Of course we need to get Dave's guitar fixed again, so we'll be back at Underdog in the morning for another swing at repairs.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bud's on Broadway, Saskatoon

What I didn't say yesterday is that the cone on Dave's National pretty much collapsed last night, and he ended up breaking a pile of strings on his big new Gibson, Northern Jumbo. Monday being our first rest day since the 9th of the month, we took it to drive into Saskatoon to look for a guitar tech. Dave called ahead, as he owns this town, and the management at Bud's gave us 2 suites of rooms to use while in town. Dave sat in and played a couple of songs with the band. I hung out and wrote songs, and was early into the wrapper. In the morning we'll meet the guitar guys and see what can be done for Dave's guitars!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Slice- Lethbridge is Good!

Another big, glorious day, with the sun shining down on us. We got to sleep in as the travel time for today would be short. I took advantage of the business centre in our hotel and worked my way through a few hundred emails. After fueling up the truck we headed south on Hwy 2. Some fans who we had met in High River had invited us to brunch in Vulcan, AB, as it would be on route to our gig in Lethbridge. Larry and his wife did not let us down- we had a great visit and left quite stuffed with local sasuage and eggs.

Wild, rolling hills and gullies in this part of the country. The mountains are behind us now- quite distant- and we know the flatlands will be ahead of us. Meanwhile, the colours are great, prairie colours- these are the golds and browns and yellows you just don't see anywhere else. Big sky all around. Nice. The RCMP are out today picking off anything that's running over limit. We've got the cruise set to legal and the Staple Singers cranked up on the stereo. This little collection has 20 some odd tunes, and has become a real tour favourite. It wraps up with a Dylan tune that is sung in waltz time, with blues phrasing (OK, gospel phrasing, but you get the point) that I'm trying to figure out- counting bars on my fingers as we're rolling along. Quite cool.

The Bridge, on the way into town. We roll into Lethbridge, AB, on the early side and visit the club to see what's what. I've played Lethbridge once before- at the old Tongue and Groove- but tonight's venue is new to me, and we're not sure what to expect in Lethbridge on a Sunday night. Some rough looking folks are on the sidewalk outside, and as we enter the room loud heavy metal blasts out. Some folks are shooting pool. The place looks kind of dark. OK, we'll manage, this reminds me of the Railroad Club in Vancouver.

Spent the afternoon snoozing at our hotel, using the small business centre next door, fixing some guitar problems. When we headed back to the Slice for dinner we were pleasantly surprised. The room seemed brighter, great music was playing on the excellent sound system, everybody was friendly, and we had a great dinner. These guys really, really know pizza. Best on the Prairie, I'd guess!

Jeff got us set up with top notch gear- great monitor set up, great mains, etc. This room has great sight lines and a lot of wood. It sounded wonderful, and Jeff gave us one of the best mixes we've had on this tour. All we needed were customers- and they came. Thanks to CKCU we had fans coming in from as far away as Medicine Hat and Calgary for the show! Now, with a great crowd and great stage sound we gave one of the best performances of the Big Road Blues Tour. What a great surprise to find this great room in Lethbridge, AB.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Red Onion, Calgary, AB, Sell Out Show with the CBC Recording!

In short- a sell out show in this massive club. Recorded by the CBC for two different radio shows. Merch sales over the top. Great hotel. Great food. Friendly folks. Life is very, very good tonight out here on the Big Road. I came back to flesh this day's story out a little- so it's a long blog, but I think it tells a little more about our day...

It was one of our longer road days today. We were up and on the road by 6:AM, fueled by several of Tim's biggest coffees. There is a great little diner on the main drag in Penticton, but it was not open (nor was anything except Tim's) when we had to roll. The Dream had invited us to breakfast, too, oh well- next time! Good thing we were out early. The roads up the valley can be very slow during the day, but here, in the pre-dawn hours we made good time to the Big Road.

The road east, over the pass, past Banff, and into Calgary was a pretty one to drive. With the time change we spent about 9 or 10 hours in the truck. This is what it looked like out the window.

