Done! The National Steel "Got Lucky" Blues Tour. The 2013 edition of my annual, national tour of Canada. Eight consecutive years of coast to coast shows- nearly 800 of them now- visiting places large and small, grand and humble. The National Steel Blues Tour remains "Canada's biggest little blues tour."
Covering over 27,000 km by land, this year's Tour played nearly 100 mostly back to back shows over nine provinces from coast to coast: theatres, festivals, casinos, cafes, saloons, church halls, legions, house concerts, music stores, gas stations, breweries... I won't get into how many litres of red wine and how many litres of fuel. That's proprietory information. Fuel still leads... I have spreadsheets!
For the fifth year, the Tour stopped at Long & McQuade locations along the way for masterclasses and workshop presentations to local players. I've done over 60 of these now, and I've enjoyed them tremendously. As usual, the Long & McQuade/Yorkville Sound gear functioned flawlessly night after night.
Still no agents, managers, record labels, tour busses, or shiny new guitars. Or grants, pensions, or other subsidies. While I'd happily adapt to any of these- alone or in combination- I must acknowledge the growing role of house concerts in keeping my Tour wheels turning. As overhead in the larger centres rises, and the pie is divided among more parties, it is increasingly difficult for smaller commercial presentation venues to play a significant financial role. Without friends and fans up and down the line, life would be much harder. As it is, I'm pleased and honoured to be welcomed in so many places. A real privilege to do what I do. A big thank you to everyone who played a part in keeping this Tour going. It's always teamwork, and the presenters are often the unsung heros.
While I did not have a guest co-star for the entire Tour– as I usually do– I did have the pleasure of working with a many fine musicians along the way. In the early phases of the Tour: Joe Murphy, Morgan Davis, and Samantha Martin.
Next, Libby Rae Watson came up from Pascagoula, MS and joined me for nearly a month of Maritime shows- a great experience (especially the trio shows with Morgan Davis). Expect more shows with Libby Rae in the future- we had a blast!
Gord Macaulay kindly played bass with me in Saskatoon, SK, while Lynn Victoria facilitated us at her blues jam.
A big time was had in Winnipeg with Big Dave McLean, John Scoles and Joanna Miller.
Lastly, the McKinley Wolf Band– these guys learned all of my material and delivered a great show with me in their home town of Victoria, BC. At this point I am planning some full band, electric shows across western Canada- hopefully with McKinley Wolf to back me up.
Lots of great radio push on the Tour. CBC was very kind to me, and I made regional appearances in Charlottetown, Fredericton, Moncton, and Edmonton. As always, I visited with Holger Petersen in Edmonton. Numerous college and community stations supported the Tour, including stations in Halifax, Kingston, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Victoria. All of these shows make a big difference. Like most blues artists, I earn my fans one seat at a time. Blues Societies played less of a role this year than in past years, nonetheless, the Tour would not have been the success it was without the help of the East Coast Blues Society, the Thunder Bay Blues Society, the Saskatoon Blues Society, and the Victoria Blues Society.
It's been another wild ride. A tougher Tour than in some years. Bad weather. Rough edges from last year's auto wreck- a ripple effect of down time a year later. The new Lincoln Cartier Congressional is a great car, but it has sucked up huge sums of money in ball joints, tires, batteries, tire chains and window glass. On average I paid out $1.25 per litre of gas- with some regions being much more, and some being much less. The car has a great overdrive, that being one of the reasons I use it.
Motels are more costly than last year. Meals are more costly, too. Canada Post failed to deliver, lost, or delayed shipments of tour posters in all parts of Canada. One venue in Saskatchewan cancelled a show on 48 hours notice because they had not sold any advance tickets. Another venue in British Columbia had similar concerns- but sold out the show with walk-up ticket buyers during a snow storm! I didn't have to sleep in a parking lot that night.
Telling songs and singing stories has never been more of a pleasure. It's the delta songster tradition– and I guess I've learned more from Charlie Patton and Sam Chatmon than I might of thought. The shows have been going really well, and it's a growing fan base around North America. I've now met costs on the Narrow House CD, so it's definitely time to get busy and make a new one. Lots of new songs and stories, if I can ever get my ducks in a row.
Next year's National Steel Blues Tour will be announced in just a few weeks time. Meanwhile, I'm hatching plans to visit western Canada during the summer festival season. I've just confirmed the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival for August. Other dates are soon to be announced. I'll be attending the Maple Blues Awards at Toronto, ON in January, and the Blues Music Awards in Memphis, TN in May. Spring dates are available for Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
Thanks everybody, for riding with me on yet another fantastic National Steel Blues Tour. This blog is a real slice of what it is to live on the road year after year, mile after mile, as an independent, touring blues artist. I live the dream, I ride the big tour. Alright, it's a working man's tour. I do it all from booking to marketing to branding, to writing the songs, loading the gear, running the sound, and playing the show. I drive the car down this blues highway and I pay my own way. I don't write much about my own music here- it's up to others to review my shows- but I try to share some of this blue highway with you. I hope you enjoy it. I appreciate your company. In the sidebar you'll find links to several previous tour blogs. There are plenty of good stories there, as well. A reminder that you can follow me on my Facebook artist page, docmaclean.deltablues.