Watch the mercury rise with Mr Dave!

After my mammoth 100 favourite albums blogfest last year, here’s another act that fell through the net.

Of course, my top 100 has changed, so this guy could well have been in the running when I drew up the list, but no matter – he’s worth a considered listen if you enjoy American roots music with a twist.

David_Lindley_Knuckleheads_Saloon

David Lindley is what you might call a musician’s musician. He’s the session player and sidesman of choice for many famous acts.

His incredible discography is here and it reads like a bible of quality rock recordings. His live work is no less an exercise in namedropping.

Multi-instrumentalist David Lindley performs music that redefines the word "eclectic." Lindley, well known for his many years as the featured accompanist with Jackson Browne, and leader of his own band El Rayo-X, has long championed the concept of world music. The David Lindley electro-acoustic performance effortlessly combines American folk, blues, and bluegrass traditions with elements from African, Arabic, Asian, Celtic, Malagasy, and Turkish musical sources. Lindley incorporates an incredible array of stringed instruments including but not limited to Kona and Weissenborn Hawaiian lap steel guitar, Turkish saz and chumbus, Middle Eastern oud, and Irish bouzouki. The eye-poppingly clad "Mr. Dave’s" uncanny vocal mimicry and demented sense of humor make his onstage banter a highlight of the show. His web site has a nice description of his eclectic approach to music:

Here’s ‘Mr Dave’ blasting away on lap steel with a version of ‘Mercury Blues’:

 

There are a few versions of Lindley playing this available on YouTube, and all worth a look.

One of my favourite collaborations involving Lindley is his live work with another US great, Ry Cooder.

Here’s the pair on ‘Mercury Blues’ (again!) – crap video but there’s not much available:

 

.

And here’s Lindley with Jackson Browne on ‘Mercury Blues’ once again:

 

Not that Mr Dave can’t play anything else.

How about some classic Warren Zevon ska stylee?

 

Or some reggae?

 

Cajun anyone?

 

And that’s just some of what Mr Dave can do.

Ah, and he’s probably Mrs Shark’s favourite musician and she has excellent taste.

davidb scores again!

A mere 65 minutes after his first correct answer – one I hadn’t even considered – davidb solves the lizard riddle I set.

The YouTube video of Mott the Hoople was there because the preceding Escher picture was used for their first album cover:

 

Hats off to davidb!

WHOA!

A mere 6 minutes after my ‘lizard’ post davidb comes up with a correct answer to the little teaser I set:

Comment:
Oh, she’s a lounge lizard
Coming on strong
Who you fooling
It’s me you’re with
Lounge lizard

‘Lounge Lizard’ was, if I’m not mistaken, one of the last songs Mott ever recorded and dates from when the fabulous late Mick Ronson was with the band.

What’s more, davidb’s provided a correct answer that I hadn’t even thought of!
So, there’s actually another chance for someone to have their 15 nanoseconds of fame here.

Meanwhile, kudos to daveb!

Leapin’ lizards!

It’s a gorgeous day here and so the lizards which live in the walls of our house are taking the opportunity to catch some rays:

 

At one point I counted 12 of them basking on or near the piece of wood.

It put me in mind of this:

And then this:

 

So, how did I get to Mott the Hoople?

Answers on a postcard, etc, etc. etc

First correct answer gets instant fame by being mentioned on this blog.

It lives!

After 3 months without internet access at all, and the previous 8 months being a miserable crawl using a 3G dongle that made the days of 56K dialup seem almost fucking halcyon in comparison, we now have broadband here in the deepest wilds of the Mayenne.

Sure, it’s only 2MB, but it’s a very reliable and consistent 2MB and comes as part of an Orange ADSL package that gives us the interwebs, unlimited national and international VOIP phone calls and French TV for a reasonable price.

We finally moved into our house last Friday and this coming Friday marks the beginning of our second year here.

We can’t decide whether the past year has flown by or we’ve been here forever.

Regrets about leaving the UK?

Absolutely fucking none.

The hardest thing is leaving the people we love behind – family and friends – but we’ve been back to the UK twice, are going at least twice this year and have had visitors with more to come.

The continued existence of this blog was never in question and, rest assured, it will be regularly updated with the usual mixture of comment, music reviews and reports from France on what we’re up to.

I’d thought about creating separate blogs for these categories but decided against it as I’d rather put my energies into the writing rather than organise several blogs.

I’m back.

‘English Nationalist’ outed

Regular readers of this blog may recall that about 18 months ago, a highly disturbed individual calling himself ‘English Nationalist’ left many abusive comments in response to some of my articles about the English Democrats.

