Grateful Dead rings

I believe that rings such as these are part of American culture – alumni rings, Superbowl rings, etc.I don’t think it ever caught on over here. But as sad as it may seem, if I had plenty of money, I’d go for one of these Grateful Dead rings, with the dates of the only 2 shows that I caught by The Dead: April 11th 1972 Newcastle City Hall and November 1st 1990 Wembley Arena. Ah, the memories. (I also have a tattoo of this symbol, known as a “Stealie”.)

Swine Flu, I’ve got swine flu

Apparently I have enough of the symptoms to warrant me being issued with the antiviral medication. I do feel pretty grotty I have to say (grotty from grotesque) and have been off work since I came home on Monday night.
There’s plenty of room in the comments section for all of your jokes!

These songs write movies in my head – James McMurtry at The Cluny

After my brief review of James McMurtry’s new album here (I’d have written a  longer review if I’d waited a few days – the songs really got in my head and I have listened to it many times over) I managed to get added to the guest list (thanks, Katie!) for James’ show at The Cluny on October 11th. I arrived early, as I usually do and spent some time chatting to last minute support act Gypsy Dave Smith, a blues player of some local renown. We reminisced about seeing Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett at the Cluny late last year (Gypsy Dave was the support for the Little Feat guitarists duo on that UK tour).
I went in with Dave and fairly soon the doors opened. I would say The Cluny was about three quarters full, some folks obviously big fans of James McMurtry’s, others perhaps who were there out of interest. Gypsy Dave opened with a competent and authentic set of blues based songs – his dobro style guitar sounded very good with nice slide work too.

After a short break James McMurtry and The Heartless Bastards band took to the stage without introduction and kicked off with their usual set opener Bayou Tortue. The band were really tight and more people moved to the front of the stage to get a closer look and try and catch a rare smile from James.

We were treated to most of the material from “Just Us Kids” and of course most of the songs played feature on the new release “Live in Europe”. Highlights for me were “Just Us Kids”, “Hurricane Party”, “Choctaw Bingo”, the very moving solo performance of “Ruby and Carlos” “Freeway View”, “Firelight Road” and “Lights of Cheyenne”. The band were really tight, and James used an interesting combination of guitars and tunings. The musicianship was stepped up a notch when soundman Tim Holt strapped on his guitar for the second half of the set adding some tasteful solos to the songs.

Although there was little interaction between the audience and the band other than the plentiful applause after each song (a friend of mine left the gig at York on the previous night because he didn’t feel that James was giving as much as he should), I would say that those that were present had a good time – I certainly did – I’d been listening to the “Live in “Europe” album almost non-stop for the week before the gig so most of the tunes were embedded in my brain and it was a pleasure to see and hear them played live, with James obviously deeply into the stories in the songs. After the show James came out and met with a few fans who wanted to chat and get a few things signed. I met him briefly and congratulated him on the show.

I am now a confirmed McMurtry fan and went off in search of back catalogue CDs at amazon – there’s a few on their way to me. I’d certainly go and see him again and would recommend that anybody who likes great songs performed very well should check him out – either on CD or on his next UK tour.

ToneRite plays your guitar in for you.

ToneRite is a device that fits to your guitar (other instruments available) and “plays it in” to give it better tone. It is generally accepted that as instruments age and are played, their tone improves. I know that my 30-odd year old acoustic has a certain body, warmth and resonance that I haven’t noticed when playing new acoustic guitars.

 The secret behind the ToneRite® is its ability to continually produce and efficiently transfer vibrational energy into an instrument, safely recreating and magnifying the physics that occur naturally while playing. This stimulation produces a change to the integrated components within an instrument and increases their ability to resonate together as a whole. The result is added volume and instruments that are easier to play with a sound that is more full and balanced. Not only will your instrument sound better but the notes themselves will come easier, allowing you to play more difficult passages with less fatigue.”
I wonder if I can get one that will change the strings for me?

Richie Hayward Benefit T-shirt

Richie Hayward, awesome drummer with awesome band Little Feat is having some serious health issues and he has no medical insurance. Many folks are doing their bit for Richie – there’s been benefit gigs in the US and Glasgow and my friend Hank Randall has designed this t-shirt with all  proceeds going to Richie’s medical fund. I got mine at the weekend and it is great. I just wish i could do more for Richie. If you want to help, take a look here. And thanks, Hank.