'Colorblind' Brian Blain is one of the better-known blues aficionados in Canada. After decades as an artist and music editor in Canada, Blain's finally come out with his own much-anticipated debut CD called Overqualified For The Blues on the Northern Blues label owned by Fred Litwin.
Blain's familiar to blues and folk fans as editor of some prominent Canadian music magazines, including Maple Blues and Downtown Jazz. While he's busy promoting and plugging blues, jazz and folk/blues through these highly respected publications, he still finds time to perform live shows several times a month with his own original, ingenious material in folk and blues venues around Ontario and elsewhere.
Blain's lyrics in "No More Meetings" are a universal theme, in that they deal with the everyday real things in his (and everyone else's) life. For example: ".... meetings, deadlines .. etc." are described effectively and believably. His artistic frustration is summed up well, when he soulfully reflects, "All the good paying gigs are way out of town" -- in the profound but simply put "Blues Is Hurting".
Complaining, yet optimistic, blues figures prominently in the title tune, "Overqualified For The Blues". Although some of the issues dealt with in this storytelling blues are negative, they're put across in an optimistic way as expected occurrences in everyday life, taken in stride. Some fine barrelhouse piano playing brightens this catchy, people-friendly tune, courtesy of much-revered piano man Richard Bell. Bell is a much-sought-after session man whose impeccable music credentials include stints on the ivories in Janis Joplin's Full Tilt Boogie Band; as well as a Hawk with Ronnie Hawkins. Bell was also in The Band when they performed at the original Woodstock in 1969. In addition, he's a sought-after sound engineer, who's also known to play a little accordion at times. Michelle Josef supplies the amazing drums on this tune.
"Enfant Choisi" echoes back to Blain's earliest beginnings in music in Montreal, Quebec ... a hub of French Canadian culture -- be it in galleries, museums, restaurants, rock icons like Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush or die-hard folkies like Brian Blain. He sings this tune in French Canadian, which adds to the charm of artistic expression in the vocals, as only the magic of the French language can evoke in one's imagination.
There’s a rousing blues/boogie beat found in "Terrace Inn". Blain’s deep involvement in the cyber world, whether it be for communication or publishing, is quite evident in "Hi-Tech Blues". Lyrics like "My computer is crashing .. I get a low down feeling with these high-tech blues", is a universal dilemma for anyone 'hooked' up to the internet. So a totally appropriate subject for the blues these days. Michael Fonfara’s (Downchild Blues Band/ex-Lou Reed/Electric Flag) high-powered, boppin' piano playing, combined with the urgency in the frantic but mellow delivery in Blain's vocals, rocks like there's no end in 'site'. Mike Fitzpatrick (Downchild/Livin’ Blues Band/ex-Luke & The Apostles) plays drums on this tune. Fitzpatrick’s hard-drivin' talent on the skins, ensures his percussive genius is put to good use complementing these energetic, melody-infused passages.
Blain bellows out "I'm a mixed up, mixed up, mixed up fool" in the upbeat winner, "I'm a Little Mixed Up". His impeccable rhythm section backs him with a solid beat.
"One Way Ticket" bounces along nicely. Blain's vocals declare, "I'll take a one-way ticket" - followed with this welcome nostalgic imagery, "Home run hero on a small town team -- Had Johnny Bench written all over me." Blain's guitar licks move along like a home-run king's in this nostalgic winner -- with harmonizing background vocals by Lily Sazz, Sue Lothrop, Rebecca Campbell, Garth Logan and David Baxter.
"Peace" speaks volumes of the '60s hippie peace movement, with its laid back simply put message -- "We need peace in the world". These passive sentiments are reflected in supportive background vocals, along with a call and answer response from Harry Manx's incredible talent on lap steel guitar and Paul Reddick's moving harp playing.
"One More Weasel" speaks with knowledge and experience of Blain's trials and tribulations in attending and covering other artists CD release parties, reflected in lyrics like "One more weasel talking at the back of the room." Blain's vocals are backed with vigor on "Weasel" by the genius of award winning and absolutely impeccable folk/blues/acoustic guitarist Michael Jerome Browne - one of the finest talents on the Canadian and international acoustic blues scene today.
"The Big Fire" is the heartwarming finale to this extremely enjoyable and much-anticipated Brian Blain debut CD, Overqualified For The Blues. In "Fire", Blain imaginatively combines both French and English language vocals, along with charming, whimsical guitar riffs that cry out for 'more' of this artist's creative endeavors of the finest 'muse'-ical kind.