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Tour Diary – Cochrane, Alberta (April 18, 2013)

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Pete's ipad sketch of the Alberta landscape:

This morning we drove back across the prairie from whence we came: heading to somewhere between Calgary and the Rocky Mountains, to a little town situated on the banks of the Bow River, named Cochrane. The word is that this town is fishing central when the season finally gets underway, but at this time of year there doesn't seem to be a whole lot going on. It's an ugly time of year, not quite winter, not quite spring, the dominant colours being brown and gray. Cochrane does have an “old town”, but it looks more like an “olde town” to me, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of architectural heritage lining the streets. Once again there are lots of malls, lots of Tim Horton's, lot's of convenience.

We played tonight in the The Cochrane Alliance Church, which is home to the Cochrane Folk Club. Performing in churches is always difficult, the acoustics generally aren't designed to absorb a drum kit and an electric bass amp, but this hall was particularly difficult. Jared had a tough time at front-of-house and we struggled all night with the sound on stage. The good part of the equation was that we had a sold out show and an audience that was excited to be there. I think we played ok, despite the challenges.

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Tour Diary – Albany, NY (March 2, 2013)

Monday, March 4th, 2013

We slept last night in the Northampton Quality Inn parking lot and this morning made our way to Albany and The Egg. There are very strict rules about playing The Egg, because the theatre is mounted (yes, mounted) on top of a government plaza. The entrance to the loading bays which are underneath the plaza are as well hidden as the batcave and we had to circle the plaza a few times before Alfred appeared to show us the way. Once inside, and before he had a chance to back the bus up into the loading bay, our driver, Randy, was set upon by an overenthusiastic State Trooper. He was told that he had a five year old outstanding New York State ticket and that his license had been suspended in the State, so he had to leave the bus immediately and couldn’t even back it into the bay. Randy pleaded innocent and in his defence offered the fact that he had crossed the Canada/US border into New York State several dozen times  over the past few years and had never been flagged. Eventually the trooper made a few more inquiries, wrote him some kind of ticket and then backed down on his demands and drove away. But now Randy has a ticket which carries with it a misdemeanour, which he has to deal with….all in the name of keeping us safe I suppose

The Egg is one of the weirder theatre designs out there. It sits on top of a pedestal at the edge of an enormous concrete plaza. The urban myth about its design is that the architect was having breakfast with Nelson Rockefeller who told him that he wanted a landmark theatre to be built in the state capital, so the architect placed a half a grapefruit on top of a water glass and said “how about something like that?”….and so it was born. This was the first of five or six Trinity Session shows that we are doing on this run. Two sets, with the first being made up of all Nomad Series songs and the second set a run through from start to finish of The Trinity Session. We have done three or four of these types of shows in the past. They are a little odd and a little “constructed” but tonight we could feel how they could easily work…it’s just a matter of relaxing in to the “construct”. Not a bad night overall.

Pete's ipad sketch of The Egg:

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Tour Diary – London (January 25, 2013)

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

We put a few miles in after the gig last night to lessen the pain of the three hour drive from Manchester to London.  We pulled in to London around midday and wound our way through the streets to the Barbican Center that sits in the middle of the city. The Barbican is an ugly child of the 70’s, an example of modern architecture at its finest/worst, you decide.  The theatre itself is quite beautiful and a very prestigious place to play. We booked this gig many months ago, in the hope that the long lead time and playing in such a high profile venue would help get the word out. Our gamble paid off and we had a huge crowd tonight.

 I never left the building today. We drove in to the underground parking lot and I hunkered down in our dressing room until gig time. I love London, but I’m too tired to explore and it’s just miserable outside. It was an odd gig tonight. We all felt that we played well, but we had difficulty raising the show to the level that we know we can achieve and on the occasions that we did reach those heights we had trouble maintaining. It wasn’t a bad show, it was just a lot of work. The audience seemed a little bit lost during the first set of all Nomad Series songs, but really came alive during the second set, they were a generous and appreciative bunch. All in all a good night…sometimes you reach for the stars and have to just settle for a moon or two….and there is no crime in that.