I had been telling people that the Red Onion was the big, downtown blues club in Calgary. My heart sunk when I discovered that it was, in fact, in the south suburbs of the city- in what appeared to be a modern strip mall near the highway. I had no cause for worry! From the moment I walked into the club I noticed it's cool vibe, great set-up, friendly staff and decor. The stage is huge, well set up, curtained, banks of lights, tons of monitors, stands, a very modern sound booth with top notch gear... pictures and posters on the walls of all kinds of great blues shows that have played here. This place has all the feel of a great downtown club- without the layers of decay and grime. This is a class blues room with great sightlines. I was later to discover it also has great food- much better than pub fare- and a very efficient, friendly staff. After checking in with the day manager, Dave and I made the short drive to our hotel for a brief rest.

We were to be back at the club to load in and set up in about an hour's time, so we hauled our personal gear up to our rooms and had a few moments to ourselves before jumping into the frey. Nice rooms- mine was a suite which included a separate television and office room. I put this to work and got the merch sheets together for tonight's show. A quick shave, a quick change into my suit and I'm off to meet Dave. He's looking good, too, so off we go to load in and set up.

Red Onion manager Rick met us at the door and helped us in with our gear. He's an old pal of Dave's, so I'm pleased to meet him, and not surprised that he's very much on the ball with this show. Apparently the phone has been ringing off the hook, every table is reserved, this will definitely be a sell out show. Rick and his staff have a pep talk and a planning session as Dave and I arrange our gear on stage. The CBC sound truck has arrived, and I need to move our van in order that their rig can squeeze close to the side door. Dave and I get a bite to eat while the CBC technician starts to run cables. By the time we've finished our meals the house sound man has arrived and has us roughed in and ready for sound check. It's still early, but there is a line-up outside the club, and Dave and I are pumped to blow these folks away tonight.

Stage sound is pretty good, although I wonder if we are going to be loud enough for this room. Apparently it all sounds good in the truck, too- so we're done, and the doors are opened. Our merch booth is set up, and switched on. We'll now go back to the hotel for another hour or so to relax as much as we can before showtime.

That our return to the Red Onion was delayed by a lack of parking was a good sign indeed. The place was now very crowded. I had a brief meeting with CBC producer Catherine McClelland, who introduced me to Katherine Duncan- one of CBCs unique radio voices. She's younger than I thought she would be. It's always a surprise, meeting a radio voice. We're recording tonight for 2 CBC shows- Canada Live and Saturday Night Blues. Showtime! We mixed up our set a bit, but here's what I think we played-

Set One:
Feel Like Goin' Home (M. Morganfield) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr., w. Doc MacLean, gtr.
Charlie James' Blues (J. MacLean, SOCAN) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Mama 'Taint Long Fo' Day (Blind Willie McTell) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr.
Jinx Blues (Son House) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Atlanta Moan (Barbecue Bob) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr.
Dead Men Walking (J. MacLean, SOCAN) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr, w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Fixin' to Die (Bukka White) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr, w. Doc MacLean gtr./percussion
I Lacks a Nickel, Spadina Blues (J. MacLean, SOCAN), - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr, w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Standing At The Crossroads (Robert Johnson)- Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr.
Jimmie Lee Jackson's Blues (J. MacLean, SOCAN), - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., Big Dave McLean, harmonica, voc.

Set Two:
Don't Go No Further (W. Dixon) - Big Dave McLean, voc, gtr., w. Doc MacLean, voc.
Roll and Tumble (trad. arr. MacLean) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Sweet Home Chicago, (Robert Johnson) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr., w. Doc MacLean, harmonica
Bone Train (J. MacLean, SOCAN) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Rainin' In my Heart, (Slim Harpo) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr.
Johnson Terraplane (J. MacLean, SOCAN) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Kind Hearted Woman, (Robert Johnson) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr., w. Doc MacLean, harmonica
Angola Prison Rodeo Blues (J. MacLean, SOCAN) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
You Got to Move, (trad. arrange McLean) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr., w. Doc MacLean, voc
Three Cards on a Coffin (J. MacLean, SOCAN) - Doc MacLean, voc. gtr., w. Big Dave McLean, harmonica
Walking Blues (Son House) - Big Dave McLean, voc. gtr., w. Doc MacLean, harmonica

