6BN-David's First

22 June 2016
Written by David McCabe

David's Discoveries

This series is going to be about the Blues discoveries of David, which would be me. My discoveries will be not just Blues musicians and groups, but also about venues, festivals and Blues series that may not be well known to a Montreal or Quebec audience. And these discoveries may not be new to some of you folks. I may write about an old album considered a classic, but that I just heard for the first time. Welcome to my journey.
But first, a little about me, and my musical background, such as it is.
 I am a (soon to be) 59 year old man, born in Comox, BC, that has loved music since he won a Chet Atkins album as a 9 year old, in 1966 at a fair being held in Valois Park, Pointe Claire. Also at about the same time, while living in an apartment building in Pointe Claire, The Rabble ( a popular Montreal band at the time) rented the garage of the building for rehearsals, and my brothers and myself and all of our friends would pretend we were “gogo dancing” while watching and listing to them.
I have three younger brothers, including twins. One of those twins is a musician, and is the original owner of a 1972 Martin acoustic guitar, purchased in 1979, and has purchased three other Martins since then. He grew up learning all of Bob Dylan’s songs, as well as listening to and learning the music of many other Folk musicians like Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez, etc. Due to broken fingers not setting properly when he was young, he cannot play chords on the guitar the way they are supposed to be played, so he had to invent his own style. He has a full time career in Information Technology, just like I do, but still plays, and records himself and others in a small recording studio he built in his 
basement. The other twin is an award winning photographer, whose pictures I am sure most of you have seen at some time, in Montreal (and other Canadian) newspapers and publications.

As you can see, there is some artistic talent in my family, although none of it seemed to come to me. But I still have a good head of long hair, and all three of
my brothers are bald, so I am not too disappointed.
In 1968, we moved to New Hampshire, and I lived there until I finished high school in 1975. While there, one of my classmates was Cecile Hamilton, the younger sister of Tom Hamilton. In 1970, when Tom met Steve Tyler and Joe Perry and formed a band in Sunapee, the town next to us, Cecile knew I fooled around with electronics, so she asked if I wanted to help out the band as a roadie/technician for their high school and college tour dates. I did that occasionally for a couple of years, doing things like fixing torn speaker cones with nail polish, and the odd soldering job on wires and connectors, but did not follow them to Boston, where they became Aerosmith.
That Chet Atkins album was my only music possession until the age of sixteen, in 1973, when I bought my first 3 albums, and then followed up in 1974, with my
fourth album. They were, in order:
They Only Come Out At Night - The Edgar Winter Group
Made In Japan - Deep Purple
The Captain and Me - The Doobie Brothers
Rock and Roll Animal – Lou Reed
Those four albums have been the foundation of my love for all music, and I have always owned copies of them. The Lou Reed album was purchased at least 10 times because it was played so many times with cheap stereo equipment that was all a teenager could afford.
 Another major musical event that happened while in my last year of high school (1975) was seeing a concert called “The Two Generations of Brubeck”, with Dave Brubeck and his 3 of his sons, Darius on keyboards, Chris on bass and trombone, and Danny on drums. This was a tour to promote an album of the same name released in 1973. That fueled my interest and eventual love for Jazz. Since coming back to the Montreal area later that same year, I have managed to go to every single Montreal Jazz Festival at least once, and have a t-shirt or jacket or something from all 37 of them. These days, I spend most of my time in front of the blues stage, almost every night of the festival.
My passion for the Blues specifically has only been developing for the last three and a half years or so, although almost all of the music I have liked over the years has been blues influenced, even if I did not realize it. This is why I still consider myself in the discovery phase. It is quite possible that some of what I write about will already be known by some of you, but since I wanted to contribute somehow to what the Montreal Blues Society is trying to do, besides just being a member, this is my way of helping them with their goal of promoting the Blues in Montreal and across Quebec.

