Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hot Times Summer in the City!

I am really glad I set out this summer warning everyone that I would be blogging when the urge hit me and not to a schedule this summer. It has been hectic and I have felt less urge to write - I think something to do with the 60-70 hour weeks I have been putting in at work. I come home from work so mentally tired I just have no mental capacity left to put together a blog.

But I am feeling guilty - so to keep you up to date here is a full blog covering the goings on in my world for the past few days and a look forward to next weekend - and for good measure a blast from my past in the year 1966.

My next blog will be after the Pow Wow - probably late in the day on Monday Aug 2nd - a holiday here in Ontario!

Toronto Beaches Jazz Festival

Whilst I haven't been doing mental gymnastics in my spare time, I have been in this last week immersing myself in music. On Thursday I wandered Queen Street to enjoy our Beaches Jazz Festival Street Fest. As usual, I had a great time and listened to a sampling of a song or two from each of the 38 bands which were playing a stretch of what I would guess to be 2 km of Queen Street East.

A lot of the usual bands were performing there - so many are oh so so good it is hard to move on to the next one. They each play 3 30 minute sets and bands alternate playing times so that the two bands on either side of a given band are on break whilst the one in the middle of the lot is playing. Repeat this for every 100-200 feet and you get the gist, one or two songs and move on ... We got all the way to the end and had time do do the same on the way back - and heard a different band in each direction!

Lost Fingers
I heard just about every style/era of jazz, blues and funk music that there is - all for free!  I am sure the bands sell a great deal of CDs and so are amply compensated that way for their time - I always buy one or two CDs to do my part in making sure that is so.  It was a feast for the ears.  We have so many great bands in Toronto that it isn't hard to fill a venue like this. Bands also flock to Toronto from other locations for this festival as well - I heard a great band from Quebec with the moniker "The Lost Fingers" who were very distinctive with their French lyrics - I am hoping that their name is a poor translation of some Quebecois phrase - because lost fingers is not what you would want a musician to have and they didn't sound like they had lost any fingers.  LOL

Of course Montreal has the premier Canadian Jazz festival, as I understand, but our Toronto  Beaches festival, now running a full 10 days, must be getting pretty close.  I haven't heard what the attendance was for this year's festival but it would be interesting to compare the two in size.

A couple of others which caught my eye - the young musician on pint sized guitar in  Puente del Diablo to the right on the pic below  and also the ZZ Top Look alike in the Neil Chapman Band.
Peunte Del Diablo
Neil Chapman Band
Erin McCallum Band
The best "new find" during my Queen Street stroll  was one band which just blew me away and I don't recall catching at the Jazz Street Fest on previous years .  The band was fronted by Erin McCallum "Big Voice - Big Sound" as her banner read.  She was a tall lanky lady (I would guess she was great at b-ball in school) with one helluva Tom Waite's/Janice Joplin, without quite so much gravel and whiskey blues voice. I immediately purchased a CD - she was fabulous. I found a You Tube video of a performance from 2008 - I will note that this recording is not the best and in addition I think she has honed her style just a tad since the Barrie performance was recorded.

I wrote an extensive blog about the Jazz Fest last year - Go here if you want to know more.

Collingwood Elvis Festival
I rushed up to Collingwood on Friday and arrived in good time to go see Frankie and the Favourites perform some great 50s and 60s top tunes in the outdoor beer tent on one of the side streets.  I had a great time as I mingled with a bunch of friends who had all come out to enjoy the great music and the hot evening.

The main street hosted the large stage upon which the 30 or 40  Elvis hopefuls poured out their one or two Elvis covers as their bid for selection to compete in the semi final competition the next day.   I declined to get out to the remaining  Elvis Weekend events in favour of R&R at my Shangri-La.  So many Elvi... So little time.  :)

Next Weekend: The Wikwemikong Pow Wow - Manitoulin Island
I spent much of the day Saturday planning and organizing my trip next weekend to Manitoulin Island's First Nation Wikwemikong Cultural Festival and Pow Wow. I have booked an early  Ferry for Saturday morning and a campsite is reserved for Saturday night.  I was really happy to learn that there is a beach side campgrounds on the Reserve within a 10 minute walk of the Pow Wow.   My friend Leslie and I are very much looking forward to the road trip, the Chi-cheemaun Ferry ride to the island and 2 days of immersion in the Anishnabeg culture.  We will be setting off at the ungodly hour of 3:30 am early Saturday morning in order to be at the ferry the requisite 1 hour before sailing time.  It will take us 2 hours to cross from the Tobermory at the end of the Bruce Peninsula to South Baymouth at the south east corner of the island.  The plan is to get up there, tent pitched and sitting happily in place in time to watch the Grand Procession, which opens the days dancing competitions.

Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve (usually known as Wikwemikong or Wiky) is an Indian reserve in the north-eastern section of Manitoulin Island - Check out "Where Am I" if you are not sure of the geography.  Wikwemikong is an unceded Indian reserve in Canada, which means that it has not relinquished title to its land to the government by treaty or otherwise.

The 50th Annual Wikwemikong Cultural Festival and Pow Wow is held every year during our August long weekend holiday.  This year that is July 31-Aug 2nd.  I attended once maybe 10 years ago.  It is one of the largest Pow Wows in Canada - and the various  dancing contests are fabulous to watch as is the opening ceremonies when the Grand Procession takes place!

You can find out more by going to the web site here.

Flashback: 1966
I am going to finish off with a song which for some reason I have been humming a lot. We are having a very hot summer up here and the weather,  time of year and wandering through the crowded city streets remind me of this song.  It brings me back memories of my younger teenage years when I lived on a country road 3 miles from the nearest village.  Every summer my Mom would ship us kids out to stay for a few weeks with various Aunts and Uncles.

I can remember 1966 and it was a "hot time in the City" for me as I was embarking on my teen years - just turning 13 that summer and making lots of new friends and experiencing new things in "the big smoke". That year I was staying with my Uncle Frank (a guitar playing honky tonk Newfie guy) and my Aunt Jeannine (a Franco-Canadienne from Cochrane in rural Northern Ontario) who lived right in the centre of the City. I had a wonderful adventuresome time that year for sure - my first exposure to counter-culture.   My Mom and her brother were making a 5 week heritage trek back to Newfie for the 1966 "Come Home Year".  That was the same year as Arthur R. Scammell wrote the famous Newfie "Come Home Song".   I am trying to remember who made it famous - was it My Mom's cousin Dick Nolan or was it another of the Newfie Troubadours?  I smile as I remember the slogan which I had heard from my distant Newfie family circle -  "Don't stay where yer to, comes where we'rse at!"

So, how's that to a segue to a real hippie 60s tune!  This was the greatest hit of The Lovin' Spoonful, Summer in the City from 1966, written by Mark Sebastian and Steve Boone, Charts: US1 UK8 GER5.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Blues Favourites Part 2: Unchain My Heart and The Thrill is Gone

"Unchain My Heart" is a song written by Bobby Sharp and recorded first in 1961 by Ray Charles and in 1963 by Trini Lopez and later by many others, including BB King. The Joe Cocker version is the one that I grew up with. Love it still.

My  favourite version is by Frankie and the Favourites.  You would most likely not have heard of this band.  The band features on keyboards and vocals my friend John, who owns (and built) Gopher Broke Farm.  He does a mean blues vocals in a Joe Cocker style.  I am looking forward to hearing John and his band play this weekend at the Collingwood Elvis Festival.  No, he is not an Elvis contestent, but his band, being a favourite local Collingwood bar band, gets to play at one of the side street beer tents, which handle the overflow audience from the Main Stage which is set up on the closed off section of the main downtown street in Collingwood.  It is also the place to be when you get tired of hearing good and not so good Elvises (or is it Elvi?) belt out those 50s and 60s hits.    The Festival runs from July 22nd through 25th (next weekend).  If you want to know more about the Elvis Festival go here to read my last year's blog and go here to the Official Elvis Festival Website.

