Monday, 26 December 2011

The Midnight Sessions

The Midnight Sessions is a small project I've been working on slowly over the last couple of months. My usual approach to recording my voice is that I'll sing out, to my voice's full capacity I guess. Its louder but then again it suits the style I usually play in. Usually when recording demos of my songs or covers of other peoples songs I will do it all on separate tracks. Recording the rhythm guitar part first then recording the lead guitar over it and then the vocals over that etc.

These sessions take a much more simplistic and effortless approach to recording. It came from one night where I couldn't sleep. It was late and I just began strumming gently with my fingers and singing quietly so as not to disturb my parents who had guests round to the house. I guess I just liked singing these songs much quieter than I would usually belt them out so after playing a couple I just hit record and did about 3 or 4. Over the next month I just did couple more in the same style here and there and put them to a cd.

These recordings were done in one take. The sound is intended to be very raw, unrehearsed, meaningful put you to sleep kind of music. All the songs are covers from varying artists such as Ryan Adams, the Gaslight Anthem, Augustana and a few others so I'm just putting this cover of Gaslight Anthem's 'American Slang' out as a sampler for you to listen and I hope you like it. This isn't how I'd play it live, remember its for quiet time. Anyone who wants the full CD can have one just message me. Thanks for taking a look.

Alex Magrath - American Slang Cover (Click here)

Monday, 12 December 2011

Best Songs of 2011

Following on from last weeks list of Best Albums released this year, the next installment is my twenty best songs of 2011. There is a twist though.....
The songs don't necessarilly have to have been released in 2011, this list is based on when I first heard the song. If I heard it this year for the first time or if its at the top of my most played list on i tunes then it is eligible. You get me? To make it more interesting and less repetitive I'm only allowing myself one song per artist. Here we go:

1. Against Me! - Because of The Shame
2. Chuck Ragan - Meet You In The Middle
3. Olin and The Moon - Say Goodbye
4. The Horrible Crowes - Ladykiller
5. Chamberlain - Raise It High
6. Ryan Adams - Lucky Now
7. Jack Savoretti - Once Upon A Street
8. Two Cow Garage - Jackson, Don't You Worry
9. Augustana - Shot In The Dark
10.  Dave Hause - Meet Me At The Lanes
11. 3 Doors Down - Every Time You Go
12. Lucero - What Are You Willing To Lose
13. The Wallflowers - Three Marlenas
14. R.E.M. - Uberlin
15. Dan Andriano - This Light
16. Richard Thompson - 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
17. Brian Fallon - Goodnight Irene
18. The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
19. Jason Mraz - I'm Yours
20. Nashville Skyline - Carry You Home

The last one won a toss up against Wakey! Wakey! - Dance So Good, can't have them all...

I hope you all take time look up some of these songs, create this same playlist on spotify, re-jig the order, whatever you want  but its full of good songs!

I should really charge for providing this useful and informative service so make the most of it while its still free!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Best albums of 2011!

This week you get my favourite albums released this year and if you have some time, definitely look up some of thesealbums and the songs recommended:

1. The Horrible Crowes - Elsie

Superb lyricism and some fanatastic melodies make for a very sedate, tranquil album about heartbreak, focusing particularly on two of snger Brian Fallon's ex girlfriends and finally on his wife in 'I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together'. Brian shows what fantastic range he has as he ranges from whispers right up to the wails of 'Mary Ann' a more up tempo agressive number. Besides 'Mary Ann' the other 11 songs are very easy listening perfect for times of relaxation and reflection. Highlight songs: 'Behold The Hurricane', 'Ladykiller' and 'Blood Loss'

2. Chuck Ragan - Covering Ground

A typical Chuck Ragan folk album, based around the acoustic guitar with the superb musicianship of Jon Gaunt (fiddle) andn Joe Ginsberg (upright bass). It particularly focuses on life on the road, the camaraderie of bandmates and the travelling life of a singer songwriter and is in my opinion his best solo album to date. I think theres a real good feel about the album, the kind of songs to keep you warm on these cold winter nights. Highlight Songs: 'Meet You In The Middle', 'Nothing Left To prove' and 'Wish On The Moon'

3. Against Me! - White Crosses/ Black Crosses

White Crosses was released in 2010 but still counts as it was re-released this year with its acoustic accompaniment 'Black Crosses'. I was new to Against Me until this year as I slowly discover more and more of these lesser known punk bands. Singer Tom Gabel mixes upbeat punk rock with his unique and direct lyrics which have had me singing at my steering wheel for months now. While many old school Against Me! fans beleive the band have sold out, I think its their best work. Black crosses is essentially the same album but the songs are either acoustic versions or demos. Highlight Songs: 'Because of The Shame', 'White Crosses' and 'Bitter Divisions'

4. Augustana - Augustana (eponymously titled)

This is Augustana's fourth album and whilst not perhaps hitting the critical heights of previous albums I think its a solid album that has dominated my playlists this year. I think Dan Layus' song writing has definitely improved with each album they have released. The songs are mostly love songs but that isn't to say that they are all slow numbers. Very easy album  to listen to, very melodic and Dan Layus has a great voice, its just a shame that the band have had difficulties with their lineup. I sincerely hope there is a future for this band... Highlight Songs: 'Shot in The Dark', ' Steal Your Heart' and 'Wrong Side of Love'.

5. Dave Hause - Resolutions

New to the music of Dave Hause and The Loved Ones this year I decided to check him out before the Revival Tour and found myself enjoying what he was writing about. I found they were songs about the realities of life, road accidents, friends going through hard times, how we drift from all of our old friends and re-unite to reminisce. Its good music about real stuff, not the heavier punk rock that The Loved Ones produce. Great to chill out to. Highlight Songs: 'Meet Me at The lanes', 'C'mon Kid' and 'Pray for Tuscon'/

6. 3 Doors Down - Time of My Life

A return to form for 3DD in my opinion. Their previous self titled effort didn't really hit the mark for me except for three or four tracks. This album is lots better. A good rocky, upbeat album with some anthemic songs in it. Although this is irrelevant to the music I would say the front cover to this album is my favourite album artwork of the year too. Highlight songs: 'Everytime You Go', 'Believer' and 'When You're Young'

7. Olin and The Moon - Footsteps

I'm sorry to say that I only discovered this band through the TV Show 'One Tree Hill'but I'm glad I did. Singer David LaBrel croaks his way through 15 songs. As with most albums on this playlist its very easy listening stuff rangeing from very slow mournful songs to cheery upbeat acoustic rock. These guys still haven't been discovered by many, they don't even have a proper Wikipedia page as far as I can see but it goes to show that the underground scene hides lots of hidden treasures like these. Highlight Songs: 'Say Goodbye', 'Not In Love' and That Light'

8. Dan Andriano in The Emergency Room - Hurricane Season

To complete the Revival Tour quartet set, Dan Andriano was entirely new to me until September when I was impressed with his soulful voice. This is his first solo album and its very good. The songs are mostly love songs, talking about missing your significant other but the lyrics are well written and meaningful and again, this is another very easy to listen album. If you're not sure Ive sold it to you, check the following songs out perhaps before committing to the whole album: 'This Light', 'Hurricane Season' and 'Me and Denver'.

9. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now

R.E.M.'s last few studio albums have been slammed in most articles I have read but I think they were still doing ok. No, they may not hit the heights of 'Automatic for the People' but there are still plenty of songs on this (their final studio album) to keep their fans entertained. Some are typically upbeat with Michael Stipe's, confusing lyrics and unusual song subjects and some are more heartfelt a good mix and well worth a buy! I was planning to write about their break up but never got around to it. To make my top ten can be tribute enough... Highlight Songs: 'Uberlin', 'It Happened Today' and 'Oh My Heart'.

10. Ryan Adams - Ashes and Fire

I had been warned about Ryan Adams haviing varying styles of music depending on which album you buy but I heard him play 'Lucky Now' acoustically and had to buy the album as I thought it was one of the best songs I'd heard this year. The rest of the album was what I expected, its a very slow and meaningful album for quiet times but there are some good songs worth listening: 'Lucky Now', 'Come Home' and 'Chains of Love'

There are many albums released this year that I have intended but not got around to listening to. Im sure this list would have been slightly different but here it is. I hope you take the time to look a few of these songs up on Spotify, i tunes, you tube etc.

