It is with great sadness to write about the passing of a truly great bass player and musician, Donald “Duck” Dunn. Duck was, and still is, one of the seminal figures of blues and soul bass playing, he played on so many amazing records that I guarantee you’ve heard him play a hundred times and never known it. Aside from the host of records with Booker T and the MGs, Duck also recorded albums with Otis Reading (check out ‘Live in Europe’), Muddy Waters, Albert King and Elvis Presley to name just a few.
My first experience of Duck was being shown ‘The Blues Brothers’ film as a child and I still equate it as one of the reasons I became a musician, hearing tunes like ‘Hold on, I’m A Comin” and ‘Can’t Turn You Loose’ for the first time and just being compelled to listen to more of this music was magic. If you haven’t seen the film please go and watch it.
My deepest condolences go out to Duck’s family and all the musicians who have known and played with him over the years.
Here’s Duck in The Blues Brothers, I defy anyone to look and sound that cool with an afro and Ray Bans whilst smoking a pipe!
“We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline.”
I’ve just finished having my first proper listen to a rough mix of the live recording I made with Jack Wallen the other month and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. Now this is not a slight on Jack’s or Harry Harding‘s musicianship at all, far from it, but I have been dreading listening back to what I played that night as I left the stage feeling like I’d delivered a tenth of what I’m capable of.
As any musician will tell you we are all our own worst enemies, when it comes to self analysis there is nothing harsher your own impossibly high personal standards. Maybe this stems from aspiring to play like the people we listen to or constantly being aware of all the valuable lessons we’ve been taught over the years, probably it’s both plus a million other reasons too!
This is not to say that I haven’t had my head buried in my hands at certain points listening to my playing from that night thinking, “Why did I play that?!” or “I’m so out of tune!” but it’s just a relief to hear that among the ten or so tracks from that night I feel there is a solid live E.P. to come out of it with a good representation of the sound Jack, Harry and I can make.
I’ve never really enjoyed listening back to my own playing, how I think I sound and how I sound are worlds apart and it’s a bitter pill to swallow every time. But I do believe that listening to your own playing as often as possible is one of the most important and best ways to help improve which is why I make myself record practice sessions and as many gigs as possible. There are times where I listen to myself and think I should just jack it in and go do something else for a living but once the dust settles I can hear what needs to be worked on for next time and I can also hear aspects of my playing that are getting better. It’s a long, unending road but you have to enjoy the journey or you’ll loose your mind! 😉
Check out this blog post from bassist Janek Gwizdala, it’s helped me to move on and process my demons, or at least practice them.
So it’s been a really busy year so far which is great but I’ve been a bit slack on keeping the website up to date so I’m back online to bring it up to speed.
I’ve been on the road most of the year so far, mainly with the People’s String Foundation which has been a blast, especially as Ben and Zaid have been dropping the occasional new tune on us all which all sound great. Momentum for the new album is definitely gathering and it’s generating a lot of excitement. Recently Ben, Zaid and I have been doing the odd few gigs as a trio which have been really great fun, playing the tunes we know as a band but stripped back to an acoustic trio has been eye-opening! It’s also felt great to spend a lot more time on the double bass, I don’t half miss it sometimes!
There have been a smattering of Ruarri Joseph gigs as well, again a slightly different line-up with guitarist Al away for the last few months Ruarri, Harry and I also went out as a trio. Whereas I was expecting to have to play more to support the songs without the extra guitar it quickly became apparent the opposite was more fitting, pulling back to allow space afforded a much richer, clearer sound. Why play ten notes when one says it well enough?
And finally, here’s a photo of the String’s Trio plus session drummer and all-round top bloke Garry Kroll playing with Gary Stringer of Reef in Newquay the other week.
Tonight sees the kick off of a handful of dates I’m playing with Ruarri Joseph and Harry Harding. Whilst we’re missing Al Jones from the usual quartet line up I’m looking forward to playing some of Ru’s music in a more stripped back setting, should be a lot of fun. Head over to the ‘Live’ page for dates and details of the gigs.
In other news Harry and I will also be playing with the People’s String Foundation at various places over the country, including Brighton, Falmouth (with Yes Sir Boss, should be a good night!), and Cheltenham with Zen Elephant.
I’ll also be playing a one off gig with singer/songwriter Gareth Lee on the 16th which I’m really looking forward to. Jack Wallen is also hoping to get his live E.P. recorded this month which will feature myself and, (yes you guessed it), Harry Harding on drums. I’m really excited about the prospect of getting this recorded, I’ve been playing with Jack at a few gigs here and there and it’s really starting to gel, be prepared to get his tunes well and truly stuck in your head!