Greensky Bluegrass

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a John 5 album which had some bluegrass influences, so I went in search of more bluegrass music on YouTube. I discovered this song “Demons” by Greensky Bluegrass, which is a jolly fine tune. Some splendid beards and facial hair too.

Chord! guitar app for Android and iOS

Chord! The definitive guitar app.

Any chord, all the fingerings!

I don’t get to play my guitar as much as I did before I had children, or at least I haven’t yet made it a priority. I have a couple of acoustic guitars (a four-string bass and a six-string electro-acoustic) sitting in my study behind me which I pick up now and then and play along to a song on my PC, or I sit in my chair with my guitar and play whatever comes into my head.

The reality of having children is that I have less time to dedicate to my own projects (which I’m not complaining about, I love spending time with my three boys) so I have to choose which I want to focus on. Right now I’m working on a couple of websites: one for me, the other for the lovely Jane. But somewhere on my backlog there is mention of my guitars. One day…

When that day comes I have a shelf-load of guitar books; some books on theory and technique, more, however, note-for-note tablatures of some of my favourite albums and artists. I also have this application on my phone: Chord!

Chord! is the closest thing I’ve been able to get for my beloved Chord Magic by Andy Gryc, which was a 16-bit MS-DOS application from the mid-1990s. What I loved about that was I could dial in absolutely any chord, at any point on my fretboard and it would show me the fingerings. Or if I found a cool-sounding chord while jamming, I could indicate on the virtual fretboard which notes were being played and Chord Magic would tell me the name (or variant names) of the chord.

You can do much the same on Chord! Unlike many applications it’s not just a dictionary of chord positions, it knows music theory so it calculates everything on the fly. It’s been such a useful tool already, and it looks great on a tablet too.

You can buy Chord! on the Android store (£2.99) or on the iTunes app store (US $4.99) or visit getchord.com.

Dodgy gig in Edinburgh

Dodgy playing live at Edinburgh's Electric Circus

Dodgy playing live at Edinburgh's Electric Circus (L-R: Andy Miller, Nigel Clark, Mathew Priest)

On Wednesday evening I drove down to South Queensferry, teamed up with my brother Eddie, and the pair of us took the train in to Edinburgh Wavelery to see—what Wikipedia calls—’English power pop trio’ Dodgy in concert at The Electric Circus on Market Street (which is right next to the station).

The summer of 96

In 1996 I was working with homeless young people in London, and living in a very nice basement flat in Eccleston Square with my good friend (and former National Youth Choir of Great Britain member) Jonny Coore. We had a summer of beautiful weather. It was the summer of Euro 96, which was hosted by England, and the city was alive; the atmosphere was electric. It was the year that I got engaged for the first time. And the soundtrack to that summer of 1996 was Free Peace Sweet by Dodgy.

In many ways it was a strange choice of album for me. I was heavily into metal (still am), I was trying my hardest to avoid anything with the ‘Britpop‘ label, like Oasis and Blur, and yet here I was listening to Dodgy again and again and again.

But the song writing was fabulous, and I loved the use of acoustic guitars throughout the songs.

Live

I was always under the misconception that Dodgy were from Birmingham. Apparently they started out as a band called Purple, a trio from Bromsgrove and Redditch in Worcestershire, who moved to London had a few line-up changes and re-badged themselves as Dodgy.

So, they were in London in 1996. I was in London in 1996. How on earth did we never bump into each other?! I would have loved to have seen them in concert back then.

So I made up for it this time around. They were coming to Edinburgh on their UK tour. I live about 50 miles from Edinburgh. I bought a ticket. My brother bought a ticket. And on Wednesday evening, I stood about 10 feet from the tiny stage at The Electric Circus and grinned from ear to ear for about 90 minutes.

It was an intimate gig. Dodgy were fun, and professional, and played a fabulous set. Despite my dodgy back (no pun intended), which was really beginning to hurt by the end of the set, I could have stood and listened to them for another 90 minutes.

Guitarist Andy Miller stood stage left behind a lap steel guitar on a stand. His playing was intricate and delicate but never too much. At times his guitar sounded more like a keyboard and I loved it for that. Every now and then he would look out to the crowd and smile. He obviously seemed to be enjoying himself.

Vocalist, guitarist and bassist Nigel Clark stood centre of stage, armed for most of the evening with an acoustic guitar, occasionally taking bass for a few of their earlier hits. The rest of the evening bass duties were handled very comfortably by a friend of the band. There was a warmness and confidence about his stage presence that suited the venue.

Drummer Mathew Priest has a fabulously simple drum set-up but he plays it so melodically and with such space. If I was a drummer he’s the kind of drummer I would want to be. I enjoyed his between songs chats, and we all marvelled at his knitted drumstick warmers in what I presumed were Aston Villa colours.

Thank you Dodgy.

New album

Dodgy released a new album Stand Upright In A Cool Place earlier this year, from which this is a track

Playing live

I don’t get out much these days. That’s my choice. I have three small children and a wife to support. So when I do get out to see a live band it’s a real treat. I’m glad I made the effort this time. Dodgy live were more than I expected. The venue was much smaller than I had expected but as a result there was an intimacy and a relaxed feeling to the gig that I relished.

The gig also reminded me how much I miss playing in a band live. Maybe one day I’ll get back to it. I sure hope so.

As my brother and I stood on the platform at Edinburgh Waverley to catch our return to Dalmeny, Eddie asked me “So, have you got any other bands you’d like to see live on your… bucket list?”

If you don’t already know, a ‘bucket list’ is a list of things you’d like to do before you kick the bucket (die).

“Why?” I asked, “If I don’t are you just going to shove me in front of the next train?”

Dodgy were definitely on my list. I’ve scored them off now… but do you know what? I think I might just write “Dodgy” on that list again.

Epilogue

A few weeks ago I got a phone call from my Mum.

“Hello Mum!”

“What’s this I hear about you going to a dodgy gig?”

“The band are called Dodgy.”

“Ah… right,” she said, obviously sounding quite relieved.