BLUES KING - Canada’s ‘Harmonica Player of the Year’

Harpdog Brown in town to play International Beer Haus

Musician includes Red Deer as he brings his ‘Harpdog Brown & the Travelin’ Blue Show’ to the City

The accolades just keep on rolling in for acclaimed musician Harpdog Brown, and fans will have the chance to catch up with him May 31st at the International Beer Haus when ‘Harpdog Brown & the Travelin’ Blue Show’ hits town.

Canada’s number one harmonica player three years running will be kicking things off at 8 p.m.

He was nominated for Blues Male Vocalist as well as Best Blues Recording of the Year this past year as well.

But that’s not all. Brown was also named Best Blues Artist of the Year last fall at the first Fraser Valley Music Awards. And on May 28th, he’s being inducted into the Edmonton Blues Hall of Fame. He’s originally from Edmonton but now Vancouver-based.

Meanwhile, Brown’s been sharing his extensive musical knowledge of late – he spent a week teaching with the Hornby Island Blues Society.

“For 18 years now, they’ve been doing an annual blues camp, which is primarily guitar-driven,” he explains, adding he was invited to join as harmonica instructor – and he had a blast taking part.

“I was invited in 2015 and then again this past week. It’s intense but it’s really enjoyable because we are all on the same level in sharing a love for the music. Especially for the harmonica! It’s definitely an elusive instrument. You can’t just watch someone and figure out what they are doing,” he adds with a laugh. “It’s a little tougher to figure out.

“I’ve always had the understanding that teaching isn’t so much about the knowledge as it is about the communication.”

Watching the students discover a new-found talent is always a huge pay-off for Brown – who is self-taught – as well.

“When I see someone getting it, that’s really what I take to the bank. Those moments of seeing it all go ‘click’ with these guys,” he adds. “Music is a language – and I teach it like a language.”

Meanwhile, Brown certainly knows plenty about communicating with audiences through his exceptional talents – having been in the biz for more than 30 years, he has shared the stage with such greats as Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy, Pinetop Perkins, The Powder Blues Band, Jack de Keyzer and the late Dutch Mason to name a few.

And as mentioned, he also won Harmonica Player of the Year from the Toronto Blues Society and their Maple Blues Awards for three years now – a tremendous accomplishment.

His latest CD, Travelin’ With the Blues, was released last year.

“I guess it eliminates the whole concept of it being a fluke,” he laughs of landing the Harmonica of the Year Award again.

In all seriousness, he’s thrilled with the honours. It’s a huge affirmation to him personally, and continues to inspire him to press on and explore further creative opportunities.

And speaking of a rich creative experience, recording on the latest project took place in California, and utilized equipment from earlier eras – what would have been cutting edge in the mid-50s in some cases – to help capture that sizzling early electric Chicago blues sound.

Tracks were also recorded ‘live off the floor’ capturing the spirit and energy of the tunes – just like bands did it back in the ’50s, as mentioned. Brown also didn’t have any headphones or monitors, and he just used the old routine of cupping his hand around his ear to hear himself.

As he explained, with the rock and roll world of multi-tracking and over-dubbing – a given project can become like a patchwork quilt with a kind of bland multi-layered effect.

Looking over the past years, Brown can indeed be described as a gifted singer and an imaginative harp player who brings traditional blues into the 21st century. Back in 1995 his Home is Where The Harp Is won the coveted Muddy Award for the Best North West Blues release, from the Cascade Blues Association in Portland.

As to his early days, he started playing instruments before he even really knew what they were. As a youngster, his mom would plunk him down with a lap steel guitar and he would come up with all kinds of stuff. In his late teens he landed his first gig as a guitarist with a singer.

Ultimately, Brown pretty much feels at home wherever he finds himself. It’s a good trait to have, as he’s committed to touring and relishes the realities of life on the road.

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