Friday, 19 January 2007

TARNISHED SILVER - Ireland / Denmark / Sweden / Netherlands / Belgium / USA - (January - April 2007)

Fri 19 Jan Dublin....Somebody once said to me that 99% of the people on the planet were a waste of time. At the time I thought this was a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m not so sure anymore. Out on the road one’s psychic antennae seem to be more in tune with what’s going on, and it’s easier to sort the wheat from the chaff. When one is at home, wherever that may be, the fools and assholes get a chance to get their grip on you. I was listening to the radio in Terry’s van as we drove through the rainy streets of Dublin on the way home from a gig last night. He had it tuned to 98FM, a favourite of Dublin taxi drivers too. The phone-in topic was all about ‘pet napping.’ This apparently is big business. He even had guys phoning in saying that they were involved in stealing pedigree dogs and the like, then contacting the dogs owners for ransom money, or else selling the unfortunate animals on to somebody else. Very strange. A world of which I was completely unaware. I don’t have a dog, but it seems like a rotten business. But then again, most people are a waste of time, for various reasons. Of the thousand or so you might see while out to buy groceries for example, how many would you want to talk to ?

In an attempt to rid my mind of the pet nappers, on my arrival home I treated myself to a glass of red wine. I read from Mary Shelly’s ‘The Last Man’ and soon found myself in the land of nod. I was up at 7.30am, had breakfast, and swiftly got down to recording. These last few weeks I’ve written a few new songs, and I’m in the process of recording rough demos of a few of them. What else would you do on a cold January day. Later I’ll hopefully hook up with somebody for a drink. But before I go out into the windy winter night-time, I’ll spin a few records to (a) get my own songs out of my brain, and (b) because, above and beyond all else, I’m still a fan. So, I reckon ‘Wreck A Pum Pum’ by Prince Buster and ‘Heartaches was all we Got’ by Sven Zetterberg will get a spin. As will the new 7 inch from Nikki Sudden, featuring Southern Bitch, a great great record. Tracks by Charlie Feathers, Gregory Isaacs , Johnny Thunders and The Two Dollar Pistols should put me in good form. See you out there. We can be the 1%.

Mon 22 Jan Out for a few drinks the other night, I met Mick Pyro from top Irish pop ensemble The Republic Of Loose. I was chatting away to some folks when I spotted Mick out of the corner of my eye. We had never met, but I recognized him from TV. His drinking buddy seemed to have left him on his own. He was looking at his own reflection rather gloomily in the mirror. An invisible grey cloud hung over his dishevelled head. I've often been in similar states myself, so as I walked by on the way to the toilet, I gave him a slap on the back and said "How's it going Mr Republic". He turned to me and without saying a word, started to sing in a loud voice "Apology Not Accepted..." ("Apology" is one of the more popular songs from the first Racketeers album, 'By Hook Or By Crook from '97) I was really taken aback. He went on to tell me that a friend of his used to go to a lot of our gigs years ago, had that first CD and would quote lyrics to him when he had a few pints. Me and Mick got on well and had a good chat. He was lamenting the fact that he was broke, and also that people give him a hard time cos his band is a 'bloody disco group'. I tried to cheer him up by pointing out that these very same people were probably just jealous. After a while he rambled off into the night, while I ended up back at HQ with Åsa and Rockfield man Kevin Lavin, drinking into the early hours, playing records and having a good time.

Thurs 25 Jan I’ve been trying out some new ideas, recording new songs I’ve written etc..etc.. On Tuesday, I was simply playing electric guitar, trying out a few overdubs on stuff I had recorded last week, when suddenly I had two new songs. One is called ‘I Got The Job Done’ the other remains untitled as I’ve got no lyrics yet. These songs seemed to come out of nowhere. I didn’t have time to get them down onto the digital recorder I use. Instead I went back to glorious analogue, and taped them onto cassette on my old battered ghetto-blaster.A bitter cold day, I took the Luas (a local name for a tram) across town and on arriving at St. Stephens Green, I avoided the busy shopping streets, and crossed over to the North Side of the city. Over in Smithfield I had a meeting organized with John from top band Sack. It had to do with a gig I’m trying to set up in that part of the city, and we came to a sort of a deal.

