Stir It Up Someday

At some point during the pandemic, the idea came about to compile a bunch of COVIDish songs by the Relish Sunday night open mike, well known in Toronto musical circles as Stir It Up Sunday, hosted by David Macmichael and Paul Brennan.

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Stir It Up Someday is available on Bandcamp
Producer – David Macmichael 
Artwork and Production- Shorty Brybry 
Mastering and Production – Ben Wood 
Executive Director – Dan Boggs 

Here is the story as told in the liner notes:

This album is dedicated in loving memory of Steven David Morrison. 

Stirred. Not Shaken. 

Their single mingled voice emphatically proclaimed “Please join us next week when we will do something similar…yet somehow…completely… different!” 

Cohosts Macmichael and Brennan’s signature sign-off capped February’s final Stir It Up Sunday same as all five hundred and something antecedent Sundays. Then came COVID. 

Beauty blooms from the gloomy darkening of East Toronto’s premiere long running weekly open stage. For ten years Stir It Up Sunday at Relish Bar and Grill is where some of the city’s most creative songwriters and musicians gather weekly to sing, play, dine and drink.

Listen as this eclectic collective of artists comes together to create the wonderful Stir It Up Someday. The show that will not be shaken.

The playlist is impressive! I am humbled to be in such amazing company: (the late) Steven David Morrison, Dan Boggs, Jace Traz, Julian Taylor Band, Super Not OK, Mauve Grove, Arch Rockefeller, Mudlust and the Short Walk, Timothy Sheldon, Felix and the Cats, brilliantfish, Paul Brennan, Tom Rich, Sandra Bouza, Die Geschichten von Bargrave Willianhurst, Sal Indigo, Tyler Ellis and Mark Thackway, Ben Wood, Mr Kyle, Michael Cuddy, Liniaro & JP, Dean McKinnon, GardenOf, David Macmichael, Fraz Milne, Chris Scian, Bryan van Dusen and Johnny Ness.

I want to thank everyone involved in this project. For me, it’s especially momentous as it’s my first real song release. Particularly special thanks go out to Dan Boggs and Sal Indigo for having the Cats, Neil, Chris and I, “bigify” your songs. I learned a lot, and still have long way to go to make my recordings sound really pro, but I’m trying! Finally, a huge thanks to Joanne Clayton of Relish for the crucible!

Be safe and be well!

Baritone Loan

Huge thanks to Salabama for the loan of this!

Not everything with six strings is a standard guitar. One of the lesser-heard variations is the baritone guitar. Although the strings are tuned the same relative to each other, the overall pitch is a fourth lower, making the lowest string a B instead of an E. The neck is also longer.

Why would anyone want this?

Well it’s the tone in the baritone. There is a particularly unique resonance with this guitar that lends itself particularly well to single twangy notes, often heard in surf music and spaghetti westerns. Some of the best examples are Diane Eddy’s Peter Gunn and the B52sRock Lobster. Other examples can be found here.

I’m hoping to incorporate this guitar into at least one of my songs, but we’ll see how that goes. Thanks to Sal for the loan!

Be safe and be well!

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Compromise – Slight Return

Back in 2016, those alcyon days, I posted about a song written even earlier, and the only original done with a cover band at the time.

Although I have performed it a few times with the Cats, I never felt it lived up to its potential, and have tried to alter it to see if that would give it the spark I was looking for.

Still working on that, but just for fun, here is the iteration I posted in 2016, plus two others: one redone as a blues shuffle, and the other most recently mostly to accommodate a key change, a hook, and more interesting chord changes.

Compromise – Earlier demo
Compromise – Blues Shuffle
Compromise – Latest

Let me know what you think if so inclined…

Be safe and be well!

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East York

East York (former borough), Ontario (Canada)

A few weeks ago, good friend Salabama got in touch to see if we could produce a “full band version” of a song he had written for and performed at East York’s (a former borough of Toronto pre-amalgamation for any of you non-local readers) Canada Day celebration. However, the pandemic put a wrench in the works, so the organizing committee changed the plan to having a celebratory website in order to maintain social distancing. A key component of this would be a recording of We Love East York.

