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Guilty Feeling

Guilty Feeling

I was playing in a band called “Whirly Pits” in the year of Our Lord 1988, and our keyboardist was recounting some exploits from a night out in Wombourne the previous Friday.  In his narrative the phrase “woke up with a guilty feeling” came forth, and I made a mental note that there could be a song in there.  I had recently discovered the Blues…I mean discovered the old acoustic Delta Blues.  Blues was familiar to me from the records I had by Rolling Stones, Canned Heat and many others.  But a friend of ours called Simon had a collection of ancient recordings of artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Big Bill Broonzy, Lead Belly, Robert Johnson and so on along with slightly later offerings by Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.  I was mesmerized by the sound…particularly the really old recordings, where it seemed they’d just managed to capture a ghost before it faded.  And I was taken away to another world – totally alien to me –  where the memory of slavery was still fresh in the memory of the singers and their voices were filled with a connection to pain and a channeling of spirit that few since had had.

So the song Guilty Feeling was always going to start with “I woke up this morning”…and so it became a delta style blues affair.  We played it with Whirly Pits, but soon after we started playing with a Simon on guitar – and to acknowledge the change in musical direction we called the band “Whirly Blues”.  This was the first incarnation of the band of that name.  We played Blues – obviously – but also mixed with psychedelia and Indie ideas – hence still Whirly.  Whirly Blues changed to a more Psychedelic Rock and Indie band after Simon left and was replaced by Rob Challenor (aka Dr. South) and Bebee…we were eventually persuaded to change the name as we no longer played blues…which ultimately was a terrible mistake.  Moody Blues didn’t.  Nor did Climax Blues Band.

The actual story in the song is a combination of many different post-alchohol situations: some of them auto-biographical, most not.  What the guilt is about is left a mystery, as it was in the original story.

It’s a fairly old recording:  from the days when I had a studio in Copenhagen with Brian Armstrong…and it’s using his SPL channel one channel strip and SE5600 microphone…which inspired me to get one.  I’m playing –  as ever – the Martin HD28V guitar, an unidentified Harmonica and there’s no overdubs  or anything.  Keeping it authentic man…


The words….

I woke up this morning with a bruise on my face

Champagne matted hair – my clothes all over the place

Lying next to a girl, I don’t think I know her name

Can’t recall last night so won’t you tell me what’s to blame

For this Guilty Feeling.  A Guilty Feeling’s what I’ve got

I’’ve got a Guilty Feeling.  Must have done something bad but I don’t know what

I looked in the mirror – bags under my bloodshot eyes

A lovebite on the neck, a shiner on the rise

Oh my God – my face is a weary white

There’s blood on my shirt – it must have been quite a night

I’’ve got a Guilty Feeling. A Guilty Feeling’s what I’ve got

I’’ve got a Guilty Feeling.  Must have done something bad but I don’t know what

I want a drink – I don’t feel so young

I want an asprin but I ain’t got none

I wanna go out but I daren’t see my friends

If they know what happened then I’ll never hear the end

I’’ve got a Guilty Feeling.  A Guilty Feeling’s what I’ve got

I’’ve got a Guilty Feeling.  Must have done something bad but I don’t know what

Albums that formed me: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan – as I wrote in the song “Carried on a-changing” – has been my hero in so many ways.

I eyed up my sister’s guitar that she’d left next to the piano in the living room when she went to university.  With it were 2 songbooks (with diagrams of where to put your fingers).  One was Simon and Garfunkel’s greatest hits.  The other was a Bob Dylan songbook.

The first song I learned on the guitar was out of this book:  Blowing in the Wind.  I didn’t learn it to be a pop star, because it was cool, to get girls or to be like Dylan.  I just loved the songs and the sound of an acoustic guitar with a voice.  And the songs spoke to me a truth I found no place but in music.  It was a truth very different to what my teachers were teaching at school.  And set in a world very different from my life in England.  But somehow I had more in common – it felt – with Dylan than with anyone I knew in real life (except my brother – it was him that introduced me to Dylan and much much more).