The first set was tougher to play than we would of hoped. The great sound we'd had for sound check seemed to have vanished, and we struggled to hear ourselves at all. I'm told it sounded great in the mains, and in the truck, but I know I was having to sing and play too hard, and missed some bits simply because I couldn't hear to play my guitar and was a bit distracted. This was kind of disappointing, as we really wanted to give our best show for the CBC recording. Our sound guy got right on the case- I think the giant crowd had really changed the sound-shape of the room. For our second set it sounded great on stage, so we settled in to knock 'em dead. A great job with the sound- thanks! Did I mention that the cone had partially collapsed on Dave's National during the first set? Trying to work gracefully around this he ended up breaking yet another string on his Gibson Northern Jumbo... and I found myself playing on not one, but two blown harps! That's all the stuff you probably don't (and hopefully don't!) notice behind and inside the show. What really counts is that we played really well, dug way into a bunch of heavy blues, had a ball, and got a standing ovation at the end! We sold a pile of cds and tour merch as well. Another great night for the Big Road Blues Tour!

A long closure as we sign cds, say our good-byes and thank yous, and pack up our gear. Dave strolled back to the hotel while I waited on the club to wrap it's books for the night and take care of business. Rick and I end up sitting in the office for an hour or so, talking branding, marketing, gossip, blues. I get back to the hotel sometime around 3:AM, and make a quick stop at their small business centre to check on email. I've got to do this pretty much every day to advance the Tour, set up phoners and stay in touch with the upcoming venues and promoters. By 4:AM I'm in the wrapper. We'll sleep in a little bit as our next drive will only be a couple of hours.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dream Cafe, Penticton, BC, One of the Great Rooms- Sold Out

This is one of the great acoustic music rooms in Canada. A sell out night for us. A real Dream. Go there! It was a short, but pretty drive down the valley to get here today. Our quarters are a wonderful apartment just doors away from the venue. As we arrived in good time, we retired to our rooms for a snooze, and then went out on the town to do odds and ends. Dave to do banking, and me to find an internet connection. The banking worked out, but I couldn't get connected- only one terminal on the main street, and some kids had it locked up. Oh, well! I dropped into the local record store and bought Steve Earle's "Definitive Collection" as a gift for my son, Alasdair. We had picked up another copy for the tour van earlier. Nice collection.

Back to the club for soundcheck and dinner. The food is way over the top! Pierre knows food and is a master of it! We had a great meal and then went back to our apartment to chill for a while before the show. We are apparently sold out for this evening! It's a great, warm room, with really good sight lines and lovely sound- so we are very much looking forward to performing here.

The show turns out to be a dream as well. A really nice, listening crowd, a pleasure to be with and play for! We do "Schoolgirl" for an encore, and everybody goes home happy. The kitchen gives us desert treats to take back to our apartment, and after a quick snack we are in the wrapper. Early start in the morning!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Minstrel Cafe, Kelowna, BC

Well, the truck is pointed East now and Dave and I are amazed that the end of this Big Road Blues Tour will be coming up in just a few thousand more kms, just another couple of weeks of shows. Its been absolutely great. Kind of sad to be headed east after the glory of the coast, but as we have said to each other many times- its ALL beautiful! We are looking forward to the mountains again, and then the great prairie beyond. We are so blessed to own this Big Road, to be able to grasp it and make it our own.

An easy five hours of driving today taking in another breath taking road- the Coquihalla Hwy through the mountains toward the Okanogan Valley. Today we are in early enough to check into our hotel and snooze before the show. We have got pretty nice digs- right on the Lake.

It sure ain't Niagara Falls. The Valley is a popular retirement destination due to its mild, almost desert like climate. We had Fred McDowell cranked up in the truck today. We are groovin' heavily on this ride!

Another sell out show tonight. The room is attentive. We have a ball playing for these folks, and Clare feeds us like kings. The encores are good, and we are done early. This is a nicely detailed room with great food, a nice stage and excellent sound. It's the place to hear acoustic music in Kelowna. Between sets we entertain a variety of guests in our green room- actually Dave's guests- a gentleman from the Winnipeg Jets, musicians from up and down the Valley, and the former owner of the Times Changed Blues Club- a Winnipeg institution for many years. Everybody loves these mountains and this great valley. I'm to bed early, while Dave takes in the jam at the Blue Gator across town.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Railway Club, Vancouver, BC

Great day for a couple of boat rides, and Dave and I were up and away early enough to make sure wed get to Vancouver in plenty of time. The ride from Saltspring was great, and, following instructions, we bought our ticket to Vancouver and turned around at the same terminal. We were lucky, and loaded right away- one of the last cars to make the boat. It was a nice ride, too. I stayed down with the truck and watched the ocean out of the side openings. No wind, and closer to the water than the passenger decks above. No whales today, but a breathtaking ride nonetheless.

