(Concert Review) Doc MacLean: One Man, Two Guitars, and a Whole Lotta Mojo
For one night, the doctor was in the house.
And, though there were only a handful of barflies to take in Doc MacLean’s mojo, those who did left the Dakota Tavern with a musical remedy that traveled deep down to their souls. They also left with a cure – at least momentarily – for the mid-winter blues.
The Delta Blues arrived in Toronto courtesy of resident Doc MacLean. While the living representation of the blues calls Hogtown home, he rarely plays here.
For more than 30 years, MacLean has spread the Delta-Blues gospel. He carries this musical tradition from town to town and summons the ghosts of Son House, Muddy Waters, and Blind Willie McTell. His long grey goatee, matching ponytail, and all-knowing eyes symbolize this journey.
Through his songs and his stories, attendees journeyed to a time before the cassette tape, a time before the eight-track. A time, if you will, even older than vinyl. The final destination: the heart of the Delta and the small town of Hollandale, Miss. For one night, the bluesman made you feel like you were there – standing on a street corner back in some Depression-era sleepy town south of the border, listening to one guy and his two guitars.
Despite the small crowd, which the Doc joked was “like a house concert,” MacLean made the most of his early evening set. Dressed all in black and sitting on a stool near the front of the stage, the doctor served up some soulful dishes, including “Bone Train,” which MacLean recorded with Tom Waits’ band a few years ago; he said this song was about the “loss of good things in small places.”
Alternating between two acoustics – a 1951 Stella and a 1929 National Steel (see photo below) – over a 90-minute set, MacLean plucked, picked, and became one with his instruments. In the process, the musician gave the micro-brew sipping, bourbon-drinking denizens of the Dakota a crash course in the blues.
During a brief intermission, MacLean sold raffle tickets for a leather tour jacket that said, “Got Lucky Blues Tour 13” on the back. The jacket was then raffled off to one fortunate fan before the end of Doc’s second set.
Here’s hoping more people hear of MacLean’s homecoming show next time for this traveling musician, who keeps the blues alive, deserves a wider audience.