Duncan’s Blog – June 2013

Well, not much to report this month. Probably more sunshine than we got all summer last year, so managed to et the new barbecue we bought up and running. We had a great time with our musician pals Chris Stout and Finlay Macdonald and their better halves, along with Cy and his wife Mairi, Dee and Emma (Dee manages Biffy Clyro, and we’ve been pals for years – he’s also bassist with the Pearlfishers) and of course the McCrones…..as I write this at the very end of June though, rain is falling and our campervan trip in July isn’t looking quite so enthralling….

Musically, we had a couple of projects, but no gigs. We recorded a song with Billy Stewart, a good friend of many years’ standing. He had written it in tribute to his son Gordon, who lost his battle with illness almost a year ago. Gordon had been planning on making a recording with us right up to the end, but it wasn’t to be, so this is a hugely important thing for his dad – Cy and I were so glad we could help make it happen. The song’s called ‘May I Walk in Your Shadow’, and will be available for download soon, to raise funds for – an awareness of – blood cancer charities. It’s a cracking song – very uplifting and breezy – and very suited to Gordon’s cheerful and optimistic personality.

We also managed to complete some library tracks we’d written, and worked with some cracking musicians at 45 a Side Studios in Glasgow – a great facility, and Paul McInally, the owner and sound engineer, did a great job for us.

London trip at the start of July, then it’ll be a couple of weeks off. Looking forward to Kintyre as always, and maybe a few days ‘on the road’ searching out places we’ve never visited before. In the West of Scotland, can’t be that many…!

Anyway, July’s gig-free as well – I’ll really need to think about plans for later in the year, as the diary’s empty after our two August concerts in Edinburgh. I just heard that the Corstorphine gig on 30th August is sold out, so we must be doing something right!

Hope everyone has a great summer, and that the sunshine manages to re-appear at some point!!

Cheers

Duncan x

Duncan’s Blog – May 2013

I’m writing this in our campervan, looking out from Sunnyside Croft in Arisaig – the sun is shining on Eigg and Rhum. Bliss, or it would be if the van’s 12v electric system hadn’t failed – again. It’s been one thing after another with this beast….it spends most of its life being used as an office cum writing studio in our back garden, and seems to dislike being made to go anywhere. This is its first trip since last August, and it’s done just over 4000 miles since new. Needless to say, none of its faults are ever covered by the warranty (read the terms and conditions, sir…). Ach well, the sky is blue and the view is stunning, so shut up, McCrone.

It was a real privilege for Cy and I to travel over to Carradale earlier in the month to play in the inaugural Noufest weekend – a three day celebration of the life and work of novelist and playwright Naomi Mitchison. Marvellous stories from her family and local musicians, fishermen and farmers, and great to work with our pals Mark, Stephen and Paul Johnson (aka The Twisted Melons) and the brilliant piper Lorne MacDougall.

A week later, Irene and I spent a coupe of great nights with a group of old friends in York, but I had to come back early to play at the Fintry Music Festival, where we supported Blazin’ Fiddles in front of an enthusiastic crowd of over 300. I’ve known everyone in the Blazers for years now, and we had a great time – they certainly know how to work an audience.

No gigs in the diary until August now, but I’ve a few ideas for later in the year and for 2014. It seems that promoting our own concerts might be the way to go, and I’m talking to another band about a series of double-headers. Do I need the stress of it all? Not really, but I do need to play and sing – can’t imagine a life without making music.

I really do love this time of year, though – June in particular always lifts my spirits, although the light nights sometimes make it difficult to get enough sleep. Apparently you need less as you get older, so I better get used to it!

Anyway, I reckon the long winter is finally out of the way, so here’s to long days, hill-walks, barbecues and happy times.

See you later,

Cheers

Duncan x

Duncan’s Blog – April 2013

Just about getting the blog done before the month’s over – it’s fairly flown by, and still no real sign of proper Spring weather here in Central Scotland.

Irene and I took off for a long-delayed and much-needed week in the sun, and Lanzarote certainly didn’t disappoint….something of a heatwave, with the hire car’s dashboard telling us of 38 degree heat on one sweltering day – unusual for this time of year, apparently. We lived high off the hog all week, eating out every evening, so I’m not looking forward at all to next month’s credit card bill!

