Off the top of my head:

Nizlopi Yesterday

Duke Special Something Might Happen

The Voice Squad The Parting Glass

The Beatles Maxwell SIlver Hammer

Neil Young Crime in the City

The Johnstons Ye Jacobites by Name

Paul Brady Nothing but the Same Old Story

The Lemonheads It’s a Shame about Ray

U2 Stuck in a Moment

Jimmy Ruffin What Becomes of the Broken-hearted?

Declan O Rourke All along the Western Seaboard

Steve Earle & Sharon Shannon Galway Girl

Chris Whitley Accordingly

Jimmy Cliff Many Rivers to Cross

Damien Dempsey Factories

The Strokes Is This it?

Ash Kung Fu

David Kitt Another Love Song

Neil Young Southern Man

Ger Wolfe The Curra Road


I just watched a T.V. programme about an eight-year-old anorexic girl. Her anxious eyes, soft smile and understandable inability to answer ‘adult questions’ like ‘why do you think you are like this?’ etc. were heartbreaking.

Why did/does this happen? I don’t know. Her parents seemed relatively normal, if a little detached in a middle class way.

One of the sadder scenes showed the child gathering her things before leaving a treatment centre, following a good recovery. Her mother held back tears of concern and fear of relapse. The father was there in body alone.

The doctors in this particular show argued that the media’s onslaught of diets and lo-fat everything were creating these damaged children. How horrifying a thought that a beautiful child would have such feelings of self-hatred and inadequacy, as a result of profit-driven campaigns.

This got me thinking about kids, feelings, and the general ups and downs of life, mine especially.

I chatted to my wife about it. What do kids need? Love? Boundaries? Discipline? Support? Freedom? All of the above? Fully aware that there would be no fixed answers I was brought back to my child psychology course in college.

There, my lecturer said that a huge part of it comes down to unconditional love – not a structureless free-for-all (which I feel is resulting in an epidemic of terrified, manic kids, devoid of anything to cling to), but a secure, unquestioned and guiding love that sets children on a solid road. I don’t know – it’s all theoretical to me until I become the Daddy.

Discussing emotional and moral development inevitably brought up the subject of religion, and my complicated relationship with the Catholic church (of which I am an export).  I became restless as I recalled ‘First Confession’.

Picture approximately twenty 7-8 year olds queuing up to ask a man for forgiveness for all the bad things they’ve done. This to me now seems controlling, fear-inducing, and cold, and a world away from the true meaning of spirituality and universal love.

A ramble I know, but they’re connected in my brain – society, soul, love, health and happiness.

I did warn that this blog would be spontaneous and unplanned. I’ve resisted re-reading this post a million times.

I had the honour of spending some time with Irish guitar legend Arty McGlynn on Friday night. He was performing at a festival that I was working on, and also gave a workshop on Saturday morning.

I soaked up every word, note and story, and have condensed them in to ten tips for potential jigs and reelers (i.e. me).

1. Learn about chords – their construction and inter-relationships. This gives you a more colourful palette to work with when accompanying tunes. Arty recommended a book called ‘Micky Baker’s Jazz Guitar’ (which of course I’ve just ordered on Amazon).

2. Your job is to make the melody player sound better. Don’t get in the way, distract the listener from the tune, or show off. If you’re getting noticed, you’re doing something wrong.

3. There are no preset rules. Irish music is wide ranging, (mostly) copyright-free and constantly changing. Be creative. He played some really interesting examples of how his playing with Van the Man fed back in to his trad. accompaniment.

4. Arty uses dropped D tuning as it allows you to a) emulate the low drones of the pipes and b) play nice bass lines on the lower strings. For those of you don’t know (and probably don’t care), this means that the low E string is tuned down to D.

5. Speaking of the pipes, he also models some of his playing on the regulators you find on uilleann pipes, usually through the use of unusual chord positions higher up the neck.

6. Let the melody player establish the tune before you come in on full power. Sneak it with small delicate chords, leaving headroom for the following rounds and tunes, and space to build and peak at the end. Arty quoted Paddy Keenan’s Dad: ‘It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish’.

7. Arty’s own father advised him that he should be able to whistle any tune that he claimed to ‘know’. Can you whistle it?

8. Ideally you should practice until the physical considerations are gone from your playing, until you’re experiencing only the tune, and not thinking about where to put your fingers. He recommended a number of scales and exercises.

9. Arty uses a hand expander to stretch before playing. This avoids muscle damage once the fingers start flying.

10. Finally, aim to learn something, or do something new every time you pick up your guitar. Don’t just noodle or play the same old things. Challenge yourself with new tunes and techniques and your playing will develop.

Quite a niche post, I know…

See the man in action here:

I’ve wanted to blog for some time and today felt a good day to start – I’m not sure why.

I’m the kind of person that needs to research everything. E.g. I decide I’m interested in CSS programming, I buy a book and DVD, join a class, spend weeks reading forums and articles on-line and question everyone I know with any related knowledge. Is this merely the normal behaviour of a 21st-century creative or some strange obsessive disorder? Who knows?

Whatever it is, I do NOT want to take this approach to blogging. It would defeat the whole purpose. I have no idea why I’m doing it or how it will develop, and I like it that way.

I lie. I know why I’m doing it.

Over the past six months or so I have become addicted to the writing of others. In some cases it’s been the blogs of family and friends, and in others the ideas, ramblings and advice of professional strangers. Both have contributed to the growing (now irresistible) urge to jump on board.

I feel like the guitar students that I used to teach, nervously playing the most basic chords. For me, 28 years of age, the painful, beautiful chords are words and ideas, and I am the most eager of students.

Bear with me.