The Sound of My Own Voice.


Let me tell you why I don’t sing.

I don’t like my voice.

I don’t like the sound of my own voice.

I think that I’m alright on the guitar but I don’t like the sound of my own voice.

So I have decided to get a voice generator to generate a voice, a robot voice,
a voice that isn’t my voice,
a generic voice,
the voice of the machine,
the voice of the computer,
the machine-voice instead of the human voice,
does this robot voice sound better than my voice?

People use auto tune now so much.
They use those voice modulation devices that Cher used.

Why not just stop singing altogether and just cut out the middle man and get the computer voice to sing?

It is like The Matrix
We are too attached to machines and computers.

We are loosing our humanity behind glass screens.

(Unless we fight back)

Let’s take back what it means to be human from machines.
Let’s take back what it means to be human from machines.
Let’s take back what it means to be humans from machines.
Let’s take back what it means to be human.

Knock the scales from my eyes, knock the words from my lungs.

Back in my student days I had a housemate with a great selection of CD’s.
There is one song in particular that brings back memories of Burnsy in the little box room next to mine. I’m not sure he played it that much, but I played it a lot on his stereo. It is a cover of a Mark Heard song by Pierce Pettis and the lyrics are on my mind because today I’ve felt things on the tip of my tongue and sighs too deep for words but can’t get the expressed, captured or expressed and that frustrates me, makes me low, annoyed and wonder why it is so hard to say what you’re trying to say..

Tip of My Tongue by Mark Heard

There’s an oasis in the heat of the day,
There’s a fire in the chill of night,
And a turnabout in circumstance makes each a hell in its own right,
I’ve been boxed in, in the lowlands, in the canyons that think,
Been pushed to the brink of the precipice and dared not to blink,
I’ve been confounded in the whirlwind of what-ifs and dreams,
I’ve been burned by the turning of the wind back upon my own flames.

Knock the scales from my eyes,
Knock the words from my lungs,
I want to cry out,
It’s on the tip of my tongue.

Oh, I’ve seen through the walls of this kingdom of dust, felt the crucial revelation,
But the broad streets of the heart and the day-to-day meet at a blind intersection,
I don’t want to be lonely, I don’t want to feel pain,
I don’t want to draw straws with the sons of Cain,
You can take it as a prayer if you’ll remember my name,
You can take it as the penance of a profane saint.

Knock the scales from my eyes,
Knock the words from my lungs,
I want to cry out,
It’s on the tip of my tongue,
Knock the scales from my eyes,
Knock the words from my lungs,
I want to cry out,
On the tip of my tongue.

There’s an oasis in the heat of the day,
There’s fire in the chill of night,
When I know them both I’ll know your love, I will feel it in the twilight,
Oh, as circumstance comes crashing through my walls like a train, or like a chorus from the mountains of the ocean floor,
Like the wind burst of bird wings taking flight in a hard rain, or like a mad dog on the far side of Dante’s door.

Knock the scales from my eyes,
Knock the words from my lungs,
I want to cry out,
It’s on the tip of my tongue,
Knock the scales from my eyes,
Knock the words from my lungs,
I want to cry out,
It’s on the tip of my tongue,
Knock the scales from my eyes,
Knock the words from my lungs,
I want to cry out,
It’s on the tip of my tongue,
Knock the scales from my eyes,
Knock the words from my lungs,
I want to cry out,
It’s on the tip of my tongue.

Paco de Lucia

Legendary Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia died yesterday.
As someone who considers himself as alright on the guitar I can possibly get my head vaguely around the chord shapes if I stare long enough and slow it down  but have absolutely no idea of how he finger picked like that and combined it with the chords. No idea. Just a genius.

the gloaming


The moon was beautiful yesterday afternoon coming out of Clifden along the N59.

There it was riding the rocky hills of Connemara,  then disappearing for a minute between clouds,
then reappearing directly in front of the car and looking as if you could drive up to it as you ascended a hill.

The light on the harbour at Roundstone was beautiful (as captured by Mrs Canalways) and the clouds reflecting on Derrylea Lough, well they were beautiful as well…


The most beautiful piece of music I  remember hearing over the past number of years happened somewhere on a road in north Mayo while driving through a bog with nothing but bog all around.