Bob is a controversial chap – and he knows it and loves it, I’m sure.  He has made many incredible records over the years – and some that I would consider truly terrible.  There’s something for everyone – so long as they can get past the voices he uses and that instrument of Satan – the harmonica.  I don’t dis the harp itself…only when it’s in the holder round Zimmermann’s neck.  The absolute greatest album he made though – in my opinion – is his second.

It starts with “How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?”  It was the song that helped catapult Dylan to fame (mostly through Peter Paul and Mary’s version).  It’s an amazing composition.  And bear in mind the boy is 21 years old at this point (just turned 22 when it was released).  For me he was asking the questions no-one around me was asking.  The BIG questions…how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?  Dylan cared.  The grown ups in my world didn’t.

Girl from the North country was an early example of Dylan putting his words to an established folk song melody (in this case Scarborough Fair).  This he presumably learnt from Martin Carthy who he had met while in London shortly before.  Paul Simon brought the same song (though with the traditional words) back from his time with Carthy in London.  It’s a similar theme to Scarborough fair lyrically too.

Masters of War spoke to me too…it was just before my punk phase, but there was a lot of teenage anger boiling up inside me at the state of the world and the politicians who waged war for profit and killed for corporations.  The bite in the lyrics and the disdain for the warmongering leaders struck a chord in my embryonic rebel soul.  Lennon was anti-war, Dylan was anti-war…these were people to look up to when those I was taught to look up to were part of the system that create war.

Hard Rain’s a gonna Fall was another of the first songs I learnt…and performed a lot in the early days of me singing with an acoustic guitar (mostly round camp fires and at after-pub “parties”).  I always loved the poetry in this and the imagery – everything is so easy to picture and yet can be examined in so many layers.  And I absolutely love the humour of the last line…in a song so incredibly hard to remember all the words to…”I’ll know my song well before I start singing”.  Not necessarily a motto I have lived by since!

Don’t Think Twice is the Dylan song I sing most – maybe equalled by Like a Rolling Stone.  It’s cleverly written and puts a bunch of emotion in about a relationship without the slightest trace of cheesiness or cliché.  It’s fantastic songwriting.  All the songs are, of course, recorded just with guitar, voice and harmonica…this could be a time to mention the beautiful quality of the recording….I haven’t looked into what microphones and preamps were used, but as soon as I’m finished writing this I will…

Bob Dylan’s Dream is another folk tune…and one that I play.  Lord Franklin’s Lament I learned from Pentangle, but I must have known Dylan’s song with the same tune before that.  It all seems so long ago now.

Oxford Town was an anti-racism protest song, responding to an incident in Oxford Mississippi, but was still relevant to stories I heard of racial hatred from the States in the 80’s.  And even now.  Not that we didn’t have racism in the UK, but I grew up in a school with people from all over the world, in a town with a huge black and Asian population, going to church in a predominately black area and with parents who had black and Asian friends, so I never got to understand the whole racism thing.  I’ve studied it a great deal since, and have conclusions regarding tribalism and evolution that I’ll bore you with some other time, but sometimes you just have to sing that hatred away.

Talking WWIII Blues.  Again, Dylan is talking about stuff I was worried about – both 1963 when this album was released, and 1980 when I first heard the album were in the Cold War period.  We were actually taught at school about how Nukes could destroy our town, and shown films of what the devastation would be.  I’m glad we were told, but it was terrifying.  I never saw us as the good guys…by the time I understood the Cold War it was Thatcher and Reagan on “our” side.  And I knew that THEY were Masters Of War.  I couldn’t understand how anyone could think we were the good guys with them in charge.  Soviet Pseudo-communism (let’s face it, it certainly wasn’t ACTUAL communism) was scary too, and the few grainy pictures of decaying high-rise blocks and military parades did nothing to make it look a better option.

Corrina Corrina is a beautiful song…though not one of Dylan’s  I didn’t realise it was a cover until recently.  The same applies to Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance, which showcases Dylan’s fun side, and reminds us how amazing a performer he must have been in the early days.