Another map snafu! Just when I thought I had Vancouver figured out! The problem was that the ferry landed us at some other terminal- miles and miles south of where we thought we had landed. Surry or Delta or whatever aint anywhere near Horseshoe Bay! You note that Im still using the messed up keyboard- wont and cant do certain things. Anyway, coming through Vancouver in rush hour we managed to lose most of the time we had saved. Checked into our hotel in North Van, suited up, and headed back over the Lions Gate Bridge. Its a pretty great looking city by night-at least looking at it across the water over a great bridge like this.

The Railway Club was loud and friendly, and our start time was much later than anticipated. The bartender said the phone had been ringing all day with calls about us- so I took this to be a good sign. Local art-pop band played until mid evening, after which it was our turn to set up. Sound tech was no where to be seen, so we moved mics, stands, monitors about and had things nicely roughed in by the time he arrived. Very loud room by this time- a table of opera singers dead front and centre were destined to shout loudly all night.

Johnny, our sound tech, arrived and had us up and ready pretty quickly. Unfortunately, the monitors began behaving strangely right off the bat- leaving Dave and I struggling to sing and play. We thought at first that Johnny was riding the faders up and down! Not! Maybe some cap in the board going crazy... We had a pow-wow between sets, Johnny rigged up a bi-pass or two, and the next set sounded remarkably better. Meanwhile, this is definitely a bar gig, not a concert. The opera guys are shouting, people are clapping and having a good time. Its all loud, and its not sold out either. I guess we are spoiled, but this show was way more work, and way less fun than we might of hoped for. We felt bad for the folks who bought tickets in order to listen and hear the show.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Saltspring Island- more wow!

A sunny day again! Dave and I drove around Ucluelet and located the breakfast joint folks had told us about. As it turned out, the owner was a former Winnipeg chef who had been a Big Dave fan for many years. He cooked and cooked. Dave ate and ate. Life was good. These kind folks let me use their internet access during breakfast, and about a dozen coffees later I was somewhat caught up with the blog. Still cant get the pics up- and just discovered that todays keyboard wont do certain basic punctuation (guess which characters dont work). Ill fix this later from a smarter keyboard. (OK, I'm back to do that! And I've got some pics!)

One of Canada's great road trips is the stretch from Ucluelet to Port Alberni and beyond. We got some big coffees and enjoyed the ride out to the Big Road. We took the Crofton-Vesuvius Bay ferry over to Saltspring Island. The water was almost dead calm, so we stood in the front of the ferry and gawked at the sheer beauty of it all.

On Saltspring we were suckered for the first time by our Mapquest printouts. We've got a printout with maps and directions for each show. Mapquest told us to turn RIGHT, not left! It was OK, we got to tour some other parts of the Island, and we were not in a hurry. A quick call to our hosts got us back on track and soon we were pulling up to their drive.

This was to be our last house concert of the tour- and what a great time! The drive snaked up the side of a small mountain- the house was a beautiful, hand crafted work of art on the peak.

Vast windows and decks looked out over to the ocean, lush trees and flowers were all about. The front door featured a massive carving of a whale, and the fine woodwork detailing continued all through this massive, dream home. Hosts Ron and Oni made us feel completely at ease, and Dave and I spent a relaxed afternoon snoozing and catching up on our phone calls. Nice to sit out in the sun looking out over the bay below!

