Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Playing Real Good, for Free

Now me I play for fortunes
And those velvet curtain calls
I've got a black limousine
And two gentlemen
Escorting me to the halls
And I play if you have the money
Or if you're a friend to me
But the one man band
By the quick lunch stand
He was playing real good, for free

– Kirkwood, as sung by Joni Mitchell

One of the fascinating things about walking through Edinburgh this week is that the city has become a busker's paradise. Walk half a block, and here is another concertina or guitar player. All the styles are joyful and different – and some of the musicians are downright phenomenal.

I've come across guitarists that have blown my mind by way of technique and ability. And they'll sit out on the stoop, playing their repertoire, for hours.

Take this guitarist, for instance. His name is Tom Ward, and the first thing you'll hear is his fabulous flamenco style of playing. The second thing is the guitar he's playing – it has more holes in it than a colander, and would put Willie Nelson's pock-marked axe to shame.

But don't be fooled by appearances... This guy had his strings wirelessly tied into a street amp (which was perched on a skateboard... Nice touch!), and the amp was throbbing with the perfect execution of his Spanish-styled fretboard skills. He had hundreds around him, all of them mesmerized by his repertoire and the strength of his playing ability.

Then there was the concert we took in (one of a few) at the glorious St. Giles Cathedral, at the heart of the Royal Mile. Allison Tarriff was the name of this extraordinary musician, who did an hour-long virtuoso concert that embraced everything from Weber to Horowitz. And even with my own former stint as a clarinetist, I learned something from this artist: this instrument is an astonishingly versatile one! For what other instrument can move from jazz to orchestra, from folk band to Klezmer, from military marching band to symphonic soloist? That would be the humble clarinet. And how she played!

Then, back on the street, we came across this cool guitar player by the name of Adamkadabra. Go figure. He had tuned his instrument to F-A-C-F-A-F and was playing it, dobro style, with incredible hammer-on technique. I'd never heard anything like it!

With guys like this, who had been working so hard at their craft and who sounded so great, it was hard to simply walk by without picking up one of their solo CD efforts. So I'm coming home with a few off-beat collections of guitar music....

We've visited a lot of venues in the past couple of days, and have absorbed so much music, drama, and culture. But the saying is true – sometimes, the best things in life are free.

Just like Joni described, in a song she sang a generation ago.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Windsor Street, Edinburgh, Scotland

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