Wednesday, August 18, 2010

All fingers and thumbs

In addition to beginning the long road to Balcony Guitars (the lads there want to open a shop called 'Leigh's Mad World Of Guitars'! Really!) the first 'no-gigs-this-week' week for a while included myself and Scott losing the keys to the shop on Saturday (if I told you where we found them you'd never believe me) and a Sunday evening viewing by East, Big Tel and myself of a DVD of the Madness musical 'Our House' (if I told you why we watched it you'd definitely never believe me!) I also had chance to catch the ever-amazing Kris Dollimore at The Crown in Leyhill last Thursday where he was as fabulous as ever, with a remarkable version of 'Castles Made Of Sand' standing out among an evening of standout performances.

The gap in gigging has given me a bit of time to do something that I actually don't get chance to do very often - practice (as opposed to play) the guitar. I've been promising myself that I'd spend some time with my acoustic guitar working on my fingerpicking and slide playing for quite a while now - Mr. Dollimore is something of a master of these styles, and when I mumbled to him something like 'I must get around to practicing some of that stuff' he replied enthusiastically 'yes, you must!' After discovering that we're both big fans of Rory Gallagher (especially this number) he went on to advise that I listen to John Fahey (a master of solo, or as he himself called it, 'primitive' guitar) among others. So sometime in the last few days I dug out my copy of 'Death Chants, Breakdowns and Military Waltzes' (now THERE'S an album title!) along with '6 and 12 String Guitar' by Leo Kottke and 'Folk, Blues and Beyond' by Davy Graham (I'm ambitious if nothing else!) and got to work.
An hour or so later and your humble narrator was getting frustrated and not a little annoyed. I'm normally quite good at working out how to play things from recordings, but this stuff - well I couldn't get anywhere with it. It's not that I couldn't hear what was happening, it's more that I couldn't work out how to play what is often 2 or even 3 independent rhythms and melodies at the same time. And if that's not bad enough all of these players sing at the same bloody time. Bah! Still, no-one ever got anywhere by giving up so I kept playing... and playing... and playing... and eventually hit upon the idea that transcriptions of this music must be out there on the Internet somewhere (yeah, I know it's second nature to most people these days to 'google it', but I'm really old ok?!) and so launched myself into cyberspace in search of some help. It turned out that there's acres of transcriptions including some on the afore-mentioned player's websites. Excellent!
Well I've all but worn out a set of strings but I'm still not much nearer to being able to play anything other than a faltering version of 'Anji' and I could already play that! (If you don't know the tune or you've never heard it before then here it is; if you want some more from Davey Graham then try this and indeed this - Jimmy Page was listening carefully at the time wasn't he?!?) Still I'm making some headway with John Fahey's 'Some Summer Day' and have, since I stumbled upon something that sounded a bit like the opening riff, attempted to put together a solo version of 'Every Little Thing' by The Beatles. Like I say, nothing if not ambitious... but in addition to it becoming increasingly clear to me that the term 'primitive' is highly subjective I fear a career as an acoustic troubadour specialising in fingerbusting fingerpicking will always elude me although it's something that I'd like to develop in the future if only for the practice at playing something different. Then again, perhaps I should just stick to this sort of thing... and I haven't got around to trying any slide stuff yet. But I will. Probably. After all, did I really think I'd master an entire style in a few days?

I've got a gig this weekend. Good.

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