2018 was a great year for me musically. I met a lot of new people, played some new-to-me venues, and basically learned a lot. Thanks as always to my amazing wife Lori for all of her encouragement and support.
Thank you to the many wonderful artists I get to play with. Thank you to the venues and festivals, organizers and promoters. Thank you to music fans everywhere!
Here are some of the highlights. My apologies if I have missed anyone! Here’s the accompanying Facebook photo album.
The year started out with some really great intimate gigs. One with Deni Gauthier at the Arrowwood Farms, a gorgeous property and building with a real welcoming vibe. Along with Bill and Dave from Broomsticks & Hammers, we did a great house concert for Marcie Reigling in Goderich. It was a small but very enthusiastic audience who made us feel welcome. It was a real treat to play tunes from Mirror Box stripped down and in such an intimate setting. All the people who attended were as keen to ask questions and engage in storytelling as they were to listen to the tunes!
Things really started cooking in March and basically haven’t stopped since. I had the pleasure of playing at the Sip Club in Gueplh for the first time for a private birthday party (and what a party!) with Kevin’s Bacon Train. The crowd ate up the special blend of “covergrass” that we do and the venue was just a real gem. I had a blast entertaining Carly Thomas’s cousin Philly Pat for his 50th birthday along with Al Aguilar and John Huff. Broomsticks & Hammers returned to the venerable Dakota Tavern in Toronto for our second gig there. Folks, it’s worth it just for the photo. So many great Canadian acts have graced that stage. It’s a classic and I love playing there. I also had the immense privilege of joining Emm Gryner and Steve Clark at the Aeolian Hall for Ecofolk, a yearly concert in aid of the Thames-Talbot Land Trust. We played Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote.” Emm really knows how to get a crowd in the palm of her hand and it was a real honour to get the call to play for her.
I returned to the Aeolian in April during London Music Week with my great friend Marty Kolls where we played a short but oh so sweet jazz set opening for Ellen Doty. As usual, when Marty hits the stage at the Aeolian the place is just transformed, the audience is mesmerized. I’m really lucky to get to be a part of these things, especially in that venue. April closed with one of the easiest and most creative sessions I’ve been involved with. By easy I mean that the whole thing just came so naturally to everyone involved. Watch out folks, when Phil Glennie releases his debut album it’s gonna be a doozy! Clever songwriting and great players: Steve Clark on bass, John Huff on drums, David Janzen on acoustic guitars. Simon Larochette from the Sugar Shack was at the helm doing what he does best! I’m really stoked to hear the final product. We debuted the material live for the first time at the beginning of May at the London Bicycle Cafe, a wonderful spot downtown at which David has been running a very successful songwriter’s series.
April was also the annual sojourn to to the Forest City London Music Awards. This time I was nominated personally in the jazz category and with Broomsticks in the Folk/Roots category. What a trip. The Jazz and Classical ceremony was held at the Aeolian and my parents joined us that night. No win for me, but really, it was nice just to be nominated. The highlight of the evening was definitely reconnecting with my high school music teacher Linda Wharton, who I hadn’t seen in 25 years and who had a pretty major hand in setting me on my musical path. No win for Broomsticks either, but hey, that’s how it goes. We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved so far. I love the annual music awards. For Lori and I it’s a favourite night out to see lots of our musical friends!
In May me and my brothers in Kevin Greene & The Awesome Sauce hit the stage at the London Brewing Co-op’s Friday Night Live series. This is a really great event, it starts and ends early on a Friday night and the crowd there is really enthusiastic! Jim MacDonald has been programming the event and is doing a fantastic job getting local talent out to play. I closed out May playing the longstanding Bluegrass Brunch at the Local Community Food Centre in Stratford with Blair Babcock, James Cummins, Brad Bossence, and Christy Muddle.