Unchain my heart baby let me be
Cause you don't care please set me free

Unchain my heart
Baby let me go
Unchain my heart
Cause you don't love me no more
Every time I call you on the phone
Some fella tells me your not at home
Unchain my heart set me free

Unchain my heart
Baby let me be
Unchain my heart
Cause you don't care about me
You got me sewed up like a pillow case
But you let my love go to waist
Unchain my heart set me free

I'm under your spell
Like a man in a trance
You know darn well that I don't stand a chance
Unchain my heart let me go my way
Unchain my heart you worry me night and day
I live a life of misery
And you don't care a bag of beans for me
Unchain my heart set me free


I'm under your spell
Like a man in a trance
You know darn well that I don't stand a chance
Unchain my heart let me go my way
Unchain my heart you worry me night and day
I live a life of misery
And you don't care a bag of beans for me
Unchain my heart set me free

BB King The Thrill is Gone
"The Thrill Is Gone" is a blues song written by Rick Darnell and Roy Hawkins in 1951 and popularized by B.B. King in 1970.

According to Wiki
When released as a single in December 1969, the song became the biggest hit of King's career (#3 R&B / #15 Pop) and his signature song. B. B. King's recording earned him a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and a Grammy Hall of Fame award in 1998. King's version of the song was also placed at number 183 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs ever.

The Thrill is Gone
Written by Rick Darnell & Roy Hawkins
The thrill is gone
The thrill is gone away
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away
You know you done me wrong baby
And you'll be sorry someday

The thrill is gone
It's gone away from me
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away from me
Although I'll still live on
But so lonely I'll be

The thrill is gone
It's gone away for good
Oh, the thrill is gone baby
Baby its gone away for good
Someday I know I'll be over it all baby
Just like I know a man should

You know I'm free, free now baby
I'm free from your spell
I'm free, free now
I'm free from your spell
And now that it's over
All I can do is wish you well

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Blues Favourites Part 1: Worried Life Blues and Someday Baby

Lets make it clear - I am not an audiophile, but I am a great lover of good music. If I summed the hours in a week I spend listening to music vs watching TV - well it would probably be in the order of 50 hours of music vs 1 hour of TV. Of course I can do other stuff while I listen to music which is not generally true of TV so perhaps not a fair comparison.

Live music is best, but when I think of live music I think of small bar and Indie bands, and open mic "amateur professionals". I like to appreciate the music I listen to and while going to see Sheryl Crow perform at the SkyDome with Eric Clapton is well worth it - I would go for the memories not because of the excellent renditions of the songs. For that you need to be in a quiet room with a set of speakers and a recording of the music you want to hear. Live performances are great, but they do not often result in the musician's best work.

There are some great musicians out there doing it for the love of but not able to do so to earn a living. Sad but true - for all artists not just musicians. So lucky us. I get a good diet of live music at my local - the Liberty Bistro and once every few years I go to a major concert.

For the most part, aside from the live music once or maybe twice a week, like most, I enjoy recorded music. My taste is varied and while there are some types which I listen to more often there isn't much I would turn off. Well, maybe pure rap and some types of Country. I enjoy music performed by the many fantastic artists of all genres - both Indie as well as established label musicians. At any given moment, I might choose jazz, blues, folk, rock, world/regional or classical depending on my mood. When I come home from work after a stressful day and I need to chill and obtain a calm and peaceful state of mind, I might put on "spa or new world" music... Which to my mind is something you might listen to if you were medidating - well, if you were actually supposed to listen to music when meditating. If I am getting ready to go out and party I might listen to some adult alternative or some urban dance music. A romantic date? Well, nothing beats a sultry jazz tune. There is music for every emotional and motivational need.

One of my favourite types of music is Blues. You can often find a blues tune to fit any mood. I would like to focus the next several Tuesdays with some of my Blues favourites. Here goes Part 1.

According to Wiki:
"Worried Life Blues" is a blues standard that has become "one of the most covered of all blues songs." Major "Big Maceo" Merriweather recorded "Worried Life Blues," a mid-tempo, 8-bar blues, in 1941.
Although Joe Cocker produced a very good version, it is better known as a BB King song. I like this recording which features both Clapton and BB King.