Here are a couple of examples of English Nationalist’s ’wit’:

Steve No wonder, you are so angry, I guess it’s a long time since you got laid !!!!!
I guess you have to make do with the Hand Shandies
Who do you shopping with to get those clothes
David Blunkett ?
What a loser

and

You look like a Cunt and write like a Cunt

Email notifications from WordPress showed that the comments were sent from an EDP mail account and a specific IP address:

Author : English Nationalist (IP: 81.2.97.151 , mail.engdemmail.org)
E-mail : England@EngDem.org
URL    : http://www.EngDem.org
Whois  : http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=81.2.97.151

Now, here’s some interesting information obtained from a domain lookup site:

Domain ID:D134828206-LROR
Domain Name:ENGDEMMAIL.ORG
Created On:11-Dec-2006 16:58:24 UTC
Last Updated On:11-Dec-2009 12:33:45 UTC
Expiration Date:11-Dec-2010 16:58:24 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar:BB Online UK Limited (R20-LROR)
Status:CLIENT TRANSFER PROHIBITED
Registrant ID:1165856300o89536
Registrant Name:Steven Uncles
Registrant Organization:D****** and*********** ***
Registrant Street1:***** *****
Registrant Street2:
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:**********************
Registrant State/Province:D*******
Registrant Postal Code:D** ***
Registrant Country:GB
Registrant Phone:+44.7*********
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX:+44.7*********
Registrant FAX Ext.:
Registrant Email: steven.uncles@d******-*****.co.uk

(The asterisks are all mine as I wouldn’t want anyone’s personal details disclosed on this blog. I’m also not giving the URL for the above domain information for the same reasons.)

Anyway, there we have it.

Steven Uncles and ‘English Nationalist’, who both use the same mail server at Engdem.org – and which is registered to Uncles, are one and the same person.

This comes as absolutely no surprise to me as English Nationalist’s and Uncles’ writing styles were identical. I didn’t say so at the time, because I didn’t want the hassle for personal reasons.

Now, however, I now have no hesitation in exposing ‘English Nationalist’ and condemning Uncles as an inept, ignorant, arrogant, devious, sick fat fuck who hasn’t got the balls to post comments here under his real name.

(OK, I may be ‘SteveShark’ here, but anyone with half a working brain cell could discover my real name.)

Not only that, but he’s done the same thing many times elsewhere under a variety of aliases using the same domain mail server.

No wonder the EDP remains unelectable whilst it has such a total liability funding and publicising the party. 

Let’s go on a bender!

I don’t often get technical here when I’m talking guitars, so apologies if this article causes a little bit of head-scratching. However, I will try and explain some of the simple musical terms I use and there are some good sites on the net that you can consult if you want more comprehensive information.

As a young kid I was interested in the guitar quite early on and when the Shadows came on the scene I wouldn’t say that I immediately wanted a guitar, but it certainly started me becoming more curious about actually playing one.

I eventually got a guitar when I was about 10 which was frankly a guitar-shaped piece of crap, along with Bert Weedon’s ‘Play in a Day’ (a bold and frankly ludicrous title!), and I didn’t progress at all – it was all Greek to me.

However, I got a better guitar – a reasonable classical guitar – when I was 13 and got properly started on playing by a friend who showed me the basics.

One day, I asked him what the strange noise was that I’d heard on a Rolling Stones record (‘It’s All Over Now’, if I recall correctly) and he told me it was produced by bending a guitar string.

This was quite simply my guitar epiphany.

Once he showed me how to do it – not easy on a nylon-strung classical guitar – I was up and running and bending strings like a string-bending motherfucker.

Bending strings is one of the main techniques in blues, and hence rock (birthed as it is in the blues), guitar.

Generally speaking, like playing barre chords, it’s one of those major hurdles in learning to play that you think you’re never going to get over. As always, perseverance is the real key and so you just have to keep on plugging at it.

String bending is usually, but not always, used on the unwound strings because it’s easier and also being higher in pitch the notes tend to stand out more when bent. The most elementary way of bending a string is by gripping the neck  much as you would a baseball bat and then simultaneously pushing down through the fretboard and across the fretboard (usually upwards) with a finger. I find myself using the third finger most often and backed up with the first two fingers to make it easier. When you’ve developed fretting hand strength then bending becomes easier and you should be able to bend with different fingers in various different ways, depending on what you’re actually playing.

The lighter (smaller diameter) the string, the easier it is to bend and the less tense the string, the easier it is, too. Some guitarists detune a semi-tone or a tone which helps facilitate bending and most players who string bend and want wide bends will also favour a lighter string. The trade off is in tone when, in my experience, lighter and slacker strings give you a less full-bodied sound, although it really is horses for courses here. There are no rules!