Next week I'll be giving my top 20 songs that I have discovered in 2011... Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Revival Road: part 2

So Dave Hause has put me and a plus one on the guest list for the Nottingham show, four days after the Manchester show. In between the tour has been to Dublin, Glasgow and Newcastle so this is the 6th night of the tour. By now the guys would be really in the swing of things, used to each others songs, some good covers worked out, should make for an even better show than Manchester in theory. The only problem was, was Dave Hause going to remember and keep his promise? Tweeting him during the day to ask for confirmation was useless because which musicians reply to or even read the tweets of their fan followers?

The show wasn't sold out so we (me and my sister) set out anyway, thinking worst case scenario is we have to buy a ticket at the box office if we aren't on the list. Two and a half hours later we are parked directly next to the venue and hanging around out back trying to catch the band to get our albums and photos signed. We could hear Dave sound checking but other than that not much was going on. The box office was closed so we had no choice but to queue outside Rock City and hope for the best. The show was approaching and still no idea but we were a little alarmed at the group building a separate queue on the box office side. Prior knowledge maybe??? Anyway, 10 minutes before doors a personal message drops into my twitter inbox, its usually phishing scam so Im expecting this but NO, Dave Hause messages "Just putting you on the list now man, enjoy the show" Awesome, Dave Hause personal messaging me. We got in, we got on the barrier at the front standing right in front of Brian Fallon's mic stand and next to a fellow Dimestore Saint - Alexander.

I liked the venue. If you've never been this is what its like. A wide stage in the middle facing the entrance doors. The venue is much wider than it is deep with a bar at each end and a balcony at the back over the entrance doors directly facing the stage.

The guys started the gig promptly and went about the show with similar songs to the Manchester show just varying their sets by a couple of songs each. Not to say that it was repetitive though. They were clearly all having a great time up there. Half the enjoyment for me was seeing these guys that i look up to a lot just hanging out with their friends on stage and playing their songs in such great spirit and passion. The highlights this time for me were Long Ride home by Brian and Dave (Patti Griffin cover), Old White Lincoln by Brian, Crush by The Horrible Crowes and the finale 'Revival Road' by the whole band, a song that I had now become familiar with. An awesome song; more on that later in the song of the blog;)

The official setlist was supposed to contain a fourth Horrible Crowes song ' I Believe Jesus brought us Together' but was cut out because during 'Cherry Blossom' (The quietest most emotional song on the whole show) some ignorant people about 7 rows back were chatting and laughing loudly amongst themselves. Brian finished the song and then started discussing the next Gaslight Anthem album and had to stop saying something like (and Im paraphrasing) "You must be having a real fucking interesting conversation over there" he was quite angry and when the houselights were cast over them they high fived and  Brian said (again im paraphrasing(you get the idea))"Oh yeah high five thats really cool" "You know I'm not sure if all of these people here came here to see me but they sure as fuck didn't come to hear you" At this point the whole room cheered and clapped for what must have been a whole minute.  That seemed to shut them up anyway. By this time Brian was a bit annoyed so after carrying on with his story somebody shouted for him to play and he responded "Yeah, Im getting to that but heres what you need to do; find a few friends, write some songs, try and get somebody to listen and then maybe you can get up here and play what you want, Keep em coming I got a load more of these I could do this all day" or something to that effect. He'd called one fan earlier an idiot not one but three times for cheering BRUUUUUUUCCE! Long story short Brian didn't seem as happy during the show but once he'd finished dealing with the troublesome crowd he seemed to perk up for his Gaslight Anthem songs. Theres no way they could have performed 'I believe Jesus brought us together' over the voices so unfortunately it was dropped. A shame that a few had to ruin it for the rest.

It didn't totally ruin the show it just tainted it a little. A plus for my sister was that Dave kept commenting on her being the pretty girl in the front row distracting him which she loved when she realised he was talking about her. Similar to last time we went to meet the band after the show and they were much quicker at coming out to speak to the fans. Unfortunately the fans couldn't get close to Brian for 15 minutes because his hecklers had come out to either apologise or argue their point which seemed to aggravate Brian at first. His explanation for his outburst was that he misses his friends and family when he tours and its all going on in his mind all the time and these people pushed him over the edge. I felt sorry for him because they still continued arguing and I was this close to wringing some girls neck for shouting insults. He said his concern was that these people were spoiling the show for others who had paid and had right to enjoy the show without hinderance.

More people were after his attention so we didn't get to chat as the hecklers were hanging around annoyingly still trying to talk their way back into his good books or put their point across for the millionth time. I did get 2 of my photos with him signed and had a new one done too which was better. Got 2 more albums signed by Chuck Ragan and went over to say thanks to Dave for the guest list spots. We got photos taken more autographs and he held off other fans until he'd finished talking to us and making sure we got what we wanted from him. Real nice guy and next time he's over either solo or with The Loved Ones I'll definitely go watching. Maybe he'll even remember me and my sister?

I was a little disappointed I had'nt had chance to speak to Ian, he'd disappeared when we came to leave and his was the only photo that I hadn't had signed so we walked back into the quiet multistorey and over to the car and who should be paying at the meter. Ian and a friend of his from Johnny Cupcakes. He remembered me from the Manchester show and wrote me a message on the photo that he signed which was cool. They both invited me to a Johnny Cupcakes event but unfortunately I can't make it.

That drew a close to another great night. As we pulled out of the car park Brian looked up from the people he was talking to and gave us a quick wave and a nod. In the distraction I forgot to put my headlights on and turned the wrong way up a one way street. Luckily it was quiet...

Song of the blog this time is Revival Road as mentioned earlier. I just think this song sums up The Revival Tour. Its used as the last song to say goodbye to the fans before the Tour hits the road again. Its got all the makings of a great folk song and I think this song should close every Revival Tour show there is. Maybe it will go down in history and become one of the legendary folk songs that people still sing in 100 years time like the traditional folk songs. Its a nice idea. Heres the link. Enjoy the camaraderie

Fare thee well for now...

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Revival Road part 1:

After an awesome night at The Revival Tour in Manchester I thought I'd blog about it. Not just for others to read about but partly so that I have written down what i remember so that I don't forget bits.

For those that don't know what the Revival Tour is heres a summary. Its four lead singers from four different bands routed in punk rock singing their songs and collaborating acoustically in a folk setting as a revival of traditional folk sessions where people used to just bring along their instruments and sing and play together. This tour involves Brian Fallon (The Gaslight Anthem/ The Horrible Crowes), Dave Hause (The Loved Ones), Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music) and Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio) plus Joe Ginsberg on upright bass and Jon Gaunt on the fiddle.

I think what I loved most about this show was the amount of fun the guys were having up on the stage and the respect that they showed for each other, always hugging, shaking hads between songs and requesting applause for other band members. It was like a group of best friends playing together and loving it, where choosing to walk on stage and sing or play along with one of the others at any given moment, was expected. Thats the way folk music should be. This word has already become cliche when talking of the Revival tour but camaraderie is the only way to describe the relationship that these guys have together. I've never watched a tour like this and maybe I never will again. 3 hours and about 47 songs! My only regret is that I won't be going to any shows at the end of the tour. By that time the band will be more familiar with each others songs and more collaboration can probably be expected.

Already being familiar with the work of Brian, Chuck and Dave; Dan Andriano was the only person who I didn't know what to expect from, but I was impressed by his voice and his musicianship if his songs did seem a bit samey on occasion. There were a few highlights of the show in my opinion. First of all Dave and Dan covering Joe strummers 'Coma Girl' a song that I love and totally unexpected, second was Meet You In the Middle by Chuck Ragan with Brian Fallon on backing vocals, third was Brian and Ian Perkins playing 'Ladykiller' by The Horrible Crowes. The audience just went quiet for this one, in silent awe, most people chose not to clap and sing along and just listen as he poured it all out in a real atmospheric performance. My fourth highlight was Brian playing Senor and The Queen acoustically, I love that song , especially in this format.