June and July were awash with festivals, weddings, and recording sessions. I did some duets and band gigs with Deni (Horrible Mischief is the official band name now), despite the Iron Horse Festival being rained out. Steve Clarke and Nate Smith joining in the rhythm section. Kevin’s Bacon Train played some private events and our usual summer show at the St. Regis Tavern. The Awesome Sauce got to wind out for a full show at Grand Bend Beach Fest on a beautiful summer day (in fact one of the only outdoor gigs this summer that was not in some part impacted by poor weather)! Broomsticks & Hammers had the great experience of joining Jan Hall at the Sun Parlour Coffee House Sessions in Kingsville. What a great day! The crew there are all pro. We couldn’t have been treated better. A real highlight was getting to talk gear with Dale Butler.
In July Deni had me in to record guitars on Karen Morand’s most recent record. I love doing studio work and 2018 has seen a fair amount of it. Karen’s record is really great and Deni did a lovely job producing and mixing. Live, July is dominated traditionally by two festivals I’ve played at twice now with Broomsticks & Hammers: Canterbury and Home County. Canterbury is always a blast. That little festival is such a special gathering. The vibe is chill and the location, nestled in the middle of Ingersoll, is just perfect. Home County this year was bittersweet. Darin Addison, the festival’s director and big supporter of Broomsticks & Hammers was stepping down as the festival celebrated its 45th year. I had the pleasure of meeting the new director, Tim Fraser, and I’m convinced the festival is in good hands. Despite the rain at both events the crowds were enthusiastic and dedicated. They sat with umbrellas unfurled and cheered us on. Kevin’s Bacon Train also hit the streets doing some busking in support of Home County. Festivals are super fun!
Throughout August and September I did some road work with Deni, played Grand Bend Summer Sunset Sounds for the second time with Broomsticks & Hammers, and for the second time rain forced us to stop the set lest we all get electrocuted! It was such a drag too because the band, with Kiley Joe Masson on keys and John Huff on drums, was really starting to cook! At the end of August I went with Deni up to Huntsville to do some pre-production with the great Andrew Wahl. That was a super learning experience for me as Andre is both a great guy and a real genius. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Deni’s next record develops. September saw the Awesome Sauce make our return to the Western Fair I Love Local stage. It’s basically becoming tradition for us at this point! Steve and I backed up Deni at “The Shed,” a great private concert series out in Strathroy.
In October we finished up with Phil’s record. I welcomed home a jet-lagged Deni at a duo gig at Streamliner’s in St. Thomas – where I finished the night with a CAA tow due to a flat tire! I had the distinct pleasure of working again with Howie Kittleson and Kevan Carmen in Dervish State as we recorded an overture to Pacheco Theatre’s presentation of Marsha Norman’s play Night Mother. Dave, Bill, and I once again rode as a Broomsticks trio at ItsaFest 3 put on my Michael Del Vecchio and 331arts. The Bacon Train played our annual Hallowe’en show at the St. Regis with a 1990s dress code and a wicked 90s medley. At the end of the month I played guitar on a new song by London singer songwriter Chris Young who, despite suffering a stroke earlier this year is back at it! Way to go Chris!
In November I returned to the Aeolian with both Emily Garber and the Bacon Train in support of the Alzheimer Society of London and Middlesex. My granddad suffered from Alzheimers and Lori’s Dad had early-onset dementia so it is a cause that’s close to us. It’s actually amazing how the condition is close to just about everyone. I’d be happy to play this show every year. Broomsticks played a very special show at the Princess Avenue Playhouse in St. Thomas. This venue is really great. I mean really great! It’s like a miniature Ryman Auditoriam or Massey Hall. I played duo with Deni as the opening act. Seems I often do a lot of “double-duty” gigs these days. Sometimes they can be tiring or complicated. This was not one of those times. The Awesome Sauce hit the Regis stage for an epic two-setter in mid-November and I followed that with a great show with Deni (and the Horrible Mischief – Steve Clark and John Huff) at the St. Thomas Public Library. The Pairs delighted everyone with their opening set. It was a cool alternative venue! At the beginning of December I began preproduction on a theme song for Clayton Healey’s upcoming biopic Sailor. The song is written by Lynne Hanson and will feature production work by Brent Jones.
And finally, here I sit with two gigs left on the calendar. This Saturday The Bacon Train does our annual Christmas show at the St. Regis. On New Year’s Eve I’m, really stoked to be playing with the London Music Awards All Stars in Victoria park to ring in 2019.
What a ride it has been! I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store!