The Blues passion got its start when listening to Mitch Melnick one afternoon on his sports show. He always plays good music when they come back from commercials, and particularly Blues. One day, he played a cut from the Luther Allison album recorded live at the Spectrum here in Montreal just a short time before he passed away, that had just been released as a DVD/CD called Songs From the Road. I went to HMV, and they happened to have a copy, so I bought it. Since then, because of learning about great old and new blues artists while listening to Mitch and Blues shows like Holger Peterson’s Saturday Night Blues, and Randy Renaud’s Black Cat Alley, I have bought approximately 1400 Blues CDs.
That year, 2013, I decided to start going to as many Blues festivals and shows as I could, mostly because it is one of the only ways to buy some artists CDs, since they do not distribute the way they used to, through record stores. So, for the last three years, I have kept track of whom (and where) I see shows. In 2014, the year I turned 57, and being born in ’57, I had a goal of seeing 57 shows. Here are the actual numbers for the last 3 years:
2013 – 24 shows
2014 – 59 shows
2015 – 136 shows

Since I am now way past setting any yearly goals related to my age, my new goal is to see as many shows as Jack Dekeyzer plays on average in a year, about 180. After last year, I can say this is almost as tiring as playing that many, but I am sure I get just as much enjoyment from listening to that much as most musicians get from playing that much.
Hopefully, this little bit of my background will help you understand where I am coming from with my writing, and possibly help keep the negative criticism to a minimum.

The Claudettes

The Claudettes were originally just Michael Caskey on drums, and Johnny Iguana on piano. Johnny had played with Junior Wells (for years, starting at age 23), Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, James Cotton, Carey Bell, Van Morrison, and Jeff Healey. He asked Michael, who had played with Chuck Mangione, Koko Taylor, John Sinclair, Balkan Fusion Group Eastern Blok, and The Heritage Blues Orchestra, as well as with Johnny in oh my god, to join him in a group with the objective of seeing if they could make music of the style of the piano and drums Chicago 60’s Blues, like Otis Spann and S.P. Leary.
While looking for a gig between St-Louis and Chicago in 2010, they called up a bar called Claudettes in Oglesby, Illinois, about an hour and a half southwest of Chicago. Not only did Claudette, the owner, book them into her bar, she made them her house band and started paying them a salary every week. It was her that started calling them The Claudettes.
In 2011, Claudette lost her lease on the bar, but continued paying them weekly to be her house band at other bars. She worked out deals with the bar owners so she could set up her own portable bar inside, and they would play their music while she sold drinks. They had thought about parting ways with Claudette, but she was paying them every week and the shows were getting famous because of her always yelling at them in Korean, even while they were performing, and also because of her “really out there drink specials”.
In 2013, they released their first album, Infernal Piano Plot … Hatched! The back cover of that album shows Claudette at a bar. The front cover shows Johnny and Michael playing, with a small head shot of Claudette (from the same photo on the back) in a corner.
In 2014, Claudette stopped touring with the band, because of other business ventures she was involved in. She had noticed a beautiful young woman named Yana, actually a tenant in an apartment building she owned, that she decided to send in her place as manager of the band on tours, and also to make the stage “look better”. The guys soon found out that Yana was a “bewitching dancer, and even better singer”. She has since joined the group, and appears on their second album, No Hotel, released in September of 2015.

The Claudettes Sound

The White Stripes and Black Keys rock the blues with a guitar attack. The Claudettes brandish a piano instead.
“Fuses blues and punk, and all points in between. Prodigious skill, but not purism”
            The Chicago Sun-Times
“Like Keith Moon chasing a crazed, punked-up Little Richard”
            Blues Music Magazine
“Beautiful…chaotic…wildly impressive…The Claudettes may be my new favorite band”
            Colossal Pop
“Like a ragtime White Stripes…One of the most refreshing musical experiences of the year”
            Caught in the Carousel

I have only heard their first album, and am currently waiting for the second one to be delivered. They are on the Yellow Dog label, and while I managed to find the first album at Archambault Music, (they only had one copy) no stores seem to be able to get the second one, so I have ordered it directly from their Store link on their website, theclaudettes.com.

If the 60’s Chicago Blues piano drums sound is anything like that first album, I am really sorry I missed out on it. The piano has always been one of my favorite
instruments, and the sound of just the drums and piano on this album is magical to my ears. Take, for example the one-two punch of “New Orleans Yard Sale” (with its stomping Crescent City sound) and “Infernal Piano Plot…HATCHED!” (a breakneck blues that Looney Tunes surely would have copped). Then stand back as all hell breaks loose on another dynamic double-shot of creative composition and wicked improvisation: “Motorhome/Land of Precisely Three Dances.”
Every album I buy is immediately digitized, and I listen to every song, and rate them with one to 5 stars. This is so I can create mixes of 5 star songs to copy
onto whatever device I am using to listen to music. This album has 13 songs, of which 10 songs got 5 stars, and the other 3 songs got 4 stars.
There are some samples on their web site of their second album, with Yana now singing, sometimes in French, and this album sounds like it is going to get some more high ratings from me. 
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