NorthernBlues Music

Brian Blain - Reviews

 
Brian Blain
Brian Blain
Brian Blain
Brian Blain
Brian Blain
Brian Blain










"Brian Blain is a fine songwriter who writes lyrics about everyday life, and singer who has a friendly conversational delivery. On “Overqualified for the Blues”, he performs music that includes some Blues, Swing-based Jazz, Western Swing/Bluegrass and folk music. Highlights include “Blues is Hurting,” an effective plea for listeners to discover the great Blues performers and “Hi-Tech Blues” which deals with computer problems. Although the backup musicians are excellent, the spotlight is primarily on Brian Blain’s singing and fortunately his lyrics are insightful and upbeat."

- Scott Yanow
Cadence
February, 2006


"Brian Blain has probably never toiled behind a mule or been mistreated by Mister Charlie, but he has paid his blues dues. His computer is underpowered ("
Hi-Tech Blues") and his line of work is being threatened ("Blues Is Hurting," "One More Weasel"), so he takes out his frustrations musically a la middle-class white boy Mose Allison.

This Toronto-based Quebec native, a longtime fixture on the Canadian acoustic blues scene, writes ironic, biting lyrics that are equally funny and insightful. His instrumentation might include his own acoustic guitar plus a lead player, bassist or harpist, but even his percussionists are in the background on "
Overqualified for the Blues," a triumph of minimalism."

- Jeff Johnson
Chicago Sun-Times

December, 2005


"By track six (of 13) I had Quebec born, Toronto based Mr. Blain pegged as a blues inflected folky singer/ songwriter and was ready to dismiss the claims to blues originality made in the sleeve notes - but then the programme takes a sharp turn right over to the blues side and things become very interesting, hitting the kind of deceptively laid-back groove associated with Ali Farka Toure (I kid you not). Brian first recorded in the early sixties and his mellow style and rather upbeat approach may find a few takers among the more liberal minded of B&R readers. Varied band accompaniments add to an attractive set, though it is by no means blues per se."

- Norman Darwen
Blues & Rhythm magazine
December, 2005


"On tongue-in-cheek numbers like
Saab Story and No More Meetings, Blain brandishes one of the wittiest songwriting pens on the Canadian blues scene. And on songs like Enfant Choisi and The Big Fire, he can also be very affecting."

- Mike Regenstreif
Host/Producer: Folk Roots/Folk Branches -- CKUT, Montreal
Reviewer/Feature Writer: Montreal Gazette
Reviewer/Feature Writer: Sing Out! Magazine
December, 2005


"Long-time fixture on the Canadian blues scene, Brian Blain has been joined by a host of collaborators on this CD, including Paul Reddick and Harry Manx. Known for his sly sense of humor in writing about everyday things that happen to us all, Blain starts out with
Saab Story - as if you didn't know - about a guy, girl and car. Blues is Hurting laments over the current state of the blues, while Hi-Tech Blues tells the story of everyday trials and tribulations in our modern society. One of the funniest songs here is No More Meetings. Having come from the corporate world and even in the Blues Society, Blain's acidic wit made me laugh out loud. Not to say that the entire CD is light-hearted; he addresses some serious topics as well. Enfant Choisi is a well-crafted song about world peace, and showcases Blain's ability to tackle such subjects with tact and sensitivity. Blain doesn't browbeat you with his ideals, but takes a low-key approach that is very tasty. By all means get ahold of this CD and enjoy it."

- Tim Richards
West Michigan Blues Society
October, 2005


"In your mind’s eye, when you picture a bluesman, more than likely Brian Blain is not the image that pops up, but the Quebec native is one of the more unique blues artists you’ll ever hear. His latest release,
Overqualified for the Blues (NorthernBlues Music), definitely backs that claim. Blain got his start playing rock and classical music, but settled into folk blues and has worked on stage and behind the scenes for many years as an artist, producer, manager, and writer. He is an excellent guitarist and vocally he has a pleasant style that suits his material well.

As for his material, most of Blain’s 12 compositions (the lone cover is a tasty version of Betty James’ “
I’m A Little Mixed Up”) are lighthearted looks at contemporary life, including a couple of honest looks at the music world (“Blues Is Hurting” and “One More Weasel,” a jab at music industry movers and shakers), a look at Blain’s struggles in the computer age (“Hi-Tech Blues”), and a song I’ve found myself humming as I plod through my day job, “No More Meetings.”

