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Many More New Songs (Coming Soon)!

Yes, I’ve been listening through some recorded songs with a view to finally publishing the whole lot of them. Not all together by any means; they have to be auditioned, edited, mixed and generally made presentable. And they will crawl out of that process individually, or at most, a few at a time.  And maybe not the “whole lot”; I’m bound to have become disenamoured of some of them for one reason or another. But we’ll see. I’m also unsure in which form to publish them. That is to say, I’m not inclined to do another CD at this time – maybe as (an) album download(s). Through iTunes or CD Baby – or even just from here? Not sure. What do you think? Leave a comment below now – or later when you’ve heard a few of the songs.

Of the songs, I have got a couple just about ready. Look forward to “Roller Coaster” and “After Dinner Drinks” comin’ soon! In the meantime here’s another pic from my Pentlands wanderings – this taken last week from the top of Castlelaw Hill:

Pentland Hills

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On Stepping Back

I’ve got to be honest: those visitors here who (would like to) follow my bog will have noticed that recently there’s been nothing to follow and may have wandered off in search of some other pied piper. As far as my blog is concerned, it’s simply that my particular mechanical musical activities which would be fodder for this have endured an extended hiatus. In short: I have not been playing; I have not been composing; and I have not been recording, arranging, editing or doing anything remotely musically productive. Productive? No. (But inductive? Inductive?)

 So, the silence.

In the meantime it does no harm to follow some well trodden paths in search of one’s muse.


More very soon. About “induction”.

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Going to a gig on Friday – Gustav Mahler (Royal Concertgebouw / Daniele Gatti)

30th August 2013 – Mahler’s 9th Symphony. Part of the Edinburgh International Festival. Why am I so moved to post this here? Well, I’m a fan of both the composer, this particular symphony and this particular orchestra. I hope to be a fan of the conductor, too, but to date I have not heard Daniele Gatti conduct before. If it all goes well it could be a “perfect storm”. And I have not heard this symphony live before. All the others (including a performing version of the incomplete 10th) I have – some more than once.  So I’m being a bit of a “completist” with this.

Shall I write a review after the event? Nah! I don’t have the “ears” to distinguish a great performance from the not-so-great. Anyway: pretentious? Moi?



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Gig Announcement @ Out Of The Bedroom (November 2013)

Edit! Please see change of date below. Sorry for inconvenience!

Someone must have read my previous post because I can happily confirm a booking at Out Of The Bedroom on the 2nd November 2013. Address is Kilderkin, 65/67 Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH8 8BT. First of a few more, I hope, in my now injury-free body! Contact me directly for more details, if needed. See you there!

(Thanks to my good friend, musician and all-round great-guy Nyk Stoddart who helps run that place.)

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I really should get out more!

I wrote here and here – and even here – about reasons I couldn’t play and sing. Since the turn of the year I haven’t played or sung “in anger”. But now it’s time to put all that behind be and stride purposefully and confidently once more onto the stage and regale the good people of Edinburgh with my approximate songs (approximate? I know what I mean…). There’s only slight residual numbness in my thumb and my ribs are almost cured. I can rattle off most of my guitar bits and can nearly take full breaths before belting out a verse, or two.

So back in the saddle, and with my back to the wheel, and with my best foot forward, and socks pulled up I will unmix my metaphors and boldly go forth.


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About Musicians and Day-Jobs (again)

Or should that be “Jobs and Part-time Musos”? Which gets in the way of what? What gets in the way of which?

Assuming musicianship has primacy, here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Day jobs would be OK if they wouldn’t take all day.
  • My degree of satisfaction with my day job is inversely proportional to the number of useful musical websites blocked by my day-job IT department.
  • No matter how much I play guitar in the evening, the office ventilation system is successful in stiffening my fingers all over again by 10.00 am next day.
  • Increased use of a workstation computer keyboard has nil effect on maintaining the looseness of a guitar player’s fingers.
  • A work / life balance would be possible if a day-job wasn’t necessary.
  • Day-job colleagues may become friends, but they never become fans.

Enough already. A future day-job client may read this back to me one day.