We sat most evenings looking out over the Rubicon Marina in Playa Blanca, watching the yachts and floating gin palaces at their berths. It seemed like a fabulous view until we realised that all we were really seeing was a cluster of millionaires’ toys, obscuring the view out across the Atlantic. It’s quite possible that some of these dazzling yachts and cruisers were just bought for tax purposes, and that in some cases their owners have never even seen them. Wonder where their money comes from…….? By contrast, we spent one evening in the village of El Golfo on the west coast, eating fresh fish in a wee taverna and watching the sunset. The only boats were small, and belonged to the local fishermen.

Anyway, back home again, and looking forward to gigs next month in Kintyre and Fintry. Quiet times just now, although there are some irons in the fire for some really nice concerts later in the year. I probably need to put more effort into promoting the band but, as I’ve said before, it’s not something I’m at all comfortable doing.

On the writing front, Cy and I will hopefully finish recording eight tracks for a London media music publisher, and I’ll be looking to upgrade my recording set-up at home, hopefully to become more productive.

One very important task just now is to record a new song with our pal Billy Stewart, from Lanarkshire. Billy’s been a great help and support to me for many years, and has written a beautiful song in tribute to his son Gordon, who lost his long battle with cancer last July. In the two weeks before he left us, Gordon had been hatching a plan with me to record three songs to leave to his mum and dad, and our mutual friend John Weatherby at Sound Sense studios in Moffat, was geared up to bring his mobile recording rig out to Gordon’s house. Sadly, it was too late. Billy wants to see his son’s project to fruition, and only now feels he can get through the process – Gordon’s initial idea will grow into a fund-raising album, and several well-known Scottish artists have agreed to donate a track, so watch this space.

So – a month off in April, and definitely feeling the benefit of the break. Summer can’t be far away now (eh?) so fingers crossed for some barbecue weather!!

Cheers

Duncan x

Duncan’s Blog – March 2013

Good times at the March gigs – Glenfarg is always a great night and really friendly people, Cy and I enjoyed the annual Matt McGinn night in Linlithgow (as we always do) and it was a welcome return to Dalgety Bay. We played here four years ago, however Stevie’s mum had sadly just passed away and he was unable to play with us that time, so it was good to come back with the ‘full team’ and we had a great time playing to a capacity crowd.

That’s it for a while, though – no gigs at all in April, but we’re in Carradale and Fintry in May, so very much looking forward to those. No time to rest, though – we’ve some media music tracks to produce, and my daughter Julie has commissioned us to write a short piece for a series of thumbnail sketches she’s producing for her company’s archive – a bit stressful, as she’ll be a tough boss.

Easter weekend is looming, so Irene and I will be heading through the snow for a weekend in Skye, staying a night with my sister Anne and brother-in-law Ian in Broadford, then two nights with my old pal and former Dapplegrim band-mate Billy Ross and his wife Christine in the North of the island. Can’t wait – long walks with our dogs Duggie and Dougal, drams by the log fire and dinner at a nice restauarant in Portree on the Sunday.

We’ve also booked a week in Lanzarote in mid-April, which we should have done weeks ago. 2013 has been a bit full-on, and last year ended badly when we lost Irene’s dad, so some time in the sun is very overdue. I’m not great at relaxing, but I’ll do my best…….

It’ll be good when winter finally takes its sorry ass off to Australia, or wherever it goes, though. Just had the campervan serviced in readiness, so hopefully a few good trips in prospect this summer. It’s a grand big bus, and doubles as an office and writing room/studio when it’s parked out in the back garden (which is 97% of the time!), so I’ve spent a few happy hours out there with the guitar and wee recording set up over the winter months – wish I could say I’d written a whole lot of great songs, but I’m still struggling a bit for ideas. Thing is not to think about it, or I’ll get psyched. The TV music tunes are sounding good, so at least there’s some good ideas still there, thankfully.

Anyway, that’s about it for March. By the time I get back to you with April’s story, hopefully Spring will have finally appeared. See you then – keep warm!