After the show my aim was to meet the band having been unsuccessful in the two hours before the show. Dan Andriano came out first and he was such a nice guy, grateful for the praise we (the approx 20 people who were waiting around with me) showered him with and thanking us deeply for supporting the tour and buying the tour compilation. I got his autograph on the Revival Tour CD.

Next I got Dave Hause to sign my copies of his own album 'Resolutions' and My tour CD. I briefly discussed what a fun tour it looks to play on and he agreed. I got a picture with him and said that I was hoping he would play his song 'Meet Me At The Lanes' as it was my favourite so he asked if I was going to any more shows. I wasn't so instead he offered to put me on the guest list to the closest show to me which was Nottingham. I was kind of shocked that he offered me this and of course agreed, getting myself a plus one in the process. What a nice guy though!

Chuck came out next but I only saw him for a second as his hands were full. I got my tour CD and his new 'Covering Ground' CD signed and told him it was my favourite of his yet.

It turned out that Brian Fallon was already on the bus so we asked Chuck to get him to come out and he eventually did, and was surrounded by the group. It was clear that most fans in the audience were Brian or Gaslight Anthem fans throughout the show and this made it clearer as the other guys got no where near the same attention.

I remember last time the Gaslight Anthem played Manchester. I got the chance to speak to Brian briefly and get an autograph on my 59' Sound cover but I thought asking for a picture would be a bit pushy so I didn't, and have regretted it ever since. This time I was hoping to get another chance and after waiting around for the band for a few hours before this show I thought I may not get the chance again. Luckily after the show I got my chance to get a picture with one of my heroes. I think what made it for me though were the conversations I had with him so I wanted to summarise here what Brian said and some things that we talked about, which may interest a few fans out there:

One girl wanted him to sign her tattoo on her leg in so that some tatto artist would be able to do it for her. Brian was hesitant to do this and tried to get her to reconsider, saying take this from me I'm covered in tattoos I don't like, this is another mans autograph on your body, it will be there on your wedding night etc. I thought this was nice of him to try and talk her out of it, but she wasn't having any of it so he signed her leg and from what I know (another Dimestore Saint) she is now tattooed.

One fan told Brian he'd recorded an EP and when asked if it was good the lad wasn't too confident. Brian  told him to be more confident, believe in his work, asking if it was true, if it was real. He told him that if he's written songs to write them to the absolute best that they can be and to just believe in yourself, making the point that this was the only few minutes he would have to inspire this kid so he wanted to make his words count. It was quite inspiring to me to hear him talk like that, being a songwriter myself.

Once I had my picture taken with him I thanked him for the Manchester show when I requested 'The Patient Ferris Wheel' for my birthday in November 2010. Brian had announced it on stage saying "This is a request, Have a great birthday tomorrow" before getting into it and I wanted to show my appreciation. I said you won't remember but I requested that song for my birthday and he said "I don't remember" but was glad he could help me out because he doesn't always take kindly to requests. Mostly its when people shout out for songs and interrupt though whereas I had a conversation with him before the show to put my request in. He told of one guy at Bristol Revival Tour the night before, who just kept shouting a song title over and over and Brian got annoyed saying Im much more less likely to play it if people shout it like that. I think thats fair enough, he said people who persist he would have thrown out because they impair the enjoyment of people around them and this is important to Brian. At this point I asked Brian if he'd seen the You Tube video of Dave Grohl kicking a fan out of the Foo Fighters show. He hadn't seen it but I recommended he did and he smiled and winked at me.

Next one guy asked if they enjoyed Glastonbury, but he was referring to when Bruce Springsteen joined them on stage. At this point I cringed, in fact I actually said people have asked you about that so many times it makes me cringe when I hear it and Brian turned to me with a smirk and said "It makes me cringe too"

He went on to stress that he does love the guy (Bruce) but he knows him on a personal level too, recalling a time when he invited his whole block round for a barbecue and Bruce asked to come. Brian told him that all these people would be there and they know who he is but Bruce still went round. Brian wants to concentrate on being Brian Fallon for now and find out who he is as opposed to all these comparisons with Bruce Springsteen and stressed that people shouldn't like him just because they like Bruce.

When discussing the new album Brian said he is writing songs on the road whilst on The Revival Tour but that they had recorded 11 songs. Brian wants 40 though which I gotta admit is Springsteen-esque but I wouldn't say it to him. I asked if Biloxi Parish would be on it and he said it probably would. When I asked him about it he said it is a place in Louisiana and when he was passing through there he hadn't been home in 6 months and missed it. The song is about those feelings and getting home from a long time on the road and is not actually about Biloxi Parish the place. This is obvious from the lyrics now but it was cool to hear it from him because he doesn't often divulge too much about his song meanings, preferring fans to make up their own minds.

Other bits of chit chat were about the tour bus. I asked if on the top floor its just a load of mattresses but he said its bunks and that he gets a surprisingly good sleep on there whereas I presumed it would be an uncomfortable kind of broken sleep. Brian mentioned his dog Frank currently staying with Alex Levine and his wife. Brian has him trained not to pee indoors but apparently he keeps doing it at Alex's. I asked him if he was worried that Frank would pee all over his house when he gets home and he did say he was worried about it. Frank is a rescued dog for those who don't know.

In the end most fans had dispersed and there was only myself and a fellow dimestore saint left  Brian signed my 'Elsie' and tour compilation and I shook his hand and told me he'd just topped off a great night for me, and a great night it was.

As I left I maged to chat to Ian who loved my Johnny Cupcakes T shirt and was wearing one himself. He actually said he had mine on the bus too. I got a picture and an autograph, he seemed like a really cool guy with a good sense of humour, Id have liked to chat with him longer but it was after 1am with this point, I had work the next day and the band needed to sleep at some point too.

I may add to this in the future when other bits and bobs come back to me, I know some bits may seem a bit pointless but they're there for you to read anyway.

Here are a few of my photos from the Manchester show.

Not forgetting my song of the blog. This time its Great Expectations (the Revival Tour version as filmed by ihearttheweakerthans on You Tube. Its in HD with decent sound too. Take a look below! Hopefully I'll get around to writing up the Nottingham leg soon!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

It Feels Like Heaven When You Can Sleep Through The Night

Its been a while between posts lately. To be honest there hasn't been much inspiration to write anything, that is until this week...

Monday 5th September 2011, the day The Horrible Crowes release their debut album 'Elsie'. Brian Fallon's blend of haunting night time music, a deep and meaningful album of hymns for lonely people. When you get into your room late at night, turn out the lights, turn this cd on and crash out and get lost in this dark world that Brian and Ian Perkins have created.

Its been a long wait for this album and but for the odd hitch here and there, (where djs played songs on the radio before they were allowed to do so), the album didn't seem to leak to a great degree until Sideonedummy released songs to Rolling stone and other sites. I'm glad it didn't really leak (not to my knowledge) and I agree with what Brian Fallon said in his blog. If I was a recording artist that had slaved over making something as good as it can be, I wouldn't want it being released until i said so. That would be my right, and those people who say they are such big fans that they have to hear it as soon as possible (even if it is streamed on some poor quality internet site) are just fools. The bigger fans will respect the views of the artists and be patient until the record is good and ready to be heard in its entirety. They won't get any personal thanks for it but I take my own satisfaction in knowing that I have respected the wishes of my hero and that as a whole he will appreciate those who waited.

