Tag Archives: slide guitar

Pennies, Dog Moon Howl, Jim Dead and blogs and that.

So, Pennies On My Eyes will now be released at the end of February 2016.  The audio work’s all done but there was just no way to have the whole thing ready to go by the end of November – as originally planned – and there’s not much point in putting this kind of release out mid-December (or January for that matter).  So, February it is.  As ever, watch this space.

In what’s shaping up to be my last live outing of the year, I’m playing with Dog Moon Howl at The 13th Note, Glasgow, this Friday (4th) with Jim Dead & The Doubters in celebration of the release of their new album Pray For Rain.  I’ve heard it (I did the mastering, come to think of it) and do you know, it’s really rather good. Come along on the night and you’ll get a copy of the CD as part of your £5 entry fee.

Meanwhile, the writing practice continues. Tapes For My Walkman has recently been updated with a look at ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres (HERE) and Tapes For My VCR has just been updated with a review of ’90s bikers-and-explosions flick Stone Cold (HERE).  Please do feel free to give them a look.

 

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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!


Johnny Winter

I must’ve been about thirteen or fourteen when I first heard Johnny Winter. My pal Mark had access to his big brother’s record collection and in there was a copy of Captured Live, a gnarly 1976 live set featuring the man with what was apparently one of the less celebrated lineups of his band. Of course, I didn’t know anything about that. All I knew was that this stuff rocked, and hard. Mark’s favourite track, as I remember it, was the storming version of Bony Moronie, an old rock’n’roll track that I knew well from my rockabilly obsessed childhood. Johnny tears it up on that one. My favourite was the massively long object lesson in electric slide firepower that was Highway 61 Revisited.

I hadn’t heard anything quite like it. I’d heard some slide, of course. Most of my early favourite rock bands – Zeppelin, Queen et al – employed a bottleneck here and there to some degree of cool, but not like this. Damn! It was hearing that track in particular that prompted me to first try playing slide myself. I saw in photographs that Johnny used a metal slide which directly influenced my initial decision to do the same – it just looked cooler than glass (in the end, after experimenting with various types over the years, I did indeed settle on brass as my slide of choice).

As the years went by I picked up more of Johnny’s classic albums – among them the brilliant self-titled major label debut, and its indie predecessor The Progressive Blues Experiment as well as a couple of his Alligator label releases, various compilations and so on. Late in the mix though was Second Winter, the three-side second major label release. It featured the studio version of Highway 61 Revisited, more concise than Captured Live’s take and just as good. By this time – a decade on, at least – I was fully aware of Dylan’s original, and a fan of that too, but Winter’s version, like Hendrix’s All Along The Watchtower, is The One. Second Winter is jaw-dropping, one of the great electric blues albums, one of the great guitar albums. A host of quality covers includes the definitive take on Percy Mayfield’s Memory Pain but it’s arguably the original material that stands strongest. Album closer Fast Life Easy Rider is a blues rock masterclass, seven minutes of attitude and musical muscle. Just about perfect.

My first taste of Johnny Winter live was an unfortunate one. We know now that into the 2000s, he was struggling with prescription drugs and alcohol but that wasn’t common knowledge at the time of his appearance at Bishopstock, an English blues festival, in 2001. On the third and final day, Johnny was expected to close the show, on a fantastic bill that had seen stellar performances from Gary Moore, Ben Andrews and Booker T. & The MGs (sobering thought: Moore, Andrews and Donald ‘Duck’ Dunne from the MGs are all gone now too).  However, in the end his ‘set’ consisted of him being supported up to the mike to make a barely coherent apology for not being able to play due to hurting his wrist backstage. It was all over so quickly that my mate Michael who’d driven us down there missed it as he’d gone to get the teas in. Although there were updates on the condition of Johnny’s wrist injury on his website for a while after that, rumours abounded – mostly along the lines that he’d just been wasted or, worse, he’d had a stroke.  Either way – things weren’t looking too good for him.