The title cut is a tongue-in-cheek piece that will leave you with a smile, and “
Saab Story” is a clever look at a girl and her car. As mentioned above, Blain is a great guitarist (check out his fretwork on “Sailing”) and he has some stellar support, including Harry Manx, who guests on slide guitar on “Peace,” and Paul Reddick, who contributes harmonica on the title cut.

Overqualified For The Blues is certainly one of the most original albums you’ll hear this year and is definitely worth a spin."

- Graham Clarke
Blues Bytes
November, 2005


"A personable singer and a good accompanying guitarist, Brian Blain is a superior songwriter who writes lyrics about everyday life. His delivery is friendly, his words are insightful, and there is plenty of variety in the subject matter throughout this mostly joyful set, not just dealing with the usual love relationships. The backup musicians are excellent, but Brian Blain is in the spotlight throughout and performs a definitive set of his material. This set is particularly recommended to fans of upbeat folk music."

- Scott Yanow
Allmusic.com
October, 2005

"In your mind’s eye, when you picture a bluesman, more than likely Brian Blain is not the image that pops up, but the Quebec native is one of the more unique blues artists you'll ever hear. His latest release, Overqualified For The Blues (NorthernBlues Music) definitely backs that claim. Blain got his start playing rock and classical music, but settled into folk blues and has worked on stage and behind the scenes for many years as an artist, producer, manager, and writer. He is an excellent guitarist and vocally he has a pleasant style that suits his material well. As for his material, most of Blain’s twelve compositions (the lone cover is a tasty version of Betty James’ “I'm A Little Mixed Up”) are lighthearted looks at contemporary life, including a couple of honest looks at the music world (“Blues Is Hurting” and “One More Weasel,” a jab at music industry movers and shakers), a look at Blain’s struggles in the computer age (“Hi-Tech Blues”), and a song I've found myself humming as I plod through my day job, “No More Meetings.” The title cut is a tongue-in-cheek piece that will leave you with a smile, and “Saab Story“ is a clever look at a girl and her car. As mentioned above, Blain is a great guitarist (check out his fretwork on “Sailing”) and he has some stellar support, including Harry Manx, who guests on slide guitar on “Peace,” and Paul Reddick, who contributes harmonica on the title cut. Overqualified For The Blues is certainly one of the most original albums you'll hear this year and is definitely worth a spin."

- Blues Bytes
October/November 2005


“At 60, and with only a few recordings behind him, bluesman Brian Blain might seem something of a late bloomer.

But the singer-songwriter, originally from Quebec and now based in Toronto , has played for 40 years and is a major behind-the-scenes force, as writer and editor, in the Canadian blues landscape. Overqualified for the Blues is an impressive collection of tunes that showcases both his excellent guitar playing and his funny, wry, intelligent take on life. A prime example is “No More Meetings”, a “bluegrass” tune that bids a fond farewell to his stint as a board director at his housing co-op – a song that manages to effectively rhyme “decorum” and “quorum”. Other highlights include the opening cut, Saab Story, a song about a girl and a car and what might have been; Blues is Hurting, a gently cutting assessment of the somewhat sorry state of the blues today; Terrace Inn, a tasteful boogie tht recalls his early rock ‘n roll adventures on the shores of Quebec's Lake Brome; Sailing, a song about a long-lost cousin who loses her husband and dies herself shortly after; Enfant Choisi, sung in English and French, which recounts the true story of an adopted child in 1940s Quebec, and Hi-Tech Blues, a song about the trials and tribulations of living in the computer age.

"Blain has a conversational singing voice reminiscent of J.J. Cale (but smoother) that is well suited to his story songs, and he is ably backed by a band and guests that include Michael Jerome Browne, Michelle Josef, Richard Bell, Rod Phillips, Victor Bateman and Harry Manx.

"Overqualified for the Blues is both overdue and well worth the wait."

- Bruce Erskine
Chronicle Herald ( Halifax , NS )
September 10, 2005  

"Let's have a look at a new figure on the Canadian blues circuit. Brian Blain is a native of the eastern townships of Quebec . That's the portion of Quebec that borders on Vermont and New Hampshire. You're thinking to yourself that this isn't a likely setting for a bluesman. You're right!