Initially, Sal sent me an iPhone recording of live captured vocals and acoustic guitar. NeMo, Chris and I were able to add our parts after the fact, to the point where the recording was sufficiently fleshed out to submit to the committee for approval, pending a better recording.

Once we got the go ahead, recording the song while staying apart posed some challenges, but since many of those had been worked out on other demos with the guys, it went smoothly. Here was the process.

First came the basic guitar track with a click track/software drum track just to maintain a steady rhythm. This was sent to Chris and NeMo who recorded at home and added their parts (replacing the provisional virtual drums). These files were Dropboxed to me and flowed into the master mix.

To re-record Sal, the bed tracks were bounced and transferred to Garageband and copied to an iPad mini so I could go to Sal’s and do a remote recording. I set up on his back deck and ran the mic inside to record vocals, then changed the setup to mic his amp for the slide guitar overdub (geek note: Sennheiser MK4 for vox, Sennheiser e609 for amp, iRig Pro interface).

The chants and handclaps were dubbed after the fact and duplicated to create the “crowd” effect – thanks NeMo and Bender family! Could not have done this without you. Also many thanks to Sal for trusting me with this!

This project was a lot of fun to complete, and meaningful too. It’s always a treat to work with Sal, and East York, while not my community by only a few blocks, was where I first started working in education before the TDSB was formed. Below is the video produced for the song, and here is the link to East York’s Celebration site.

Happy Canada Day!

Be safe and well!

Ivory Towers

Social isolation has led to many encabané songwriters composing pandemic-themes odes, including Dan Boggs’ excellent Bunker Town featured here. As promised a few posts back, here is mine.

Thanks to Neil Morris (bass) and Chris Bender (drums and backing vocals) for playing on it and feedback. Hope you like it!

Magical Mystery Tour

Winterfolk XVIIIStep right this way!

Yesterday was a big musical day.
First off, there was the Winterfolk XVII volunteer meet up at the Tranzac Club, which is the new venue for this popular and enduring musical event. Check out the link above for details. Anyway, this year, I will be mixing sound in a couple of the rooms, so you know who to blame if things go awry.

But sheer coincidence, Matthew Davies and Dave Stoyles of Monkey Fighting’ Snakes were scheduled to perform later in the afternoon, so it seemed a no-brainer to stick around for their show. As the Tranzac has almost non-stop programming, I also had the chance to catch a set by artists who are also on the bill for the above-mentioned festival, notably Howard Gladstone, Lynn Harrison and Laura Fernandez, very ably accompanied by Bob Cohen, a fave sideman of many artists I know. I look forward to more of their songs at Winterfolk.

After their set, Dave and Matthew set up to accompany John Victor. Opening for them was Barbara Lynch, new to me, and quite a revelation. Her poignant and often humorous songs were supported by great blues/ragtime/boogie virtuosity. Below is a sample of a song that some involves “locust” and “boogie” in the same title, and you can listen to her studio album on Apple Music or other tunes captured at the Tranzac on John Victor’s Facebook timeline.

Following her set, John, Matt and Dave performed a tasty set of original tunes, which you can listen to in rehearsal on his Facebook page. I had the opportunity to chat briefly with his John’s brother, Juno award winning producer Michael Wojewoda, helping out on sound. Wow!

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Dave Stoyles on bass, John Victor on guitar and Matthew Davies on Dobro, guitar and banjo

As a bunch of other musical types showed up for this, we were hungry, and it was Stir-It-Up Sunday, we all transited to Relish for a fun evening of open-mic’ness.

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Dave and Matthew insatiable for more playing, along with the superb Paul Brennan on drums.

It was a chance to première a brand new song, and play a familiar one. I got home a bit late…

Oh, and some kind of sport thing happened too.

Go Ti-Cats!


Gig Update

The previously announced show at the Dock on Queen has to be deferred due to scheduling conflict. A new date is in the works.

Now I rest. Be well!

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What A Week!