Over the next few years however things took an upturn and word got around that he’d cleaned his act up after extricating himself from a dodgy management situation. He started touring regularly and released his first studio album in years. The album may not have been a patch on former glories but it was a step in the right direction, earning awards and nominations on the way. With every year there were reports that, although now frail and performing seated, he was getting the fire back in his playing and his singing. Happily I got to see him at The Ferry in Glasgow around that time, up close and personal. It was a great experience. Maybe the lead work wasn’t quite as incendiary, the slide work not quite so sure as in his heyday (how could they have been?) but there was a new sense of worldliness there, helping propel his performance to the level of ‘veteran class act’. He had reached that position now occupied by Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Keith Richards, once by John Lee Hooker and Johnny Cash, going on to consolidate it with constant, well received touring and a more surefooted album with the obligatory all-star guest list.

After that gig at The Ferry, I had the chance to meet him but I didn’t take it.  I believe it was common for Johnny’s tour bus to stay outside the venue for as long as it took to meet and greet the fans who wanted a picture with the great man. I know a few folk who have those very pictures and I’ve seen a fair few more posted on social media this past few days. It’s a measure of the man that he was happy to do that for people. Still, on the night I thought he looked pretty tired, though happy, at the end of the gig. I didn’t want to impose.

So, Johnny Winter died on July 16th 2014, aged seventy. Very sad, for sure, but there’s a sense of triumph in his story too.  In the aftermath of that infamous 2001 Bishopstock appearance, it seemed we’d be reading his obituary any time and it would have been just another sad story of ‘how the mighty have fallen’.  Instead he pulled through, writing his own final chapter, one of overcoming adversity and growing into the deeply deserved status of living legend and elder statesman of the blues.

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This and that.

Been a while, so here’s an update:

Recorded the Dog Moon Howl album in January at The Boathouse in Alloa, started mixing it and then came down with the mother of all eye infections which was supposed to clear up in a fortnight but went on for over two months, becoming increasingly debilitating due to seriously affecting my vision.  Seems to have left me with some permanent problems in that regard, too.  Oh well.

Anyway, had to cancel gigs and the likes but since then have played a solo set at The Vagabond Social Club in Glasgow and a duo set at Record Store Day in Stirling (@ Europa Music), both of which went down rather well thank you very much.  Finished the mixes on the DMH album, getting the masters completed just now, and starting work on the cover art to boot.  Looking at a June release.

Actively booking for the band, the duo and myself so more live dates to be confirmed soon.  Playing (solo) @ Slouch, Glasgow on Wednesday.  Getting into a whole guitar design/business thing as well, Zentone Guitars, more news as-and-when.

Right, that’s your lot.  Blogging, eh?  Fucking doddle.


Dog Moon Howl update (and a live Craig Hughes Two video).

Work on Dog Moon Howl’s first album is in the mixing stages.  Currently sitting at nine tracks, produced by Alec Pollock of Chasar at his studio in Alloa, it threatens to be rather good.  Release and promotion details will start to get hammered into shape in the next few weeks (current thinking is a May release but that’s far from set in stone) – in the meantime, we have a gig on the books for Saturday, March 22nd with Glitterball Vegas and Traquair at The 13th Note in Glasgow.

I’m currently hitting up festivals and the likes for bookings (solo/duo and DMH) and the first solo booking of the year is for Foakies @ The Royal Oak in Edinburgh on June 2nd. Tying all this together, here’s a video of me and Ally Tennick (DMH drummist) playing as The Craig Hughes Two late last year, from the smartphone of Bryan Campbell (DMH basser).


A quick peek at The Craig Hughes Two …

Here’s a video of me and Ally Tennick giving it plenty at last month’s Vagabond Social Club in Glasgow.

Good lord, my jeans are enormous. Such trouserly capaciousness – rare in the arena of public performance since the 19th century.

Except, you know, MC Hammer. And that one live Van Halen video just after Sammy Hagar joined. And, like, panto, when it’s Ali Baba or Sinbad or that. And Blackadder III.


Losers. Bastards. New album.

I have a new album out today.  It’s called Losers and Bastards. I’ve mentioned it before. I hope you check it out and that when you do, you like it.