Cheers

Duncan x

Duncan’s Blog – February 2013

February’s gigs were both crackers – Edinburgh Folk Club, followed by Stirling five days later. These are both long-established, knowledgable clubs, and I was quite nervous. I needn’t have worried – we were well received and even sold a fair few CDs! I sometimes think the whole gigging thing is too stressful – dealing with the promoters, organising the band, rehearsing etc etc – and wonder whether it’s worth the hassle, but when I get to play really nice venues like these, I end up buzzing for ages afterwards, and that’s why I keep horsing on – it’s an itch you never lose, and you gotta keep scratchin’ it….

February also made me shiver, as the song says. My dear old pal Harry Barry called me right at the start of the month. We spoke for an hour or more about songwriting, mutual pals, gigging, his new play about Coatbridge’s history which is planned for May and the World in general. He was in great form. Three days later I got a call to say that Harry was gone – suddenly, during the night, and with no apology. An aneurysm, apparently – just tapped him on the shoulder. I spoke at Harry’s funeral – a real privilege and an honour for me, and also terrifying. I remembered a fine songwriter, a master writer of radio and TV jingles and a funny, daft, kind and utterly passionate human being. Bill Torrance led the service, and his pal Roy McCallum delivered a heartfelt eulogy, while Alastair Macdonald sang his song ‘The Leerie’ with words by one of Harry’s favourite poets, Robert Louis Stevenson. I can’t believe I’ll never see or speak to him again.

But life goes on, even though something will be missing. There’s a definite hint of Spring, and the endless cold sunshine definitely lifts the spirits. I spent today in Edinburgh, and even a chauvinistic old Weedgie like me was impressed, strolling down Prices St in the sunshine.

Musically, there’s talk of some more film and TV music to be written and produced by me and Cy, and we’ve got a couple of song ideas on the go (at long last…!). Three gigs in March, then nothing until late summer, although we’ve a few ideas about some trips to the west coast over the summer. I’d like to put on a few small shows around the country, but it’s finding the time to organise and promote them. I still work full-time in the music business, and love my job to bits, but it does take up a lot of time and energy. I think Irene and I might take off for a week in the sun, then I’ll come back with recharged batteries. After that, weekends in Skye, Arran, Islay, Kintyre and a few other places as yet undecided – good times ahead!!

Anyway, that’s February for you. Off to London for a couple of days tomorrow, then a weekend seeing various pals we haven’t seen for ages – can’t wait.

See you again in March…

Cheers

Duncan xx

Duncan’s Blog – January 2013

A really nice festive break, but not that relaxing….lots of places to go, pals to visit, friends coming over, parties in the village etc etc. I like to get fired up for the new year ahead, but the early January weather is so grey, misty and dull it’s not easy to get into gear!

I always enjoy Celtic Connections, and I’m hoping to spend quite a lot of time in and around the Concert Hall – always good for meeting friends I haven’t seen for a while. It was fantastic to be offered a gig at the festival this year, and our concert at the Glasgow Art Club was a huge deal for us. We were supporting Jim Malcolm, who was delightful to work with. His set was superb, and featured his daughter Beth, who we all thought is a star in the making. If I could play guitar half as well as Jim I’d die happy, but we went down well too – it was a fantastic venue, and a really nice crowd. Icing on the cake was that two more gigs came in for us on the same day – Corstorphine and Dalgety Bay folk clubs.

I’m still struggling to find ideas for new songs though, and it’s starting to worry me a bit. I’ve never been able to churn stuff out, but I can usually manage a couple of new songs every year. I sit in the music room and spend most of the time chucking stuff away – maybe I’m thinking about it too much. Cy and I have just been asked to write a few new tracks for TV use, so maybe that’ll get things moving again! I’ve got a campervan parked out in the garden, that doubles as a studio cum office, so I’ll be spending a bit of time out there with the guitar and the workstation – wish me luck!