About sixty people arrived for a pot luck dinner prior to the show- another spread well suited for royalty! I sampled local sheep cheese and wines, ribs, pear pie... After a short break Dave and I got down to it and played a really fun show to this packed room. These folks bought a huge number of cds, and made us feel very, very welcome indeed. I hope I can come back to this island and visit again and again. After the show Dave jammed a bit with another Dave. Another magic day.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ucluelet Hotel, Ucluelet, BC

Oh, man, what a ride, what a ride! We got the ferry this morning from Hornby Island- missed our boat by one minute, but spent a nice hour on the wharf, cloud watching. I can't leave this island slowly enough! Across to Denman Island- amazing little artist community- then to the mainland where we set out south to pick up hwy 4 to the west coast of the west coast!

In Port Alberni we did lunch in a real, drive in diner. And the food was great! The road into Port Alberni was a beautiful, dramatic ride, with huge, old growth trees along the road.

From Port Alberni, the ride improved even more. This is one of Canada's great rides. It's a twisty little road with more than it's share of bumps- but what a view- rapids, mountains, big trees, clouds. There's magic at work here, and I totally understand why people come here and stay.

Rolling into Ucluelet we headed over to Radio 99.2 FM to do the afternoon show with the Duke of Uke. Had a great time doing station ID's and playing old Canned Heat records! To the Hotel where we were met by Jason and Jada, our hosts and the promoters of tonight's show. The old hotel looks pretty good- lots of wood, and the acoustics promise to be good. We are up and sound checked in no time, off to check in to our room where Jason and Jada arrived shortly after with a seafood meal. Jason had caught and cleaned all the fish himself- the ocean is his backyard. And he is a pretty special chef. I hope I can remember some of the cooking ideas he shared!

Back to the club for an early, 7:30 show. The place seems quiet. We got the merch booth set up, and settled into a corner to wait. Still quiet. A few people trickle in, a few more... Jason suggests we wait a few more minutes before starting. We do- and by that time the place is packed! Folks have come in from Tofino and Port Alberni for this show, and the radio appearance didn't hurt, either. A bunch of people "off the boats" came by and introduced themselves. They were going to have a 5:AM start the next day!

A great crowd- one of the youngest we've played for on this tour, and they paid close attention all night. After a couple of encores we packed out. We could of stayed and partied all night with any of this crowd! It was so nice to be so warmly received, and the hospitality was overwhelming! Looking forward to touring a bit here in the morning before heading south to Saltspring Island. Wish we could go oystering, surfing, etc. with all our new friends! We'll be back- hopefully for a longer visit! Thanks Jason and Jada! Have a great wedding and a great birthing!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hornby Island, BC, New Horizons

We were guests of the Hornby Island Blues Society for a concert on the Island. I'm short of internet access at the moment, but I'll fill in some details in a few days time. This was amazing, amazing, amazing! From the packed house concert in the deep woods to our oceanside digs... Wow!!

After checking in with our hosts at the Hall and loading our gear into the performance area, we were escorted to our accomodations for the evening. We were also provided with a big pot of seafood chowder, french bread, beer, bagels, creamcheese... a big basket of food to enjoy for our dinner and breakfast. This is an amazing house. Dave and I had the place to ourselves. We were quite taken by it's oceanside bedrooms, skylights, glass, wood and earthtoned designs.

The view from this house was a real thrill for us. The roar of the tide coming in and out was a wonderful, relaxing sound, as was the wind in the trees all around us.

We were only sorry there was not more time to enjoy this. But night was falling and it was time for us to try to find our way back to the Hall. This proved to be a little tricky on the dark little island roads- but there are only so many of them, so eventually we got to the Hall. Still in plenty of time. Heck, it's dark on this Island at night! Our night vision is not what it used to be, either!

Soon the hall was filled up, and we were delighted to meet many members of the Hornby Island Blues Society. This is a very active group that, despite their remote location, have a big influence on the western Canadian blues scene. They are big promoters of acoustic blues, and for several years have hosted a summer "blues school" featuring master classes with well established Canadian blues performers. They are also involved in promoting concerts such as the one we are playing, and are involved as a sponsor and participant in the Maple Blues Awards. Great, sincere people, a real pleasure to meet and an honour to perform for.

The New Horizons Hall was as quiet a place as Dave and I have played on this tour. It's not hard to deliver a great show when a room is so primed for listening, and the environment so free of noise and bustle. We enjoyed our first set. During the intermission Dave discovered one of his childhood heros in the audience- Judith Lawrence- the voice of Casey and Finigan on the television show "Mr. Dressup."