On the way back home I observed a guy sitting on the pavement doing his begging gig, paper cup in his hand collecting loose change from passers by. It’s something you see ten times a day in Dublin, only this guy was chatting away on his mobile phone !! Maybe one of his beggar friends was doing a bit of shopping and needed some advice, who knows. Which reminds me, last week I was crossing Capel St. Bridge on the way to a Trip Hazard gig, when a guy begging came out with the usual mantra ‘Some change please’. I shrugged my shoulders indicating I didn’t have any change, which I didn’t. ‘Fuck Yousss’ was his charming reply.Later on Tuesday evening we had a band rehearsal, and I unveiled a new song called ‘Lady Lies Low’. I recorded this on my own last week, but me Chris and Les played it through a couple of times, and it seems to work. The song is loosely based on an Angela Carter short story called The Lady Of The House Of Love. We had to run over old stuff to tighten things up, which can be a bit of a chore. Its more fun trying out new ideas.Apparently ‘Silver & Dust’ is selling well in Germany. I just got word today that the distributor wants a few more boxes. That was a pleasant surprise indeed. If you haven’t already got a copy , you know what to do.

Thurs 1 Feb On a grey morning like this, Anita Lane’s ‘The World’s a Girl’ is the ideal soundtrack for dealing with phone calls and the odd email. And nowadays, there’s myspace to tend to. Cyber gardening. And you gotta look after them, or at least check in, even if you’ve got somebody else taking care of business. A few days back I went to see Two Dollar Bash who were over from Berlin for a short Irish tour, and they were great. However, too much beer and tequila took its toll, so when Mark broke a string on my acoustic (he had borrowed for the gig) it was up to me to act as roadie while he swapped to mandola. Unfortunately the booze had kicked in and I failed miserably to get the new string onto the guitar within the usual two minutes that it takes me. Somebody else did it for me, while I struggled to remain vertical at the bar. Fuel for another dodgy rumour I suppose. In complete contrast, Mundy proudly told me that he was off the booze. Gavin Glass was down for the gig as well and seemed fairly together, while Declan Rooney was knocking them back while doing Pat Kenny impressions.

The following day I met up with Mark again and Matt for drinks in Russell’s Pub in Ranelagh, one of the few left in Dublin where you can drink without feeling ripped off. Ted dropped in for a while on his way to a date. A good time was had by all, and me and Mark got a chance to talk shop as well, as we are label mates….(sounds posh, doesn’t it) In fact I don’t feel like I’m in the music business at all. I’m so far underground I’m off the radar. But having a label has its advantages, and I’m happy enough to play music, get paid for it and still not feel like I’m involved in some ‘business’. I like the phrase ‘outsider music’ but that tends to apply to people like The Legendry Stardust Cowboy and Hasil Adkins, and that’s a whole different kettle of fish to what we do.Tonight I’m playing over on the north side of town, and I’ll be with the band in Carlow on Saturday. See you there perhaps.

Fri 2 Feb Im listening to Lisa Ekdahl and thinking how I'd like to be somewhere in Sweden having a beer package cure. The Swedes can't be beat. They've got the best women on the planet, great countryside terrain, blankets of snow in the winter and sunshine in the summer. Good record shops too. But let me explain the beer package concept . Simply buy a beer and get a bottle of the same brand for free. A lot of the bars in glorious Goteburg also do free food around tea time. Thats 6pm. Or you can get Potatos Mos from one of the Turkish vendors real cheap. Either way your set up for the evening.

Last night's event at the Belvedere was as usual, not many people, but sort of fun in an odd way. It certainly helped that Fi Shanks was over from London for the night. He played a cool five song set, doing a great version of 'Roll the Dice' which I blew harmonica on. My own set was fine, Terry arrived and once money had changed hands we hopped into the van and off we went. Not being in the mood for going home, I had a few drinks with Mr Shanks in the Russian bar, having picked up two female drinking buddy's from the Trocadero. Of course they had crap music on the stereo, but living in Dublin you learn to turn a deaf ear . Back at my pad Fi decided to cook a meal, and I encouaged him, while records were played, the tarot consulted and a lot of red wine was consumed. Earlier today the phone rang, and it was Sebastian calling from Wurzen in east Germany, where we will hopefully perform in June, either the day before or after our appearance at the Greizer Schlossfolk Festival. We struck up some sort of a deal and in celebration I sank two glasses of red wine and plugged in my heavy Guild electric guitar and let rip.

Tues 6 Feb Wide awake at 5.30am, I consulted Mary Shelly's 'The Last Man' for brain stimulation as opposed to lying there tossing and turning. A great book, first published in 1826, but set in the late 21st century when the world was about to end….because of the plague ! The aristocracy use hot air balloons for long distance travel and the Greeks are at war with the Turks on horse back , using muskets and swords. Mary still was a great writer, The novel certainly transports the reader to another world, albeit a very odd world, using her flamboyantly romantic poetic style of prose.I had boxes of CD’s to get ready for postage. Making sure each box had it’s customs sticker, I set out for the post office , and got the three boxes of Silver & Dust off to Pool Music who are distributing the record in Germany.

