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Count Your Blessings

I wish I could remember which book it was.  It was one of those New Age self-help books…how to live a happier life sort of thing.  I read quite a lot of those.  And have become a happier and better person for it, I believe.  The particular book I refer to had a little exercise in it.  I must have known that I’d forget the name of the book, because I decided to write a song based on the exercise so that I didn’t forget the exercise.

The exercise went as follows:  Start the day – before anything else – by making a quick mental list (or physical if you prefer) of things you have in your life that you are grateful for.  10 things.  At first it can be difficult.  But there’s…water?  Electricity? A roof over your head?  Maybe someone loves you?  Maybe you have a small skill or talent?  Go through them and feel grateful.  Say a little thank you.  If a negative thought comes in, try and let it go and go back to a positive that you can be grateful for.  Then go get your breakfast or whatever comes next.

The idea is that as we consciously practice gratitude we open up our minds to the positive things in life.  Then we see positivity in more things – things we took for granted.  Things we thought were negative.

It worked for me…so I wrote this song to remind myself to keep doing it.

 

 

I would wake up in the morning
rush out of my sleep
drag a comb across my head
as I stumble to the street
morning coffee down my shirt
and sleep around my eyes
as the rain pounds down around me
into the world of fear and lies

a change of thought can shape your destiny
make a little list of things your glad you’ve got
water, food, shelter what you have not what you’ve not

count your blessings, and when you get to ten
start all over
start counting once again
And when you notice blessings that you never knew you had
Oh-oh-oh-oh count your blessings

So the silence of another night
is shattered by the dawn
but instead of pressing snooze
I now start every morn
with a tally of my blessings
what I am grateful for
count ten things that I love
and each day there appear more

a change of thought can shape your destiny
make a little list of things your glad you’ve got
the seas the breeze the trees – the birds and the bees
what you have not what you’ve not

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

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.

Beasts Of Burden

I may have mentioned Ed’s notebook before.

It was the one he wrote the story for The Frozen Lake in.

He wrote ideas in this notebook for an album’s worth of folky songs and tunes…some were well-formed ideas, others just titles. After I wrote “The Frozen Lake” a couple of years went by before I looked at the scan I’d done of the notebook.

It was during the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. I had time on my hands and looked at my photo of a page of the notebook. There was an idea for a song called “Beasts of Burden” and a list of animals.

It said “heavy blues with hammond”…but as soon as I started playing around with it it morphed into a more strummy Neil Young kind of vibe. So I stuck with that. Sorry Ed. Well, now the lyrics are there so we can always do a bluesy version another day!

The animals included are by and large those from the notebook, although I think I added the mule and left out a bison.

Ed is doing amazing stuff that you should check out HERE and HERE

On this recording I play my Martin HD28V guitar, Musicman Stingray Bass, Fender Stratocaster through virtual amps in logic and a virtual Hammond organ (a mix of organs from the Logic standard midi library put through a Leslie simulators). Recorded at Avalon as ever and mastered at 6 Bit Deep by Joel Krozer.


 

And the words are:

On a mountain side no turning back
Gales around us give no slack
If we were carrying our pack
no further could we roam
Bearing our wares on its back
Ever strong our trusty Yak
Onward down the rocky track
We make it safely home

Beasts of burden – Carry our load
Horse and mule ox and buffalo
in the mines the fields on the canals and down the dusty road
Carry our load
Beasts of burden

In the desert endless sand
Rocks and stones scattered across the land
A thirst that could kill a man
With goods to sell so far away
The camel in this climate stands
Making few demands
In a place where no other can
Take the cold of night and heat of day

In the corn fields of England
The might shire horse used to stand
And pull the plough across the land
With strength and pride
These giants gentle broad and grand
Could not keep up with modern man
Will beasts of burden understand
The turning tide

Another One Knocking

It’s February!  This time last year I was in Finland having just got back to Europe from the Indian tour…different times huh?

Anyway…It’s a new month, and that means a new single is out.  Nr 6 so far and the penultimate in the series of monthly offerings.  There will be more releases this year but not every month (cash flow!)

Another One Knocking

When I was around 24 years old I moved in with my girlfriend at the time into a flat in Ettingshall near Wolverhampton.  It was a flat she rented from the council, on a housing estate comprised of a great number of “low-rise” blocks of flats.  Each block was 3 stories.  The ground floor was (in our block and many others) uninhabited…except for one very feisty lady who  refused to admit defeat.  The others had boarded up – with steel not wood – windows and doors.  It was the early 90’s, and the United Kingdom was yet to know the optimism (and consequent disillusion) of the Blair government…we were shortly post-Thatcher, and unemployment, inequality, desperation, crime and disrespect for the system were at all time highs.