Another new year resolution is to de-clutter my life a bit. I’ve too many guitars, and too many vehicles! My lovely old Morris 1000 Traveller is earmarked for the old heave-ho, which will be tough, but it’s doing less than 300 miles every year, and it’s time someone else got to enjoy it. Driving it is wonderful – everyone smiles at you, and no testosterone-poisoned sales reps or sad ‘petrolheads’ carve you up. I can’t part with my 1968 MGC roadster, though – we’ve been together for fifteen years now, and it’s true love, even though we don’t spend enough time together. Selling guitars is altogether trickier. I did try to sell my Taylor Big Baby on email a few months back. Someone won it for 2/3 of its worth, but didn’t like it when it arrived, and complained it ‘wasn’t as described’, having more marks on the top than I’d indicated. I refunded the money in full, and paid another £25 to get it back, and I still think it’s in fantastic condition for a 10 year-old instrument. It’s put me right off eBay selling, though. In any case, you know what they say – whoever dies with the most guitars is the winner! I must be somewhere near the front, I’d say, but still a million miles behind my band-mate Stevie Lawrence!

Anyway, just in from a brilliant hill-walk in deep snow with Duggie the Dug. Irene’s been taken away for a weekend treat in Harrogate by our daughter Julie, so I’m home alone. I’ll have absolute control over the TV tonight, and with a roaring log fire and a nice bottle of Shiraz, life feels pretty good!

Stay safe and warm!

Duncan xx

Duncan’s Blog – December 2012

There’s something I like about December – cold, but there’s often quite a lot of sunshine around, and this year’s been no exception so far.

Only one gig this month – Me and Cy playing Helensburgh Burns Club’s St Andrews Night concert on the 1st. Organised by Kirsten Easdale, it was a fantastic night, playing to really nice, friendly people. Kirtsen’s a wonderful singer, and her set was much too short. We were also blown away by Bellevue Rendezvous’s set. Gavin, Cammy and Ruth – an ‘A’ list outfit in my opinion – should be much better known. Kirsten’s partner Steve Niblock, who is a masterful fine art photographer, took some great pictures at the concert, but when I look at me and Cy in them, I hope the camera lies, at least a bit!

Very proud moment watching ‘Scotland’s Greatest Warrior’ on BBC2 Scotland. An hour-long documentary about James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, and his escapades both with and against the Covenanters. A complex, fascinating man. Did I mention ‘proud’? Well, it was produced by my beautiful daughter Julie, who now has a string of broadcast credits to her name. She’s the most hard-working, conscientious person I know, and a truly lovely person as well. Proud doesn’t come close to covering it. Ach well, I’m her daddy, I’m allowed to go on a bit…

Irene and I headed up to Fort William for the Trad Awards on the 8th, and had a great time. Met up with lots of friends and people we haven’t seen for years, and the music was really good this year (as usual, to be fair). I’d kind of hoped Balerno might get the award for best club, but it went to Falkirk this year. I’ve never played there since the Clydesiders days in the 90s, but I’m sure it’s a worthy winner.

Talking of Clydesiders news, the new CD is finally here, and will be in the shops from 10th December, which is exciting news.

Well, I’m posting early for Christmas (not like me) in case I get lost in the nonsense of the weeks ahead and forget to keep up the blog. I hope everyone who takes the time to read this malarkey has a happy, relaxing time at Christmas, and I wish everyone peace and a nicer, gentler World in 2013.

Duncan x

Duncan’s Blog – November 2012

Crikey – just noticed it’s the 29th, and I haven’t put up the November blog yet, so just a quick few words to keep the (ahem) continuity.

Cy, Stevie and I played Balerno this Tuesday, one of our absolute favourite gigs. Packed out on a Tuesday evening in late November – it’s how a folk club should be…..everyone out for a good night’s fun. Carole and Alan Prior, and Norman Lamont (no, not that one..) played sets too. Carole wrote the tune for Violet Jacob’s poem ‘Baltic Street’, which I covered on the new CD, and I was truly nervous singing it with her sitting in the front row. She was very nice about it, though.

Good news this morning – confirmation of a gig at Celtic Connections. The Trio will be playing on Jim Malcolm’s show at the Art Club in Bath Street on Tuesday 22nd January – I’m delighted.

Other piece of good news is that I replaced the written off car today. I’ve now got a hybrid Citroen, which seems to run on chip fat and Duracells. I’ll have to ease up on slagging Cy for his Toyota Prius, I suppose. The new car’s all hi-tech, so it’ll take me a while, but it’s supposed to do 74mpg. Aye, we’ll see……

I’ll try and be a bit earlier with the December update, but just in case – Merry Christmas!

