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Hard Rock in Palermo

Last week this day was my 60th (sixtieth) birthday. I am now sixty-and-one-fifty-secondth-years-old. The eve of my birthday was spent on vacation in Sicily with my family sitting in a humble trattoria near the sea in Palermo. After which, and by way of walking off much pasta and pizza, we went a-strolling along the shore. A shore festooned with rocks as big as boxes and perversely angled. Dancing on a pin of glee having entered my seventh decade and having my dearest with me for security I set foot upon the rocks…

The rest of the night was spent trying to find out how badly my ribs had been damaged. Desultory ambulances shipped me rockily between the various Palermo medical buildings containing emergency reception facilities, an x-ray machine and an orthopedic specialist. All of this managed by my wife and son because I was incapable of very much at all. Dismay eventually seeped through physical shock. Recognition of the importance of a sense of humour under all circumstances was counterbalanced by the knowledge that laughter would have me doubled up in agony in this circumstance. Peering under the dull lights of waiting rooms with elbow on knee and chin in palm of hand waiting for x-ray results as dawn approached. Turns out nothing broken – take these for seven days once after food. And rest. The rest? I got a fine Chromebook computer for my birthday next day upon which I write now. And a Turkish smoking pipe for which I will need guidance. It’s beautiful.

I was aware I had dodged a bullet. My fall on the rocks was utterly uncontrolled. I could have kissed a rock with my head. I was lucky.

Hard rocks are in Palermo. Like all good rock it’ll keep you up through the night.

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Fellow Guitarists: How Much Do You Get Into – And Out Of – Musical Theory?

I was classically trained on guitar for a very short spell when I was very young – the only (but priceless) two benefits I got out of the experience was the ability to read music and to play fingerstyle. The biggest downside was I developed a loathing for classical guitar music which has lasted to this day.

That said, I have a love for other forms of classical music even to the extent that for pleasure I rarely listen to anything else (except jazz). What this has provoked in me is a deep curiosity about musical forms and the (ab)use of tonality, particularly by late/post romantic composers such as Mahler and Bartok. Such has been my immersion in this – coupled with studies of scores and academic texts – that I often become restless and bored by the verse/chorus/bridge structure of popular songs. This is all an accident caused by my listening habits and I’m not sure it’s all a good thing, particularly when my playing – and writing – pedigree is rooted in folk music!

So do folks here who have a background in musical theory find it a help or a hindrance when setting down to write a “popular” song?

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New Song: “You Didn’t See The White Man Coming”

This is nearly finished. Finished apart from living with it and then possibly tweaking the sound and writing it down – at least the guitar part. No plan for including it on any CD, or anything like that. Maybe it’ll turn out to be an orphan. I hope you like it. If you would like to have an MP3 of it just let me know. Post a comment or write via the “Contact” email address on the right, if you do.

[audio:|titles=You Didn’t See The White Man Coming]

I’ll update this post with a bit more info into the song and the lyrics very soon.

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More On Musicians’ Aches and Pains (well, mine actually)

In my 60th year I always keep a look out for wee niggles and aches that might be something could impinge on guitar playing. Well a couple of months ago I didn’t need to keep a look out. It slapped me right in the face – or in the neck to be precise.

I “pulled something” as I was drying my hair with towel. I didn’t think too much about it although I was pretty uncomfortable. Six weeks later I was thinking a lot about it and I was still.. er, uncomfortable. Long story short, it turns out I’ve done something to a nerve in my neck. Best advice I got from the medical boys is “patience” and “keep taking these three times a day”. I was not sleeping and I was not full of cheer.

So, no guitar. No singin’. No posts here (sitting at a computer: no could do for longer than 30 seconds). No nuffink.

But I’m back. Not 100% – I’ve got a numb thumb on my left hand which is irritating (if that’s not a contradiction).

Still, here we are. And what do you know? I can still remember mostly how to play my songs after nearly two months not picking up a guitar. Yippee!

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Folk Music: Is It Art?

I’ve read in an academic tome that folk songs and art songs should be considered as distinct. Not this but an interesting read, anyway:

I understand the reasoning to be that art songs are composed as intentional artistic works with formal consideration of form, structure, melody, harmony and accompaniment – whereas folk songs arise out of an initial spontaneity of expression which gain currency and reinforcement within a community due to the relevance of the subject matter and appeal of the tune.