A few more chores to attend to back at my pad, emails to answer, IMRO forms to fill out, people to put on my hit list. On a cold grey February day like today, Nico’s “Chelsea Girl” made perfect sense. Then I worked on a few tunes, even played fiddle for a while. Maybe that’s why the neighbours give me the evil eye.Looking back, Friday was another late night, having bumped into Mundy by chance in Birchall’s in Ranelagh. Pints were knocked back, pints were spilled and nobody noticed and nobody cared, including myself.

Saturday evening we were on our merry way to Carlow. The venue was cold. The sound however was good, and they had printed their own posters, which were huge, still, only a small crowd turned out, but not too bad for the first weekend in February. At some point during the night I let the audience know that the last time I had played Carlow was 1989. I could hear one guy turn to his friend and say “I was five years old then.” That was in the days before mobile phones, before the internet, before the so called axis of evil, when being Irish in England wasn’t such a good idea, when there was only white people in Ireland, when it was a novelty to know somebody who had a real job. A terrible decade by all accounts, and most of the music made in the 80’s was crap too. And I contributed to the pile.We enjoyed the gig at the Music Factory, and hopefully I won’t have to wait another eighteen years before I play Carlow again.

Thurs 8 Feb Copenhagen ………I thought to myself; “Hear not the rushing sound of the coming tempest, fear not the steely grip of impending doom, feel not the earth quake and open, dread not the coming of Doctor Death.” Confidence and optimism were my dual companions on the early bus as I drew nearer to Dublin Airport, my first time to board a plane in ten weeks. I was content to spend these past few weeks at home, having spent so long on the road before xmas, often not knowing what was up around the bend, living from hand to mouth, sleeping on sofas, in cheap hotels, on inflatable mattresses, in Schipol Airport one night when I was left high and dry. A precarious existence, but fun. I slept little on the flight over to the Danish capital, and on arrival in the bitter cold I decided to chance my luck with public transport and attempt to navigate my way into town. A man on the bus overheard me asking the confused driver for directions to Christiania, and kindly offered to accompany me there, as he badly needed to score. As we drove through the grey streets of Copenhagen, my kind companion told me in his best broken English the story of his mother’s fame as the first female rock n roll drummer in Denmark.

Christiania is an autonomous community that started 33 years ago following the civil occupation of an unused area, then owned by the Ministry of Defence. Traffic free, the smell of weed in the air, several bars, shops, clubs, and over one thousand inhabitants on 85 acres of land. After meeting Eva, I have a cup of tea and bread and cheese, which exorcises the ghost of Mary Shelly from the right side of my brain. After a walk down by the river, I take a taxi to Bloomsday Bar on Niels Hemmingsens Gade. After sound check I have a drink or three with the owner Jonathan, who seems to have more jewellery than myself. In fact he recommends an Icelandic lady who has custom designed several rings for him, but they don’t come cheap. The gig got off to a good start, but after 45 minutes the cops arrived and shut us down because we were too loud. A pity really, as I liked the place and we had a good vibe. I still got paid, and I would like to return, but next time without interference from the law. Copenhagen used to have a reputation as a ‘live and let live’ place, but things are changing.

Tues 13 Feb Gothenburg.....Minus 3 degrees but no sign of snow, although the heavens tried to spit some out earlier. I was working on a new song, singing about walking around Aspen Lake, people I knew who flew the flag for rock n roll, self obsession and the road. As I scribbled down the words on the back of an envelope I tried not to fall into clichés. It looked like snow as I wrote " here comes the snow” which probably will be the title of the song. Down town I bought a bunch of records. Roy Orbison, Green On Red’s “Gravity Talks”, Ike and Tina Turner, The Stones “Goats Head Soup”. Also got Dylan’s “Under The Red Sky” which I heard for the first time while driving from London Ontario to Toronto feeling a little weary a few months back. I had been on the road for nine weeks and all the good times were beginning to take their toll, but ‘Handy Dandy’ cheered me up big time.I also got my cold hands on Cher’s Greatest Hits. I kid you not. It’s an Lp from 1974, so it real early stuff. I got it especially for “Half-Breed” and “Gypsy’s Tramps And Thieves. “ I had the latter on 7inch but its badly worn, very crackly, so I got it on a clean slab of vinyl. We went to strangely named etc, a wine bar in Vasastan, ended up having a wonderful spaghetti pesto meal and then we were joined by Arvid and Carolin, before hopping on the train out to Lerum.