As far as the album goes I think its genius! But I'm biased. The two songs 'Behold The Hurricane' and 'Go Tell Everybody' are the more upbeat ones and are the tracks that you could see The Gaslight Anthem playing but other than that I think the songs are very different in style to Gaslight (but for Brian's raspy vocals) for those who are expecting more of the same. The majority of the songs seem to be based around heartbreak, broken relationships, cheating girlfriends etc and aren't therefore songs you would play at a party, I really suggest listening something like this in your own time when you can really appreciate the words and quiet whispers on songs such as 'Cherry Blossom', 'Sugar' and 'I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together'. Its not really fodder for your car stereo either. Thats my opinion anyway. Stand out tracks to me are 'Lady Killer'; another break up song with a catchy chorus and 'I Witnessed A Crime'. The organ on the latter really reminds me of The E Street band and works perfectly alongside the bubbly base line. The lyrics in this seem to talk of a relationship that isn't working out and I guess I relate to being with someone where the interest in each other runs out. It may sound doomy and gloomy from all I've said but despite being a heartbreak album, you don't need to be heartbroken to enjoy this album. I wouldn't have thought it was for everyone but Im sure Fallon fans will love it, you can really hear his influences like Tom Waits, PJ Harvey etc.

The day before I received the album in the mail I listened to this hour long interview with Brian Fallon on WBJB radio in New Jersey. A really inciteful interview that any Gaslight Anthem fans may find interesting but also left me champing at the bit... Heres the link, hope it works...

Brian Fallon Interview

As for my own music. My plans were to record all my songs in acoustic demo before building up to a full band album. These plans have been set back by my holiday and then a break to one of my fingers. If you know me you are probably sick of me making a big deal about that right now but my left ring finger can't bend, thus I can't play chords and its really killing me that I can't pick up the guitar and play. Physio says Im about 10 days away, so I guess I'll just play the waiting game and maybe finish a few half written song lyrics ready to record when Im fit again. As it stands I have 10 songs recorded in demo. Here are the titles: Young and Wild, Neon Sign, Were You Thinking Of Me?, The Darkplace, Old Times, Sweetheart Serenade, Road of Life, Its Real, Janie Jones and The Footsteps Of Billy The Kid.  Just to hopefully keep people interested.

Young and Wild is currently on Soundcloud. If you haven't listened any, then please feel free and comment too but be nice ;)

Alex Magrath Soundcloud Channel

My song of the blog this week is predictably The Horrible Crowes and its called 'Lady Killer'  so click this link to watch. Finally I'll suggest that you go out and buy this album. When have I ever been wrong about this stuff before...

The Horrible Crowes - Lady Killer

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Tell me what you saw, I'll tell you what you missed when the ocean met the sky...

Heres a little bed time story...

I headed down to Frank's Place, this old sailors bar down by the harbour. I'll go in there just like I do most of the pubs in this town, but week after week on a Thursday I'll strum the old folk songs on this beat up old acoustic guitar they have.  Its never too busy, just nice, the usual punters, some small groups, couples huddle away in the booths, some guys just come and sit; sit and drink the night away. Maybe they're sitting there without their lost loved one, maybe they just came in from a few days on the sea, or maybe they just couldn't get control of that television remote at home but I seem to have the attention of some of these sailors who sit there night after night to hear me strum my songs, applauding gently at the end of each number, sometimes they'll join me at the bar when I go for another whiskey. I like it though, it relaxes me, i'm in my own world, singing my heart out, they say nothing they just listen. One guy speaks up, asks for Whiskey In The Jar, and why not.

Part way through in walks Janey. Everybody in town would recognise her, I've seen her around. I hear she came out the rough end of a hard divorce some years back, never really settled down after that. I'd never seen her in Frank's though. She walked through got herself a drink of something clear and took a table at the back but she gave me this smile, I'm not sure if I was singing at all at this point, I joined the rest of my audience, transfixed...

She was young for her years, this long blonde hair, wavey like the sea... she had class. I regained my composure and sung one of my own numbers, a new one, they hadn't heard it before, Brothers... then I went up for another whiskey. People were filing out now, it was getting late but she walked over to me and introduced herself. She knew my name, maybe she'd heard me mentioned in one of the other seaside bars down by the shore. We didn't hang around either, we headed out and just walked, we walked and we talked down to the shore until we hit the boardwalk. It was peaceful, the waves crashed and that was the only sound besides our voices under the light of the moon. I think I got her, she seemed to get me, she could see why I enjoyed just singing the nights away in these quiet little pubs. I never felt I was good enough to make the big time, I was happy just being some kind of local hero but it was all about the music for me, I just needed that quietly appreciative audience and I'd keep coming back.

It felt like we talked for hours, leaning on the end of the pier staring out into the endless ocean. It was like I'd known her all my life, I wished she'd walked into that bar years ago. I pulled her to me with one arm around her shoulder as we leaned there in silence, to keep her warm in the night breeze I guess. I started singing low, right down at the bottom of my range, a sea song that I heard once and right then as I took in that sea air I thought... The ocean really does breathe salty... it went like this...

Click the link

Sun Kil Moon - The Ocean Breathes Salty

I didn't just write this story randomly, its based on the lyrics of one of my songs, a little acoustic track called Janey Jones. I hope you like it, follow the link below.

Janey Jones by Alex Magrath

Saturday, 2 July 2011

We Need More Of These Nights They Always Go Too Fast...

By now some of you may have seen my song Young & Wild doing the rounds on facebook, twitter and soundcloud. Heres a bit about the song:

I have this ritual when I write songs, I have notebooks with countless lyrics scribbled into them, different versions and layouts of verses and choruses I've written over the years. When I have versions I am happy with I write them into my best songbook. Im now into my second songbook but Young & Wild comes half way through the first. I date each song when I finally write it in and Young & Wild came from 2006 which would have been the summer after my second year at university.

At this point University was getting serious. Every student knows first year doesn't count, we just partied hard and exams weren't taken seriously and as long as you passed with better than 40% average you were ok. Second year counted for 25% of my degree or something. In the words of my professor on graduation day "You did fuck all in second year" and he's right, if he was saying this it must have been bad, my average was in the mid forties so by third year it was time to really pull my finger out and get this degree. We'd had another year of serious partying, some people were squeezing work in between various nights out and social occasions but I was sleeping a lot, eating junk food, playing my guitar, watching dvds, drinking the nights away and just hanging out just like most students and all my friends would. It was a good time, the wider world was still a year away, we didn't have to worry about it yet we had a big group and most of us were pretty close to each other by now. I loved this group I still do most of these people, I dreaded the end of summer semester because I knew it would be three months before we could pick up where we'd left off. The concern for me was, I knew that as well as enjoying myself I'd have to work hard in third year, I also knew everyone else would be busier so at this point, two thirds of the way through my university career I couldn't help but feel nostalgic during summer break, like our best days were behind us now and third year would just be a let down. In some ways it was but as I was looking back I wrote a couple songs about friendship, youthful friendship, fun in the sun, hanging out kinda songs. One of which was Young and Wild but it was originally titled Young and Wired after the Bon Jovi lyric in their song 'In and Out of Love'. The song lyrics themselves are pretty self explanatory, we were our own people, we did what we wanted, we thought we were the kings of the road back then, nobody could keep us down we just walked around like we owned the place or something but we were just enjoying the life and so there it is, Young & Wild if you haven't listened it visit my facebook page and find the link on there.

As for my plans to record some of my songs to an album, progress is being made. I have a list of twelve songs I want to be on the album some of which are only partially written but its all one big work in progress. When I have all the demos done I will distribute the demos to various musicians that may be helping me and when they have learned the songs hopefully we can make stuff happen but this is time away at the moment. This album has a theme and therefore I also have a working title for it. The songs are all going to be linked by the dreams, hopes, regrets, wishes, experiences and stories of people just making their way through life. A few of the songs are slightly biographical or inspired by feelings that I have had at times but by no means are they all necessarily true stories about me, that will remain a mystery...

The song of the blog this time around is a song by a man named Dave Hause, this is a perfect song to fit with the subject matter of this blog post because it is about a guy looking back at all his old group of friends that have been spread out now and they arrange a reunion night were they re-live the crazy times of their youth. Ive only discovered this guy recently because he sings in a band called The Loved Ones and he will is one of a quartet that I will be watching on this autumns Revival Tour. Its a great song and if you like looking back on the past times and reminiscing like I do I think you will like this song, again maybe its one for those who were at uni and are now all spread out across the country, maybe you miss the rest of your old gang. Its all in the lyrics here guys there aren't any better videos of this currently on you tube but this is pretty good, click the link or better still look up the song on spotify to really be able to pick the lyrics out...

Dave Hause - Meet Me at The Lanes

Thanks for reading...

Saturday, 25 June 2011

BON JOVI... We were born to follow!

In an earlier blog I said it was 6th time I would be watching Bon Jovi, correcting myself its actually the 7th and its still a great show even now! Although their latest albums aren't hitting the standards that their classic pre-2000 albums did, the energy and quality of the performance is still amazing to see.

Those who read this blog each time I post will know that in an earlier blog I have expressed my concerns about how Bon Jovi are now a business not just a band etc etc. That doesn't take away from the fact that they are one of my best bands of all time. Jon Bon Jovi is arguably the best front man in rock and he is backed by three of the best musicians in the business in Richie Sambora, Tico Torres and David Bryan and this makes for a hell of a show. Tonight was the Manchester show at Old Trafford Cricket Ground on the UK leg of the Greatest Hits tour and it was awesome!!! Heres a pic of the view we had although I'm sure it doesn't do it justice as we had a great view considering we arrived late.

I said before the show I wanted to hear my two favourites Blood on Blood and In These Arms and a couple of rarities and they didn't disappoint. They kicked the show off with Blood on Blood before playing through You Give Love A Bad Name and Born To Be My Baby. Blood on Blood is more of a song to end a show with, its an anthemic song about friends growing up and having each others backs and I like that in a song, I write several of my own songs with my own friends and memories in mind. In These Arms was also played and they even played their epic ten minute Dry County so I was content. Besides this they ripped through all the hits you would expect Its My Life, Bad Medicine, Wanted Dead or Alive, We Weren't Born To Follow and ending with Livin On A Prayer and with a few odd numbers thrown in between. For you romantics out there you may know Bed Of Roses which was also great. It was good to see Richie Sambora still at his electrifying best on the lead guitar despite another stint in rehab but Jon was struggling at times on the slippery stage with his leg in a splint as he awaits surgery on his ligaments. Heres a closer pic of the band...

The band were unfazed by the rain which poured throughout the show, JBJ joked about all the people sitting in the mud at Glasto and said he'd rather sell out stadiums on his own rather than with the help of fifty other bands. Tonights sell out show was reportedly played to 46,000 people. Thats 92,000 arms in the air, what a sight that must be from the stage! Although I liked and cheered at this comment I am annoyed that we didn't try and get to Glastonbury this year. If only you could be in two places at once...

I also liked the comment Jon made about having no pre-recorded tracks playing on stage with "no girly backing singers, this aint no reunion tour" etc unable to resist a dig at the music industry today.

Unfortunately I still feel this may be the last time I will see Bon Jovi live, not because I'm bored after 7 shows but because I am now content that I've seen them enough. I have seen them play all of their hits several times over and there are still more songs rarely played in their shows that I would love to see but the chance of them playing those songs are getting slimmer with every new album released. On top of this ticket prices are going up as I have mentioned before. Tonight they played Work For The Working Man, a song about regular people coping with the recession. At face value its a good song but its marred by hypocrisy in my opinion. How can Jon Bon Jovi sing for the working man when ticket prices have shot up for a band that don't even need the money anymore. However this is just a small complaint about a great night.

So although I am in Bon Jovi retirement as of tonight its not because I wouldn't want to see them again its just I want to prioritise bands I haven't seen as much of. I still want to be at the front to watch Bruce Springsteen, The Gaslight Anthem, Against Me!, I've never seen the Counting Crows or Augustana (and I want too!),  and Matchbox Twenty will tour again soon. Having said that I could be like Paul Scholes for England... I may consider coming out of retirement if asked...

My song of the blog this time has to be a Bon Jovi song so I thought I would put up this video of In These Arms which I took at the show. The sound quality is decent. Click the link below to watch...

For those who have never seen Bon Jovi, maybe you have been tempted in the past, you should go they will play for two and a half hours and you won't be disappointed. 

Bon Jovi rock! May this continue for years to come...

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The biggest man you've ever seen!

I apologise in advance if this gets a bit deep and meaningful. Its been a good weekend, Wigan beat Saints in the derby in one of our performances of the season, we had a bbq, the weather held for our party, we had a good a night out, I saw some friends i hadn't seen in a while, but this has all been marred by the death of one of my favourite musicians: Clarence Clemons, The Big Man, age 69, the best saxophonist you ever saw, he had a big heart, a big smile and big lungs too and has spent nearly four decades playing his sax alongside Bruce Springsteen in The E Street band! Before I ramble on heres a couple pictures I've found on and three others off various websites.

In an ideal world guys like Clarence would live forever but nature has taken its course in the cruel way that it does. Its hard to explain how upsetting this passing is for me, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street band are my all time favourites so it cuts me up to see band members leaving like this. I first discovered Bruce Springsteen back in about 1998 with his greatest hits album and since then I've never looked back as his performances and songwriting both with and without The E Street band have been nothing but inspirational to me. When you see The E Street Band perform you can see the closeness between the band members, they are like family and if I'm upset about Clarence passing I can't imagine how Bruce himself and the rest of the band must feel right now. Organ player Dan Federici one of the original band members passed away in April 2008 but the band played on. Can The E Street Band ever be the same again without their token saxophonist, I'm not so sure. I'd like to think so but I don't know how I would feel watching the band without Clarence or with someone else in his place. Time is taking its toll on one of the most legendary bands ever to take the stage and knowing the great songs that they continue to produce its upsetting to me that their era is slowly coming to an end. I'm just glad I was able to see the full band live in concert before all this began to happen and from now on, these great musicians will just have to live on in our memories.

Bruce Springsteen released this statement on his website:

It is with overwhelming sadness that we inform our friends and fans that at 7:00 tonight, Saturday, June 18, our beloved friend and bandmate, Clarence Clemons passed away. The cause was complications from his stroke of last Sunday, June 12th.

Bruce Springsteen said of Clarence: Clarence lived a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years. He was my great friend, my partner, and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.

This suggests that the band will play on and I wouldn't be surprised to see Bruce write a song in tribute to Clarence as he did with Dan Federici. When Dan; not as prominent a figure at the front of the stage like Clemons (but just as important) passed away I was gutted then but I don't remember feeling like this. Clarence had this loveable presence on stage, Springsteen would share banter with him night after night and the audiences loved him, so did I. He will be sorely missed by all the fans.... 

There are many great sax solos that Clarence has played, Born To Run, Sherry Darling but most notably 'Jungleland'. This is my favourite of all the Bruce Springsteen songs, the romantic imagery between 'The Rat' and 'The barefoot girl' and the story that unfolds is nothing short of a masterpiece in this ten minute song. For about 3 minutes in the middle though is the best saxophone solo that you will ever hear where Clarence steps to the front of the stage and takes over. I hope you take the time to watch this video, I realise it is ten minutes but it is worth it and when you do bear in mind that Clarence has continued to belt this solo out way into his late sixties with the same precision that he could in his thirties and take into account he has had surgery in both knees and this video was only shot in 2009 so he sits down for the most part. Found myself welling up when I watched this...

Thanks for the music and the memories, see you further on up the road Big Man, 
Rest in peace....

Friday, 3 June 2011

Eric fell in love with an FBI informant.

In my last blog post I hopefully introduced some of you to the band Against Me! Their singer is a man named Tom Gabel and in between the last two Against Me! records Tom recorded his own seven song EP called 'Heartburns'. This was a collection of songs that were mostly driven by political motivation but one song in particular I've found interesting, the song 'Anna is a stool pigeon'. Apparently a stool pigeon is an old term for a police informant but is also a hunting term. Anyway I was listening to a podcast with a half hour interview with Tom Gabel and he was playing a few of his new songs in between talking. He explained that he got the idea for this song out of Elle magazine when he read a story about this girl only known as 'Anna'. This is the article but read to the end of this blog before you read it.

Elle Magazine article about 'Anna'

Basically, this Anna was at some sort of activist movement and she became associated and hung out with some pretty hardcore activists. Whether she felt threatened by them or what they were capable of I'm not sure but she ended up writing an article about them. The FBI saw it and decided they wanted to pay her to go undercover with some activists and be an informant, to keep an eye on them in case they should start some trouble. Anna became an undercover activist and infiltrated a group of three people named Eric McDavid, Lauren Weiner and Zachary Jenson and maybe a few others.

The impression I'm getting is that they weren't really a dangerous group, they were standing up for what they believed in but from what I've read so far, they weren't planning on taking it to the next level and conducting acts of terrorism. Tom suggested that Anna hadn't had a lot of attention from her father when she was growing up and that she maybe felt she had something to prove to the FBI so she began to encourage these three activists to become a bit more hardcore (but this could just be speculation as Anna said she had a regular upbringing), as in blowing up the Nimbus Dam in Sacramento California as well as some other locations. These guys didn't know how to build bombs but Anna did because the FBI had provided her with fake recipies as part of her cover. Using these recipies would build something that would perhaps spark and smoke but not explode but it would outline the groups intention to make bombs.  These guys didn't even have a car to drive to buy the ingredients but Anna sorted that out as well. It seems Eric had a crush on her and therefore perhaps trusted her more than he should have and went along with her encouragement but it turned out Anna was recording the conversations and even videoing their living space, thus entraping Eric. This is what is called a 'thought crime' (from Orwells 1984) where the thoughts are there but no actions are taken yet and Eric has been sent down for 20 years in solitary confinement. His two friends pleaded guilty to smaller offences and had it easier when they testified against Eric to save their own skin. Isn't entrapment a crime in itself. My interpretation of the story is that Eric was set up but if you read the article in Elle it does suggest in places that he wasn't quite all there (but this is only from what Anna has said).

These are the events as I know them but don't by any means hold me to these as facts. It is a true story one way or another but this is just my interpretation you should come up with yours and decide if you feel Eric should be locked up so watch this song by Tom Gabel and listen to the words because they pretty much tell the story.

Anna is a Stool Pigeon - Tom Gabel

 Once you have watched it you can visit the support Eric website which contains the background info, court documents, letters that Eric has written from the inside and more. I've found it interesting and after hearing Tom Gabel's song and his own explanation of the story as he sees it I couldn't help but feel like Eric was wrongly imprisoned for the better part of his life. Since reading the Elle article I'm not as sure. They definitely took action to make and test bombs and were caught buying the ingredients but I think my argument is that without Anna coaxing them into it they probably wouldn't have aimed for such drastic action.

Please discuss if you wish....

Friday, 27 May 2011

We were searching for a saviour, just like anybody else...

For the past two weeks I've been waking up each morning to pictures and blogs from The Horrible Crowes working in a studio in "a secret location on the Jersey Shore". They have completed the album now so I'm looking forward to its September release right before the Revival Tour kicks off.

Meanwhile I am preparing to record an album of my own songs. I've been writing my own material for probably nearly ten years, not all of it worth recording mind you but in the past few years the style I've been writing in has definitely matured. My concern is though that the longer time goes on, the more songs I write I'm going to end up forgetting how earlier ones were supposed to sound so I want to get them all recorded in acoustic demo form at least and then the ones I consider to be the best I hope to one day put onto an album with several instruments behind them. I guess I've reached a point where I feel I am writing songs worthy of recording. I'm not 'bigging' myself up, song writing doesn't come naturally to me. I can stare for hours at the screen and only write a few lines and I've written several 'dead wood' songs along the way but recently I'm at a stage where I'm happy with what I'm writing, a stage where I feel I'm not going to improve much more than this. Don't get me wrong here, I'm not trying to "make it". This is a project purely for my own satisfaction but once complete if I get playing some open mics and acoustic nights that would perhaps be a good goal right now.

Recording will most likely take place in my "home studio" which may lose a bit of that studio quality but I'm optimistic about how good this can sound and would hope to have a finished product in a years time. I want this to be as good as it can be but I've still got a lot of work to do. I'm still gradually improving as a guitar player so theres that to consider and a few of the songs are still only partially written so they need to be completed, I need to re-work lyrics on a few older songs and then need to write lead guitar and bass parts for the ones that will go on the album. I will be posting samples of songs on here and maybe Soundcloud at some point and will be interested to see what you readers think. In the meantime here is a link to my song 'Sweetheart Serenade'. Its the only original song of mine available on You Tube so I hope you like it.

Sweetheart Serenade

That wasn't my song of the blog by the way. Recently I've discovered this band called Against Me!, another gem that I've plucked from the endless galaxy of music available to us. They are considered to be in the 'folk punk' genre but this isn't heavy punk rock, the lyrics are well written and the band are easily compared with bands such as Rise Against, Hot Water Music and Alkaline Trio. Here is a link to a song from their new album and this is the title track 'White Crosses'. Educate yourself.

Against Me! White Crosses

Monday, 2 May 2011

Let me take you by the hand and lead you through The Streets of London

I've always liked London. I've always loved the buzz, that hustle and bustle of big city life, so many people with different agendas all rushing around and going about their business it creates this great atmosphere  and thats something thats always fascinated me.

One visit to London, I must have been eleven or twelve, back when my parents were still together. We were staying in a hotel on Knightsbridge. I remember this seedy little hotel that we stayed in called The Stuart, the lift was broken and we had to haul the cases up five flights of stairs to the top floor. Our room overlooked Knightsbridge and one night we'd just got back from having our dinner out somewhere. It had gone dark and we'd completed the usual bed time rituals of shower, pyjamas, teeth and lights out. My parents and sister were in bed but we had this tall bathroom window that slid upwards and I was able to sit on the toilet lid and lean out of this window to look out at the street below. It was late at this point but it was summer, there was a warm breeze, close to midnight too but cars and taxis were still zipping past and the odd person would go walking by and it interested me. All these people still out and about... Where are they going at this time of night on their own? Home? The train station? Somewhere out of the ordinary? It started me wondering about these lone passers by, what their story was and I guess the interest for me at that age was imagining what these people were up to, walking off into the night in this huge, dark city. It made me want to be out on those streets, maybe I could follow them through the streets and alleyways off into the night. Maybe I would just wander on my own, scared but excited at experiencing the city at night. Unfortunately that was all in my head I had to settle for closing the window and heading to bed but that fascination with the city at night still sticks with me to this day. The city at night, never sleeping, lights, neon signs, life constantly moving.

I'm recently back from my latest visit to London and no matter how many times you go theres always something new to see that you never noticed before. There are so many little streets linking all the main streets and they're all full of little businesses, traditional looking pubs, people making a living or even just living in their hidden backstreet apartments. There are so many people, so many different stories, I feel I could just find a seat outside of a pub and just watch this all happening, the world going by. I guess this makes me somewhat of a people watcher but again I'm just soaking up that city atmosphere and I'm pretty sure I've got this trait from my Dad. We all become our parents in many ways as we grow older. Thats my theory.

London seemed such a huge place when I was kid. We went everywhere in the taxis with our parents and maybe thats why but now that I'm older I realise how easy it is just to walk from place to place. I don't like using the tube unless I have to. You see more when you travel on foot, things that you wouldn't discover otherwise. Many people, different nationalities, different buildings, little pubs, hidden parks, markets, I think you're getting the picture. When I was in New York it was the same. I wouldn't have walked through Chinatown, Little Italy or Greenwich Village if I'd hopped on a train and these places are all worth seeing and at least walking through in order to see the diversity in culture and lifestyle. Some of these places have character of their own and lets face it, walking helps save the planet and helps work off the greasy footlong you just bought from one of the many subways. Its win win.

If you've taken the time to read these almost pointless musings then heres your reward... a little gem. My song of the blog this time is this old song by Ralph McTell called 'The Streets of London'. This deals with some of the stories of a few different characters, some of the more forgotten members of society, lonely in this big city and the singer makes his partner aware there are lonelier people in this city than they are. Its a sad song but the words are nice and kind of romantic I guess. I hope you give it a listen. Xiao for now

Ralph McTell - The Streets of London

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Words & Music

I've said before that music is great because there is so much of it. I'm not contradicting myself but  lately I feel I can't possibly absorb all the music that I buy and appreciate it for what it is because there is so much of it. Do you know what I mean?

You see for me a good song is all about words, yeah the musics important too but words are far more important than some catchy tune that just sounds good. Don't get me wrong I do like tunes like that but they don't stick around and when you get to the porch they're gone on the wind. The ones that do stick around are the ones that talk about stuff that I relate to, places that I know, situations I've been in. Songs about stuff thats important to me like friends and our past,  throwing caution to the wind and not caring about the future and just valuing what we have now. Songs that tell stories about people and the way they live their lives. Maybe bad shit happens to them or maybe things work out but what I'm saying is that some real thought has gone into these lyrics.

I'd like to say that when I buy a new CD I turn it on and sit down with the lyric booklet and follow each song through. Unfortunately I don't have time for that, its a ritual I reserve only for the best but lately I feel that a lot of good music is slipping through the cracks, theres so much to buy that I barely get the chance to listen to it and take it in before I buy the next one so I think I really just need to cut myself off from buying and take a few hours somewhere just to catch up. This may sound a little over the top to some people but music is just one hobby of mine like anything else. Lying around listening to cd's is only the same as the guy who goes cycling through the countryside for a whole afternoon with the wind in his hair and the sun on his back. This is deep stuff, but it'll sink in.

The latest bands I've been listening to are the Dashboard Confessional, The Bouncing Souls and the Wallflowers fronted by none other than Jakob Dylan, yes Bob Dylan's son but I also discovered Brian Fallon's latest acoustic masterpiece of The Gaslight Anthem song 'Bring It On'. Thats my song of the blog this time around. Hope you take 3 minutes to listen because its incredibly soulful, he's just lost in his own little musical world from the first chord and thats kind of how I feel when I lie down and listen to these bands and songwriters.

Heres a cool picture of Brian Fallon that I found on the internet by someone called faap-de-oaid. A great drawing that really captures the soul that Brian sings with (If you're reading i hope you don't mind me posting your picture but I think its awesome!) Its currently the background on my laptop!

And finally....

Bryan Adams has announced a tour in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of his 'Waking Up The Neighbours' album. For the slim few of you reading that may like Bryan Adams I'd recommend seeing him live, in my opinion this is his best album and its a chance to see a lot of these songs performed. The album actually spawned the song 'Everything I Do (I Do It For You) (although that isn't the best song on the album). Get yourself a ticket I say, get yourself a ticket!

Friday, 25 February 2011

A song played on the radio, It went straight to my heart, I carried it with me...

Each time I post I try to introduce readers to bands and songwriters they may not have seen before but recently I have been educating myself a little bit. I love discovering a new band that are totally amazing, especially if there is a whole back catalogue of songs to then buy and listen to. Each week I'll buy a new album until I eventually have them all by that particular band or artist. Ive recently got into The Bouncing Souls who I think I'm going to really like based on what Ive heard so far. They're punky and similarly to The Gaslight Anthem and The Hold Steady they seem to come under this pseudo genre of Springsteen punk. I don't agree with this genre. Its punk rock and the band happen to be influenced by Springsteen to a degree.  I've also been listening to English folk artist Richard Thompson and Tom Waits who's lyrics are better than his music in my opinion but he is good in his own unique way. The most recent CD other than any of these that I bought is Lightning Dust's "Infinite Light" album. It's good 'night time' music, very quiet and soulful with a lot of emotion in the singing and quiet, twinkling instruments to back it up. Its an album full of good songs but probably best played when your feeling low or in a chilled out frame of mind.

On the other side of the coin its a horrible feeling when you discover a band that just released their first or second album, you love their music and like an addictive drug you just want more but you know you will have to wait about 2 years before the next album. What I tend to do in periods like this is archive a lot of rare material and concert recordings of these bands from various sources on the internet. Maybe this is another geeky side to me but as a result Ive ended up with a lot of rare music, countless concerts and performances from Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, The Gaslight Anthem, The Goo Goo Dolls and many from lots other bands. This tides me over until they eventually release something new and it is a time killing tactic that works. I also secretly like the satisfaction that Ive got material that not too many people will have bothered to find. Tiding me over in between The Gaslight Anthem albums is Brian Fallon's side project The Horrible Crowes. I'm pretty excited about this because Gaslights next album is only due autumn 2012 so this album of Fallon's 'night time' material is going to bridge the gap between now and then perfectly. Really stripped down acoustic songs which will be performed on the Revival Tour later this year.

Also later this year is Bon Jovi at Old Trafford. Before I make my point here I'll just say that Bon Jovi are one of my all time favourite bands and this is unlikely to ever change. They were the first band that I felt the obsession for, where I just had to buy all of their albums, only back then I was ten and still on pocket money, I had to save my few pounds per week up in order to buy just one CD but I got them all eventually and I've loved them ever since although admittedly I haven't enjoyed the past two albums as much as previous ones. That said the concert is in June but I still haven't begun to look forward to it. This never used to be the case. I know it will be awesome when I'm there and nearer the time I will begin to look forward to it but this will be the 6th time I've seen them and in the time since the 'Have a Nice Day tour' five years ago I have begun to get more and more disillusioned with Jon Bon Jovi as a person as well as the band. The band are no longer focused on the fans and their music anymore they have all these other balls up in the air which I feel have taken over Bon Jovi the band and they are now more like a multi-national company. Jon Bon Jovi admits this in the recent 'When we were beautiful' documentary. He's on the phone with some business man about buying an American Football team and almost quoting him he says "don't see me as this singer in a rock n roll band, I'm the CEO of a major corporation" (thats the gist). Thus Bon Jovi are a brand not just a band anymore which is a shame.

Bon Jovi are a money spinning organisation and a few of their latest releases amplify this fact. The recent DVD of their music videos was pathetic. Most of the videos have been released before and each one was accompanied by a live performance of the song. This would have been good had these performances not been taken from other Bon Jovi DVDs. Bar the two new songs the DVD was just a big advert for all their other live DVDs. They also re-released all of their studio albums again in special edition. As a dedicated fan I bought them but you really didn't get that much extra. Ticket prices have shot up during the last two tours, actually meaning I couldn't afford to go last time on the 'Lost Highway Tour'! I used to be able to pay between £45-80 depending on the venue but that was for standing so I could still get close. Now it is £80 for the worst seats in the house at the upcoming run of O2 Arena shows. Do the biggest rock band in the world need to double their ticket prices? How hypocritical of JBJ to write a song called "Work for the working man" (a song about the financial climate and recession) and put it on their latest record. I'm no doubt boring you now and believe me I could go on so I'll cut this short but success has gone to Jon Bon Jovi's head and unfortunately I think this is the last time I will be going to watch them in concert.

My song of the blog this week is the song "Gone" by The Bouncing Souls. This song will get your attention. Its a real anthem this one from their album 'How I spent my summer vacation' I intend to cover it sometime soon. I'll put that on You Tube no doubt too.

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Monday, 14 February 2011

Of loves uneven remainders, Our lives are fractions of a whole

Having mostly played my songs between the four walls of my home so far and to small groups of people I think its about time I got out there and played them in front of strangers.

The White Lion pub near the St. Thomas the Martyr Church in Up Holland will be hosting an unplugged session every Tuesday night. No mics, no amps just a group of people taking it in turns to sing any song they want, accompanied by their acoustic instrument. This may be of interest to people in Wigan, Skelmersdale area. I'm going to start playing there and hopefully with enough people regularly attending the event can really get off the ground and bring some money into a traditional pub that has been struggling under the strain of the recession. Its a shame to see hundreds of pubs nationwide shutting their doors, their buildings being boarded up/ knocked down or fading into dereliction because they can no longer afford to stay open. Pubs help to bring communities together and events like this are an attempt to cure the problem.

Music wise Ive been listening to Bright Eyes this week. If you hadn't heard of them all ready, those who enjoyed the O.C. might have heard Seth talk about them a few times. They're a good band and are quite mellow allthough I'm not sure which genre they fall under, possibly Indie if I was guessing so check them out. Kind of reverting back to music as poetry which I was talking about last time. Their singer/ songwriter Connor Oberst has a real way with words, a unique style I'd say. A lot of his lyrics would stand alone just as poetry. Therefore my song of the blog for this week is called "Bowl of Oranges" by Bright Eyes. This is one for all the single people. I think it puts a optimistic spin on being on your own and has a kind of hopeful feel to it which is created by the uplifting melody behind the words. This is how I interpret the song so please take two minutes to watch this until the music stops (don't bother with the sound effects that follow the song). If you like this, other Bright Eyes songs I would recommend are: First Day of My Life, Road to Joy, At the Bottom of Everything and Easy/ Lucky/ Free. All I can do is recommend bands and songs each time. Don't make the mistake of ignoring this stuff for the sake of listening for 3 minutes. Thats just lazy! Click the link.

Happy February 14th people!

Friday, 4 February 2011

If I Could Paint These Pictures With My Mind...

I follow the blog of drummer Benny Horowitz and on reading his last post I found it soothing. He speaks of how obsessed he was (maybe a little too obsessed) with sports stats when he was growing up and still is now. I relate to that so I'm happy that I'm not alone in this nerdism. Ive always been fascinated by stats, not just in football and other English sports but its probably part of my interest in American leagues such as NBA and MLB. They love their stats over the pond. Goals, assists, shooting percentage etc its interesting watching it accumulate over a season whether its real life or even on a video game. Not that Wayne Rooney's been accumulating too many this season but hopefully his goals against Aston Villa are sign of things to come.

Heres an interesting article that I found this week of an interview with Brian Fallon. He's talking about how he writes songs and puts them together, what he uses for inspiration, the use of imagery etc. He does make it sound so easy, whereas its not something that comes naturally to me. I must have written about thirty songs now (not all of them good) but less than half of these came naturally and were written in one sitting. And he says he heard his guitarist play the intro riff to "Great Expectations" and he went off and wrote it in 5 minutes.  I wish I could churn out great songs like that so quickly. If you're interested in what he had to say about songwriting, have a read.

Having said that I'm working on a couple of songs of my own at the moment. One is a kind of Springsteen inspired, based on my visit to the Jersey shore about 18 months ago and the other is a little closer to home. Its based around the whole Northern Soul era in Wigan from the early 80's and late 70's. I've always heard stories from many sources of how big it was for people of my parents generation. The great dancers, the music, the staying out until 8am and going to Wigan baths to refresh. Its old but it seemed like a pretty cool scene back then and I can't help but think it sounds more fun than the average night on Wigan's King Street. My song is predictably about a guy and a girl. She goes out to Wigan Casino each week partying all night while he stays in playing his guitar and listening to his favourite singer/ songwriters. In the end he knows that to get anywhere with her he needs to go out too. His last chance is on the closing night of Wigan Casino, one last chance to be out with his girl before the era comes to an end. I also want to capture how sad it must have been to know it was the last night ever at Wigan Casino after all the great memories people seem to have of it, how sad must it have been to see it all end. I tend to like my storytelling songs which I guess is inspired by Bruce Springsteen's style. He's my biggest influence but I wish I could use imagery more in my songs, similar to the way Brian Fallon describes in the above interview. If you can paint pictures like that and your stories are able to fit into them I think its an awesome skill to have. Like I said though, it doesn't always come easy. Hopefully when I finish the song I'll put it up on my You Tube page and share it. My most recent video was a cover of Brian Fallon's "Tin Pan Alley". A bit of a rarity taken from his Split 7" with Chuck Ragan but its a great song that I really wanted to cover. Please check it out at the link below.

Another idea Ive got for a song at the moment is a little bit of a different approach. Theres a really great poem by Walter de La Mare called "The Listeners" The poet creates such an eerie image of The Traveller alone in the forest in the dead of night, theres a real atmosphere to the poem and sometimes I think thats all songwriting is, poetry with music put to it. I thought I'd like to turn this poem into a song. Maybe thats cheating a bit but I'm interested to see how it comes out. Its a short poem and its worth a read. Again, check the link below.

So as usual theres lots of musical stuff going on upstairs right now. Lots of music I'm looking forward to as well. The Horrible Crowes first and foremost, hopefully Fallon will produce this new material before the end of the year, Augustana have their new self titled album out in April, R.E.M have their "Collapse into now" album out in March and 3 Doors Down have their new record out soon. My song of the blog this time round is Augustana's new song, the first single off their new album and its called "Steal Your Heart" If you've any sense you will give this band a listen.

Nuff said

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

I'll Try to find you... Left of The Dial

So I wanted to cover a few bits and bobs about social networking. I’m mostly covering the pro’s, here.  The majority of people seem to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or all three at once but I do have a good few friends who hate it, won’t do it because they don’t think its “cool”or feel they can’t do it because it gets them in trouble with their girlfriend. The fact is I don’t see why not to do it, you don’t have to check Facebook  everyday, use it in passing, stay in touch. We need to accept that electronic communication is taking over from traditional forms now, I admit I don’t like using the phone...
Those who hate facebook feel annoyed by status updates. Why tell everyone that you are so excited about flying to New York City for a week only to find your house burgled while you are away. People use their status as the chance to boast about something thats happening to them at the time, others say pointless things that don’t interest anybody, maybe I'm one of them. These points are true but I think its so handy to be able to have a bit of banter with someone at the click of a button if you can’t physically see them or call them, it kind of bridges the gaps in between two people seeing each other, tides you over. I love the photo sharing too, I have a lot of friends I don’t see a lot of; at least this lets me see what they’re up to now and again. I used to post a lot of lyrics to songs that I was listening at the time, but nobody cares about that, why not actually show people the songs and write about why I like them (part of my reasons for starting this blog.)
People I know that use Twitter seem to use it for celebrity watching more than socialising. Im partial to a bit of celebrity gossip myself but I think being friends with bands, artists, writers, actors, actresses  or following the ones you really care about on Twitter or Facebook can be a good thing too if you have an interest in a person. It humanises these previously inaccessible people.
Examples of famous people interesting me at the moment, Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows always updates the statuses for the band and through this I have learned that he lives in New York City, I've even seen the view from his apartment window, it did say the district too but Ive forgotten that here.  On Twitter; following Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty, I knew he was going on holiday to Mexico, I saw the view from his balcony, could tell you what games he played, events he attended, films he saw in the cinema, this every day stuff that everyday people do but as they are famous and inaccessible you don’t see the normal human side to these stars. 
Don't get me wrong I'm not a social network salesman and I don't spend my life on here but my point is that for me I think all this social stuff is a good accessory in life. It may mean less time with a phone pressed to our ears but that only means less radiation frying our craniums! More positives! I can keep in touch with friends, share my music, videos, follow my favourite sports, music, film stars and just be connected in all these ways so I don’t really understand how some people can be strongly opposed to all this
Thanks to those who followed the link and checked out my You Tube Profile last time. For those who didn’t heres a link to one of my latest vids, another cover but its a song about a guy (and to quote Brian Fallon) ”not so much being a Casanova but trying to prove it to a lady anyway”  a real soulful song with a romanticism in the lyrics that Ive rarely heard lately. I hope you like...
My song of the blog for this week is going to be Newton Faulkner, Dream Catch Me, I got this guys album “Built by Robots” early this week and its a really good easy listening acoustic album, £3 in HMV! It reminds me of a wedding I went to two summers ago and this song was played as the soundtrack to the photographers slideshow, thats when I discovered this guy. I love the lyrics, I know what its like when I've had someone on my mind and you play out these scenarios in your head of how things could go or how they should have gone. There’s some sleep to be lost there guys, but this song sums those dreamy, contemplating  feelings up for me.
Thank You very much youve been a great audience, enjoy yourselves, enjoy each other!  This ones called Backseats, we’ll see you next time!