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Tour Diary – Porto, Portugal (November 18 and 19, 2012)

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

November 18: There is a leisurely pace to this little tour. Today was a day off and this morning we piled into a small van and headed up the highway to the city of Porto. Three hours later we took up residence at a cafe along the banks of the Rio Douro and settled in to enjoy the perfect weather and this incredible city. The old city of Porto is carved out of the cliffs that rise from the river. Centuries stacked upon centuries. The streets and alleyways create a maze that twists and turns and switches back on itself. The only way to find ones way out is by heading downhill, toward the river. Around every corner looms a dark, haunted looking church, vampires peer down from perches high above the alleyways (not the cute Kristen Stewart/Rob Pattinson variety, but the creepy Klaus Kinski kind). It’s an amazing place. Some of us also sampled one of the local delicacies, some call it a Frenchie, some call it a Drunk Mans Sandwich and some call it something else in Portuguese. I call it disgusting…two pieces of bread, covered in melted cheese, with a fried egg on top and sausage, steak, ham and whatever other scraps the kitchen has on hand, inside. Then the whole thing sits in a putrid, spicy gravy. I guess it was kind of like going to Philadelphia and ordering a Phillie Cheesesteak, but not nearly as good for you … does strange things when one is in an unfamiliar time zone.

November 19: The gig tonight was not in the old town but in a more modern part of the city in the Casa De Musica, which is the cities main concert hall. In direct contrast to the cities ancient past this building looks forward, far forward into a galaxy far, far away…it boldly goes where no man has gone before. It is a futuristic mess. The building was designed by Koolhaas in the early 2000s and I suppose it is an attempt at breaking away from the traditional European concert hall, perhaps an ironic twist on a theme, but it is a perfect example of form (gone mad) over function…perhaps it looked good as a scale model. The building is a strange, indefinable, multi-sided shape that sits on a huge undulating marble platform (a skateboarders paradise). Ironically the space age materials used on the outside already looks worn and dated (in many ways the outside of the building reminds me of one of our local Toronto architectural calamities, the ROM chrystal…impractical, ugly and dated within a week of its completion). The inside of the building is concrete, stainless steel, plastic and neon. While walking around inside it’s hard not to flash on scenes from The Andromeda Strain, or expect to meet Lord Vader and a dozen storm troopers coming down the hall. Our dressing room had these fantastic, huge windows jutting out at 45 degree angles over the skateboarders below, it reminded me of the lounge (10 Forward) on the Starship Enterprise (for all you Next Generation fans). Apparently the future is a very uncomfortable place with lots of hard edges and harsh light…although there is the occasional cool window and sliding remote control door to keep one amused. The performance hall itself is enormous, not necessarily in seating capacity but in the actual volume of space….it is vast. Don’t get me wrong, we felt honoured to be asked to play in such a prestigious hall and loved the opportunity to do so. Once again, we had a very appreciative and enthusiastic audience. We had a very good show although not as consistently strong as the night before. What can I say…Portugal rocks….we had a blast….we hope to return soon.

Created with flickr slideshow.

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Tour Diary – Parry Sound, Ont (June 29, 2012)

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Today was an excellent day. Al found his trail; Pete and Marg found a path; Jeff found the water; Chris found his girlfriend; Jared found a new Bobby Orr shirt; and I found a few teeny-weeny, but ever so beautiful smallmouth bass. If you have never been to this part of our beautiful country, then you should visit (put it on your “bucket list” as they say….I detest that phrase). The Georgian Bay (Parry Sound is one of the Bays more active gateways) is a uniquely beautiful part of this world: standing on its rock, one feels in the presence of something enormous, powerful and overwhelming. Tonight’s gig was a fundraiser for the local hospital, put together by Joe Bamford, our bus company’s owner. Joe and his wife Fatima took us all out for dinner at a local restaurant before the gig (Glenn Burney Lodge) tucked away in a little bay, hidden by cedars and pines. I fished all afternoon, and a little in the evening and a little at night after the show, just off the rocks behind the theater. It was such a beautiful spot and there were lots of little guys that were game to play and, of course, always the promise that their big papa was cruising nearby. It was a beautiful little theater and a good audience and we had a very relaxed night on stage.
Unbelievably, I was having such a nice day on the rocks that I missed the Italy/Germany game. I saw a little bit of the second half and watched the Germans final push in extra time. I guess the German coach made a few controversial changes to the lineup and Balotelli was just too much to handle. Italy just seems to know how to win on the big stage, they move on to face Spain and at this point who dares guess what kind of game the final will be. I guess I’ll be rooting for Italy…I have to stick with my homeys (otherwise my house will be egged)….