Cheers Duncan x

Duncan’s Blog – October 2012

Very glad to see the end of September. It’s a month I’ve always disliked, as it marks the end of summer – not the beautiful colours of autumn, but faded, tired greens, chilly damp air and short days. Ugh. It’s also my birthday month, so I get to be a year older…I say I’ll stop counting, but you can’t fool yourself – time marches on! Nice gig at Mugdock to finish off the month, too – quite a good turn out, which would have been excellent if everyone who said they were going did – around 17 no shows. Ah, well.

October’s gig free, so a wee bit of time spent sending emails to clubs and promoters, a job I really hate. Some reply, some don’t…plus ca change! Cy and I have some library tracks to finish, so that’s good, but I really need to start thinking about writing songs again – I gave myself a holiday from writing after all the energy spent on the album, but it’s high time I got my mojo working again, such as it is! Hopefully the new guitars will spur me on a bit.

Home life has been a bit stressful – my poor old father-in-law is having a real struggle with the last stages of emphysema, which means that my wife Irene is constantly running back and forth to hospitals etc, and looking after her mum. As an only child, she has a tough job, but our beautiful daughter Julie shares the load with her, despite her own hectic career as a TV producer. I’m very proud of them both.

Just as things were bad enough, I managed to get involved in a serious road accident on the first black ice morning of the autumn. I’ve been told that the car will cost £6000 to repair, and may be written off, but neither I or the young guy in the other vehicle were hurt, thankfully, so it’s just so much metal, glass and rubber. Could have done without it, though!

Anyway, this is starting to sound a bit too doom-and-gloomy, and life’s actually really good. Three gigs have come in for 2013 in the past week, and work at PRS/MCPS has been good fun.

We heard this morning that the wonderful songwriter Michael Marra passed away this morning. Michael was just a lovely guy – gentle, witty, humble and blessed with the most incredible talent for songwriting. I recorded his song ‘The Lonesome Death of Francis Clark’ back in 2001, after asking his permission first. I remember how pleased he was that someone liked his work enough to record it, and he gave his blessing. I met him several times after that, and had the honour of playing support to him twice. I’ll never forget how nervous he was before a performance, and how assured amd professional he was during it. Rest in peace, Michael.

Duncan’s Blog – September 2012

Great to get back to gigging after two months – a concert at the Royal Yacht Club in Greenock, and the audience was just fantastic. Everyone out to have a good time, and great chat afterwards. Sadly, I had to drive from there straight to Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow, where my father-in-law had been taken earlier. Got there around 1.30am, and it seemed as though it was time to say goodbye, but he improved a bit during the night, and at the time of writing he’s still with us, although very tired. I married his only daughter, and my daughter’s his only grandchild, so it’s a tough old time.

To be honest, September’s not my favourite month, and brings some sad memories for me, so its good to have the music to take my mind off things. I’m looking forward to the next concert on Friday 28th – me, Cy and Stevie at the brilliant wee theatre in Mugdock Country Park, outside Milngavie. I’ll be using the new Gibson for the second time and I have to say I’ve fallen for it in a big way, after not being 100% sure to begin with. Fantastic big sound, and it looks fabulous – playability’s good, and I’m working on that.

After all the initial excitement of the album launch, things on that front have quietened down. Radio plays have slowed, but that’s how it goes – you get your five minutes in the sun, then it’s someone else’s turn. Ah well!

I’m hoping to get seriously back into the writing in October – 2012’s been so busy, I haven’t had time to even think about it, and I think I exhausted my mojo a bit with all the album malarkey!

I’m looking forward to the new Clydesiders album – the record label has been showing some ideas for the artwork, so hopefully it’ll be a tasty looking item. I’m hopeful it’ll make the shops by Christmas, but these things seem to take forever. Cy and I are also finishing a few tracks for a London publisher – the project is 95% finished, but that last 5% seems to be taking superhuman effort to get done!

Anyway….all work and no play just now, and relaxation’s not easy with the poor old dad in law being so ill. A holiday would be tremendous, but not possible in the meantime. Maybe a few nights away at a nice hotel on the West coast – we’ll see.

Oh, and yet another birthday this month. September…..I really don’t like it at all! xx