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Authenticity in the Folk Music Tradition

What is this? Do we recognise it? I’ve heard rumours of musicians having been thrown out of sessions in Irish pubs because what they played wasn’t Irish enough. And that the display of a characteristic singing accent when rendering some northern English 19th century mining song is a badge of honour and evidence of authenticity of performance. Everything old-timey in the US is treated with nostalgic awe and reverence and with the utter conviction that the way things were played in the old days was the proper way – or, in any event, better. In all of this I smell a conservative tribalism and other instincts that make me queasy. It’s not a big step from sentimentalising the folk culture of a nation – or part of – and imagining a superiority in its “authentic” expression, to comparing others unfavourably to it.

But it might be that it is the taking a folk culture and corrupting it and making it “impure” by creating further Art from it that bestows upon it a lasting value.

When I’m too long in the company of “authentic” folk musicians I feel badly in need of fresh air!

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On Songwriting: What’s the Purpose of Writing Songs?

For a long time I never considered this question since making up tunes and singing along to them – relying totally on serendipity – was a childish habit I developed as soon as I was big enough to hold a guitar. This was long before I asked why anyone did anything. Only later in my early teens did I slowly become aware that writing songs could be a medium for something called “self-expression” – but I think I saw it as equivalent to others who might choose sport or some other recreation or hobby. Only much later, when writing and playing became my sole source of income, did I concern myself with the purpose of the songs – the “why?” of the songs. I no longer wrote songs for their own sake – songwriting became a means to an end. Then later again, when I quit touring and playing for a living, I wondered what purpose there would be in continuing to write songs since the means no longer had an end.  Habit? That wasn’t enough. So I decided to stop.

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Overheard at an Open-Mic

Punter A: “Hey, She’s a really good guitar player! Like the songs too!”

Punter B: “Me  too…. hey, she’s got CDs for sale here – let’s buy a couple!”

Punter A: “Hell, no! Who buys CDs when you can stream this shit for free?”

Punter B: “Yeah, you’re right.

Punter A: “Wonder who’s playing tomorrow…”

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Many More New Songs (Coming Soon)!

Yes, I’ve been listening through some recorded songs with a view to finally publishing the whole lot of them. Not all together by any means; they have to be auditioned, edited, mixed and generally made presentable. And they will crawl out of that process individually, or at most, a few at a time.  And maybe not the “whole lot”; I’m bound to have become dis-enamoured of some of them for one reason or another. But we’ll see. I’m also unsure in which form to publish them. That is to say, I’m not inclined to do another CD at this time – maybe as (an) album download(s). Through iTunes or CD Baby – or even just from here? Not sure. What do you think? Leave a comment below now – or later when you’ve heard a few of the songs.

Of the songs, I have got a couple just about ready. Look forward to “Roller Coaster” and “After Dinner Drinks” comin’ soon! In the meantime here’s another pic from my Pentlands wanderings – this taken last week from the top of Castlelaw Hill:

Pentland Hills
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On Stepping Back

I’ve got to be honest: those visitors here who (would like to) follow my bog will have noticed that recently there’s been nothing to follow and may have wandered off in search of some other pied piper. As far as my blog is concerned, it’s simply that my particular mechanical musical activities which would be fodder for this have endured an extended hiatus. In short: I have not been playing; I have not been composing; and I have not been recording, arranging, editing or doing anything remotely musically productive. Productive? No. (But inductive? Inductive?)

 So, the silence.

In the meantime it does no harm to follow some well trodden paths in search of one’s muse.

More very soon. About “induction”.

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Going to a gig on Friday – Gustav Mahler (Royal Concertgebouw / Daniele Gatti)

30th August 2013 – Mahler’s 9th Symphony. Part of the Edinburgh International Festival. Why am I so moved to post this here? Well, I’m a fan of both the composer, this particular symphony and this particular orchestra. I hope to be a fan of the conductor, too, but to date I have not heard Daniele Gatti conduct before. If it all goes well it could be a “perfect storm”. And I have not heard this symphony live before. All the others (including a performing version of the incomplete 10th) I have – some more than once.  So I’m being a bit of a “completist” with this.

Shall I write a review after the event? Nah! I don’t have the “ears” to distinguish a great performance from the not-so-great. Anyway: pretentious? Moi?



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Gig Announcement @ Out Of The Bedroom (November 2013)

Edit! Please see change of date below. Sorry for inconvenience!

Someone must have read my previous post because I can happily confirm a booking at Out Of The Bedroom on the 2nd November 2013. Address is Kilderkin, 65/67 Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH8 8BT. First of a few more, I hope, in my now injury-free body! Contact me directly for more details, if needed. See you there!

(Thanks to my good friend, musician and all-round great-guy Nyk Stoddart who helps run that place.)

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I really should get out more!

I wrote here and here – and even here – about reasons I couldn’t play and sing. Since the turn of the year I haven’t played or sung “in anger”. But now it’s time to put all that behind be and stride purposefully and confidently once more onto the stage and regale the good people of Edinburgh with my approximate songs (approximate? I know what I mean…). There’s only slight residual numbness in my thumb and my ribs are almost cured. I can rattle off most of my guitar bits and can nearly take full breaths before belting out a verse, or two.

So back in the saddle, and with my back to the wheel, and with my best foot forward, and socks pulled up I will unmix my metaphors and boldly go forth.


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About Musicians and Day-Jobs (again)

Or should that be “Jobs and Part-time Musos”? Which gets in the way of what? What gets in the way of which?

Assuming musicianship has primacy, here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Day jobs would be OK if they wouldn’t take all day.
  • My degree of satisfaction with my day job is inversely proportional to the number of useful musical websites blocked by my day-job IT department.
  • No matter how much I play guitar in the evening, the office ventilation system is successful in stiffening my fingers all over again by 10.00 am next day.
  • Increased use of a workstation computer keyboard has nil effect on maintaining the looseness of a guitar player’s fingers.
  • A work / life balance would be possible if a day-job wasn’t necessary.
  • Day-job colleagues may become friends, but they never become fans.

Enough already. A future day-job client may read this back to me one day.