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Thanks for coming to the party! Wilderness pre-orders now available!

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Thank you all for coming to the listening party! We’re glad you got home safely and the place didn’t even get trashed!

As a parting gift, we’ve started pre-orders of The Wilderness. All items will be shipped on March 27th. 

Oh … and if you’re out and about town the next few weeks, we may just be playing in your area as the tour has begun.

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The Wilderness listening party

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

We will start streaming The Wilderness at noon (EST) today. The pre-order for the album will start at noon as well. Sorry for the delay….we will keep the streaming album up for an extra day. Come on back in another hour….see you then.

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The Wilderness (volume 4) – We Are The Selfish Ones

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

When I write I need seclusion: somewhere to sit and stare and think and mutter to myself and plink away on my guitar. I often rely on the kindness of strangers (or family and friends) and borrow their unused rural retreats, where I set up for a week at a time and get lost in myself. It’s a completely egocentric, selfish way to spend ones time…and I love it. I think it’s my favourite part of an album project: the week starts with an empty page and six tuned strings and ends up with a song, alchemy at its finest. One of the locations where I wrote a lot of the songs for The Wilderness was a small cottage in Presqu’ile Park, set on the shore of Lake Ontario about two hours east of Toronto. We Are The Selfish Ones is, in some ways, a song about the process of creating, it’s about sitting and reflecting, it’s a nod to those of us lucky enough to make a living reflecting our inner most thoughts back at the world. Here is my song-writing demo for the song…I ended up adding another verse right before Margo sang the version that ended up on The Wilderness.

He sits alone in his perfect shack
the lake beside him freezing
the sun no longer shining
much past four o’clock.

We are the selfish ones
We are the lucky ones
We are the needed ones

She falls asleep, the book on her lap,
“all things change to something new,
something strange.”

We are the selfish ones
We are the lucky ones
We are the needed ones

We walk along with my hand on your back,
the days behind receding
forward to a day when all we love will pass.

We are the selfish ones
We are the lucky ones
We are the needed ones

He sits alone in his perfect shack
the lake beside him freezing
the sun no longer shining
much past four o’clock.

Previous blogs about the making of The Wilderness, Angels in The Wilderness, Fairytale, Unanswered Letter.

We will be having a listening party for The Wilderness on the site on February 23rd (which is the day that we will also start pre-orders for the album). Stop by and give the album a listen.

The Nomad Tour begins on February 23rd. The first leg brings us through the North East USA: Ithaca, West Long Branch, Providence, Ridgefield, Annapolis, Alexandria, Norfolk, Charlottesville, Charleston, Harrisburg, Boston, Philadelphia, West Hampton Beach.

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The Wilderness (volume 4) – Unanswered Letter

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Last Spring a long time friend of the band, John Bottomley, a fellow musician, died unexpectedly (as they euphemistically say in the obituaries these days). John had been living on Vancouver Island for many years. He had fallen in love with the mountains, the rivers and the trees, but, I guess, had fallen out of love with life. At his funeral his mother lamented the fact that John had settled out west, if only he had been living closer to home, back in Ontario, closer to his family and friends, closer to his roots, if only….
Unanswered Letter was the last song that I wrote for The Wilderness and the last song that I wrote for The Nomad Series. It was a few days after John’s funeral and I headed up to Margo’s farm to try and finish off a few songs: a beautiful spring weekend, with all of the streams and rivers roaring and the spring migration gathering steam (not unlike the weekend weather that had inspired the song Good Friday fifteen years earlier). As I sat beside the river that flows across Margo’s property I thought about John and tried to imagine a state of mind in which even the chatter of a returning red-wing blackbird, a harbinger in these parts of warmer, brighter, easier days to come, could be interpreted as a mocking, insulting cry, “I am home and you are not”.

