Wednesday, August 24, 2005


This is a show review of Chris Cain, Far and away my VERY FAVORITE Guitar player today. After a nearly 7 year absence from the Twin Cities, he was booked into Famous Dave's BBQ & Blues the only venue in town that hosts national blues on a regular basis. Unfortuantly it was on a Monday night, but you'll read that part.

Return of a master is long overdue.
Story and photo’s by Mark Fredell
Originally printed in June 2005 issue of BLUE MONDAY

Monday May 2nd marked the return to the Twin Cities of guitar wizard and uptown blues shouter Chris Cain after a more than seven year absence. This is far to long for one of the most critically acclaimed and well respected guitar players in the field to be relegated to touring within a one day drive of his home, the past 7 years have seen Chris and his band restricted to playing up and down the west coast from (roughly) Portland to Los Angeles and not much else, and in that time he has produced some truly fine records and astonished just about any of the unsuspecting that happened into one of those west coast shows… Now finally with a new booking agent he has hit the open road once more for his first real tour of the upper mid-west since 1997 or so; criss-crossing the area for some 20 days of one niters from Salt Lake City to Saint Louis, Chicago to Louisville, Des Moines to right here in Minneapolis.
The most unfortunate thing about his appearance in the Twins is the simple fact that it was a Monday night, in these days, of smoking bans, terror alerts, money troubles and armed robberies on the streets of uptown, it’s hard enough to get a good crowd into a club on a Friday or Saturday, but to book one of the most highly regarded guitar players in the land, in a club he’s never played before in a town he hasn’t played in 7 or so years, where only the most ardent and diehard fans even know his name let alone have actually seen him play was a genuine injustice…. I don’t place blame here, I know it was one of the last dates of the brief tour and sometimes things just work out that way, but when you have a room that is known for keeping locals on stage early in the week and booking national acts (almost) exclusively on the weekends, it’s really a travesty to put this kind of talent on a Monday night and then do nothing more than the basic blip on the weekly advertisement to let people know he was coming. Now I kid you not, in the weeks leading up to this show, I mentioned Chris to no less than half a dozen renowned guitarists, and each one of them upon hearing his name couldn’t help but smile and voice their admiration for him and I’m talking some real decent players, like Bernard Allison, Carl Weathersby, Lurrie Bell, Michael Burks, Deborah Coleman and BB King to name a few, and with ‘fans’ like that, you’d think that this cat would be a huge star on the blues scene, instead the most common response when I mentioned the show to the “usual suspects” those (serious) blues fans that hit most all of the national touring acts shows in town was to the effect of “I think I’ve heard of him what does he sound like?”… So with all this in mind I took it upon myself to print up some little flyers and some posters and spread them around town as best I could. Now could some one please explain to me the logic of the venue— FAMOUS DAVE’S having a policy AGAINST!!! Yes you read that right AGAINST bands putting up posters or laying flyers on the front (host) counter to help promote an up coming show in the club... WHAT???? How stupid is that and of course with the help of some of my friends that work there I put up a few posters and put some flyers on the counter on a Wednesday evening no problem; only to return the next night and find all the posters gone and the hostesses using my flyers for scratch paper; The manager said the company has a rule against this kind of thing they told me, so he was just gonna throw these in the trash, (Oh like my posters?) so I took what flyers were left, notes and scribbles and all and simply handed them to people as the night went on.
Anyhow, back to the show…
For all my efforts with the flyers and posters and my own personal word of mouth, plus having the luck to do a live radio interview on KFAI with Chris about a week and a half before the date, I can confirm that I brought 22 people into the room that night, out of the roughly 80 or so that were there at the start of the show, probably a few more assuming the flyers/posters did any good at the music stores, record shops etc., Respectable though nowhere near the turn out Chris deserves.
So; hanging out before the band arrived, I spy Scotty Miller sitting at the bar, after a bit he gets up and comes over to me, “so, you a Chris Cain fan?” he asks, “what’s he sound like?” it turned out that Paul Metsa (music director at Dave’s) hired Scotty to play keys with the band, since he was touring with just bass and drums this time through, so I told Scotty to just think of Ron Levy playing with BB and Albert king in the early 70’s and he should fit right in. As nine o’clock arrived, I offered to do the band intro and announcing “our very own Scotty Miller” was sitting in on keyboards I announced from the bay area on the left coast the Chris Cain band and off they went, tearing into some of the greasiest fat toned uptown blues in the world today, Chris’s guitar beefy and swinging filling the room with blue notes and his vocals deep and gravely full of the emotions of years of feeling and living the blues life and within seconds those that had journeyed out on this Monday night where mesmerized, awe struck at the level of intensity in his voice and captivated by the sheer volume of notes he plays on the fret board, that’s one thing about Chris Cain, he plays a remarkable amount of notes yet he never seems to over play; similar I suppose to Eric Clapton who’s moniker ‘slowhand’ was dubbed him due to the unbelievable speed at which he plays. Chris can take a solo into the outer reaches of the solar system like a NASA rocket hurling through space filling virtually every inch of empty space with notes yet every one matters and fits perfectly with every other. The addition of Scotty playing (mostly) B3 Organ helped to deliver a crisp, sharp big city blues sound the whole night through, from the first solo break when Chris cut lose and then signaled Scotty to do the same, almost immediately you could see this trio of out of Towner’s breath a sigh of relief and instantly Scotty Miller was the newest member of the band if only for the night playing great fills and solo’s and even trading licks with Chris within the first few songs, people in the crowd were amazed when they heard that Scotty had not only never played with these guys before but had not ever heard a note that Chris had ever played until the first song of the night. The band had fun, those in attendance were impressed and somewhat overwhelmed and Paul Metsa even stopped in for a bit (very unusual on a Monday) and he assures me he’ll be booking Chris back (most likely in August) on a weekend and then maybe he’ll have the kind of ‘built-in’ crowd that will help to move him into the light of the Minnesota blues scene. I guess time will tell.


  • Chris Cain's music is absolutely sublime!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:48 PM  

  • I was at this show at Dave's, and was absolutely blown away by Chris' talent! Molten, fluid blues guitar style, with the most fabulous guitar tone, endless musical ideas, huge voice, great songs, etc, etc. I can't think of any current bluesman I enjoy and respect more than Chris Cain. I'm missing 2 of his CDs...latest (will get soon), and an out of print Xmax CD. I'm a huge fan...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:53 PM  

  • Chris Cain's warm guitar tone is reflective of his soul. He's a great artist. He's an incredibly gracious person. And he's EASILY my favorite bluesman.

    T.J. Nelson
    Los Gatos, CA

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:53 PM  

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