"Brain Blain didn't begin with the blues but played everything from Bach to the Beatles. Music has been part of his life for forty of his sixty years. Like many others, Blain learned the blues from an old 1964 Folkways LP by Jerry Silverman
The Art Of The Folk-Blues Guitar. He learned his craft very well and is now an accomplished guitarist.

"More importantly, Blain is a brilliant writer incorporating everyday experiences and situations into his lighthearted blues songs. Happily, the new CD
Overqualified For The Blues is composed of a dozen original works and one cover tune. From the sentimental "Enfant Choisi" to the funny and topical "Hi-Tech Blues," the singer holds his listener's attention.

"Brian Blain moved to the Toronto area fifteen years ago and uses many of that city's top musicians on the new album. The backbone of the Downchild Blues Band backs Blain on "
Hi-Tech Blues." The title tune "Overqualified for the Blues" features harp ace Paul Reddick and ex- Janis Joplin piano-man Richard Bell. Guitarist extraordinaire Harry Manx appears on Blain's politically oriented "Peace."

"Brian Blain 's CD is a portrait of a folk-blues artist having fun with his music. He pokes fun at the music industry and especially the press with "
One More Weasel." Thanks Brian! His "Saab Story" tells the funny tale of a girl and her car. Blain's guitar artistry comes to the forefront on the beautiful "Sailing." This reviewer enjoyed the guitarist's cover of Betty James and Edward Johnson's "I'm A Little Mixed Up." Brian Blain could put a smile on a gargoyle."

- Richard Bourcier
Jazzreview.com
September, 2005 

"I got ears. I listen. You got something. Something good. I’m not going to forget you."
- Hubert Sumlin

"Brian Blain has opened my shows on at least two tours. I had to shut him down after the last one because he was starting to make me work too hard to win the audience back......I just can't have someone stealing my crowd......no way! Seriously, the man has a groove, I'm into it."
- Harry Manx

"I just heard his set and I can name every song he sang and tell you what it was about. How often does that happen?"
- Ali Matthews

"Original Canadian Blues by a superb guitarist and inventive songwriter. One of the best of the contemporary blues artists."
- Doc MacLean

"He is a true-blue original and his off-beat blues tunes ... will have thinking blues fans clamouring for more."
- Barb McCullough, TO-Nite

"Brian plays a mean axe and pens a sharp set of lyrics on this entertaining session"
- Geoff Chapman, Toronto Star

"Brian's music is not only delicious, but it's nourishing"
- Alice Brock, Alice's Restaurant


Brian Blain: Overqualified for the Blues

Brian Blain is a singer/songwriter who always speaks precisely what's on his mind, and he presents it through some highly affecting tunes, like the baker's dozen delivered on his latest CD
Overqualified For The Blues. His engaging stage personality reflects his wide-ranging interests. The unifying themes throughout much of OFTB are the small challenges posed by ordinary life. They are given wonderful life by wry, perceptive, and gentle observations on topics that run the gamut from the current state of Blues (Blues Is Hurting), to reminiscences of a summer spent long-ago in a house band in Quebec (Terrace Inn), and even the prevalence of boorish behavior by the music media (One More Weasel). There's even a good-natured riff on the complexities of modern life (Hi-Tech Blues). No More Meetings is quite endearing with its revealing laundry list of meeting-related jargon, obviously dedicated to people who work behind the scenes in Blues Societies and other arts organizations (Brian's an expert in these matters). It'll leave you chuckling like a finely honed George Carlin routine. Saab Story is a poignant vignette about a boy, a girl, and a car. It's been garnering lots of well-deserved airplay. On the occasions when Blain shifts emphasis away from the folksy, easy-going side of the Blues, the results are equally compelling. Sailing is a moving homage to a real life long-lost cousin who died shortly after Brian began communicating with her, followed within months by her husband's passing too. Enfant Choisi and the universal message of Peace also explore serious themes with poignancy, passion, and sensitivity. There's an army of collaborators too, most having played with Blain at one time or other over his lengthy career. The overriding impression remains that this is a winning combination: a warm, minimalist sound in unison with Brian Blain's low-key, innovative muse that affords everything an intimacy that will tug at those all-important heartstrings.