It’s a terrific album and in my view the best singer-songwriter album of all time.  And there’s nothing there but his voice, a guitar, a mouth-organ and the songs.  Amazing.


The Mermaid Of Zennor

The Mermaid Of Zennor

It being St Piran’s Day this Friday (The National Day of Cornwall) I thought I’d share with you a song I wrote called The Mermaid Of Zennor. The story is an old Cornish folk tale that I remember my mother telling me as a child. Also we visited the church in Zennor on one of Dad’s legendary “mystery trips” where a rather ancient mermaid is carved into one of the pews. I returned as an adult, and the mermaid was less disappointing –  the church is lovely and the coastline stunning. It is every bit as beautifully Cornish as you can get. Way out in the wild windy west.

The reason for writing this story as a song was that I couldn’t find any versions of the many Cornish folk tales I heard as a child done as songs, and felt that it would be a fun project to make an album of said stories. I do love a story in a song – and there are some great stories in the myths and legends of Cornwall. So I began writing the songs and now have an album worth of Cornish myths and legends ready to record and release…

This then is a preview.

The story tells of a mermaid who falls in love with a man who sings in the church at Zennor, and comes ashore to hear him. He inevitably falls in love with her and vanishes into the sea with her never to be seen again. But they say that if you listen closely when standing on the headland you can hear him singing to this day…go there and listen. It’s worth it.


Caledonia is one of those amazing songs that becomes a folk music classic within years of being written (like Green Fields of France, Crazy Man Michael, Fiddler’s Green and Fields of Athenry). It was written by Dougie MacLean in 1977, I believe, and released in 1979 on the album of the same title. It was barely out of nappies before everyone and their piper were performing it.  For 2 reasons:  It’s a fantastic melody; and it has a genuine feeling of longing to the lyrics.  An authenticity that cuts to the heart.

I came to the song quite late.  I’d heard it performed by many people, and loved it, but didn’t have it on my list of “must sing” numbers…mostly because I felt I had enough Scottish repertoire, and more songs about Scottish people missing Scotland were low priority – particularly as I was mostly performing upbeat stuff for pub audiences or else rock-based covers and originals.  I finally learned it about 4 years ago, and coincidently just before I got together with a group of musicians from my local area of Fyn in Denmark.

We drank coffee on Tuesday mornings and played folk music.  Folk music is a broad term, and – as we came from very different musical backgrounds –  we took material and inspiration from everything from Americana to Irish trad and from blues to ballads.  Suddenly there was a place that Caledonia belonged, and I can’t remember who suggested it.  But I had been playing it the same as Douglie MacLean’s original: in open C tuning, but with a capo on the 6th fret (as opposed to Dougie’s 4th) so that I was singing in G.

Doing it this way in a band set up meant either tuning the guitar or having an extra guitar handy, and that was too much effort, so I made a version in standard tuning, with captures the essence of the song (hopefully) though without those lovely open string timbres.  This has become my “go to” version, as it means I can seamlessly throw the song in at solo gigs without a major retune before and after…and this is then the version I have played on the following video.

Black is the Colour

Black is the Colour is one of my favourite folk songs, with it’s haunting melody and sense of longing…and Strong Ale recorded it (with a lovely slide guitar part from Brian Armstrong) on the “The Beaten Track” album. When I was playing duo gigs with Jim Fox, this was a song that he used to sing, and it was inspired by Jim’s version that I decided to learn it. I have been introducing it for years as a “Scottish love song” – and usually I do a deal of research before committing to folk songs – it tends to be quite an interesting pastime for a nerd like me…for some reason I didn’t research this one very thoroughly until now.

It turns out that it IS of Scottish origin – I always thought it was based on a Burns poem but that isn’t so, and I’ve no idea where I got that from – but that when collected by Cecil Sharp it was in America, presumably brought over by Scottish immigrants (although Sharp has it as part of his collection of English folk songs of the Southern Appalachians).  The first version I remember hearing is the Nina Simone one – a very different  melody from the one I sing.  This American melody was introduced to the song by John Jacob Niles in 1941 (or at least, that is when it was first released), and is the melody that all the jazz versions and the many country versions have stuck to.