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. 
 Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio


Pierre Pelletier (1933-2019)

It’s been an intense week as I had to deal with the death of my dad. It wasn’t completely unexpected as his health had been in decline, but as these often go, one can never be sure of when it will actually happen. So I sadly wasn’t able to be there when he passed but did travel to Rivière-du-Loup the following day to take care of the consequences. It’s ongoing…

My dad was an fun-loving man until his health started to fail. His lifelong interest in politics often fueled it chats. For the last few decades until three years ago, he would spend the winter in the Dominican Republic. This led to the writing of my song The Final Winter. I am reposting it in his memory.

Final winter – 2017-01-04, 3.17 PM

Be well!

Remue-Menage*

Black Swan with Omar.jpgThis weekend, on Sunday, November 3, this is happening! We played this slot back in the summer with special guest Salabama. This time, it’s Omar Saab, lead singer for the Lonely Hearts, who will be sitting in after cramming to learn two sets of my wacky tunes, then doing a feature set with the Cats and I as his backing band. It doesn’t get better! My turn to cram for his tunes!

And, as the showtime is a very reasonable 4 to 8 pm, there isn’t really any “school night” excuse for this one so we are hoping for a lot of interest. Great for the early-to-bed crowd too!

This is a one-off performance, so it’s worth your while to catch the show!


Out and About

Last Tuesday, I attended one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time at the Linsmore. Organized by violinist (and many more instrumentalist) Daniela Gassi, whom I featured in a previous blog from when she recorded at my studio, the evening featured three sets in which Dani participated.

IMG_2476 2.jpgThe first was with bassist/guitarist Liam Gerussi. A mix of covers and originals by both Dani and Liam, it already promised to be a great night for captivating performances, with many instruments used as well!

IMG_2484Second up was Leanna Yamada, who I’ve written about before as well. This was the best performance I’ve ever heard her give. It was a real treat to hear Dani and Leanna play River Town with the arrangements they had developed at ManCave Studio.

IMG_2494Finally, and a brilliantly surprising end to the evening, was Menage, Toronto-based, progressive, alt/pop/rock sibling group Menage features siblings Fernando (guitar/vocals) and Bela (keyboard/vocals) Ferreira. With popular releases in Portugal and China (yup!), Menage is set on furthering their recognition in North America. They certainly got my attention! I now REALLY want the EHX Mel9 “Mellotron” pedal!

Here is their final song of the night, with Dani sitting in (yes, I know, should have been in landscape!).

They will be at the Piston on November 5 (you owe it to yourself to catch this show!). For a further sampling of their sound, check out the above linked website or their Facebook page here.


*The title is a French play on words – remue-méninges = brainstorming


Until this Sunday perhaps, be well!

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Go Pro

Some recent social media posts have got me thinking more deeply about the oft-read rant regarding “amateur” musicians “stealing professional” jobs. It is the last quoted word that got me curious.

What does it mean to be a “professional musician”?

At the far end of the scale, it’s obvious: musicians who earn their entire livelihood from playing music. Easy enough!

But what about, say, someone who works in a music store and plays shows in the evenings and on weekends? Does the day job disqualify that person from the professional ranks or is working in a music store a mitigating factor?

Okay, let’s take that further. What about someone who work instead as a server in a live music venue? Does the place of day employ shield a musician from being ranked amateur? What if he/she/they work in a doughnut shop?

Is it a question of how many hours performed vs. the day job?

Perhaps I’m looking at this all wrong…could it be a question of expertise or raw talent? Is it attitude and the ability to please an audience? Is it originality?

I have my own ideas, but I’d like to hear back from you, dear readers. Just leave a comment if you wish.


FatC Relish Sept 21.jpgThis Saturday the Cats Will Play

After a good and hot rehearsal last night working through the four new tunes we hope to launch, the Cats are raring to go this Saturday at Relish 2.0. We kick off at 9:30, but please come early for the food and former ABC Songcircle guest One-Eyed Oracle (aka Boris Buhot) playing from 7 to 9.

Make it a full evening of live entertainment!

 

 

 

Be there and be well!

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2.0

The band is very excited to be back for the first time (?) at the new Relish 2.0 at 511 Danforth this coming September 21, 2019.

We hope to introduce a few new songs that I have tried out at the open mic and one world première, so it should be a special evening on all counts. You can subscribe to the band’s event calendar here, should you wish to be kept up to date while avoiding social media overload.

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Be well!

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