So I’ve not been playing since the end of June as I finally decided to have my little finger on my left hand straightened by surgery . I have put it off for number of years , but it has been getting noticeably worse and interfering with my playing .
After 6 weeks , including our holiday in the Arctic, I have finally picked up the guitar again and started to play . It is a slow process due to the absence of callous’s on my fingers ( lost about week 4 1) and a continuing stiffness , but I am making progress and generally now the finger ends up in the right place ! I have a couple of weeks before rehearsals for my gigs in September, so fingers crossed( not literally ) the Physio and practice will get me there .
Here is an interesting comparison of before and after :
It’s been an exceptionally busy few months for me so have been a bit slow to post things so apologies .
My last real gigs of the Summer were both outdoors at the How The Light Gets In Festival in Hay on Wye at the end of May, and a week later at Hellen’s Garden Festival a week later. Thankfully the weather was fine and dry for both (Until I’d finished playing ) and I was lucky enough that Andy Boyd filmed my whole set on The Blue Moon Stage at Hay .
Three clips from the set are available to watch on my YouTube Channel:
In amongst these gigs we moved house to a temporary home in Longtown , Hereford before our eventual move back to Oxfordshire next year .
Encouraged by some musical friends in Hereford I decided to take part in FAWM ( February Album Writing Month ) this year . This is a web based enterprise that originated a number of years ago in the US with the objective of writing and recording 14 songs during the month of February and recording and uploading them to the FAWM website . It seemed to work for me as an encouraging process and instead of my usual 2 or 3 songs a year rate , I managed to write 10 complete songs and an instrumental during the month which was a real success for me .
I’m happy with most of the songs and am now working through them to either add them to my live set or review and record them. Twilight, Breathe , and Two pairs of Eyes have now been played live 4 or 5 times and following feedback from a show I spoke with the wonderful Andy Boyd about recording a video for Two pairs of Eyes .
The song is about the war in Ukraine and we looked for a suitable place to shoot ,ending up in these derelict farm buildings in Oxfordshire . We had fantastic spring weather and completed the recording and editing all in a single day . I played everything live, using a reverb with shimmer effect on the guitar to create a sort of orchestration ,. Really pleased with the results so hope you enjoy it !!
So it’s another New Year and almost the end of a quiet January on the music front . Not too much booked yet in terms of live shows but am working on some things .
In the Interim , here are a couple of video clips from our Warm-up gig /rehearsal at The Shoulder of Mutton in December . Yes there were some people there, but sadly the world cup was on so not as busy as we’d have liked , but we played pretty well and the videos are great as ever :
Swan Lake – another original take on this old Russian Folk Song , we never tire of playing this.
Having released Mercury Heart as a download single last year , I plan to try to release one song a month during 2023 on my Bandcamp site . This month it is 23W Line 17 a song I dedicate to the memory of my cousin Gerry , one of >50,000 young americans to lose their lives through the Vietnam conflict, for what ?
February looks like a busy month now, apart from the next recording project , I’m also working on FAWM ( February album writing month ) , where the objective is to write 14 songs in 28 days . Apparently it’s been running for a number of years and people do it !. I hopefully will get at least an ep , but who knows ? It will certainly be a challenge and keep me focussed !
Firstly I would like to say a big Thankyou to everyone involved with my show at Troll Music in Venice, specifically Billy Day and the staff, Ted Fordney and Rico Bloomquist for musical support and Wendy Kaneko, Barbara Goldman and Kate Bloomquist ( The Martin Sisters) for a great opening set.
We had a good turnout on the night and the whole show was recorded so we’ll be mastering it for release and broadcast at some point in the future.
On Sunday afternoon we’ll be playing an abridged version of the show at a neighbourhood party in Bradenton near Ted’s house in aid of the American Red Cross , hurricane relief efforts, my last show of this particular trip .
I also wanted to flag up that the One Life lockdown album is available for free download at the moment via the menu tab on this site , so please download and share it while you can ! Back to the UK in December and we have gigs at The Shoulder of Mutton in Wantage and The Seven Stars in Bristol with the Maskelleros coming up so busy times ahead.
