Traditional and Contemporary Rhythm and Blues

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Brian Cain 

    Singer, songwriter, blues harp player and novelist was born in south London in 1953, one of six boys to a military family' and migrated to Australia in 1969 two days prior to his 16th birthday. Prolifically deaf from birth it would be something he would not be aware of until the early nineties, the hand of fate dealing some profound challenges in life that later would be to his benefit.


     He acquired his first blues harmonica at the age of 12 swapping it with a school friend for a giant ball bearing, amazing him and his friends by bending notes. With no musical influence in his family at all Brian took it upon himself to find musical direction and jammed along to local bands in south London hiding outside places of rehearsal, usually raw blues rock bands as they were prevalent, he listened to Little Walter played on pirate radio station Radio Caroline but little focus or information was available where he lived. From that time on a blues harmonica was always on his person that stands to this day, as it was to become a passion beyond temperance. The first bands Brian witnessed live at the age of 14 were local bands, Lee Brilleux of Doctor Feelgood had a local band that was refferd to as a jug band prior to forming Dr Feelgood in 1971. The Rolling Stones and The Kinks came to town a few times then no where near as big as you would imagine they would become. The radio was bombarded with The Beatles, Herman's Hermits and Elvis at the time but Brian preferred Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker often played by radio Caroline pirate radio station at the time, anchored in the Thames estuary in full site from the end of the Southend on sea pier, Essex, the longest pleasure pier in the world at one and a quarter miles in length. Brian could see the Jolly Roger at the top of her mast, he was unaware at the time the ship had no engine and was under constant bombardment from government authorities. Once he found in later life the circumstance under which this radio station would be hounded by authoritarian demands, this drove his interest in becoming involved in politics, a subject often attacked in his novels.  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/BrianCain


     When moving to Australia aboard a Boeing 707 by himself to join a brother already settled within the city of Adelaide in 1969 he eventually ended up homeless and alone, a story in itself. This for sometime has been a subject for biography fiercely opposed by Brian saying his life was far from over.

     At school he considered himself a poor student but was praised by his English teacher for his multi page English assignments insisting one day he would become a novelist. Brian had no idea why Mr Pickering would claim such a thing until many decades later he wrote his first novel.

     Brian tried many jobs and as a taxi driver in the 70s delivered a baby on the back seat of his cab after failing to make the Flinders Medical centre in time. Whilst a fettler and welder in the Chrysler foundry at Lonsdale, helped by a workmate, Brian took his first position in the civil earthworks and open cut mining industry gaining several post grad qualifications for management roles and spent time at corporate level, an experience he disliked. His initiation into the mining industry nearly cost him his life. Whilst traveling to his first outback mining position near Woomera as a kitchen hand in the mines camp in 1971, after hitching a ride on a semi travelling north from Port Augusta the truck driver dropped him off at a disused access to the mine some fifteen miles long, the truck driver unaware the road was no longer used. It was mid January the temperature 45 plus, Brian was carrying his suit case and the truck driver gave him five liters of water in a plastic container, without it Brian would have perished in the heat but he made it, an experience he would never forget. 

     He wanted to become a proficient blues harp player specializing in blues cross harp applied to heavy rock bands never loosing sight of the goal. He became a roadie for bands in Adelaide South Australia in the early 70s, blues bands The Bucket, Marshal Mainline and joined Adelaide band The Others in 1979 as vocalist bearing the stage name Cowboy. Whilst with the band he did his first studio recording the album “Collectors Item”. In 1982 he formed his own band Terra Firma recording an album and EP “Power Blues” featuring a cover of the Chain classic 'I remember when I was young'. During the late seventies to early 80s he attended opera classes at university but declined to continue when offered a scholarship knowing he had no heart for such a venture but gained much from the classical voice training. Brian played with a myriad of solo artists as well as all genres of bands. Brian played with bands, blues, rock, jazz, reggae, you name it he tried it over the last 46 years in Australia and overseas. In 2008 whilst recovering from depression and chronic pain on advice from doctors he began writing songs and recording in the studio. The result was Indiana Phoenix 2008 independent album “Laugh at the Devil”, unique Australian boogie blues. German producer Andreas Volk mixed and mastered the album and also produced a second album "Downunder” for 2009. Brian’s blues harp playing and vocal ability is unique and his incredible story of rising from living on the streets in South Australia to fronting bands and working in remote locations most would never see is an epic in itself. 


