Sunday, March 29, 2015

1000 Nights of National Steel

Grain. Like what you get in a picture taken on an aging smart phone. Like what you see in the west. Bits in the wind. Little places on the maps. How long does it take for the memories themselves to simply blow away? Some guy that used to come through and play the cafe. The all black baseball team out of Indian Head, Saskatchewan. Who were those guys, standing in front of their bus? Where did they come from? And where did they go? Scattered strands of DNA left like grain along the roadside. Close to the ball parks, the broken stadiums, driving distance from the jukes, the bars. Saturday night on a good year, in the right season. Did they go all the way? Did they win the trophy? Score the girl? Was it quiet on the bus, late at night, just the humming of the wheels, the broken white line, the broken white line, the colour line, a rain of fatigue and sweat, a lefty who could really throw that goddamn ball, who could bean the batter, punch it up, could of been in the Big Time- if anybody ever saw him play. Anybody important, that is. Anybody who knew about baseball. Anybody. Anybody at all. As it is I'm polishing the silver off the broken side mirror on the car. God knows if there's DNA scattered up and down the highway. Does it live in the hearts of the stories, in the mobile homes that smell like wood smoke and memory, or is it lost, lost like the silver on the mirror? A splinter in my finger, a little blood that carries messages from the past.

Ten years of National Steel Blues Tour. Canada is the second largest country by land mass. That super sizes tours by land. But this is music, not fast food. And the whole thing unfolds slowly. Or it seems to. At the time. Over 1000 shows under the National Steel Blues Tour banner. All the provinces, two territories. That's a whole lot of shows, over a whole lot of miles. A whole lot of blood. Red wine. Life dragged along in spite of itself. Plenty of room to screw up, and fall under a chair, if that was going to happen. And you can't do this without lots and lots of return dates. I did roll a Lincoln pretty nicely. Got Lucky. But looking at this tenth annual tour certain things are becoming clearer. Of 155 Canadian music festivals, only 73 opened email. Only 6 clicked on the suggested EPK link, and only one looked at a file. Grant driven, overly networked, and increasingly corporate- these Canadian festivals might as well be on a different planet from me. It's a planet I need to visit if I'm going to continue doing shows in Canada. It's been 36 years since I last appeared at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and in Toronto I spend too much time on the street. Old school gets old pretty quick.

Meanwhile, I'm counting down to one more fling across the provinces. With over a third of my Tour dates now reserved for US destinations, there are many Canadian places I may not see again- or certainly not as often as I have in the past. Distances are big in Canada, gas is still expensive, and the dollars are similar to what they were in the 1970s- when I began this road adventure.

This Tour will be mobile in just a few days. On this first leg I'm looking forward to visiting across northern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. I'm struck by the fact that Medicine Hat, Alberta, has managed to avoid booking me for 10 consecutive years now. I'll stop at Seven Persons, Alberta, and then drive straight through to Kyle, Saskatchewan- past the Big Tee Pee, the strip malls and run down motels, the cultural beacons along the highway. I'll keep practising, and I'll be back. Why? Only because it's there, and it would look cool on a tour poster. I've played almost everywhere in the land of the Maple leaf. Almost everywhere.

Of the first fifty venues on the Tour, very few have yet visited this site to download current paid pictures, tour posters, links and bios for their lists, press releases, and websites. Just saying. You want to move a little DNA around. Put some bums in seats. It's all teamwork out here on the Blues Highway. Brakes and ball joints in the morning. Check the tires and the headlights. Counting down.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Murder of Crows, Half-Life of a Blues Man

Ten years of the National Steel Blues Tour. So it's the X year for this annual, 100 show adventure around North America. Ten provinces, twenty states. Maybe it's the last annual Tour. I don't know. Sometimes it flies so far under the radar that it scrapes me, bleeding, along the pavement. Stuff along the way. Stuff in the cracks between small town America and the Big Time. The stuff that is the mojo of the blues. Stuff that has very little to do with talent contests, award ceremonies, new guitars. Maybe it's the cold beer we buy at the gas station. The smell of oil at the garage selling used tires. The taste of cheap red wine from a coffee cup beside a plywood stage. Maybe, maybe. Maybe it could be different. But, hey– grab a map and ride the blue highway with me one more time. I found these voodoo dolls in dark woods a thousand miles from Clarksdale. Rusty nails and faded, half smiles. An image captured, fleeting, to illustrate this Tour, and to protect us on this path.

Now there's crows in the air, shitting on the car roof. And it needs ball joints. On previous Tours, I checked in here daily. Given the labour of it all, I can no longer hope to do that. I will update the schedules, links, and downloads in the sidebar as often as I can. If you haven't done so before, you can reach back and visit the other Tours. Each one had it's own adventures. It's own lessons, triumphs and sorrows. In the Sidebar now, with all the other stuff. Soon some of these stories will be torn out of the blogs for a book. Meanwhile, I'll write here what can't be said on Facebook. Hard core. What it is. Blues. Healing music. Every song a journey. I left an old recording in the sidebar for you people. Where it started: Hollandale, MS, a long time ago. By September I'll be back in the cotton dust, but first we're rolling west across Canada. Come, follow, let's ride. This Tour will be mobile in just a couple of weeks. Thanks for joining me here, on the Blues Highway.