Back in May I returned to the workshops of Luthier Richard Osborne in Llanidloes , to build a new Acoustic guitar as my main instrument. 4 years ago I went there and built my guitar bouzouki , which has been a fantastic instrument , and the experience was fabulous as well as resulting in in a first class instrument
Over the last few years I have been having issues with the tendons and joints in my left hand which has started to inhibit my playing , so I had the idea of building a guitar with an easy action and shorter scale to hopefully extend my playing time.
In February I went over and met with Richard and after measuring a number of instruments, we came up with a specification for the neck , agreed on the body size, scale length and the woods for the soundboard , back and sides to give a guitar which would suit my playing style and capable of being both driven hard and gently fingerpicked.
So in May I spent a month producing this wonderful instrument :
The one month guitar course run by Richard operates 3 or 4 times a year and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Not only do you get to build a custom instrument worth significantly more than the cost of the course, but it’s always a great experience to work with someone so skilled in his art and a small group(3) of generally like minded people . Added to that Llanidloes is a fabulous place to spend a month. I camped on a farm site on the banks of the River Severn , which was tranquil and 5 minutes bike ride from the workshop ! Not only that but there are a number of local music sessions you can join in the evenings ! I would recommend this course to anyone. http://www.osborneguitars.co.uk
So I played this guitar for the first time at my daughter Rowena’s wedding and it is now my main instrument. Here is a shot of it in action at The How the Light gets In Festival in Hay :
Now I have a pair of beautiful unique instruments :
During the periods of lockdown with little chance of playing any live music, I got involved in a lot of recording projects , both of my songs and with those of Ted Fordney back in Florida, using the time to educate ourselves on the wonders of Logic Pro.
At the end of that time I had 12 songs recorded , a mix of old songs re-visited, 9 entirely new songs and an appropriate cover song by Janis Ian. Having listened to them through a few times I decided that it might be worth putting them out as a digital album, and following some time re-mixing and mastering these will be available as a download album “One Life” from my bandcamp page from July 16th onwards. https://alanmaskell.bandcamp.com/
This album is also now free to listen to and download from my web page , just go to the tab in the menu !
The track listing is as follows : 1- It shouldn’t be this Way, 2- Dust upon the Hill, 3- Country Flowers, 4- Breakfast with the King, 5- Moving On, 6- Perfect Mistake, 7- Gemini, 8- Twelfth Night, 9- 50 shades of Grey, 10- Haul Away, 11- One Life, 12- Better Times
All tracks feature Ted on bass , and a number on backing vocals , and Pete Young plays piano on Breakfast , but I play or programme everything else. The tracks cover a wide range of styles and instrumentation.
I will produce a lyric sheet at some point to accompany the download .
Well spring is upon us and life is stumbling towards a sort of post-covid normality as live music comes out of hibernation.
I’m keeping playing open mics regularly around Hereford and occasionally further afield along with a few up and coming gigs .
May 1st : Die Koffee Pot, Hereford : this will be a full 2 hour set of mainly original acoustic songs . It’s a great outdoor venue for the summer and this time I hope the sun is shining . When I played in February it was so cold after 2 hours that I could hardly move or feel my fingers !!!
May 29th: The Seven Stars , Bristol : After the disappointment of having to cancel couple of weeks ago due to the impact of Covid , I’ll be back there with Pete Young on Keyboards and Gus Mills on bass for an upbeat afternoon which promises to be fun as ever .
In the meantime just to whet your appetite here is a video of Gus and I playing a recent open mic at The Shoulder of Mutton in Wantage, as a warm up for the gig that didn’t happen.
The most exciting gig coming up is a solo set at the How the Light Gets In Festival in June at Hay on Wye. I’ll be playing 1pm on Saturday 4th June in the Blue Moon Tent and this will be an original acoustic set .
Hoping to get some more dates later in the Summer , but my other news is that I’m returning to Richard Osbornes workshop in Wales for a month in April/May to build an Acoustic Guitar to use as my main live guitar, and compensate for my tendon issues in my left hand so I can hopefully keep playing as long as possible.
I’ll post a report and pictures on here at some point !!!