I use D’Addario 10 gauge strings in standard tuning and with a pretty high action set up on the guitar (usually my US Tele) which some people find makes bending difficult, but really isn’t at all extreme. This combination, however, suits me just fine as it gives me easy bends with maximum tone for my style of playing. 

Where bending first came from no-one really knows, but it’s been suggested that the sound emulates slide guitar which is one of the blues guitar styles first documented.  WC Handy writes that he saw a guy using a bone as a guitar slide sometime around 1910 or so.

In blues there are a couple of really common bends that give the music much of its unique ‘flavour’.

The first is a bend raising the 4th note in the scale a semitone above to the flattened fifth. This note can be heard in context with the root note by singing the first three notes of ‘Mars’ from Holst’s ‘Planets Suite’. The first note is the root, the second the fifth and the third the flattened fifth. The flattened fifth isn’t a note you want to hang on to for too long as it actually clashes with other notes you might use in a blues, but if you move to it and away from it during the course of a blues melody or solo then it gives you a ‘bluesy’ sound.

The second note often bent is the minor third to the major third and also, interestingly, microtonal notes between the two. This only works in a major key blues and sounds wrong in a minor key blues. The ambivalence of this third note – the one that determines whether you’re in a major or a minor key – also gives you that ‘bluesy’ vibe.

Almost every blues (or rock) guitarist you can name bends notes. Some bend more than others, but very few don’t bend at all. There are many ways of bending notes and not just the two notes I’ve described above.

There are unison bends, double and triple bends and even pre-bends where you bend a string up to a desired pitch before plucking and then pluck release the bend.

As for how far you can bend a string, the only limitations are those set by the actual physical conditions – set up, string gauge, fretting hand strength, etc. It’s perfectly possible to bend an unwound third string up a fourth on a standard tuned guitar if you play in the middle of the string length where it’s at its slackest. 

I said above that guitarists usually bend notes up towards them and this is generally true as the unwound strings – especially the first and second – are close to the edge of the fretboard and you can push the strings off the neck. However, this isn’t a rule and you can push down – especially easy with an unwound third string – if you want and it may be necessary for certain licks. This downwards bending gives a slightly different sound – remarkably hard to define and best appreciated by listening to a player who habitually bends downwards – and it’s also a bit easier to bend the string – meaning that you can bend it to a higher pitch.

One of the best-known players to bend downwards and achieve these very wide bends was the late Albert King who played this way because he used a standard right handed guitar but played left handed. This meant that everything was ‘upside down’ and the more commonly-bent strings were nearest him. To bend a string he would push down and achieve his distinctive licks with overbends on such tracks as ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’ and ‘Oh Pretty Woman’.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about his unusual method of playing:

King was a left-handed "upside-down/backwards" guitarist. He was left-handed, but usually played right-handed guitars flipped over upside-down so the low E string was on the bottom. In later years he played a custom-made guitar that was basically left-handed, but had the strings reversed (as he was used to playing). He also used very unorthodox tunings (i.e., tuning as low as C to allow him to make sweeping string bends). Some believe that he was using open E minor tuning (C-B-E-G-B-E) or open F tuning (C-F-C-F-A-D). A "less is more" type blues player, he was known for his expressive "bending" of notes, a technique characteristic of blues guitarists.

All of this stuff about bending and upside down guitars leads me to conclude this article with a recommendation of a musician some people might not have heard of, but of whom I’m starting to get very fond indeed.

Like Albert King, Doyle Bramhall II plays guitar ‘upside down’. However, although his music is blues-based, Doyle’s original compositions operate within a much wider format. It’s bluesy, yes, but there’s also soul, rock and acoustic melodicism in there that produces a really fine brew. There aren’t very many wailing guitar histrionics and fast work outs at all, but there are plenty of intense and thoughtful songs, punctuated by some of the most original and soulful blues-based guitar stylings I’ve heard in quite a few years.

220px-DoyleBramhallIICrossroads2007

Although he’s probably been seen by more people as a sidesman (to Eric Clapton, no less, to name the most famous he’s played with) he grew up in Texas and played around the region, eventually achieving a degree of fame with the Arc Angels – recently reformed – and a reputation as a killer player. However, it’s his solo releases that have me really excited, with 1999’s ‘Jellycream’ getting most play lately. What I particularly love are the intricate yet direct songs the guy writes and it’s a real treat to hear some original chord progressions for a change. His guitar playing is best described as ‘sinuous’ – muscular yet supple with enough twists and turns to hold the interest and also avoid the usual ‘I come from Texas and I play a Strat’ cliches. This guy is certainly no SRV clone!