     Brian Cain is one of Australia’s finest cross blues harp players, a Tamworth Gold Harmonica winner 2010 and East Coast Blues harp showdown winner in two categories also in 2010. Vocal and harp playing experience and ability allow him to tell the story of the blues from its inception from the likes of Little Walter Robert Johnson, and influenced by Mississippi Fred McDowell's lyrics, to ballads and blues rock tunes of the current day. Brian currently fronts Australian boogie band Indiana Phoenix. The band is live dance boogie rock with high energy ballads incorporating blues shuffle, boogie, rock and Bo Didley beat influences reminiscent of early seventies bands. Brian opens band performances with solo acoustic harp and vocals featuring traditional blues from the likes of Mississippi Fred McDowell and Hugh Morganfield. Brian says before he became himself he was influenced by Billy Thorpe, Doug Parkinson, Joe Cocker, blues harp player Paul Jones of London’s The Blues Band and the bands of American guitarist Johnny Winter, these influences are obvious in up tempo tunes from the band. Indiana Phoenix is a product of the Australian pub blues rock scene over the past 40 years.

 Brian is also a published novelist with a healthy following and with a current portfolio of thirteen novels and seven children's books written with the influence of an extremely colorful background. Brian's novels include the influence of political governance, he didn't think he was fluent enough in political process to accurately portray political influence in his novels, so in 2013 Brian ran for federal politics in the seat of Calare NSW, coming third of the nine candidates coming in behind the National and Labor parties.


     Brian Cain resides in the Coastal town of Normanville on the Fleurieu peninsula of South Australia with his wife and children.


The Voice

     Brian Cain has a unique, powerful and raspy singing voice with a wide range of key application, this in not apparent when he speaks and the development of it can only be mapped of recent times. 

     At school Brian had problems hearing teachers and sat at the front of the class in an effort to minimize the problem. A hearing test conducted at his school in Essex UK discovered a serious hearing defect but he remembers his family being unable to do anything about it. 

When entering management level in the mining industry in the 90s he had problems hearing conversation if he could not see the persons face that was talking relying a lot on lip reading. A member of his family in 1993 turned of the TV abruptly one evening and demanded he go see someone about his hearing as the TV was so loud. 

     It was commonly believed Brian had hearing problems because of his years on heavy earthmoving equipment and playing in bands. A hearing test by an audiologist would discover something that would shatter this belief. The results of the test revealed that Brian had good hearing inside his ear from the cochlear to the brain, but his external hearing controlled by the stirrup and anvil bones of the ear drum was absent. Upon seeing a specialist this was confirmed and Brian undertook surgery to correct the problem. The stirrup and anvil bones are removed in micro surgery and replaced with a tiny Teflon piston and sleeve between two platinum wires. As the ear drum vibrates the piston moves within the sleeve giving the same effect as the stirrup and anvil bones would to the cochlear. The results were amazing; after both ears had been done over two years it was estimated his original hearing was 25% in his left ear and zero in his right from birth. The stirrup and anvil bones were just one lump and failed to develop. Brian had adapted to life with little hearing and over time it developed his voice to what it is today.

     Whilst singing with Terra Firma in the 80s his throat would often bleed and blood was present on the microphone, he would push his voice way beyond capability in an effort to be hear certain tones he could not hear due to his poor hearing. Whilst singing opera to piano he found it easier as he did not have to fight the band to hear himself. An inspection of his vocal chords by a specialist around the same time checking for nodules revealed another interesting fact, people have lower and upper vocal chords, Brian has one very thick set of vocal chords. It is suggested by specialists that during the course of singing with a hearing impediment his vocal chords when damaged repaired to their current configuration. Without a hearing impediment his voice would not have developed in this way. When entering the studio in early 2000 a whole new world opened up as he could hear things previously devoid and to this day he at time learns things that assist in coming to grips with his sudden hearing ability. Brian can sing to this current day for two hours without any change to his vocal ability, goes to show if you want big biceps go and lift weights.  