The other melody – the one I sing – I know through Christy Moore, who in turn learned it from Hamish Imlach.  Hamish’s version is the earliest released version of this tune that I know of.  If anyone knows more about its origins I’d love to hear.  I assume that this is the traditional tune that predates Niles’ American version.

The words are sweet but without being cheesy (apart from maybe the line “I love the ground whereupon she stands”).  Songs about missing those one loves somehow seem to resonate better than most romantic composition…this one gets me every time:

Here’s me performing it..


and here’s Strong Ale’s version (on Spotify)


The lyrics as I sing them are:

Black is the colour of my true love’s hair,

Her lips are like some roses fair,

She’s the sweetest smile, And the tenderest hands,

I love the ground, Whereon she stands.

I love my love and well she knows,

I love the ground, whereon she goes,

I hope the day, it won’t be long,

Til she & I could be as one.

I’ll go to the Clyde and I mourn and weep,

For satisfied, I ne’er can be,

I wrote a letter, just a few short lines,

And suffer death, a thousand times.

Black is the colour of my true love’s hair,

Her lips are like some roses fair,

She’s the sweetest smile, And the gentlest hands,

I love the ground, Whereon she stands.

The Frozen Lake

I’ve been releasing a song every month for half a year soon, and the reason is quite simply that I have a huge backlog of material that I don’t know what to do with…albums are expensive to produce and there is not a huge market in them.  So rather than allow these songs (there’s hundreds of them) to gather dust, I thought some of you might like to hear them.

This year I will also try and give you the background to them…starting with January’s single…the nearly 7 minute long The Frozen Lake

About 8 years ago I did a weekend of gigs in Denmark with my old pal Ed Conway.  Those who don’t know him can see what he does here.  Ed and I used to play together in a band called Rumpus…we were fairly popular in the late 90’s and made a living out of a comedy/chaos/folk/rock/riot act involving stuffed toys, cucumbers, numerous hats and “death defying feats”.  It was probably the most fun time of my life.  On the way back to the airport that weekend we stopped for lunch by a frozen lake (it was winter).  This became the inspiration for a story that Ed wrote down in a little notebook.  A classic British folk song sort of tale with a Romeo and Juliet twist.

A while later Ed showed me the notebook which had a bunch of other ideas for songs (though none quite as detailed as The Frozen Lake) and said I should take the ideas and write the songs for a folk album called “The Anonymous Folkie”…So I started with the Frozen Lake.  One of the other songs listed was last month’s single “Beasts of Burden”…so I’ve so far managed 2!

Originally I thought it should be very British Folk style in a Fairport sort of arrangement, but the more I played with it the more I felt it lending itself to a Peter Gabriel era Genesis interpretation.  So I picked up my 12-string and there was no going back.  One day I may well do a more traditionally folk version (same with Beasts of Burden) as I still think The Anonymous Folkie would be a fun project.  But for now it’s turned into a Prog Rock sort of thing, and I quite like it like that.

As with all the singles released so far I play all the instruments, sing, produced and engineered the whole thing.  This one has a lot more instrumentation than the previous offerings…so here’s a quick run down of what was used:

Vocals (recorded with U87  microphone going through Focusrite Liquid Channel emulating a classic Neve desk)

Martin HD 28V acoustic guitar

Guild GAD 12 string guitar

Musicman Stingray bass guitar

Fender Stratocaster going through Vox AC30

Roland RD300 stage piano (for midi keys)


Drum Samples



The lyrics are:

On a cold clear winter’s night stars reflect in the lake

Tears for her sweetheart filled her eyes

Till they could no longer hold the salt water drops

That drip ripples on the watery skies

It was tomorrow she was to wed but no bride will she be

The press gang took her fiancee away

To fight for king and country on some far off shore

With but a promise to return again one day

Each day she sits on the shore of the lake

Where as a child she had played

Staring at the other side where her true love had lived

And she longs to return to those days

Through the winter she could cross the frozen lake

To her love who lived on the other side

When the birds return and the ice begins to break

in the spring he shall make her his bride

She senses the bad news before it is spoke

In battle he drew his last breath

His body could not found but they all saw him go down

Sounds the news of his untimely death

Quite beside herself she walked into the lake

Walked on til the current pulled her down

And the icy cold water swallowed her pain

And in the dark depths she was drowned

A layer of ice formed on the waters that night

The coldest night we ever saw

And for a whole year winter cast a shroud across the land

12 months and the lake didn’t thaw

Through the winter she would cross the frozen lake

to her love who lived on the other side

When the birds return and the ice begins to break

in the spring he shall make her his bride

12 months of winter and a soldier appears

Enquiring where his betrothed might be

He is told of her death in the waters so cold

And in tears he is led off to see

He sat on the ice his heart heavy with grief

Salty tears melting the ice

Til underneath he can see the face of his love

And he thinks he hears her desperate cries

He broke through the ice to dive down to his love

Convinced that new life he could bring

And in her arms he drowned and the lake began to thaw

On that very first morning of spring

In the winter she would cross the frozen lake

To her love who lived on the other side

Now the birds return and the ice begins to break

For it is the spring and he shall make her his bride

New release: It’s Good To Be Here

It’s been a while since “A different kettle of fish” came out…Corona Lockdown finally gave me the time I needed to finish the next release…

And this is the point where I was hoping to say that the new single “It’s Good To Be Here” will be released on 1st July…

…However, the mastering and distribution ends both delayed things so much that we now have to wait til November…which means it will be after what would have been the next 2 singles!  The first of which is….



1st september 2020 – new single! Down The Pub


Live Stream Wednesday

Hi Folks!
The live streams on Facebook have been great fun and well received so I’m making it a regular event – until people have had enough…

Therefore there will be a concert of one hour’s duration every Wednesday from now on streamed live on the Martin Dale facebook page I will look into sharing it on YouTube and other sites, but for this week it’s just on FaceBook.

It is free entertainment…however, I always appreciate heckling, requests, comments, questions and general interaction! There is a paypal link and patreon page if anyone wants to contribute financially, but this is entirely voluntary.

Stay safe out there…come down to the virtual gig at the virtual pub!

New album from Brophy’s Law – True Stories

October 2019…was the month that the new album from Brophy’s Law, entitled “True Stories” came out…featuring Mr. Dale on bass on all tracks except the opening one.  The band has been going from strength to strength the last couple of years, and it wonderful to finally have a product I can point people to…and one that I think is mighty fine.

The first 3 songs are about travelling – Neil Brophy was a backpacker in the old days, and these songs are from that period, when he’d move from place to place in Australia and New Zealand and elsewhere, playing his guitar and collecting true stories.  “Road to Meo” is also a journey – this time into yourself and your own personal destiny.  The first single, “Nice to know” is about then coming home to your hometown and finding that so little has changed while you were away.

“Record Collector” is probably my favourite track on the album – a post-punk celebration of the record collection and the lifestyle that went with it.  A good description of most of my teenage years.  Fear of fear is a critique of the mass-hysteria over reaction to the migrant “crisis” of 2016, caused by the right wing propaganda machine that owns much of the West’s press.  “Bears go Fishing” is a happy clappy live number that hopefully cheers everone up after the political song…”Lucky People” continues the upward vibe and “Viking Rover” is another “True” story – of how some viking ghosts came from Ireland to Denmark to build a pub…

Have a listen here:

whole album on Spotify:

Video a week on

Hi and happy new year beloved folkies!

A new feature for 2017 is the Martin Dale patreon page at:

Here you can see live performances of songs, background info about the songs, thoughts about new songs and much more.  Better still, it’s an interactive experience – you can tell me what you think, ask me questions, make requests or say whatever you feel like to me!  I’ll reply to every post.

It’s launched today (1st January 2017) and there will be a new video (plus background info video) every Sunday come rain or shine, as well as bonus recordings, musings, song sketches etc.

Click the buttons and become part of it.  You know you want to!