Without wishing to blow my own trumpet (!) I think I have a pretty good ear and can usually pick up what I hear quite easily and emulate it on guitar. Doyle’s playing doesn’t seem to give up its secrets at all easily and I really like that in a player’s style and technique. If I hear a piece of guitar playing I really, really like then I usually get a guitar out and try and play it. In a strange way this often strips away some of the mystique the music may have had, but I then end up appreciating it on a different, more technical level. So far, Doyle’s preserved his mystique and I reckon his playing is going to intrigue me for the foreseeable future. Simply put, it’s unique.

So, please check Doyle out, but make sure you don’t confuse him with his father – Doyle Bramhall (no II!). The elder Bramhall is a fine drummer who’s released some good blues-based albums of his own, but they’re far more mainstream than his son’s releases.

Remember, you need the Doyle Bramhall with the ‘II’.

And happy bending!

Random wafflings

Back to the UK tomorrow to see family and friends for a week or so and also stock up on various things.

We’re feeling a bit ambivalent about the trip.

We’ve really taken to France and whilst I’m absolutely not in the business of running down the country of my birth, I’ve found life here to be far more relaxed and there’s a certain ‘respect’ that everyone seems to have for each other – not to mention a lack of chavs, soapdodgers and pikeys. That’s not to say that France doesn’t have its share of these, but there don’t seem to be any remotely near where we go.

There have been hassles over the last few months, but I think I’ve found the answer when it comes to the dreaded French bureaucracy.

You simply do what you can to sort things out your end and then you just wait. Everything eventually gets sorted out and kicking up a stink about delays will probably get your paperwork sent to the bottom of the pile. So, you just wait.

Of course, being retired helps, but my work never gave me any stress anyway, so I don’t think my relaxed attitude to virtually everything is all down to that.

The cats are going to be lodged in a cattery which I have no misgivings with, but it will be the longest they’ve ever been away from us (8 days)and we’ll miss them. I never thought I’d say it, but leaving them will be a real wrench because they’re more than pets. They’ve become really good companions and having brought them along on this late ‘life adventure’ they seem to have adapted really well.

So, although we’re desperate to see our children, our grandson and other family and also our friends, I reckon we’ll be gagging to come back to France in a week’s time.

It feels like home here now.

I’ve been wondering what to do about this blog. I’m starting to think about having another blog that will deal with matters French and keeping this blog for non-French specific subjects.

At present it’s frustrating enough with a 35 Euros for 12 hours 3G stick being the almost the sole means of internet access (free wi-fi fucking rocks!) and this won’t be remedied until we make a permanent move to the new house later this year. This will remain my only blog and no decision made until I get broadband access.

Certainly I have nothing but praise for Microsoft’s Live Writer in Windows 7. It enables me to write blog posts offline and with many of the facilities that the WordPress admin panel gives me.

Come to think of it, the whole Windows 7 experience has been excellent on this new laptop, although I hate having to rely on a pre-loaded OS. I’ll probably buy a Windows 7 disc when I’m over in the UK next week, Another advantage is that it’ll purge all the Samsung crap from this machine.

Blogging may be erratic for the next week, although my iPhone will come in handy for blogging via email, not to mention tweeting, which I really miss.

One thing I’m going to have to be careful with is making sure I drive on the left back in the UK. I’ve got to the stage where I see a TV program set in the UK and think it looks odd when I see people driving on the left…It also occurs to me that I’m going to have to get some headlight adapters because we’ve had our lights changed for driving here as part of the re-registration process.

Packing the car – a Ford Fiesta – is going to be interesting. We’ll be leaving tomorrow with two cat cages full of cat, many, many bottles of wine, gifts and our luggage…

Then we’ll be back with books, more books, Cheddar, washing tablets, Pimms (not easy to get here), curry paste, cat treats and Twinings Everyday teabags – plus the cats…

This blog is one year old

Yes, it’s a year since I started blogging.

Many thanks to all those people who have encouraged me, commented on my posts and been generally supportive.

You know who you are.

And to the cunt who called me a cunt – I know who you are and where you live and work, too…

Stephen Pound speaks – yet again

Makes you want to blow chunks, doesn’t it?

Stephen Pound MP – that well-known media whore shrinking violet – was on Radio 5 Live last night on the Nolan phone-in show.

He referred to:

The foul foetid reeking swamp of the blogosphere

I guess I might well be part of that due to articles like this.

I fucking hope so.

Strange, isn’t it, how the Left really doesn’t like blogs, blogging or bloggers?

Mind you, when you read something like this then you soon realise why.

It’s because they’re just no fucking good at it.