Mike Branton Band
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Mike Branton Band


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"Mike Branton Dirty Feet Independent"

No. 43 Pg. 14)

Best know to Canadian blues aficionados for his work with Stu Heydon and Michael Pickett, guitarist Mike Branton has finally released his first album as a leader and it serves as a calling card of what this gifted player is capable of doing. A Mix of styles and sounds , Dirty Feet is bound by Branton's authoritative voice and his Michael Bloomfield meets T-Bone Walker at a Buddy Guy, concert style of playing. His continually inventive improvisational soloing is augmented by an intimate interplay with organ player Tortoise Blue and harp player Les Smith. Whether they are playing a rhythmically heavy, Cajun seasoned "You Stole My Love", the Chicago south Side, after hours feel of "Unfinished Business" or Jimmy Smith tempered title track. Branton and his capable support unit pull off the miracle of breathing new life into overly familiar sounds. Most revealing is when, Branton pulls back and strips down. On "Times Not Right" he returns the listener to the essence of the blues, playing some terrifying slide guitar and laying down a vocal track that is as haunting as it is revealing. On the other side "IOU", his guitar duet with ex-Jacksoul strummer Justin Abedin. The joy these two are experiencing on this low-key swing number is simply infectious and typical high caliber of musicianship found throughout. Branton doesn't reinvent the blues here but he manages to make his mark on some well-trodden soil. That in itself qualifies Dirty Feet as a musical feat. [AE] (October 25-31, 2001. Vol. 7 - View - Dirty Feet CD Review

"Music in his blood"

Some say that education is the key to success. Mike Branton might argue that point. Not that he doesn't regret whiling his high school days away, ignoring his studies and concentrating on his guitar.

But he does like his life and his chosen career, which developed from the idle time he spent plunking his guitar.

"I've been playing since I was about nine, seriously since I was about 14...I would have started earlier but I couldn't convince my parents that that's what I really wanted to do" says the Oakville musician, explaining that he see,ed to know from about the age of three that he wanted to be a professional musician. "I'd be jumping up and down on my parents' bed with a tennis racket (as guitar) listening to Kiss records...I just always wanted to do it.

Oddly enough for a teenager, his first band started out playing blues and later turned to rock music. "We'd throw in some blues just so I could keep my sanity" he quips noting that he has made his living playing guitar for a number of years now, teaching guitar lessons to budding musicians, and touring across Canada a few times playing with his share of bands. He has even backed-up a number of well-known performers.

"The reason I got into blues is that it was around my house. My dad was a big blues fan and I had access to his record collection" says the young musician. "I was born into it."

He and the Mike Branton Band recently wrapped up a stint of weekly performances, almost five years worth, at the King's Arms here in Oakville and he also wrapped up recording fro his first CD titled 'Dirty Feet'. The title has nothing to do with the music, he says with a laugh.

"You get kind of tired of seeing blues records with some pudgy, middle-aged businessman with sunglasses and an unplugged guitar" he explains. "So, its my feet, with dirt all over them.. I guess it's more of a 'stop taking yourself so seriously and make some music' statement. It's my credo."

His CD is all original material, with the exception of one song. He'd also like to record a live CD to document the past fice years of his Oakville performances. "Then I can get it out of my system and move on." he says.

"I would love to find another Sunday night location" he adds. "People come out just for the music, which is pretty cool."

The former Queen Elizabeth Park student says he prefers live gigs to recording because live performances allow him to express his feelings more freely - feeling that he says are "not captured on tape."- Friday June 22, 2001.

By Carol Baldwin

Entertainment Editor - Oakville Beaver - Arts & Entertainment

"View Magazine"

"I've Learn all kinds of things, but it depends on who you're playing with," muses blues guitarist Mike Branton about why he still accepts outside gigs after having officially announced himself as a band leader with the recent release of his critically acclaimed, solo debut CD Dirty Feet. "If you are just there to play and chuck through a bunch of songs that you don't really care about, there is no point. I see so many guys do and it ruins them. It crushes their spirits, their will to live."

A lifelong student of the guitar and the blues, it seems that Branton is always looking for greater insight into those familiar 12 bars.

His first teacher was his father Don, who in the sixties was a part of the vibrant Toronto musical community. His dad's record collection awoke an awareness of the blues' rich heritage, but it took the explosion of Stevie Ray Vaughan in the early '80s to turn curiosity into passion.

But unlike many of his peers who never look past Vaughan's tremendous gifts, Branton used Vaughan as a doorway back into the history of the blues, which allowed him to absorb the lessons of artists like Albert King and Jimmy Reed.

The awareness of genre and heritage, combined with an obsessive love of his instrument has helped this twenty-something musician get noticed, first by U.S. based guitarist Stu Heydon and subsequently by the late great vocalist Chicago Pete. Closer to home, Branton's talents were appreciated by Toronto harp legend Michael Pickett, who now calls upon him whenever he can.

Most recently, Branton has become a part of Harrison Kennedy & The Bllue Angels, a quartet built around the considerable reputations of vocalist Kennedy (Chairman Of The Board) and bassist/band leader Prakash John (Funkadelic, Alice Cooper). Rounded out by John's son Jordan on drums (who, at age 15, has way more chops then he should) this still raw unit, has the potential to become one of the best live bands the area has seen for a long while.