Tues 20 Feb Dublin and Rockfield…….The sunshine has gone, and a heavy blue /grey sky hangs gloomily over the town, possibly over all Ireland. Umbrellas are put to good use by the passers by. Cyclists, head down, speed by. Rush hour is approaching, but I’m in no rush. As soon as I’ve hacked out a paragraph or two I’ll put on a record, perhaps Fats Domino and treat myself to a glass of red wine. Already I’ve attended to many emails and myspace messages. Answered most of the phone calls, and played guitar for a while, although I didn’t feel all that inspired and put it back down again.There is nothing worth reporting about the gig on Thursday at the Belvedere. Afterwards I caught The Trains three song encore in Madison, Rathmines. A great band by any standards.

On Friday it was the first night of the Acoustic Lounge, a night that I will host most Fridays at Thomas Read’s new bar over in Smithfield. Special guest was Gavin Glass, who blew me away with a great set. He can play guitar so well, and his songs are on the button. I played an hour long set, although I had intended to play a shorter one. I was also DJ, and that was fun playing cuts from Carl Perkins, Johnny Thunders, Mark Lanergan, The Kinks, Wreckless Eric and many more. Paul Conlon, who played tin whistle with Shane MacGowan and The Popes is down to see me with his own entourage. John Lalor (ex-Swine) Clarence Clarke, Jimmy and lady, Damo and Tom, Jimmy Cinders and Maria, Al Cowan. It’s name check time!! Some of us ended up in a mad Russian bar on South William Street, where we were happily ensconced for an unacccountable number of hours. It was a great shock when I realized I would miss the 10.30am bus bound for the wild west. However, we did manage to catch the 1pm. A big dinner awaited and a gallon of red wine washed down the fine meal. Stories were told and I walked a mile under the starry sky, the moon being absent. It would not wax until Monday.

Mon 26 Feb Red wine. Where would we be without it ? On Wednesday night we spent a few hours at the bar in the Trocadero on Andrew’s Street. Fi Shanks and Mari from Barcelona where knocking back pints of Guinness, me and Miss Karrman stuck with the vino, and we even took the unfinished last bottle home in the taxi.

I had a glass or two with lunch on Friday before I hit the road for Mullingar and that night’s gig at the Yukon. I had expected Dave from No Ego Promotions to drop in, but he didn’t. The PA sounded a lot better than last time, but it wasn’t an easy gig. It took the good folks a while to warm to me, but once they did I was in good company. Of course, once the gig was over, everybody wanted to talk, a couple of CD’s were sold, and Vince took me off to some dodgy nightclub. Later still, I was about to try to navigate my way up three flights of stairs to somebody apartment for a late party, but my phone rang and it was Johnny from The Aftermath. They had just pulled up across the road in their van, having survived a drive from Limerick where they had just played a gig. I threw my gear in the back of the van, and with Michael at the wheel we drove of to a location unknown where we entered the land of nod.

By 10.30am I was on the bus back to Dublin, reading (re-reading) selected passages from JG Frazers ‘The Golden Bough.’ On arriving home I decided I need more sleep, so I caught forty winks, before preparing some food and making my way to the Acoustic Lounge gig in Smithfield. As host, I introduced Jimmy Cinders and Maria to the audience, and later Seanie Foy, who actually managed to show up for the gig. Not only I was surprised. I threw on some CD’s in between sets. I’d have been happier playing vinyl, but transporting a bag of records, turntables AND guitars etc is just too much work. My own set went down very well and with Miss Karrman, Foy and Clarence Clarke as travelling companions, we made our merry way back across the river to Belgrave Square East for a late drink, a smoke, and a chat. Records were played and the vague arrangement of going down to Toast for a while went out the window.Saturday morning, I found Foy asleep on the sofa. A liquid breakfast and a short walk to Ranelagh village for a beer was the order of the day. Things were beginning to get a bit foggy. Had dinner in Marios across the street and next thing I knew is I awoke staring into stygian darkness. Flicked on the light. It was 11pm and I was stretched out in my bed at home, unsure as to how I got there. I then spent many hours pottering about the place, until sleep once again claimed me at around 7am. And that was my weekend. How was yours ?

Mon 5 March ……A few days ago I was on a tram into town and for some reason I got The Clash’s ‘Garageland ‘ whizzing through my head. “ I don’t want to know about what the rich are doing, I don’t want to know about where the rich are going…”Well, how things have changed. Take that junky twat Pete Doherty. He used to be in The Libertines, whose LP was produced by Mick Jones from the Clash, and his claim to fame is that he’s shagging one of the richest models on the planet. Poor old Joe Strummer’s ghost should give the lad a good kick up the hole. Speaking of gobshites, I can’t figure out if I hate Britney or love her. Last week I see the fat little skinhead attacked a car with an umbrella (!!) this week she wrote 666 on her baldhead and run amok in the loony bin before a sad attempt at hanging herself. Fair play Miss Spears.

Down at the passport office I got ticket 43 and had to wait a whole two minutes to collect the new one. Easy. Off to Hodges Figgis bookshop around the corner to get some reading material. I picked up a fairly decent book by Robert M. Place ‘Tarot, History, Symbolism and Divination’. I’ve read several books over the years on the tarot, but it’s always good to get a new perspective, and Mr Place seems to know what he’s on about, which is a lot more than can be said about a lot of these so called ‘New Age’ writers. Money also changed hand for a collection of short stories by Stephen Crane and a biography of Mary Shelly’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft. Crane's an interesting character, who wrote prolifically as a novelist, short story writer, magazine journalist, foreign correspondent and poet. His brief career ended in 1900 when he died from tuberculosis aged just 28. He was an influence on Joseph Conrad, Hemingway, and even Kerouac. With my bag of books under my arm, I went off back home for a few hours. Time was spent messing around with a new song and then later it was time for the cross-town trek for a gig. I wasn’t in the mood for it, but it went ok.

The following night we were over in Thomas Read’s bar in Smithfield for the Acoustic Lounge. Anthony White and Niall Lawlor were special guests, and there was a good crowd in. It looks like the evening is building up it’s own following. At the end of my set, Niall and Ger Kiely got up and joined me for a version of ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’ Gavin Glass and entourage were throwing a party so with Clarence Clark and Damian, I took a taxi across town, stopping off at an Indian restaurant near Portobello Bridge to buy a few beers. I looked at Ed, he looked at me and we both had to admit that we were slowly being seduced by the aroma drifting out from the kitchen. Within minutes we were sitting at a table reading the menu. I had Saag Paneer, can’t remember what Ed or Damian ate. Later, we eventually made it to the party on Harrington Street and I think I got home at around 7am.Saturday afternoon saw our guests Leif and Marianna off shopping while I had a meeting with a promoter. Later we drank a few glasses of red wine and visited Ron Blacks famous pub on Dawson Street, the smallest pub in Ireland. However, it was packed full of tourists and we walked a few yards further down the street to its sister pub of the same name, only this one is the biggest pub in Europe, or so they claim. With pints of Carlsberg at €5.50 a go, I won’t be back.Somebody had booked a table for seven at Fitzers and I ate spaghetti with feta cheese and basil and then off we went to see Moneybrother play a gig in The Village. They’re big in Sweden, and managed to sell out the Wexford Street venue. A great gig by any standards.. I met Anders Wendin from the band in a Camden Street bar afterwards and he seems like a nice guy. We chatted for a while and then I sat down and promptly fell asleep.

Wed 7 March Amsterdam…..I was hanging around in Schiphol Airport waiting for a phone call, and when it eventually came it wasn’t good news. I had arrived into The Netherlands a day early, with the intention of recording with Mark Gilligan in Voorst, but Mark told me it wasn’t going to happen as his father in law had just died. I called somebody I knew who had a pad in Amsterdam but they happened to be in Portugal, so I was left high and dry, nothing to do and nowhere to stay. I had a drink. Why not? I boarded the train into the city centre, optimism my constant companion, and I was lucky enough to find a cheap hotel (€25) just up the street from Central Station.

Luck was on my side, and as the rain began to lash down I made a quick phone call and went for a lie down as I had been up since 4am. After my nap I went out, grabbed something to eat had a drink and basically rambled around for a while, meeting a lady from Dublin in the process. Can’t remember her name, but we had met at a gig in Za Globa, a Polish bar in Dublin last summer. We chatted for a while and I wandered on my merry way, having another beer in a cool little place near China Town. After a veggie spring roll I had to shelter from the rain outside the Krasnapolsky Hotel on Dam Square. The rain eased up, and as the number 24 tram zipped by I made my way towards the Hotel Manofa on Damrak 46-48. For a while I worked on a new song called ‘Nine Bridges From Town.

’Thurs 8 March Groningen….Breakfast consisted of stale bread and a boiled egg that was like a rubber ball, a ceramic box on the table in front of me bore a white plastic carnation and plastic blackberries! Within an hour I found myself on platform 12b at Central Station watching the ferry’s cross the harbour as I awaited the train to Groningen. On the journey I read a few chapters from the biography of Mary Woolstonecraft.