Worried Life Blues

Oh lordie lord
Oh lordie lord
It hurts me so bad for us to part
But someday baby
I ain't gonna worry my life anymore
So many nights since you've been gone
I've had to worry and grieve my life alone
But someday baby
I ain't gonna worry my life anymore
So many days since you went away
I've had to worry night and day
But someday baby
I ain't gonna worry my life anymore
Yoo're on my mind every place I go
How much I love you nobody knows
But someday baby
I ain't gonna worry my life anymore
So that's my story
This is all I got to say to you
Goodbye baby I don't care what you do
But someday baby
I ain't gonna worry my life anymore
Oh lordie lord
Oh lordie lord
It hurts me so bad for us to part
But someday baby
I ain't gonna worry my life anymore

The very interesting thing about this song and its lyrics is its similarity to another blues standard "Someday Baby Blues" by Sleepy John Estes (1935).  The two songs are very similar and have over the years become intermingled  with features from both songs included in covers produced by subesquent artists.  The lyrics provide the major distinction between the two songs as suggested by the different titles.  The following is taken from the Someday Baby lyric. 
I don't care how long you go, I don't care how long you stay
But that good kind treatment, bring you back someday
Someday baby, I ain't gonna worry my mind anymore

As an romantic optimist by nature, I prefer the sentiments expressed in  Someday Baby.
The 1935 Someday Baby Blues was subquently revisited and restyled by Bob Dylan as a folksy version of the Sleepy John Estes song.

Feist subsequently recorded this (now) Dyan song and produced a reasonably  good version.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2:Unchain My Heart and The Thrill is Gone

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lazy Hazy Days of Summer

I rushed up to my Collingwood Shangri-La late yesterday afternoon after a full work week. My goal is always to arrive before sunset and to get out to the gazebo at the end of the sea wall and watch the sun go down. Yesterday I managed to leave work by 4 and get onto the highway heading out of town by 5:30 - so I was unpacked and basking in the holiday atmosphere of Rupert's Landing by 8:00, well in advance of the published sunset at 9:00.  I never get bored with the pictures I take at sunset.  Yesterday's sunset created a wonderful orange sky you see in the picture above.


The last snapshot before the sun sunk below the water line revealed a nice pink sky. "Pink Sky at Night - Sailor's Delight" - For Sure!

 I rushed home from holiday last Saturday after attending the annual Blue Mountain Chili Cookoff. You get tickets for 15 sample "shot glasses" of Chili from your choice of the 20 or so contestants and a vote to cast for the best "People's Choice" chili.  The best chili IMO was Local Wild Bison & Boar Chili by Bridges Tavern – Kyle Cupskey, Meredith Brown – Thornbury, Ontario.  Go here to see all the category winners.   It is a charity event put on by the Thornbury-Clarksburg Rotary Club and is held at the Village at Blue every year at this time.  There are events at the Village at Blue every weekend.  Village at Blue is the ski village at Blue Mountain during ski season, and it is only 10 minutes by car from my Collingwood Shangri-La.

Today and tonight there is a music festival at the Village at Blue - the Harvest Moon Festival which is a tribute to Neil Young featuring 14 up and coming young Ontario artists.  I will be heading up there later this afternoon.

I was able to get back to Toronto in time to go out to Liberty Bistro and take a listen to Laura Fernandez with her band XOTEKA. They perform the first Saturday of each month and I so enjoy the Latin Jazz that the band specializes in. I caught the first set and headed back to my place in time to watch the 2nd night of fireworks in the Symphony of Fire at Ontario Place. 

Sunday morning I ran off to see the Tall Ships sitting in port at Queen's Quay and then back home in time to see the sail past Ontario Place of the 8-10 ships in the afternoon whilst I prepared for a bit of a dinner party for Sunday night.

I have to confess that although I have lots of pictures, they all got downloaded on my home office desktop and since I just have my wee laptop up here in Collingwood, I cannot offer pictures from the Chili Cookoff, Fireworks or Tall Ships, even though I have some good ones.   But come back on Monday as I will add some more pictures of both the Chili Fest, Fireworks  and the Tall Ships to this blog on Sunday night when I get back to Toronto.

Africa Anyone?

I finished up Sunday with a bit of a bonvoyage party for my son Jeff - he is heading off to Africa for a 2 week trip . He is going on the GAP Adventure tour "Delta and Falls Experience" and will be visiting Botswana, Namibia and Zambia as well as South Africa. As a matter of fact, he is in South Africa today and will be trying to find a local bar to watch the world cup game  today. He flies to Windhoek, Nambia tomorrow and sets off on a overland for his Africa trek which will involve travel via truck, tent camping and the modern day roughing it "safari" experience.  He will end up in 10 days time in Livingstone, Zambia.

I envy him this trip and look forward to hearing all about it when he gets back.  I have my own plans for an Africa trip - to Mali in Sub-Saharan West Africa, once part of French West Africa colonies.  Hmmm, looking for a travel partner - anyone interested?