The next door neighbour had broken into the flat shortly before I moved in…the telly was in their hallway when my girlfriend went round to ask if they’d seen anything.  Burglary was his main business.  As a side-line his wife was on the game.  As were the 2 girls upstairs from us.  A couple of flats away was the local drug dealer.  The song just wrote itself.

At the time I was playing bass in a funky rock band that I think had other names, but that I remember as “Stress”.  It was shortly after the break up of Whirly Blues and I was demotivated…busking alone or with whistle player Geoff was main source of income, but I’d got a gig as singer with a Blues band called “Bogus Dago”.  The guitarist was fantastic – very authentic blues player with a lovely tone, and the drummer was properly groovy…a fan of Greatful Dead.  We did blues covers, mostly stuff no-one else was doing…and at that time there were quite a few blues bands around.  Also quite a lot of gigs for blues bands.  What we hadn’t done was any original songs.  So when I wrote the song about the neighbours I made it a blues based number.

We did a recording of it – along with an album’s worth of stuff – in Guildford.  Whole album recorded in a night.  I don’t think I ever heard the finished recording.  I got a day job at a heat-treatment factory and had to drop out of the band…in the worst possible way.  I couldn’t make it to a gig one night as I couldn’t get off work.  They played without me and I never played with them again.

The Bogus Dago version may have had some other verses.  I know I wrote one about Jehovah’s Witnesses coming round.  I think the lady on the ground floor had a verse too.  But nowadays I keep it short and sweet…I didn’t play it for about 20 years so it was a bit like starting from scratch.  Anyway, here’s what we ended up with.


 

I’m playing:

Martin HD28V acoustic guitar

Musicman Stingray bass (DI’ed)

Fender Stratocaster through Vox AC30 (no effects)

Harmonica (not sure which one I used on this)

It’s recorded at Avalon (Denmark) and mastered (as everything since “Kettle” has been) by Joel at 6BitDeep.

 

Lyrics go….

The girl upstairs she works through the night – see the fellas stop at the shade of her light

Between her and her girlfriend they get through six or maybe more

As soon as one man leaves another one is knocking at the door.

The lady next door – her brown eyes blue – her drunken hubby beats her but there’s nothing we can do

He’s out robbing houses, won’t be back til half past four

As soon as he leaves another man’s knocking at the door.

There’s another one knocking (another one knocking)

There’s another one knocking (another one knocking)

There’s another one knocking – another one knocking at the door

This guy 3 doors down’s got all kinds of gear.  Everyone knows what they want they can get it here

Punks and skins and hippies come round to see what they can score

As soon as one leaves another one’s knocking at the door

There’s another one knocking (another one knocking)

There’s another one knocking (another one knocking)

There’s another one knocking – another one knocking at the door

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)

Djembe

Drum Samples

Trombone

 

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 Single! Beasts of Burden

Hey folks…

Another month is upon us and instead of filling your stockings with more Christmas music, my latest single (available 1st December) is a Neil Young inspired song about working animals…Beasts of Burden

The idea came from a notebook belonging to my good friend, ex-bandmate and all round good geezer Ed Conway check out what he does here: https://www.edconwayandtheunlawfulmen.co.uk/ and here:https://losttheplotband.co.uk/).

The notebook contained ideas for an album’s worth of songs…ranging from just song titles to complex stories.  This month’s single had the title “Beasts of Burden” and specified Yak, Buffalo, Camel and I think Bison…it ended up with mules and Shire horses too.

Ed wrote the ideas down for me to turn into a folk music album…which might still happen…but in the mean time I took this idea and another one called “The Frozen Lake” (which will be the next single) and allowed them to grow into whatever seemed to fit…this one went into a sort of Neil Young vibe and the Frozen Lake into a 1970’s prog rock Genesis sort of thing…I decided not to intervene.

Again on this single and the next I am playing all instruments, recorded at Avalon and have put it all together alone…hope you guys enjoy it…links below as soon as it is released!

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….

 

so

1st september 2020 – new single! Down The 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 patreon.com

Hi and happy new year beloved folkies!

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

https://www.patreon.com/martindale

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!