We passed through Deventer and Zwolle, where I had played a few gigs back in ’97 and ’98, a previous life in many ways. A bright sunny day, Peter met me at the station. We took a long walk through the park and down to the lake and the big old windmill. We sat on a bench to rest our weary legs. . A contented canoeist drifted by and the blackbirds sang us a song from their treetop-resting place. We stopped off for a beer or two on the way back to the house, where I slipped into the role of DJ while my host cooked us a meal. . Down at the bar there were a few familiar faces and I played the show and we split not long afterwards.Back at the house two bottles of red wine were polished off, before his wife Eva arrived. . We chatted into the early hours of the morning. Eva is an artist and one of her paintings is on the cover of the book of poems by Danish poet Miriam Van hee. ‘Instead Of Silence’ is a fine collection, and has been translated into English by Judith Wilkinson. Eva kindly gave me a copy of the book.

Fri 9 March Hengelo…..A long sleep, which was unusual in itself. Peter gave a present to me to bring back to the wife, seeds for a four-leaf clover. He’s got one himself on the living room windowsill. Grow your own luck! Before long I was back on another train bound for another town. Got talking to a lady from Peru who asked me if it always rained in Ireland. . I told her it did, but with global warming I’m optimistic that we might get a good summer this year. As I write, I’m in my room in the Hotel Stravinsky in Hengelo with an hour to go before showtime.Sat 10 March Herentals……Met some nice folks last night, and this morning I got a chance to hang out in the room after breakfast. The cleaning ladies are polite and tell me they can clean some other rooms if I need to relax which is unusually kind.

By 1.30pm I’ve begun my five-hour journey to Herentals in Belgium., with a half hour stop over in Antwerp’s wonderfully gothic train station. Belgium looks and feels different from the Netherlands as the train slides through the farmlands. Herentals is in the northern Flemish speaking part of the country as opposed to the French speaking south. Herentals is a bigger town than I had expected, with an ominous looking church in the market square. I later learn that it no longer functions as a church, but is now a sort of Town Hall. It’s top heavy. Looks like some mythic giant trundled into town and sliced off part of the gable, which adds to its strangeness. As I walk by I imagine public witch burnings in the early 18th century taking place in the square, a crowd gathered, the city elders conducting the ghastly procedure. I blank it from my mind.Arriving at the bar, a lady asks me am I really Irish. and I say I am. “But are you for real?” Oh, yes, I’m for real all right. We chat for a while, she’s had a few beers and I’m curious about her attire, navy blue trousers and a sky blue shirt. Is she a cop, a security guard ? “I’m a prison warden” she tells me. A tough job I reckon. Her drunken friend enquires if I’m a Satanist as he points to the silver pentagram ring on my little finger. No, I’m not what you would call a Satanist. The lady, who is called Annalies, points to a pentagram on a chain around her neck. Turns out she’s shamanic wiccan, a solo practitioner. We discuss magick for a while and I’m in good company. When Annalies goes home to change clothes and get something to eat have dinner, sound check and go for a walk around town. At 10.30 its showtime. I’m thankful to have such a good PA system and the monitors are great too. An enjoyable gig, and a good responsive audience make me feel good. CD’s are sold and email addresses collected. On Sunday morning I awake at 7.30 and can’t get back to sleep. As I write, it’s 10.20am and any minute now we’ll be pulling into Antwerp. From there I travel on to the airport in Amsterdam to catch a flight back to Dublin. I got the job done.

Tues 20 March Dublin...The snow is falling, and the ground is dry, so maybe it'll stick around for a while. Over the weekend I played two gigs, and on Paddy's Day, I didn't go outside the door. Like New Years Eve, it's amateur night out. I'm listening to Gabriel Kelley who hails from Athens Georgia. He contacted me via myspace, and his country flavoured songs are worth checking out. I think I'll drop him a line saying if I'm ever passing through Athens, maybe he could help organize a gig for me. I'm off to the US next week, two gigs in Philly and one in NYC. I'll get to see Jack and some friends, buy records, hang around, eat at the great Indian place on Houston and do all the usual. I'm on the same bill as Two Dollar Bash in New York, so that should be a good night. (We're on the same German label)

Records on the turntable these days include T Rex LP 'The Slider,' The Broken Family Band 7inch single 'Alone in the Makeout Room' as well as the 7inch single from Bonnie Prince Billy 'Lay & Love.' A B side by The Television Personalities 'All Love Is Good Love' makes me think a happy thought. A desire to listen to the radio is thankfully something I never experience, although Karen Millers Americana internet radio show is worth catching.