After Pete, Al, Margo and I had worked up a bedtrack for the song I sent it out to Joby Baker in Victoria, to see where his imagination and talent would take the song. Joby had worked with John on his last album, but I didn’t tell Joby what or who the song was about. What I got back was completely unexpected; an eerie, haunted backing track of bowed bass and ghostly vocals. What was most unexpected was that the song now sounded like a John Bottomley song….the mystery of the creative process: it keeps some of us going, until it doesn’t.
Here is the demo that I wrote and recorded that beautiful Spring day:

Her heart torn open
and left like an unanswered letter.

Words were not spoken
just left in a spidery scrawl.

Twisted and gutted,
the last of the smoke in the air.

She gets up to leave
and idly fixes her hair.

Words from home, words from home.
What we miss are words from home.

I lost my heart
I left it alongside the river.

That blackbird clucking
songs he knows nothing about.

That bird returning
to a home that makes him sing out.

Words from home, words from home.
What we need are words from home.

We will be having a listening party for The Wilderness on the site on February 23rd (which is the day that we will also start pre-orders for the album). Stop by and give the album a listen.

The Nomad Tour begins on February 23rd. The first leg brings us through the North East USA: Ithaca, West Long Branch, Providence, Ridgefield, Annapolis, Alexandria, Norfolk, Charlottesville, Charleston, Harrisburg, Boston, Philadelphia, West Hampton Beach.

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Hubert Sumlin, Nov. 16, 1931 – Dec. 4, 2011.

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Our friend Ron Wells sent us an obituary for the great Hubert Sumlin (posted below). Hubert Sumlin was very instrumental in the genesis of our sound. In the mid-80′s, when we were jamming in the garage and trying to form an aesthetic and direction, Pete and I would often catch Hubert at a little dive of a club on the then desolate end of Queen Street West (I can’t even remember the name of the place). For some reason he came through town fairly often and would pick up a few of the local “blues” musicians and play two or three sets. There would rarely be more than 15 people in the audience, but Pete and I were always there. In-between sets Hubert would come in to the audience and personally thank anyone that was there and sit and talk. His playing was magical. No matter how clumsy and ham-fisted his back up band was, he was always effortless and fluid and endlessly inspired. At the time, Pete and I thought he was ancient (he was only a few years older than I am now) and that was a great inspiration. But the way he completely owned his sound, the way that his instrument was an extension of his personality was what truly thrilled us. He sounded like nobody and nobody sounded like him. We would go home and dig through our Howlin Wolf collection and sure enough, you could easily pick out Hubert in the groove, doing his thing. Bye, bye Mr Sumlin. Thanks for the inspiration.

Hubert Sumlin, Nov. 16, 1931 – Dec. 4, 2011.

Another one of the greatest guitar players to ever walk the planet has died. Listen to his playing on the album “Howlin’ Wolf,” also known as the Rockin’ Chair Album, and you will know everything there is to know about this man’s exceptional skills.

Early last year I saw him play with Pinetop Perkins in a show I’ll never forget. Sadly, both men are now gone. Here’s a brief part of my review from that show:

“Then, midway through the set, the room heated up when Hubert Sumlin walked on stage. Dressed in a black suit and tie, black hat, black shoes with a swatch of white, and with an American flag pin on his lapel, he was dressed to kill, and just as dangerous. His guitar strap had flames on it brought straight from the depths of hell and just as hot as his guitar playing, as he coaxed sounds out of his instrument that the other players just stood and marveled at. School was definitely in session, and Sittin’ on Top of the World was a revelation the way Mr. Sumlin played it.

Hell hath no fury to match a blues god who’s on fire, and so Sumlin sat down and showed how Little Red Rooster is supposed to be played. Then, suddenly, he stood up like struck with lightning, picked that guitar to pieces, and then sat back down. When he was done, he held out both hands, palms down, as if to say, ” ain’’t that the coolest.”

Yes, it was the coolest. R.I.P., Hubert Sumlin.

Come On Home, Baby

Killing Floor:


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