Brian Blain
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Brian Blain


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The best kept secret in music


"Short Takes"

"a brilliant writer incorporating everyday experiences and situations into his lighthearted blues songs...Brian Blain could put a smile on a gargoyle."
- Richard Bourcier,

"...'slice of life' original songs stunning in their creativity, poignancy and ironic humour" - Indiana Blues Monthly

"...the kind of deceptively laid-back groove associated with Ali Farka Touré (I kid you not)" - Norman Darwen, Blues & Rhythm, UK

"master storyteller...It is refreshing to know of artists such as Brian Blain". - Music City Blues Society, Nashville, TN

"...excellent guitar playing and (a) funny, wry, intelligent take on life.” - Bruce Erskine, Halifax Chronicle Herald

"one of the wittiest songwriting pens on the Canadian blues scene. - Mike Regenstreif, Montreal Gazette

“… wry and thoughtful songwriting …singing with great empathy, and completely lacking affectation… guided by the universal blues aesthetic of related experiences, connecting listeners to performance, and making them highly accessible.” – Dr Feelgood, CKLN-FM "Low Down to Uptown"

"Blain shows an imagination and humor all too rare on blues CDs. Every bluesman should be this overqualified" - Dave Howell, Southbound Beat Magazine, California, USA

"For mature, relaxed-fit acoustic blues, Blain's the man for the job." - Brad Wheeler, Globe & Mail

"...particularly recommended to fans of upbeat folk music" - Scott Yanow,

"...a triumph of minimalism." - Jeff Johnson, Chicago Sun-Times

“A totally distinctive artist...original, yet traditional.” - Eddy B, Blueheart Archives

"Brian Blain is one of the most important and popular figures on the local blues scene. Expect a mix of gently satirical and more personal material." - Kerry Doole, Tandem

"Blain doesn't browbeat you with his ideals, but takes a low-key approach that is very tasty." - Tim Richards, West Michigan Blues Society

" of the most original albums you'll hear this year..." - Graham Clarke, Blues Bytes


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

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

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

"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 way! Seriously, the man has a groove, I'm into it." - Harry Manx


"With his warm stage presence and easy rapport with the audience, Brian Blain delivers heartfelt lyrics and a solid blues sensibility, with panache, charm, humour and honesty."
- Lillian Wauthier, Acoustic Harvest
Folk Club

"Colorblind Brian not only put on a great show, but a fun show".
- John Hoevenaars, "The Blues Never Die" CHRW, London, ON

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

"I had a smile pasted on my face all night long."
- Bill Garrett, Borealis Records
- Comments from media, presenters and fellow musicians

"Full length reviews"

"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 showcase 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, Halifax Chronicle Herald Sept 10/05

"Canada has had its own version of the blues for some time now, and two new albums find themselves prominently at the forefront of this genre. The first is Brian Blain's Overqualified for the Blues, which on the title track tackles the obvious irony of the "blues" that proliferates from this land of the north: how do guys who've got money, are never abused, and have insurance, justify singing the blues?
Throughout the album, Blain seeks to justify this. "Some say to get the blues you need to be low down livin' on welfare," he acknowledges on "High-Tech Blues", but as "my computer is crashing and my network's going down," he experiences the blues as well. "The high-tech blues strikes all, ask any millionaire," he adds. Ask any student as well, for that matter. I don't know how many times I've had the overwhelming urge to launch this piece-of-junk-Dell I'm typing on now from my 3rd floor apartment, and watch the thing shatter into a million pieces down below. Not quite the intense frustration of a black man on the Mississippi, helpless against the oppressive white banker repossessing his home because his crop failed, but frustration at any rate.
Other sources of Blain's blues are too many meetings, and "CD release parties where no one pays attention to the singer." A very interesting number is his blues song about the blues, "The Blues is Hurting". Funny no one's thought of doing this before, considering, as Blain points out, "My favourite club is closing, CD sales are down... the money hasn't changed in 30 years, and there's still clubs downtown expect the band to play for beers."
Nonetheless, Blain claims to write "the kind of blues that lifts you up if you're feeling down." While this might make as much sense as his lyric, "My girl's got a giga of nine hundred megahertz RAM," the claim is strangely correct. No, not the claim about his girl (I don't know his girl, or enough about computers to understand if it's possible for a female to have gigas or RAM), but about his version of the blues actually picking you up. It's strange, ironic, maybe even oxymoronic, but it's true. Very entertaining, groovy music and stories that hold your attention are some of the defining characteristics of this album." 4/5
- Dave Johnson, The Argosy, Halifax Sept 22/05

"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

- Canadian Media

"Full length Reviews"

"Fred Litwin, mastermind behind Canada's NorthernBlues label, has unearthed yet another "diamond in the rough" with master storyteller Brian Blain and his debut CD, "Overqualified For The Blues."