Sun 25 March....The plink plonk sound of an effervescent ginseng pill being dropped into a glass of water was the first ritual of the day. A cod liver oil pill and a single tablet of L-larginine completed the days intake of legal drugs. After dinner in Mario's last night, we strolled home to watch Amadeus. The actor who played Mozart was a bit annoying. Maybe Wolfgang was a bit of a twat in real life, either way, the film had little to do with the what the history books say. I gave up on it half way through, it being around 2am, and anyway the wife had already crashed out in a heap on the sofa. The last few days were filled with activity. I worked on new songs and had various business type dealings to take care of.

On Thursday we shared the bill with The Aftermath in Madison, Rathmines, here on the south side of Dublin city, about a 20 minute walk from the city centre. I've been friends with Johnny Cronin now for a while, and as his brother Mick said, it was about time we got around to doing a gig together. Not many people showed up, but still we enjoyed playing and we were good too. Claire and her friend, who I had met in Amsterdam a couple of weeks back were down, Ed AKA Clarence Clark, Brian O Neill, a man I hadn't seen in a few years and a host of others. The Aftermath played a great set, and afterwards they came down to my pad where records were played, and we had a few beers, although Martin drank red wine, and Mick was on coffee, as he had to drive the van back to Mullingar. After the guys hit the road, the vague notion of doing an Irish tour together seemed like a good idea, so I wrote a note to myself to give Johnny a shout over the next couple of days an formulate some sort of plan of action. I also want to go to Greece, as Mr Cronin and crew have gigged there, and I've never been. I also hope to spend some time in the south of France recording before autumn arrives. But that's another story.

Friday night I was over in Smithfield for the Acoustic Lounge. Special guests were the Dirty 9's and Clarence Clark, and both acts were great. I met a few ladies I hadn't seen in many a year and a few taxi's ferried us off across the stinking Liffey to a late bar on the south side. There I bumped into Justin Healy who played drums with The Forget Me Nots back in the early 90's and later with The Golden Horde. He also played drums with my own crew on a tour of Sweden, Finland and Estonia back in 2001 or 2002, I can't remember correctly. We had a great time on that tour, but afterwards Justin got the idea into his thick head that I had ripped him off and he didn't speak to me for two years. Drummers are like that. But that's all water under the bridge now.I was told earlier today that over 1,000 people have read my recent blogs on myspace, so I reckon I should keep on writing. If I could sell records that easy life would be even better than it is. But I'm not complaining. I'll get around to making another record when I'm good and ready. It seems like ages since 'Silver & Dust' came out, but it's actually only seven months. Time has slowed down, which is what I set out to achieve. At the moment I can ram about three years into one. Later, I have to try to track down a promoter in Germany who has done a disappearing act. There's been a lot of that recently. I might go out for a walk. I'll have dinner etc.. New York beckons. I'm going there in two days time, but right now, I'm going to put on The Detroit Cobras 'I Want To Holler, But The Towns Too Small.' Turn it up !!

Wed March 27....New York.....In Dublin Airport we ran into Bobby McDonnell and his wife Hilda, on their way to Florida via a days stop over in New York. Bob had played with the Racketeers for a few years. We toured around Ireland, undertook a few trips to Finland, Switzerland and Estonia. My memory is vague on specific dates, but I know we were in Estonia together because there's photographic evidence on the Photos page at

We also toured The Netherlands together because I vividly remember one morning in Utrecht, having played at a blues festival the night before we were all feeling the worst for wear. We were loading up the van to drive on to the next gig in Zwolle, when I went into the storage area of the club to get something. Bob was eating a bag of chips and not helping out with the load, so I left him in charge with the van. I said, 'keep an eye on things for us.' In the few minutes that I was away a lady in a jeep drove up and tried to get past our van into the nearby car park, but didn't allow herself enough room , and reversed..When I came out I saw to my horror that she had reversed over one of my guitars ! I couldn't believe it. The case was smashed, but miraculously the Yamaha acoustic was more or less in one piece. Four machine heads had been broken off but the neck was still in one piece , as was the body. I had another acoustic with me, a Gibson/Epiphone, the Yahama being used only if I broke a string on the Gibson. I didn't panic, and although the lady gave me her business card, she never did pay for the repairs. In hindsight I should have called the cops there and then, but I can't stand dealing with cops. So yes, Bobby was definitely on that tour. A good bass player, but he'd never make a good tour manager.

In the airport we had a few drinks before we boarded the plane. On board, he sent down a bottle of champagne to us, which was a nice gesture. On arriving into NYC we had a drink or two over near Greenwich before parting company. Then we hopped into a cab and hooked up with Jack on Stanton Street. We ate in a Thai restaurant just off 1st Avenue, and had drinks across Houston on Allen Street.