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Happy songs v. sad songs

Someone said on the radio recently that she found happy music depressing and sad music uplifting. “Me too! Me too!”, I yelled at the radio.

I’ll go further: when I hear some happy-clappy songs on the car radio I want to open the car door and vomit – or at least wind the window down and scream. On the other hand: the last pages of the last movement of Mahler’s last symphony leaves me confident that the Earth’s axis of rotation is still set at the correct angle.

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OK, OK, I admit it! I don’t listen to other acoustic guitar players (much).

Gosh! Shock – horror!

Well, that’s the reaction that I get when I have to explain why I haven’t listened to any of the playing of this or that acoustic guitar player. Their names are more often than not very familiar to me having come across them umpteen times on internet forums and other websites – but as to being familiar with their music? No, I’m afraid not. And the I feel uncomfortable and embarrassed about being thought self-centred and unsympathetic. So why not? I can explain it in few words.

Way back there was a couple of years when I was determinedly learning fingerstyle guitar when all my spare time was taken up listening to records by the then prevailing gods of fingerstyle acoustic guitar – both living and long gone; English and American; black and white. I even ruined some LP records and record player styli learning some of the tunes, note for note, bar by bar. I bought compilation records of acoustic fingerstyle guitar players and knew all their names and went to many of their gigs. I bought a whole series of guitar tutors, one by one, from some of my favourite players.

Then came a time – without my noticing it – when I stopped all of that. It was round about the time I started thinking and playing around with jazz, with more focus on the music than the players who made it. And it didn’t have to be guitar – I realised that jazz could be figured out without reference to a particular instrument. It’s principles of harmony and melody were universal.

A little later a latent empathy with classical music which was caused by my exposure to it when I was a kid was kicked off for real with my “discovery” of Mahler and rediscovery of Sibelius who I heard a lot of from my father’s record collection. So, off I went, on a program of buying CDs of all the classical music that I heard and liked – and quite a lot more out of curiosity. Tellingly, none of this involved classical guitar (which to this day I have a real distaste for).

So; is there much I could learn today by listening to other acoustic guitar players? You bet! But I would rather go exploring in other places. In the end I don’t think I’ll find my own voice in the playing of others.

What do you think? Am I wrong to pass today’s “wizards of the acoustic guitar” by?

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Songwriters and guitar players: have you moved with the times or are you frozen in time?

I’m talking about the currency of your original musical output. Some of us, I’m sure, are now writing and playing stuff more or less indistinguishable style-wise from the days when we first strutted our stuff. Others will, I’m equally sure, have adjusted their style – either sub-consciously or deliberately – to the “market” as it has evolved through the years.

Do you think it matters? Do you think about it? Or do you just do what you do?

Anyway, it’s a mystery to me how someone who plays solo fingerstyle acoustic guitar (like us) could ever be on the bleeding edge of modernity. Ha! Prove me wrong?

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Songwriting: Sometimes There Is Fear

Not everything about the act of songwriting is all cuddly and cosy. There are times when the topic of a song is such that the act of considering it deeply enough to write several verses about it makes me feel distinctly out of sorts. This feeling is usually reinforced by whatever tune accompanies it which, if I’m doing it right, increases the unease. That’s not to say that the lyrics need be so overtly direct about a subject – on the contrary: a lot of the work is concerned with couching the lyrics in such a way that most is unsaid and merely inferred or implied. But that again means that what is unwritten still has be fully formed and chewed over in the head before writing it down in a more “artistic” way. The net result is that I can feel quite drained as if I have experienced the events described in the songs again (if they recount personal experiences, present or past) or by proxy (if they do not).

When I was younger I used to enter the fray with bravado being concerned only with the end product – the song – and how an audience might take to it. But in recent years, I’ve noticed, I’ll hover around certain proto-songs, putting off that act of actually sitting down to compose the final music and lyrics until I feel my frame of mind – or mood – is robust enough for it not to be a too enervating an experience.

So when it’s done and dusted, what’s it like to perform or record? Well, it’s OK because by the time it’s all written up and practiced and revised, I will have become inured and distanced from it and can treat it like a piece of “art”. I can try to conjure up a performance hoping to stir up some empathetic response from the audience while leaving me pretty well unscathed…