- Gary Tate
Summer, 2005
 



"Blain plays a mean axe and pens a sharp set of lyrics"

Toronto stalwart Brian "Colorblind" Blain plays a mean axe and pens a sharp set of lyrics on this entertaining session propped by organist Rod Phillips, bass Victor Bateman and drummer Mike Fitzpatrick plus guests. The frequently oddball sentiments expressed on such tunes as
"Dump That Lump," "Y2K Blues" and "The TV Shuffle" show off Blain's caustic songwriting wit - a feature of a career that began with Fraser & Debolt back in the '60s and included five years with Blue Willow.

- Geoff Chapman
Toronto Star


"a relentless groove"

Blain, a veteran bassist and guitarist, has finally got around to recording his own project, a whimsical blend of driving bar blues and more esoteric material that echoes his past as a sideman for Louis Furey and Fraser & Debolt. The title track sports a Dr. John-style vocal, a relentless groove and nice bursts of Blain's guitar playing, while a track like
"Worry Worry" has a more R&B flavour. Blain clearly has a sense of humour, as evidenced by the country-tinged "Entrepreneurial Blues" and the swinging "Girlfriend Blues." The latter probably boasts the best vocal performance on what is largely a guitarist's record. Also worth checking out are "The Big Fire," which showcases the subtler side of Blain's musicianship, and "Y2K Blues," with its mock-apocalyptic narrative.

- KW
Scene Roots and Blues Magazine


"...not only put on a great show, but a fun show"

I was looking forward to this show for over a month. I gave up union overtime to go. I was not disappointed!! Colourblind Brian not only put on a great show, but a fun show. A couple of special surprises for the night was the addition of Suzie Vinnick as one of the Blainettes and the guest appearance of blind keyboard player, Michael Lewis.The band loved the club and with any luck, they will be back soon.

- John Hoevenaars
"The Blues Never Die" CHRW
London, Ontario


"...you'll find a smile on your face and you may even get up and dance."


Brian Blain's name is featured prominently in this publication as its Managing Editor. He is also a veteran of thirty years in the music business and has been slaving for some years now over an album that is to be officially released at The Silver Dollar Room on Friday, May 7. As Colorblind Brian, he has been performing occasionally in the clubs and at festivals (when not putting out newsletters and when his friends give him a break from assisting with their computers) and writing intensely personal songs.
Who Paid You To Give Me The Blues? collects the songs, at least as of last month, as performed by Brian on guitars, Rod Phillips on organ, Victor Bateman on bass and Mike Fitzpatrick on drums with guest appearances by Scott "Professor Piano" Cushnie and Eugene Hardy on saxes. The performances and the recording are excellent but it's the songs that make this album: if you are jaded with the lyrics of recent blues or feel left out because they don't mean much to your current state, these songs are for you. Listen to "Entrepreneurial Blues", "Computer Club Queen", "Dump That Lump" or the title song and you'll find a smile on your face and you may even get up and dance. Available that night and at Brian.Blain.com. Coming soon to stores.

- John Valenteyn
Maple Blues



"a treat to hear for anyone appreciating witty lyrics and good blues"

It pays to listen to Bluesman Blain.

Brian 'Colorblind' Blain, the Buddha of the Blues, a popular Toronto Blues artist has just released his first CD. Titled W
ho Paid You to Give Me the Blues, the recording highlights the songwriting talents - as well as the guitar playing - of a musician who, as the saying goes, has been around. In the 60s and 70s Blain was a bass sideman for folk artists Dave Nichol, Lewis Furey and Fraser & Debolt. Later he switched to guitar and was a member of Blue Willow. These days Blain concentrates his energies and talents performing the blues at clubs and festivals all around the city. Backing Blain up is Rod 'B3' Phillips on organ, Victor Bateman, bass and Mike Fitzpatrick on the skins. And he is joined on this CD by Scott Cushnie, the 'Professor of Piano', who lays down some great barrelhouse riffs on "Computer Club Queen," and Eugene Hardy whose sax solos pop up strategically here and there, especially on "Vulcan Heart," Blain's homage to Star Trek.