Bella enjoyed our little bon voyage party as we all sat out on the balcony and enjoyed breezes and watched the sailboats out on the harbour.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On the Water - Yet Another Kayaking Day at my Collingwood Shangri-La

Set course for open water!
Quasi lighthouse dead ahead.  Lets see green bouys to the right and red is?
I think these three dudes are just sitting around telling fish tales.

You can see how the water changes colour as you get to the other side of the sand bar.
Finally caught the swans before they could swim off.  I was vewy vewy quiet...
Landed on the sand bar (actually it is a stone bar) to do a bit of exploring.

A nice view of the ShipYards Grain Elevators

Friday, July 2, 2010

Kumbaya and Campfire Songs

I love walking out to the end of the Sea Wall as the sun sets.  Usually the lake is a bit calmer, if not glass-flat.  At this time of year the sun sets on the horizon near the shore and this makes for a spectacular sunsets as the sun sweeps down out of view, bringing joy to someone else, perhaps at this very moment as they look to their east as the sun comes up on their horizon.

If I time it right, I arrive out at the sea wall while the sun is still above the horizon. Tonight I did not, I realized this as I made my way on the path to the lake and saw the sun bouncing off the Collingwood Ship Yards silo. Made for a pretty picture, as did the sunset. I enjoyed just the tail end of it. When I arrived it had all but disappeared from sight.

The other day I did a questionnaire online which predicts how long you will live based on the answers you provide to lifestyle questions.  It pronounced that I will  live until 104!  Wow - I had better add a few more schekles to my retirement coffers!  If you want to do the quiz go here.  Unlike some of the quizzes you find on the Internet, this one seems based on in depth study.  From the site - about the calculator:
Thomas Perls MD, MPH is the founder and director of the New England Centenarian Study, the largest study of centenarians and their families in the world. More can be learned about the study at

Anyway, after discovering that at least one source gives me another 49 years to live, I decided I had time to do something that I have been wanting to start for a long while - learn to play a musical instrument.

I went out and bought - A ukulele! Isn't it cute!

I have always wanted to play a musical instrument.  A few years ago I listened to a radio documentary which was talking about a movement promoting  teaching ukulele in the schools and apparently this is taking hold in several jurisdictions across the country.  Apparently it is an ideal first instrumentt.  I certainly would have voted for my kids to learn the ukulele rather than those recorders that they all had to learn when mine were in public school.
I have now learned how to tune the thing - AECG! and I can play a C chord.  Today, I started working on the A chord!  Once I learn 3 chords I can learn a song!  I figure with 49 years to go, I just might be able to pass audition for the "Senior Seniors" band by the time I am 85!  That is what am calling those 85+ Seniors.  Someone should/will come up with a catchy name for this age group soon enough --  Senior Seniors will have to do for now.
And the campfire songs?  Well - at 104, I figure I should have a few great great grandchildren to sit around a campfire and sing those songs with - accompanied by my Ukulele!

Canada Day from the Top of Blue Mountain

I am on vacation this week up at my Collingwood Shangri-La.  Although I am up here on my own - I have lots to do and plenty of company aside from my little dog Bella. 

Bella before her Haircut.  Shaggy Dog!
I found a great groomer up here and so Bella has a brand new 'do for our Country's birthday!
  Look she is sticking her tongue out at me!

Bella is all spiffed up for Canada Day!

 I am kindly included in a few social invitations which get passed along by by my dear friends from the  Gopher Broke Farm.  I was thrilled to be allowed to tag along to a Canada Day celebration dinner at a prime viewing spot for the Collingwood Fireworks - high on the Niagara Escarpment at the home of some of Barb and John's friends. What a wonderful view these folks have from their front lawn, eh?

The fireworks were set off at a point near the Shipyards - you can see the elevator at the shoreline near the centre of this photo.

What a wonderful setting to have for a home!  I think I would sit all day out front mesmerized by the view!

We had a great Canada Day party - fun, friends and good food and drink.  We had a fire to keep warm by and a few folks toasted marshmallows!

As the sun set the sky over the lake was pink.  I couldn't get any pictures of the fireworks - the distances were too far for my little camera to do any thing with.

What a wonderful colour this field of canola is!
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