Thurs 29 March. Yesterday was a hot hot day. After a bit of a ramble up on Broadway, we met up with Jack and I had some emails to attend to. A promoter in the Czech Republic has re- surfaced, so we had to try to sort out a few things. The German (full band) tour for June is shaping up with some new offers. So I'm feeling good. I needed to get to a post office to post a bunch of CD's to CD Baby in Oregon who take care of our online sales, and some posters to Philly. Later, a German promoter was looking for promo material, so I got that sorted too. Having coffee at an out door cafe at 1st Street and 1st Avenue I ate a big blueberry muffin and all was good, until we were approached by a huge fat rat. Jack threw a stone at him, and I freaked out, cos those fuckers give me the creeps. The rat didn't seem all that bothered my the missiles hurled in his direction, and we had to leave.

I saw some great guitars in a shop on Ludlow, vintage Gretches, Ibanez, Hagstrom, Gibsons, all out of my budget. I got info on Fender Champ amps which are being manufactured again.Happy Hour was spent with Asa in the 3 Crowns on 1st Avenue as Jack had to go off and do his own thing for a while. I marvelled at the competitive prices of the local CD manufacturing companies, before we all met up and had dinner. I was handed a bottle of champagne as a gift as we walked down the street. I later drifted off into the land of nod after reading a short story from Bukowski's 'The Most Beautiful Woman In Town.

'Fri march 29. Yesterday I visited Academy Records up on 10the Street . Spent over an hour looking through heaps of old vinyl. Thankfully they had turntables there, with headphones, so I listened to a lot of stuff before settling on an LP by Betty Lavette 'Do Your Duty' A Congo's LP and a double album of various OKEH artists from the 60's. We visited the White Horse Tavern where Dylan Thomas infamously drank thirteen shots of whiskey in rapid succession, before returning to his hotel and dying. We stuck to beer. The barman even gave us one on the house after we chatted about Ireland and Sweden.In a few hours I gotta make my way to Philadelphia for tonight's gig. I'll report more later when I get a chance..................

Saturday March 31 Philadelphia.....Yesterday we took the bus from Chinatown in New York up to Philly, a city held together with gaffa tape. Caught a bit of a gig by John Train, before we drove out to Erdenheim, way out past Germanstown. I played at Fingers, a new place, and if there's any justice in this weary old world it won't be open for much longer. The food was truly atrocious. I had Pasta Paradice, but it was more like Pasta Purgatory. Tasted like the chef with the phoney Italian accent poured a tin of cheap vegetable soup over some cooled penne and heated it up in the microwave. After the gig we had a few late drinks in Johnny Brenda's.

Tuesday April 3 New York......On Saturday afternoon we had a great big Philly breakfast and a look around town. We met up with Dave Dowling for afternoon drinks, and later Wendy drove us out to the suburbs for the second gig in the fifth rate bar. I had contemplated not showing up, but I'm a man of my word. I shouldn't have been booked into the place. Not my fault. Kevin and Laura drove up from Jersey to see me, and we split straight afterwards, arriving into Red Bank, New Jersey around 2am. A party atmosphere took over and I met Keith who is a radio DJ. Can't recall the station he's on, but hopefully he'll give 'Silver & Dust ' a spin. I think it was around 7am when I finally put my head down for a bit of shut eye. Sunday morning we took a bus in to NY and watched a movie, Scorcese's 'The Departed.'A bottle of champagne was opened and sampled, before we took ourselves over to the Sidewalk Cafe for the nights gig, and a great gig it was too. The sound was spot on, and it was good to be back dealing with professionals again, as opposed to those fools in Philly. Before my set, my friends (and label mates) Two Dollar Bash played. It happened to be their last show on a five week tour that saw them play something like 40 dates, so they're a bit tired. They split after my set, but we still had time for a brief chat. I sold a few CD's before rambling around to Sofies for a late drink. Rachel from Dublin, Voychech from Jersey (via Poland) Justine and friend, Jeananne, Paddy & Åsa....all ended up in Sofies.

On Monday Jack re-recorded his slide guitar part on a song we recorded a while back. I did a quick mix and hope to work on it over the next few days. Ate in Little Italy, picked up a few records...Rory Gallagher 'Irish Tour '74,' and Loretta Lynne 'One's On The Way' both on vinyl in Rockitt Scientist. I was cajoled into doing a tourist type activity. This involved walking half way across the Brooklyn Bridge, and taking photographs. I wasn't that impressed.