My Country Heart

It’s a bit embarrassing, but I’ve recently got more and more into country music.  If truth be told, I’ve had some Randy Travis records hidden away as a guilty secret for decades, but just lately, I’ve been getting more into the off-the-beaten track guys and gals who describe themselves or are described as “Country”.

Now I’m aware that “country music” covers a multitude of sins.  (And some of them really are sins.)  I might as well tell you I like pop music or jazz, for all that its helpful.   Maybe I should say what I don’t like?  I have nothing against Shania Twain as a musician, infact I think she’s pretty damn cool.  But I couldn’t eat a whole one, if you know what I mean.  LeAnn Rimes et al make me a little bit sick.  I mean, not them personally, just that is not the “country” I’m talking about.  I probably could sit through Dixie Chicks for half an hour or so, but I’d want to leave before the line dancing got going.

On the other hand, while Willie Nelson has a mile high stack of cheese in his back catalogue, his voice is (still) sublime.  Johnny Cash had, long before his death, reached that point of cool, you know, where all the young dudes could say, “I hate country, but aw man that Johnny Cash, he’s cool, he transcends country.”  Well, no, he doesn’t really.  He’s just the end of country that you like.  And I like too.  Dolly Parton of course had a bit of Glastonbury Cool rub off on her a few years ago, but I’ve been loving her since 1980. (9 to 5: gotta love that film!  My somewhat older boyfriend-of-the-time had a crush on Jane Fonda and took me to see it.  Ignored him, crushed on Tomlin, Parton, Fonda myself, what a team.  Sorry, I digress.)

I’ve made a playlist of some country type stuff I’m listening to at the moment. Probably some of it would be better described as alt country, or indie folk or something like that, but it all has a country heart to my ears.

There’s some newcomers I’ve been listening to a lot lately:  Delaney Davidson and Marlon Williams, both New Zealanders.  The former I came across slightly geekily, by googling the soundtrack for NZ crime drama Brokenwood  (yeah, crime dramas – another guilty not-so-secret secret).  The latter of course appeared on Later…With Jools Holland.  Can’t get enough of them.  Weepy and dirty, (in a muddy way, though there’s probably some smut too, I’m just not very good at listening to lyrics).  And Sarah Shook and the Disarmers.  I have no idea how I came across her.   Maybe through the consistently wonderful She Shreds magazine/blog.

There’s the music that doesn’t quite fit, and yet it does.  I was listening to Richard Hawley’s 2015 album, Hollow Meadows this morning and thought, you know, I have no idea how he would describe it, but there’s some stuff on there that definitely screams country to me.  Back in the 1980s Elvis Costello was slammed for his more country than country Almost Blue, but you know what I’ve always loved that album.  (I love most everything he did in the 1980s and 90s tbh.)  Where does Bluegrass sit?  I’m throwing it into the mix anyway with Cahalen Morrison and Eli West.

Also JJ Cale.  No excuses for including two from him.



Guitar Time

The sad truth is I have barely picked up a guitar in weeks. Okay let’s call that months. Working long hours, flitting between work commitments and home commitments, I don’t seem to have room for it. And there’s only so many things I can stay motivated about. Remaining focused on the business has been my number one priority.

But if my business is all about the music, it’s time to get down to it. So along with all the other challenges, to do lists, plans and scheduled (I do not and will not ever have a bullet journal btw … ) I now need to set aside some guitar time.

Here’s the plan:

  • Move a guitar, any guitar, back to the sofa end of the living room
  • Tape a practice list to it
  • No turning on the TV till I’ve picked up the guitar for 10 minutes
  • We know 10 will turn to 20, 30, 40
  • Every day.

What’s been going on?



20170228_161821-2Front of house, it might look like there’s not a whole lot going on round here.  But I’ve been ridiculously busy.  I have a PLAN for 2017.  It’s a huge series of plans actually, and it’s all in my huge-series-of-plans book.

Guitar Geekery is going wholesale this year.  I’m in the process of designing a new set of products especially for that.  And they’ll also of course be available here.

I’ve said a sad goodbye to my Leeds stockist Our Handmade Collective and my Huddersfield stockist Crafty Praxis.   They’ve both been great over the past couple of years, but it’s time for Guitar Geekery to spread it’s wings.  I’ll let you know when I’ve got some new bricks and mortar stockists.


Jewellery, brooches, guitar accessories all seemed to go down well at Christmas, so I’ll be getting them into production in the next few weeks.  I’ll also be producing some new notebooks, with useful sections for guitar players… watch this space.


Of course there’s more to the business than just designing and making.  This next month, I’m getting to grips with accountancy software, in readiness for new rules from HMRC.  And to make my life a whole lot easier I hope too.  I’m going to be learning how to use some new-to-me design software.  I’ve started to get a handle on Instagram.  (If you don’t already follow me, I’m @GuitarGeekery, would be great to see you over there).  So I’ve actually been very busy in the backroom.

And of course I’ll be listening to some music too.  Talking of which, here’s a bit of Ida Nielsen for you.




National Storytelling Week

It’s National Storytelling Week this week and I was wondering what to post. Of all the ballads and musical stories I could have chosen, this one just kept jumping up.  My grandparents had it on vinyl when we were kids.  We loved it.  Pete Seeger was a great storyteller.  Share it with a child today!

Jazz in a Tiny Room

The last time I saw the Nik Svarc Trio they blew my ears off. In a good way. We are so lucky to have these guys in Leeds.

My love of jazz guitar is in no small part encouraged  by our own local jazz musicians. I think I’ve seen all these guys play in the tiniest (but best) jazz venue in Leeds: Cafe Lento.  The venue holds around 25 people sitting, plus the band,  but I’ve seen it with twice that, and more dancing on the pavement outside.  I joked last week with cafe owner about getting a heavy metal band to play, wondering if the walls could stand it.  But come to think of it, the last time I saw the Nik Svarc Trio there, it blew my ears off.  In a good way.  A very good way.  We are so lucky to have these guys in my home city of Leeds.

Nic Svark, Jiannis Pavlidis, Jamie Taylor, Sam Dunn

Jazz Guitar Week: Joe Pass

“He looks like somebody’s uncle and plays like nobody’s business”

1929 – 1994

Difficult to have a Jazz Guitar Week without a mention of Joe Pass.  Pass was born into a working class American/Sicilian family.  His father saw early on that Joe had talent, and encouraged him to take the instrument that little bit further.  By 15, Pass was getting gigs with established musicians.  His heroin addiction saw him spending much of the 1950s in prison.  But he overcame it, and picked up his guitar again by the end of the decade.  He started recording again in the 1960s though most of his work came as a TV and recording session musician.  He worked with Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald.  In 1974 Pass recorded his first solo album, Virtuoso, and The Trio (feat Pass, Oscar Peterson, Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson).  The Trio won a Grammy in 1975.

He died in 1994 of liver cancer.  The New York Magazine had this to say of him: “Joe Pass looks like somebody’s uncle and plays guitar like nobody’s business.”