Blues master Harpdog Brown & the Travelin’ Blues Show makes a City stop at Fratters on March 30th.
Showtime is at 8:30 p.m. There is a $15 cover.
Having been in the biz for more than 30 years, Brown 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.
These days, he’s particularly excited as he’s just returned from recording sessions in California for a new project, set for release later this spring. “The release date will be as soon as possible,” he says during a chat from his Vancouver home.
Recording took place utilizing 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.
“All I was prepared to do was to perform the best that I could,” he explains of prepping for the sessions. “I also wanted to record what we are doing with the Travelin’ Blues Show.”
Producer Little Victor worked with Brown on the tracks. “They have all the gear, they do it in one room ‘live’ off the floor like they did back in ‘54,” he said. “I didn’t have any headphones or monitors – I just did the old routine of using my hand over my ear to hear myself,” he explained. “The sound is remarkably like it came out of the past. It’s very cool. There’s also some news songs, and some new takes on old songs in an older, cooler greasier kind of way. So we are excited about it.”
His last CD, 2014’s What It Is – was placed at number 20 by Roots Music Report in their worldwide Top Blues Albums that same year. Last year, Brown & the Travelin’ Blues Show also landed a whirlwind cross-Canada tour with Little Victor.
He also won Harmonica Player of the Year from the Toronto Blues Society and their Maple Blues Awards last year and in 2014.
As to Little Victor’s chops as a producer, Brown couldn’t be more pleased.
“This guy knows how to get that original roots sound, even in a digital world,” he said, adding the CD was cut at Bigtone Records, a studio in San Jose run by one of the hottest rising blues artists in the U.S., Big Jon Atkinson.
They also spent time recording a couple of tunes at Greaseland Records – the dreamchild of Christopher ‘Kid’ Andersen (Charlie Musselwhite, Rick Estrin).
Overall, Brown and his band were in the Golden state for just shy of two weeks. “We got home on March 1st, started working on the second and hit the road on the fourth,” he laughs. “It’s all work and no play,” he added, tongue in cheek – as there is no other way Brown would have it. He feels absolutely at home on the road, and finds constant inspiration in connecting with his audiences.
Originally from Edmonton, 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. Next up he joined a rock band which further solidified his love for touring.
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.
“It’s a good healthy distraction if I do say so myself,” he said of his shows, which sizzle with vibrancy. “For people to forget about their stuff for a little while.”
Check out www.harpdogbrown.com.