On stage with Hubert Sumlin at the East Coast Blues & Roots Festival, Byron Bay , Australia.
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The South Australian desert of my last blog seems so long ago…
There’s been a lot of traveling, gigging, jamming and making new friends since then!
(Click here for photos)
It’s been a time of huge contrasts. The long hot Aussie Summer giving way to minus 9 degrees Celsius in Saskatoon, Canada, for example. In mid-February, I flew back to America. As luck would have it, I arrived in Portland, OR, the day that Blues Music Award Entertainer of the Year Janiva Magness was playing at classy downtown venue Jimmy Mak’s. Accompanied by my friend and loyal blues supporter, Betsy McBride, we hit the town! It was a great show – and to my complete surprise, Janiva invited me to join her on stage during the encore. Many thanks go to her guitarist, Zack Zunis, who very graciously lent me a guitar to play and took some time to chat after the show (as did the lovely Janiva).
Big fun! Surprise, surprise…I went from being jetlagged to completely energized, so despite the lateness of the hour, our next stop was Portland’s own juke joint, Duff’s Garage. And Duff’s did not disappoint…with harmonica-ace Jim Wallace and the House Cats playing, there was more wonderful music as well as the opportunity to jam with my favorite drummer Jimi Bott and guitarist Franck Goldwasser from The Mannish Boys.
Jimi joined me again a couple of days later to play one of Jim Flynn’s House Parties. I think of these parties as a modern, Portland expression of an old-school fish-fry. A big crowd of friends getting into party-mode; drinking, hanging out and dancing like crazy to loud, live bands in Jim’s living room. My wonderful mate Dave Kahl on bass and Dover Weinberg on keys (oy vey!) and we were ready to rock this crazy scene. People here sure know how to have a goooood time!
My next round of travel once again showed a healthy disregard for North American geography and time zones. There were also far too many days that started at 6am at an airport! I had brought Aussie Summer weather with me to Portland, which was surprisingly balmy, but it was snowing by the time I arrived in Detroit. Luckily, I was given a warm welcome by my next host, Bill Reiser. Bill invited me and blues mandolin-meister Rich DelGrosso to be part of his KBA award-winning ‘Black History Month Blues Series’. Held in a beautiful old building in downtown Monroe, the show was my first chance to catch up with Rich in a while. We always have a lot of fun playing together, especially for an appreciative audience, and tonight was no exception. The evening culminated with rough red wine and pasta at an Italian joint that was the only thing still open – and as far as I can see, the only down-side was the next days’ 6am start at the airport…
Now that I was almost used to the idea of snow, what better place to jet off to next than the Saskatoon Blues Festival in Canada? Festival organizer Gordon MacAulay and I first met in the steamy atmosphere of the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise to Mexico last October, but even though my body was somewhat shocked by the Saskatoon temperature, the hospitality at this festival was definitely hot! My festival show was a double-bill acoustic concert with Alvin Youngblood Hart. The last time I saw Alvin we were on a bill together at a festival in Toronto and he was playing with his band ‘Muscle Theory’. Tonight he was solo and playing in great form. For me both the playing and the listening were equally enjoyable! Earlier that day I’d also played at a lunchtime concert for people at a local disabilities workshop – the audience there really got into the swing of things and there was even some dancing before we were done! Here’s the view from my ‘stage’ in the lunchroom. I definitely made some new friends in this town – including local gun guitarist Trevor Findlay (see photos) - now living and playing in Nashville – who gallantly chaperoned me the previous night as I enjoyed the rest of the festival. Then….you guessed it…6am at the airport…
… I made my way, eventually, through US customs and immigration just in time make my flight to Columbus, OH. It was a really near thing. My legs, still getting over the early start and a few hours sleep were literally like jelly as I ran…ran…to my gate. It was a great relief to arrive safely and catch up with mates from the Columbus Blues Alliance for their Traditional Blues Festival. Rich DelGrosso had skipped my insane detour via Canada and driven down from our previous show in Detroit. Although the snowy weather posed challenges for the organizers on the night, our gig had an enthusiastic and dedicated crowd and was a heap of fun. Spurred on by extra wine and panhandled pizza, acquired by fabulous local blues singer ’Long Tall’ Deb Landolt, I threw caution to the wind and joined the late, late post-festival jam. Hell, I was already tired and delirious, what did I have to lose? Heaps of jamming going on; OK – it was all a bit of a blur by then but I definitely played with IBC solo/duo winner Little Joe McLerran and local young guitar-whiz Micah Kesselring, caught up with the lovely Teeny Tucker, had a drink with CBA president Kevin Gregory (thanks for having us, mate!) and at least said ‘g’day’ to guitarist and fellow Category 5 Amps endorsee Sean Carney…
I took a week off to ‘recover’ in Portland before the long flight home to Australia. There were lots of shows during that week that I regretfully missed. It took quite a lot of discipline. Still, Portland is such a great town for blues music that even during a week of so-called recuperation, I went out and jammed on at least 4 nights…hmmm…but that’s another story!
Coming up next time: news from Memphis & the Blues Music Awards, guitar workshops at Kerrville and Fur Peace ranch…and…???