Brian has been playing his brand of folksome blues for some forty years (on the SAME Epiphone guitar, no less!), buth his lyrics have a decidedly-contemporary spin about them. Brian writes about everyday life, and things that can and do happen to Everyman, often with his tongue planted firmly in-cheek! We think it would be nigh impossible to listen to this CD and not know someone or something like the characters and events written about in these songs, or to get a chuckle along the way!

Take the rockin' "Terrace Inn," for example. Written about a Quebec club where Brian used to play and strive "to sound like Magic Sam," it rocks and rolls and is reminiscent of Les Kerr's "Camellia Grill." The title cut is also a humorous near-autobigraphy, where Brian tells us that, despite his share of troubles, he's got "friends, family, money, and style," thus making him "Overqualified For The Blues!"

He also takes a few good-natured shots at the music biz, too. in "Blues Is Hurting," he tells of what too many of us are painfully aware--club closings, sagging CD sales, and good gigs WAAAY out of town. In "One More Weasel," we meet the antithesis of the two of us--media folks who go to cover an artist, but find themselves too busy "politicking" to actually hear what the singer has to say!!

Hands down, tho, we liked "Hi-Tech Blues" best. Backed by the Downchild Blues Band, we are treated to a tale of a society seriously linked to technology, which, when something invariably goes awry, will "give even a millionaire the blues!"

It is refreshing to know of artists such as Brian Blain. Flying virtually "under the radar" since the Sixties, it's obvious he's paid his dues. Thanks again to Fred Litvin for bringing Brian Blain to the masses, and for Brian for sharing his world of blues with us! Until next time.....Sheryl and Don Crow." - Sheryl and Don Crow, Music City Blues Society, Nashville, TN

"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!

Brian 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, Oct/05

"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, Oct/05

"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." ***1/2 - Jeff Johnson, Chicago Sun-Times Dec 11/05

"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, UK Dec/05

"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 Oct/05

"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 Nov/05

"As Brian Blain approaches his sixtieth birthday, fifteen years since he left his rural home in Quebec to live in Toronto. He has chosen to record a subtle, poignant, affecting album that initially confuses you; for the question here is; is it a folk influenced blues album, or a blues influenced folk album? Well, I really cannot make up my mind on that particular question, but what I am certain of is; that what we have here before us is a distillation of life's experiences and frustrations including friendship, love, landmines, death, adoption and insensitive music executives, all presented with skill, love, care and conviction. A musical tapestry of styles and heartfelt emotions woven together with the aid of; David Baxter,guitar; Michelle Josef , drums; Victor Bateman, bass; Marc Roy, mandolin, fiddle; Richard Bell piano; Jim Galloway, soprano and baritone sax; Paul Reddick, harmonica; Butch Coulter, harmonica; Michael Jerome Browne, harmonica; 12 string guitar; Rod Phillips, organ; Lily Sazz, Sue Lothrop, Rebecca Campell, Emily Braden, Daisy DeBolt, Garth Logan, backing vocals, and last but not least Brian Blain, vocals and guitars. This ensemble together creates an engaging feeling of warmth and comfort in sound, combined with a questioning stance on some social issues. An album to relax to and make you think! Mucho Impressto!" - Brian Harman, Blues Art Studio Magazine, Vienna, Austria Oct/05

"It will give you a great impact after listening; It is a Canadian Acoustic Blues, nurtured in northern great earth. I often feel that Canada exists, in real sense, as an extentsion of America, and I think this label, "Northern Blues", represents it. Although entire music is accompanied by band, it has such a soft touch; Fiddle and Mandolin in #3, Harmonica and Guitar depicts blues in #4, #6 consists of laidback organ, and fantasy of floating feeling in #11. This is one of my favourite CD. It worths more than Y2,376 (incl. tax)." - Translated from Apple CD, Tokyo, Japan