To great excitement we raffled off another tour jacket at the start of the second show. Here's the lucky winner!

We finished the night with a couple of encores to this delightful, capacity crowd. After the show we enjoyed more local hospitality and some of the cash crop that this Island is famous for. A magic night for these two city blues guys, in a magic place. Thank you so much for sharing this special world with us. We were so pleased to be able to visit and play.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Duncan Garage Showroom, Duncan, BC - Sold Out Show!

After a well deserved sleep, Dave and I were up and off to Duncan, BC. This town is only a couple of hours from Port Alberni, so it was almost like a rest day, and we took our time driving south- taking in the magnificent views along the way. More rain and clouds, but also a little bit of sun.

At Duncan, we arrived early and checked into our hotel rooms for another rest. We're feeling pretty good, but I notice that we are spending more of our free time sleeping than we were earlier in the tour! Here's two of our tourist shots-

Sound check at 6:45. John tells us that 50 advance tickets have been sold, and that he expects the night to sell out. It does!! I'm not used to doing shows where people need to be turned away! What a great venue, too.

The Duncan Garage Showroom is in an old garage building- very old, so it's all wood and brick. The concert room has perfect sight lines- theatre seating- a wonderful stage, PA, lights, etc. John did a great job getting us set up with our choice of mics, monitor mixes.. Made us feel very spoiled. He's done this 800 times before- so he's got it right down. I knew from the start that this was going to be a great show!

A great listening audience! Dave and I sold quite a few CDs between shows and raffled off another tour jacket. There are not many left, now. After an ovation and an encore we hung out with John and the staff for a while to unwind. Great job everybody!! Thanks so much. No pics of the venue, sorry. It was simply so busy and crazy that we completely forgot about the camera. Off to Hornby in the morning!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Port Alberni, BC

Here's what it looked like camped in line for the ferry to Vancouver Island. I had called ahead and made reservations just in case- but these are big, big, boats, and at this time of year the traffic was apparently pretty good.
It was pretty neat being on this big boat. Dave and I drank coffee and explored.

This is all new territory for me, so it's quite exciting. We stood out on the forward deck, not wanting to miss anything.

There was quite a bit of activity out in the water. I think that there were seals fooling around out in Departure Bay, but I don't really know what they were. Hell, they could of been blues singers that got chucked off an earlier boat. Har! Walk the plank, lads!!

After a great ferry ride, and a wonderful drive across the island we reached our destination- a house concert on a lake near Port Alberni, BC. Rain, mist, old growth trees that touch the sky. A magic night with rain beating down on the roof of a big house. We played to about 50 people, were well fed and received. Sometimes being a blues singer is good. Very good. The Island is everything I imagined it would be, and more.

Hastings Street, East Vancouver

This morning I was up early and off to tour the Vancouver Native Health Centre. A dear, old friend of mine is on the Board of Directors, and she pretty much insisted that I come and visit what has become her life work. The breakfast drop in program was underway, so I got out my guitar and played for everybody. I met many dedicated volunteers working to bring health and dignity to those in need. And I met some folks who may or may not be alive next time I come to town. I'm going to write more about this later. Volumes. Help is needed here. Nobody should be living and dying as they are on these mean streets. Nobody planned to end up here. The condition of this street speaks volumes for the health of our society in Canada- and comparisons to other cities, other countries, other cultures should be no excuse for low standards. We can make a difference. We will. The world is going to come and look at this place, soon enough.

A relative of mine, Isaac Matheson Maclean, was the first medical health officer for the City of Vancouver. He had made his home not far from here, at another Hastings St. address- now a vacant lot. So I suppose I have some thin, thread of a connection to this place and it's history. I played "Spadina Blues" here this morning, and the folks on Hastings were on the same page.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mountain drive to Vancouver

This is what kind of travel day we had! Winter had to catch up to us sooner or later! The storm lasted only a couple of hours in the high mountains, but not being familiar with the truck we drove pretty carefully. You never know what to expect in the high country. We've been lucky so far.

We were glad to get into our hotel in North Vancouver- here just rain. That's the way I know this city best! This is a rare, rest night for us, so we settle into our rooms, call a few friends, watch a little tube. We're tired, but can hardly wait until morning to get started again.