Most of the songs are based on traditional blues styles, from gritty, hard-edged pieces like
"The Y2K Blues" (I got that low down feelin'/With these high-tech blues) to the cowboy blues story of the "Outlaw of Megantic." There's only one real surprise, that's the ballad "The Big Fire" on which Blain gently picks out the melody on his electric while switching between English and French lyrics.

Blain himself, as a songwriter and a singer, is not what you'd call ballsy. His style of blues is more middle-class, with a touch of humour, as in the double entendre lyrics "she's gotta good lookin' main frame." His blues develop from the everyday and commonplace as in
"Worry, Worry" or "Entrepreneurial Blues" about the hassles of running your own business. Blain's voice lends itself well to the subjects of his songs. It's clear and clean enough to allow the listener to catch all the lyrics. But it's not the gritty growl that you might expect from looking at his photo. Perhaps his gentle 'buddha' image is earned. A treat to hear for anyone appreciating witty lyrics and good blues.

- Bill Maclean
Beach Metro News

"a true-blue original"

Brian "Colorblind" Blain, mild-mannered "Buddha of the Blues" and fiery roots guitar player, will officially release his new CD,
Who Paid You To Give Me The Blues?, at the Silver Dollar (484 Spadina Ave. [B22], on Friday, May 7, with a performance from 9:00 pm through 1:00 am. Blain's music features some old favourite blues standards but is mostly all original, blues-based material that features his skillful, soulful guitar and narrative, story-telling lead vocals that carry a wicked wry humour, placing Blain in a category all his own. His catchy lyrics reveal his younger days as an award-winning ad-agency copywriter and his adventures in desktop publishing (most recently managing editor of Downtown Jazz and MapleBlues) inspired him to write crowd pleasing tunes such as"Entrepreneurial Blues" and the "Y2K Blues", fast becoming hits with business men and computer nerds alike.

His performances are a delightful experience that evoke reactions from awe and admiration at his aggressive, raw guitar technique to joy and laughter at his hilarious lyrics and honest, down-to-earth commentary. As Bill Garrett from Borealis Records said, "I had a smile pasted on my face for the entire evening." All his tunes provide a toe-tapping, head-rocking appreciation to "I-can't-help-but-get-up-and-dance" frenzy. His quartet includes some of Toronto's most notable jazz and blues musicians including Rod Phillips (organ), Victor Bateman (bass) and Mike Fitzpatrick (drums). Recorded at Puck's Farm in Schomberg and Toronto's new Liquid facility, the independently produced CD will be immediately available on the internet at Brian.Blain.com and very shortly in leading record stores. Blain has performed at many Ontario jazz festivals including those in Markham, Port Perry, Streetsville, Brampton, Oakville and also the Barrie Blues Festival. He has been featured at Silver Dollar and Free Times Café and more recently, was a big hit at the Montreal Bistro and Jazz Club.

Born in Sherbooke, Quebec and bilingual, he played in folk and rock groups in the '60s and later played bass with folk iconoclasts Dave Nicol, Lewis Furey and Canada's most adventurous folk export, Fraser & DeBolt (whom he also produced). His first solo recording,
The Story of the Magic Pick on Good Noise/Polydor, featured members of Manhattan Transfer, the Mothers of Invention and Tom "Bones" Malone of Blues Brothers fame. He also performed as the opener for Lou Reed, Seals & Crofts and others.

After moving to Toronto in 1990, he was lead guitar player for Blue Willow for five years. He has been performing duo gigs with piano legends Gene Taylor and Scott "Professor Piano" Cushnie (who also performs on Blain's CD) and is now taking centre stage with his own group and debut recording. A Buddhist in spirit and gentle nature, Blain describes himself as, "just a guy who's been playing the same grooves with the same licks for 35 years....on the same guitar!" That should qualify him as an authentic aging, white, Canadian bluesman. His lyrics such as, "They call me colour-blind because I can't tell red from green. They call me Buddha of Blues because I'm a happy human being", tell it like it is. He is a true-blue original and his off-beat blues tunes such as
"Vulcan Heart" (a favourite with Star Trek fans), "Outlaw of Megantic", "Computer Club Queen" and his sage advice songs (for women who have chosen the wrong man) such as"Dump That Lump", will have thinking blues fans clamouring for more.

-Barb McCullough
TO NITE