"Canadian based label Northern Blues Music's latest releases focus on a trio of Canadian roots and blues artists. The catalogue numbers suggest that Brian Blain's album has been in the pipeline for a while, and the liner notes confirm this: the first tracks were laid down just before Christmas 2002. Doug Cox and Sam Hurrie have also been planning their CD since they first started working together, some time after they first met when Sam opened for Doug. All three are highly acclaimed musicians, and these two albums show just why.
Blain is an astute observer of life and this is reflected in his lyrics which are shot through with a wry sense of humour. Few would be able to get away with the opener "Saab Story" which cleverly plays on the Saab/sob pun, but Blain pulls it off with consummate ease. Blain sings and plays guitar throughout, accompanied by a range of familiar names including Michael Jerome Brown, Harry Manx, Paul Reddick, and the rhythm section from Downchild. The musical quality, however, remains unfailingly high throughout, as Blain traverses the blues and roots landscape. The album has a light, relaxed feel to it, the main exceptions being the straighter blues tracks, such as the excellent Magic Sam influenced "Terrace Inn" which has more of a rocking groove. Every one of the tracks has a tale behind it, and they are all memorable in their own way. The closing track ("The Big Fire"), in particular, occupies a soft spot in Blain's heart. Every year he enters it into the "Songs From The Heart" contest, although he is still waiting to pick up first prize!
Both "Overqualified for the Blues" and "Hungry Ghosts" are albums that are well worth tracking down. The former is a real grower, and rewards the listener with repeated plays, and every track has something to recommend it. The latter is perhaps more immediately accessible. The standard of musicianship and songwriting throughout both albums is of the highest order. "Overqualified for the Blues" is more a mixture of Blues and Roots music, whilst "Hungry Ghosts" is a bit more firmly rooted in the Blues. Rather than make the difficult decision about which one is best, just buy them both! You will not be disappointed." Rating: 8/8
- Gordon Baxter, Blues In Britain, October, 2005
- International Media


Overqualified For The Blues (NorthernBlues 2005)
Compilation: Toronto Blues Society 20 Years (TBS 2005)
Compilation: Future of the Blues Vol. 2 (NorthernBlues 2004)
Compilation: Future of the Blues (NorthernBlues 2001)
Compilation: Toronto Blues Today (TBS 1999)
Who Paid You To give Me The Blues? - Brian Blain (ind 1999)
Tales of the Townships - Brian Blain (ind cass. 1985)
Story of the Magic Pick - Brian Blain (Good Noise/Polydor 1973)
Hands Up - Oliver Klaus - producer (Capt. Moze Records 1972)
Fraser & DeBolt with Pleasure - producer (Columbia Records 1972)
Les Marionettes - Trio BAK (Disques Match 1963)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Brian Blain is a popular mainstay of the Toronto music scene both as a player and behind the scenes. His new NorthernBlues release, "Overqualified For The Blues" features four tracks with Michael Jerome Browne and guest appearances by Jim Galloway, Harry Manx, Paul Reddick, members of Downchild and many other Toronto blues luminaries.

“Overqualified For The Blues” has garnered considerable airplay in the U.S. and Canada with tracks in rotation on Galaxie and JAZZ-FM.

Top 10 of 2005 - “Sunday Night Soul” AM1430 CHKT, Toronto

Top 10 of 2005 - “Rue D’Auteuil” CKRL-fm 89.1, Québec

Top 10 of 2005 – “Blues Bytes”

Recommended listening by All Music Guide - "...Particularly recommended to fans of upbeat folk music." - Scott Yanow, Oct/05

Recommended listening by Brad Wheeler (Dec/05 MapleBlues). "…For mature, relaxed-fit acoustic blues, Blain's the man for the job." Brad Wheeler, Globe & Mail, Sept 30/05

2005 Recipient - "Golden Quill" Porcupine Award from CIUT-FM "Back to the Sugar Camp" The citation reads: "Brian has the ability to utilize a musical genre but not be limited by it when he composes his precious songs. He uses the blues and yet his songs weave in and out of them. Incorporating modern day life that fits in perfectly with this over-used musical style, he brings going to meetings, dating a girl with a Saab, or being a high tech guru with a slightly humorous detachment. He is the Buddha of the Blues."

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Lastly, is where I loaded up a new tune I wrote for Alice Brock celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the "Alice’s Restaurant Massacree"