The blues harp tone.

     Brian is a British Australian and never had any intention of being influenced by American or any other genre of harp player to the extent of fanatical preference, he listened to everyone with great intrest. Raised in the western democratic societies what Little Walter and others did in the past was all very interesting and due great respect as Brian currently plays Little Walter tunes but in a lot of the old player's words 'you have to take it somewhere else' a quote by John Lee Hooker. Acoustic harp has become far easier now his hearing is adequate and far more pleasant to indulge in. What was prevalent of the day was the intensity and volume of bands that played blues and rock. When you have two guitar players with hundred watt Marshalls playing in unison a thirty watt Fender just doesn't cut it, especially if you are prominently deaf. 

     Prominent player of the seventies and eighties in Adelaide playing similar intensity to what Brian wanted was Uncle John Ayres of Mickey Finn. Uncle and Brian were two of the first players to use the newly developed Delta Lab Efectron digital delay unit, with a clean 20db gain amp and a doubling effect called slap, it was first manufactured in the late seventies, the unit was the forerunner of more modern virtual amp rack systems. Going direct to the PA from these pre amps gave an enormous boost in volume and control. Brian stopped using valve amps whilst in Terra Firma, the best being thirty watt heads made by Adelaide manufacturer Woogie using two mid twin cone driver twelve inch speakers from the seventies band 'Red eye'. Brian had used about every amp available made possible by Treadrea's music store in the Adelaide city, they were most accommodating in allowing experimentation in their store. This helped a great deal in narrowing down what would work when it came to taking on slick guitar players with hundred watt Marshalls.

     Traditional harp players generally played in bands that had a volume less intense than Brian's car stereo of the time, and that was nothing to shout about. Hearing impediment as previously explained played a role in developing a playing technique and equipment far removed from traditional expectations, this only became prevalent to Brian when his hearing was finally wired up. He could suddenly hear what he had been compensating for in other ways, this led to the use of techniques way outside of traditional application. The control panel on a thirty watt fender has a few easily adjusted knobs, a modern virtual amp system is radically complicated and without a line of experience in their use Brian would be the first one to profess they are difficult to adjust to obtain powerful but traditionally blues harp sounding results. The over use of effects is the major problem with virtual amplification. He also uses an Australian made microphone, a Loudbark made in Melbourne Victoria, timber mic with the element embedded in the womb of the timber. The mic picks up hardly any ambient sound and mainly feeds on sound passed through the grain of the timber to the element. The mic lead has an on off switch to avoid rogue feedback whilst not in use and delivered to pre amp via wireless system. These things took decades to develop and of late are not as important as experience has given Brian reed control to adapt to any mode of amplification. His developed sound is one of preference similar to the preference a guitar player would have for a Gibson, Fender or Marshall. Brian recently severed ties with a major sponsor and now uses a pre amp made by Adelaide Electrical engineer Manfred Bayer, MHB music systems in the late eighties, when located in Brompton, now Rostrevor, giving him a mic and pre amp delivery that is totally Australian. His ability to deliver traditional blues harp and vocals since his hearing was restored has even surprised himself but has been of great assistance regarding performance with fate playing a major role in diversity and delivery.  

Bands

     Brian has only been an official member of three bands all are successful, 'The Others' Adelaide in 79/80, 'Terra Firma' Adelaide 81/86 and 'Indiana Phoenix' Newcastle NSW 2007/to present. 

     Brian recently returned to South Australia and has finalized the line up of Indiana Phoenix. An opening acoustic set of traditional and contemporary blues featuring harp and vocal solo and duo acoustic guitar. A second set of traditional and contemporary blues covers and a final set of boogie blues featuring more up tempo boogie including original Indiana Phoenix tunes and tunes derived of the band members. As time has progressed the three sets have become three separate acts, the second swing shuffle set becoming The Fleurieu Bluesbreakers and the acoustic act bearing the name of whomever Brian is playing with for the set.