So if folk songs arise from spontaneity, why do British folk music clubs, and the folk singers who populate them, take so much care in their formal presentation to the extent that adherence to the purity of some imagined paradigm is all, and that, by inference, insist that the rejection of re-interpretation as a corruption is mandatory? It strikes me as an ossification of something that was once lively. This desire to retreat into a frigid imitation of the past and opine that where, for example, the hearty singing about the poverty of a redundant cotton worker or a drowning sailor is noble and pure; well, surely that’s just sentimental and lazy. Particularly if you dress for the part.

So where are the folk songs of tomorrow to be found today? In hip-hop, I imagine. Where are the “art songs” of today? Beats me.

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My Friends in Edinburgh (Part 1) – Calum Carlyle

As a first part of what I hope will be a series of “hats-off” to friends who happen to be fine musicians, songwriters and entertainers whom I’ve met in the past couple of years since I’ve moved to Edinburgh, I think you will be entertained by the gifted Calum Carlyle. Calum is a fine player, talented songwriter and means what he sings. He often plays around town so a quick search in your favourite browser should unearth his next few gigs.

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Good Grief! The CD Is Released!

I’m proud to announce the release today of my new CD, Good Grief!

Dave Keir's Good Grief!

The CD and downloads can be purchased worldwide from CD Baby using the link below:

Or for £8.00 with FREE delivery UK and Europe customers can buy directly directly from this website via Paypal:

From the booklet:

Fast slow fast slow. As far as ordering songs on my records, I can’t get over the habit. I thought I’d try and avoid it this time around. But here I go again…
Why “Good Grief!”? Well, I claim that there’s at least a measure or two of exasperation in each of the songs herein. Can you hear it? Catharsis!
The tunes. The damn’ tunes! I’ve lived with them and rinsed them repeatedly. Some are hot-off-the guitar and some are as old as my hills. Blues influences and modal forms elbow each other. That can cause accidents and evidence of this provided.
The lyrics. A blurting out at a tempo to fit a melodic and harmonic arch. Some verses are cock-a-hoop and others are downcast and trodden but this is of the essence and per the recipe. I hope they are self-explanatory and are not in need of laying out in tiny type in this booklet. Where they puzzle, be assured that I share your bewilderment.
Fast slow fast slow fast. Slow. Finally and at the end there’s a slow slow. What the heck.
I hope you enjoy listening to all of these as much I enjoyed whipping them into shape.

Dave Keir
May 2012

My thanks to:

John Need who took the photographs
Matt Azevedo who mastered the CD
Neil Warden who designed the package

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Dougal The Producer (R.I.P)

Dougal, the enigmatic, often aloof, but highly respected record producer has today passed away. His faithful servant, Julie, was with him at the end. I had a last minute compering engagement to meet so I couldn’t be there. That will haunt me for some time. We are both heartbroken. We have both lost a mentor and guide and he will be sorely missed. His passing was anticipated, but nevertheless it turned out to be sudden on the day.

It will have been obvious to my readers that Dougal has been central to my work since 1994. He was a constant companion and encouragement during my composing and recording efforts since he joined us. His contributions as production assistant were marked by his insights communicated almost exclusively by body language and even simply by entering or leaving the room during recording takes. The orientation and movement of his tail on these occasions often expressed all that needed to be said. Many musicians would have been offended by this behaviour but I learned to admire and respect this directness. In particular, I learned to interpret his use of his self-grooming in communicating his satisfaction, or otherwise, in the way a session was progressing. This guidance will be sorely missed in the future.

It’s true that in later years he would limit his criticism to my music to either wakefulness or sleep, but even in these times his eloquence was sublime and his instinct true.

I cannot thank him enough. Rest in peace, dear Dougal.

Dougal The Producer
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“We regret to inform you…”

This received from one of my online distributors where I host and occasionally sell some of my songs and who offer promotional opportunities to artists. It caused me to deploy one of my large stock of well-practiced wry smiles:

“Dave Keir,

The promoter IMR Magazine has not accepted your submission for the campaign IMR Magazine – “Indie Acoustic” issue.

We regret to inform you that we have decided not to accept your submission at this time. We thank your for your time.

– Thanks for your participation,
IMR Magazine – “Indie Acoustic” issue “

Anyway, apropos of absolutely nothing at all, here’s a picture of my-cat-the-recording-engineer: