Tag Archives: sleepy eyes nelson

Coming Soon: Pennies On My Eyes

As mentioned last post, much of my time of late has been taken up with the remixing and remastering of new/old album Pennies On My Eyes.  This was originally a mini-album from 5 years ago which was released then as part of the split CD Graveyard Full of Blues with Sleepy Eyes Nelson.

The logic behind the remastering is simply that I was never happy with the original release.  For various reasons, I left the mastering incomplete along with alternate takes and whole songs.  In the meantime, despite its limited release – the CD was sold at gigs and from Europa Music in Stirling; the download was only available via my Bandcamp page (with the two halves of the project split up online, so Sleepy’s excellent Build That Coffin of Mine was available separately via Cheap Wine Records’ Bandcamp) – the albumette picked up its own head of steam, garnering a few good write-ups and an award nomination.  My Side of the Veil became a live favourite while Oily Old Rag gained a new lease of life as the Dog Moon Howl song Tenement Porch Dog.

As with my first release, the demo EP Broke, Lonely and Guilty, Pennies… was recorded at my then home studio, the Channel Nowhere Secret Facility, basically a converted walk-in cupboard.  Everything else I’ve released, under my own name or with Dog Moon Howl has been studio recorded and although there is a pleasing rawness to the original version of Pennies…, it sounds just too rough to me.  I was obsessed with pushing the bass and curbing the top end at that time, and the end result is frankly dull.  So, I’ve gone back in, brightened the sounds up, rescued a few additional tracks and compiled them together as a new, album length piece.

Of course, the original tracks remain lo-fi but hopefully with a touch more in the way of clarity and dynamics.  I’ve added a couple of touches I wanted to try at the time but dropped due to looming deadlines.  The three new tracks are Richter Scale for Heartache, which had already been recorded at the time the split CD was suggested although the mix was never completed, Stone With My Name Carved on It, a single-take moody, distorted solo slide guitar instrumental that I don’t even remember recording and No-one Cares if You Die, a banjo tune that started life as something else entirely.  I matched the rediscovered banjo track with an old unused lyric and Bob was quite suddenly your uncle.

The audio masters for Pennies on My Eyes are being completed this week.  Then it’s the turn of the artwork.  As soon as possible thereafter there’ll be a physical release (CD and, it looks like, tape) with downloads available via Bandcamp and from iTunes, Amazon, Spotify et al via international digital distribution from CD Baby.

Watch this space!

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Stuff that’s happening.

There’s been a fair amount of Channel Nowhere activity recently, what with a run of solo/duo Glasgow gigs at The Howlin’ Wolf and Dog Moon Howl gigs at The 13th Note and Ivory Black’s, while music and movie blogs Tapes For My Walkman and Tapes For My VCR have been increasingly finding their feet.   Here’s what’s coming up.

LIVE STUFF

There will be one more Dog Moon Howl appearance (with Jim Dead & The Doubters at their album launch at The 13th Note on December 4th) which unfortunately will be your last opportunity to see the band live this year.  Bassist Bryan Campbell is having a knee operation which will put him out of commission for a while.  I’m a bit fuzzy on the details but essentially I believe he’s having his existing, faulty, knees replaced with cloned gorilla elbows which will be fitted backwards so that he can walk like a mantis.  Exciting stuff, but he will need some recuperation time afterwards, during which he hopes to complete the scale model of Tokyo he is building in his garage for destruction at a later date with his mutant mantis powers.

In the meantime, DMH drummer Ally Tennick and myself will be kicking the arse out of the live thing in our alt.roots/blues identity The Craig Hughes Two, including a turn for our friends at The Vagabond Social Club on September 27th at Nice’N’Sleazies, Glasgow.  For other dates, watch this space, or head over to www.craighughes.net.

STUDIO STUFF

Mastering is the key word for this month.  Work is underway on the remastering of Pennies On My Eyes which was originally a mini-album I put out about five years ago as part of the split CD (with Sleepy Eyes Nelson) Graveyard Full of Blues.  I was never happy with the original master/mixes and, due to running-time constraints and release deadlines – not to mention my rank incompetence – there were a few tracks recorded at the time which were never completed and therefore left off of the finished product.  Well, limited availability or not, Pennies went on to gain a bit of a life of its own.  A ‘fan favourite’, it picked up good reviews, an award nomination, was a Bandcamp staff pick and so on.  As a result, I’ve gone back to the original recordings and completed work on the unfinished tracks while properly mastering the whole project, now full album length.  This will be released in October or November (the original having been unavailable for a while now).

Before that, though, I’ll be working on the mastering of that new album from Jim Dead & The Doubters which is due for a December release.  I’ve heard the mixes and it’s good stuff – grungey, country-tinged rock.

VIDEO STUFF

Last time I did one of these news updates, I mentioned regular YouTube updates which have yet to start appearing.  They will though.  Honest.  Also, towards the end of the year I’ll be laying the groundwork for a documentary project.  More of that closer to the time.


My Entirely Subjective, Flexibly Sequenced Personal Top 10 Albums of 2012 (Part 1)

I, rather idly, started writing this at the end of last year and then promptly forgot about it, so here is the hardly-timely rundown of my favourite albums of 2012.  I wouldn’t normally do this kind of thing but 2012 really seemed to be an extraordinary year for quality album releases, especially from veteran artists being all flash with their respective mojos and that.  Not that there were no disappointments or outright stinkers here and there, but let’s not dwell.  This is just me recommending some great sounds.

Of course, much of the order of this nominal ‘Top 10’ is quite arbitrary and likely to change from day-to-day, while the choices are utterly subjective.  Bearing that in mind, special mention should go to some other releases from last year that would be as likely to appear on the list below on any other day.  On top of that, due to the headphone-centric workload of the second half of the year, largely focussed on the recording and release of the Hard Times: Volume 1 EP, I’ve still to fully digest (or in some cases check out at all) releases from Willie Nelson, St. Vitus, Dave Arcari, Patti Smith, Anders Osborne and more besides …

As this threatens to be an absurdly long post, I’ll split it in two, with this first part covering numbers 10-6 plus a few other gems, and Part 2 looking at 5-1 plus highlighting standout singles/songs of the year.  First up, those Special Mentions:

Hawkwind – Onwards: A strong contemporary outing (similar in vibe to Blood Of The Earth, which I liked too), with metallic opener Seasons a real standout.

Neil Young and Crazyhorse – Americana: Still not sure what to make of this one, with a song selection that strongly hints at the piss being taken, but in the main it surely does sound glorious.  Served at least as an appetiser for Psychedelic Pill.

Paul Gilbert – Vibrato: A return to form from someone I thought had been lost to shred instrumentalism a couple of years back (something he’s very, very good at but if its not entirely your bag it can get wearing).  The album’s full of the wit and warped pop-rock sensibility typical of earlier sets like Burning Organ and Spaceship One, and if it peters out a bit towards the end, its over-generous running-time compensates.

Sleepy Eyes Nelson – Empty Pockets: JB’s blues brother, also crossing over into country territory on this wee gem of a lo-fi release.

Black Country Communion – Afterglow: Third album from the supergroup I surely had no chance of liking – on paper, ex-members of Deep Purple, Foreigner and Dream Theatre teaming up with Jo Bonamassa seemed, at least to me, positively horrific.  Three albums later, and there’s no denying the sheer class.  There’s been a certain element of ‘diminishing returns’ with each release – the first is a monster, a future classic no doubt, the second very good but not quite great.  This one stays true to form (now more prone to near-plagiarism than before with at least a couple of clear lifts from Zeppelin and Rush), but it’s still stirring stuff.

And now:

My Entirely Subjective, Flexibly Sequenced Personal Top 10 Albums of 2012 (Part 1)

10: JB Nelson – Dead Coats

Superb stuff from the other Nelson brother, featuring the customary JB Nelson mix of gothic roots-country and dark industrial electronica this time more or less stylistically split across two discs.  It’s remarkable throughout, though I can’t help favouring the first disc, home to the more explicitly ‘country’ material, and some of the very best songs ol’ JB has written, perfectly arranged with acoustic instrumentation augmented by retro electric guitar (check out My Only Friend Is The Bottle or I’m Never Gonna Be Rich).  There are a couple of covers on there too and some excellent instrumentals, recalling Ennio Morricone and early Ry Cooder.

9: Led Zeppelin – Celebration Day

Zep’s one-off reunion gig, already familiar due to numerous bootlegs, finally given the full production treatment for audio and video releases and proving worth the wait.  Plant avoids the pitfalls of reaching for the high notes by artfully rearranging the vocal parts and simply not reaching for them at all.  For the most part Page, whose live performances have always been notoriously inconsistent even at his peak, is on form here, at his best in years.  Having said all that, though, it’s John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham who really steal the show.  Whatever, it makes for a great listen.  Among the many standouts are In My Time Of Dying, No Quarter and Kashmir.

8: Soundgarden – King Animal

Classic sound, tough riffs and psychedelia are all present and correct for the big comeback, if slightly hampered by a particularly cheesy acoustic number, Halfway There, (reeking of the singer’s latter day solo career) and consistently short running-times, which feel overly constrictive for this kind of thing with only one track – excellent album closer Rowing – breaking the five minute barrier.  Other than that though?  Good stuff.

7: Gary Moore – Blues For Jimi

Moore was on fantastic form for this one-off gig celebrating Hendrix.  The first two-thirds of the album feature his regular rhythm section, and it’s great stuff, visceral and raw, with the man himself paying respect to Hendrix and staying as faithful as possible to the original arrangements and solos while still opening them up and stamping his own considerable authority all over them.  The last third-or-so of the album, a perfunctory Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) excepted, is rescued from ‘superstar jam’ awfulness by Moore himself, holding things together as the Experience Mk II’s rhythm section (Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell) take to the stage to join him for a somewhat sloppier take on the likes of Stone Free and Hey Joe.

6: Kris Kristofferson – Feeling Mortal

I’ve been a fan of Kris Kristofferson for almost longer than I can remember; I think the first single I ever had was Jesus Was A Capricorn (I’ve still got it), most likely passed on to me by my dad.  It’s been great to see Kris’ recorded output of the past few years equalling his 1970s glory days (in the ’80s and ’90s his work, like that of many if not all of his ‘outlaw’ country contemporaries, suffered from awful over-production and glossy, keyboard saturated arrangements – a real shame as it obscured the sheer quality of a set like Repossessed in particular).

Following on from This Old Road and Closer To The Bone, Kris keeps the winning streak intact with another world-weary master-class in great lyric writing set against a raw, roots country backdrop.  It’s all highlights from the opening title track (“Wide awake and feeling mortal at this moment in the dream, That old man there in the mirror and my shaky self-esteem”) to closer Ramblin’ Jack, about Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (“I’ve got a friend named Ramblin’ Jack, he’s got a face like a tumble-down shack, been lived in too long to be torn down”); my own favourites at time of writing are archetypal country number Just Suppose and honest-to-goodness love song The One You Chose.

And there you have it.  I’ll post Part 2 of this time-wasting nonsense within the week.


EPs. Albums. That sort of thing.

Be warned!  This blog entry concerns itself with the business side of running a micro-label and maintaining a recording career.  Inevitably, words like ‘marketing’, ‘pricing’ and ‘packaging’ will make an appearance.   I don’t normally think in such terms, honest, but when trying to rescue your ailing business via the age old alchemy of Business Planning, you just can’t escape them.  Read on if you dare …

This past few weeks has largely found me trying to put together some kind of workable business plan for the next twelve months.  Things have changed in the four years since I started this business, most notably with my move away from film/video soundtrack and production work after a particularly poisonous experience in that field last year (recently exacerbated by further post-production bullshit), meaning that for the foreseeable future I will not actively be seeking out media work, despite it having been a cornerstone of my business – and income.  It’s unfortunate, but I have such a low tolerance for fuckwits.

My biggest concern, however, is full-length Album Number Two.  It has now – somewhat unbelievably – been slightly over two-and-a-half years since the release of Pissed Off, Bitter And Willing To Share.  That album did well for me, particularly by way of generating excellent press and airplay but since then my only significant solo release has been the mini-album Pennies On My Eyes at the tail end of 2010.  That picked up a couple of excellent online reviews and – most surprisingly – a Scottish New Music Awards nomination, but was a limited release, available as part of the Graveyard Full Of Blues split CD with Sleepy Eyes Nelson‘s Build That Coffin Of Mine, and digitally only through my websites (via Bandcamp).  Since then, I’ve been devoting quite a bit of time to Dog Moon Howl, the heavy rock band I put together with old muckers Bryan Campbell and Ally Tennick.  We recently released a demo EP, Strip-Lit Hell, which has been doing well for us.

So, now that the band is properly up-and-running, it’s time to concentrate on my solo work again.  I’ve certainly got plenty of songs in place and a strong idea for the overall vibe and look of the album and package.  Unfortunately, releasing an album can be a costly business – even when done on the comparative cheap.  All of the previous releases I have issued through my label Channel Nowhere have been to a degree experimental, trying every format (EP, single, album, mini-album, split CD, download) and level of pricing and distribution (buy-at-gigs only, full DD, limited DD, multi-buy deals, pay-what-you-want, free) as well as a variety of different packaging formats (various jewel cases, wallet packs, DVD cases, PDFs).

All of this has been done until now with the Channel Nowhere in-house duplication/printing set-up, on what is basically a modified print-on-demand basis, as per my original business plan.  This helps to keep costs down while maintaining quality at a high standard but it’s also seriously labour-intensive.  So, with another new packaging concept in place for the next album, the likelihood is that there will be at the very least some elements outsourced, particularly printing.  Which of course means expense.  Tie this in with what would be a very tight production and release schedule (both Pissed Off and Pennies were released late in their respective years which quickly made them seem a year ‘old’ when marketing them in the following months, so I know I’d be best aiming at a release date no later than September) leaving me with the inevitability that I have to delay the project until early 2013.  Which, believe me, is deeply fucking frustrating.

I’m left with the prospect of a second full year without a meaningful release under my own name.  Given that I’m also about to delete my first EP (Broke, Lonely and Guilty), the old back catalogue’s going to be looking a tad depleted too.  So, the current notion, which is flirting with the possibility of becoming a plan, is to release an E.P in September/October.  As you might have gathered by now, I put a lot of stock in the album as a format, but I also like the EP – I feel you can be a bit more ‘fast and loose’ about EPs, so their contents will likely vary to include covers, alternative versions of older tracks and likes; this will be a ‘volume one’ type-deal, with future releases in the series (main title to be confirmed) appearing on an as-and-when basis, between albums.  Also, packaging-wise the EPs will be your basic ‘cheap-and-cheerful’ (wallet pack with lyric sheet) and priced accordingly.  I’ll be doing a bit of touring around this release and should have some cool news about that soon.

The rest of the Channel Nowhere plan for the next twelve months includes – as well as lots of live work – hopefully a YouTube video-series or podcast (details to follow), an EP and album release called The Lies Behind The Truth (a bit on the prog side, that one) and an album from Dog Moon Howl.  ‘Kinell!


Documentary, Free Stuff and that.

Just a brief news update, as much of the next wee while will be taken up recording with Dog Moon Howl …

Graveyard Full Of Blues On Tour documentary

The documentary (clocking in at an epic 29 minutes!) is available for your viewing pleasure via this embed:

Big Blues Day, The Ferry, Glasgow – FREEBIES!!

I’m playing the Ferry’s next Big Blues Day (Sunday, April 1st) and have some free tickets – normally £8 each.  If you fancy one/some, drop a line to craighughes@channelnowhere.com or contact me via the Facebook/Twitter of your choice. The rest of the line-up on the day is Domino Gumbo, Graeme Scott Blues Band, The Marie McCormick Band, The George Lindsay Blues Band and Miss Quincy.  Should be a good one!

More soon.  In the meantime I have guitars to restring …


That Devil Music Returns

This year has been somewhat underwhelming in terms of live bookings, with Channel Nowhere also struggling on the business front, but plans are under way to effectively reboot everything – particularly the live self-promotions side of things.  So, what with the new band and all, next year threatens to be a winner; however, no point in waiting for the bells to start ramping things up and the first of the new promotions – last Friday’s That Devil Music at The 13th Note – was a good one.  A great line-up (joining me were Missing Cat, Sleepy Eyes Nelson and Ghosts Of Progress) and a healthy turnout, despite direct competition from two or three other gigs in Glasgow on the same night.

The night had gotten off to an inauspicious start with a few technical problems making me late setting-out and the sudden onset of torrential rain meaning that phoning a taxi was useless (Friday night?  Rain!?  Quick, Morag, turn the phones off!).  I decided to walk the three miles to the venue and as a result had to leave my back-up guitar at home as I was carrying a bag of leads/stock, an amp and my new guitar, a Vintage Synergy electric-acoustic.  Luckily after a bit I was able to flag a cab and got to the Note in time for a quick soundcheck – only to find that the new guitar is fucked.  It seems that somewhere between checking it out when I bought it a couple of months ago and the gig, the pick-up had slipped and was only effectively picking up the bottom four strings, while producing some unwanted distortion for good measure.  Nothing that could be fixed on the spot.  Gah!

Luckily for me, Gaz from Missing Cat came to the rescue and lent me his slide guitar, a cool wee ’80s Vox – which is a solid-body electric (thanks to Sleepy Eyes Nelson and Lew from Ghosts for offers of the use of their guitars as well).  It was tuned to open E flat so it meant singing a tone higher than usual (I tune to D flat as a rule – and retuning another chap’s guitar is just not done!), and modifying the planned set-list to take into account the electric sound and the fact I’d only be playing slide (I had planned to use a variety of tunings on the new guitar), but it all worked out in the end.  Thankfully it went down well, too – must have seemed a bit more of a shambles than usual from out front!

Sleepy Eyes Nelson played a blinder – he always does – including a tune or two I don’t think I’d heard him do before.  I think this was his last UK gig before swanning off to The USA for a tour there with Slate Dump, and I loaded him up with copies of Graveyard Full Of Blues (our split CD) to take with him.

Although we’d been in touch back-and-forward for a while now, this was not only the first I’d played on a bill with Ghosts Of Progress, but the first time I’d seen them.  Great stuff!  A two-piece ‘augmented one-man-band’ line-up, though you wouldn’t guess to hear them that there wasn’t a separate drummer.  There’s just enough blues in what they do to keep that faction of the audience happy, but their set draws more on grunge, punk and even the gnarlier side of Britpop to make a truly splendid noise.

Missing Cat, I’ve played with a few times now, and they just keep getting better.  Tonight they got to play a wee bit longer than previously, and the breathing room of a longer set suits their style but with the audience shouting for more, they were stopped from playing a well deserved encore due to the overly conservative application of the venue’s music curfew (which had been brought forward by five minutes).  Still, it was a fine set.

All-in, the night was a success.  Some issues with the sound guy (spotted by various audience members as being engrossed in his iPhone throughout the night, most notably when ignoring someone on-stage who was having monitor-mix issues), and a pisser that a few people got past the door without paying.  Seriously, if you’re sneaking in to a four-acts-for-a-fiver grass-roots gig ..?  You’re a snidey wee wank.

I got home with some excellent new CDs  – the Ghosts Of Progress album, Exchange Your Problems For Dope & Whisky, is a full-on representation of their live set and doesn’t disappoint. The Missing Cat EP, Rise Of The All-Seeing Cat, a three-incher if ever I’ve seen one, is full of psych-blues goodness in groovy hand-made packaging.  I like their album from a couple of years back very much, but this has better, ‘bare-bones’ production and sounds like a more ‘true-to-live’ picture of the band.

Next up should be a more Americana/roots themed That Devil Music in November, venue to be decided (from here on in, unlike the old regular night, That Devil Music will be an as-and-when alt.blues/roots promotion, with different genre promotions appearing on a similar basis under the ‘That Devil Music Presents’ banner). November also sees a Big Blues Day solo set at The Ferry plus the first outing with the new (rock) band Dog Moon Howl at The 13th Note with Low Sonic Drift and Headless Kross, so that’s shaping up to be a good month.  Onwards!


Other People’s Music 2: That Devil Music alumni

Quite a lot of music being released recently by acts who played the old That Devil Music night fairly regularly …

I played Man Gone Missing‘s album launch in July –  the album in question being  Burn You, which carries on the mournful vibe of the solo debut (Beyond Desolate), recorded, I believe, in the same church. One major difference is that this time around Man Gone Missing is a two-piece, featuring the harmonica playing of Drew Lynch which compliments Simon Currie’s fragile, celtic-flavoured slide blues very nicely.  There are some chill-down-the-spine moments here, particularly on album closer Silence … great stuff.  Check out the MySpace page for details.

Another That Devil Music fella with new music to punt is Sleepy Eyes Nelson, whose album Couldn’t Give My Soul Away Blues is ten tracks of lo-fi country blues goodness you ought to be investing in (including my current contender for favourite Sleepy Eyes tune, River Blues).  Not that you’d be investing much, mind – it’s cheap as fuck.  Also more than worthy of your attention is Build That Coffin Of Mine – Sleepy’s half of the splendid Graveyard Full Of Blues project.  Head on over to cheapwinerecords.bandcamp.com – you can’t go wrong.

I’ve been doing badly when it comes to getting along to album launches recently – I made about three songs of Dave Arcari‘s launch for The Devil’s Left Hand before leaving all pissed-off-and-angry-like (don’t ask – nothing to do with Dave’s set, mind!), and missed Doghouse Roses launching This Broken Key completely.  Still haven’t heard it, but let’s face it, it’s not going to suck.

As for The Dirt‘s launch at Sleazy’s the other week, I only managed to catch their last two songs but at least I picked up a copy of their album, Bury Me Tomorrow.  It’s fucking great.  I hope to see that quoted on a poster.  Anyway, if gothic alt.country is your thing, you should check The Dirt out – and if it’s not your thing then maybe it should be.  You’d be happier, you’d be better looking, you’d be more popular and people might whisper fewer unkindnesses about you when you’re just out of earshot.  Whatever – you can, and should, get Bury Me Tomorrow here: thedirt.bandcamp.com.