Still, his solo career and his still-fresh CD Dirty Feet which seems to remain on the forefront of his mind. A collection of 10 songs (plus a hidden track), the CD is packed with searing guitar licks, washes of Hammond organ and cutting harmonica punctuations. The collection often sounds like a geography lesson, taking the listener from Chicago, to Memphis, to Mississippi and to New Orleans at any given moment. Its stylistic leaps help to keep things moving while at the same time showing the range of Branton's talents, abilities and vision.

"It was more out of necessity, so it didn't all sound the same," smiles the musician, explaining why he chose to touch upon so many different sounds on his first outing. "I tried not to repeat grooves and I tried to make the bass lines different because there is a thing in blues where the bass line usually make the tune, most guys over look that and I wanted to make sure to sneak that in the back door."

"Most of the stuff on Dirty Feet obviously comes from somewhere else," he adds. I can listen to it and say "Well, OK, that drum beat I heard in a Bo Diddley song and I liked it, so now we are applying it to a different kind of tune."

Dirty Feet is reverent to its roots bu remains exciting in its execution, while a combination of taste and impeccable musical support (harmonica player Les Smith is an undiscovered gem) are in part, responsible for its undeniable power, ultimately it is Branton's trademark combination of old soul and youthful energy that defines its best moments.

"We recorded it in two days" confesses Branton. "There are certain things I would have changed to refine it, but I wanted to make the best blues record that I've heard in a while and I think it came out that way."(February 14-20, 2002. Vol. 8 No. 7 Pg. 13)

[Alex Erasmi] - Alex Erasmi


"Dirty Feet" debut CD now available through Pacemaker Entertainment



Mike Branton is a man in love with the blues. It was his first musical passion, and one that has remained in full bloom over the years. After making a name for himself as a young guitar prodigy, he has evolved into a triple threat. His signature fluent and exciting guitar playing is as potent as ever, and Mike has now emerged as a highly talented and original singer and songwriter.

The Oakville-based Branton is not just borrowing from the classic blues repertoire but adding to it in the form of fresh new compositions. His talent as a singer/songwriter was showcased on his solo debut, Dirty Feet.

Since then, Mike has been honing his songwriting chops, and he will soon begin recording a keenly-anticipated new album. “It will be a little more song-oriented and won’t feature as much jamming as on Dirty Feet.”

Branton first picked up the guitar at age nine, primarily learning by ear. “I’d try to pick things up off the radio or from albums,” he recalls. “My dad played a bit when he was young, and I had free rein with his collection. I was lucky there, as it was all really good stuff!”

Indeed. The appetite of the musically voracious younger Branton was fed with the likes of records from the early British blues boom (John Mayall, Peter Green) as well as such blues pioneers as Albert King, Muddy Waters, and John Lee Hooker. As I got older the guys I started to gravitate towards were like Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, and Luther Tucker, the disciples of the big guys. I liked the younger guys for their attitude. Like any blues-loving kid growing up in the ‘80s, Mike listened to plenty of Stevie Ray Vaughan, while Jimi Hendrix had a predictable impact. “After you hear him you just realize you have to keep going and hope for the best,” he says.

At 17, and still in high school, he began playing in blues-rooted bar bands, his skills having caught the ears of older players. One such musician was Stu Heydon, described by Branton as “my real mentor. He was the first one to take me on the road, and through him I got to meet a lot of the Windsor and Detroit blues guys.”

By the mid ‘90s, Mike was touring Western Canada with Stu Heydon & The Blues Persuaders, and they also played the 1997 and 1998 Carmel Soul & Blues Revue in California. A real confidence boost came a decade ago on a visit to the blues mecca of Chicago, as Mike reminisces. “I hit the open stage at Buddy Guy’s club, and they wouldn’t let me off. One of the guys there plays guitar with Koko Taylor, and he kept calling me back up!”

Fronting his own bands helped Branton discover his own voice as both a blues singer and songwriter. “I don’t think I found the beginning of my groove until I was about 22,” he recalls. “That’s when I thought to myself ‘it’s time to get serious.’ You can only be a guitar player in a blues band for so long before you have to bring something else to the table. Blues guitar players are a dime a dozen. You have to be able to sing and to carry a night by yourself. People don’t want to hear guitar solos all night unless you’re Hendrix or Segovia!”

By this stage, Branton was gaining confidence in his songwriting ability. “I finally felt I could write and sing my version of this music. I felt I’d lived enough that perhaps it was worth hearing.” Indeed, and that is vividly illustrated on Dirty Feet, a stylistically eclectic debut album that finds Branton equally at home on soulful bluesy jams, and a superb rendition of the John Lee Hooker classic “Serves You Right To Suffer” and from the virile instrumental title (and opening) track through to closing ballad “Give Me One,”

Since the record’s release, Mike has remained active on the Ontario blues circuit and as a guitar teacher. His artistic potential recently caught the attention of the music industry team from Pacemaker Entertainment. Their involvement guarantees a higher profile for Mike’s next album, and that’s good news indeed.

Mike Branton’s love affair with the blues still burns hot and heavy, and for that we can be very grateful.