We where in our Fiat Punto, or maybe it was the newly acquired Nissan Almera. It doesn’t really matter either way which car it was, it was definitely a small car with a dodgy radio.

One of us must have flicked onto  Lyric FM and this piece of music by ‘The Gloaming‘ was playing. I was mesmerised.

It took a bit of searching around the playlist of the radio show at some later date to find out what the song was called and there was no recording of it . So I never heard it again.
But yesterday as chance would have it I heard it again because The Gloaming are releasing an album and NPR are offering a first listen.

Listening to it again Song 44  didn’t seem quite as beautiful as it was on the north Mayo bog, but it is still beautiful.

That particular moment in north Mayo was just one of those unexpected magical moments when everything just fitted together perfectly. It was a moment of grace, something which doesn’t happen often and can’t be planned.

But now I’m no longer in small car  with a dodgy radio and H___ on a summers day on a empty road in an Irish part of Ireland with a beautiful piece of music playing.
No I’m in a cold living room on a damp evening veering between being a bit miserable to down in the dumps probably writing this blog to stop me thinking about the things I should have done that I haven’t done or to just occupy my mind and stop it wondering into dark corners and alleyways it should stay clear off.
The dark gets on top a bit, as happens to lots of people this time of the year with the dark nights and damp air and all those other reasons that make it tough for people.
There was a tragic death yesterday in Galway and there always seem to be constant reminders of bad news, suffering, death. I suppose there is no point pretending that the bad news doesn’t have to happen, it’s going to happen. ‘Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upwards’
I know that there is hope and redemption, beauty and light in life but the dark, damp, cold death seems to be just that little bit stronger sometimes.

So when there are  moments of beauty such as the reflection of clouds in Connemara loughs, the twilight moon, violins,Orion and The Plough over the house last night, the human voice singing in Gaelic that feed into some deep sense of life and joy inside as well I want to remember them. Particularly if you’re the type that finds it easier to remember the bad stuff.

thirty five


So I turned 35 yesterday and thought I’d make  playlist with 35 songs I’ve particularly enjoyed listening to while I’ve been here in Lambeg. Maybe it is a bit self indulgent, but it’s my birthday (or was my birthday) and I’ll make playlists if I want to. And if you make one for your birthday I’ll listen to it.

This is partly out of thankfulness for music helping me the last few years when life has been harder going that I would have liked it to be. I’m not a huge music fan as in going to concerts or being fanatical about some new music that everyone should listen to. But I do enjoy it (like most people). Music connects and gets into parts that nothing else can quite reach. I caught a snippet of Bruce Cockburn singing on ‘Child of the Wind’ the other night

‘The best roads of all
Are the ones that aren’t certain
One of those is where you’ll find me
Till they drop the big curtain

Really Bruce? The best roads of all are the ones that aren’t certain? I wish I could believe that sometimes, especially when life seems to uncertain but perhaps there is something to what you’re saying so I’ll roll with it.


bruised orange



“Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)”

My heart’s in the ice house come hill or come valley
Like a long ago Sunday when I walked through the alley
On a cold winter’s morning to a church house
just to shovel some snow.

I heard sirens on the train track howl naked gettin’ nuder,
An altar boy’s been hit by a local commuter
just from walking with his back turned
to the train that was coming so slow.

You can gaze out the window get mad and get madder,
throw your hands in the air, say “What does it matter?”
but it don’t do no good to get angry,
so help me I know

For a heart stained in anger grows weak and grows bitter.
You become your own prisoner as you watch yourself sit there
wrapped up in a trap of your very own
chain of sorrow…

the crack was mighty…

I spent part of the day in the arms of my acoustic guitar, an old friend (closer to a lover) which I’ve neglected and ignored for so long, a friend that has patiently waited for me while I’ve been distracted and moved about, worried and harried and still my Simon and Patrick has waited leaning against the book shelves in the corner.
So we spent time together today, intimate time when I remembered the joy of just doodling on the fretboard with no agenda, no desire to write a song or to keep things moving forward.

I also noticed the scar which I had inflicted on my friend many years ago in Dublin. It was The International Bar, it was a Monday night down in the basement and I was somewhere between starting a three song set and finishing it. There was a pint of Guinness involved, a standing on the tiled floor and a moment when the guitar strap came of the end.
I remember now.
I was holding the pint of Guinness when the strap came off and couldn’t make a attempt to catch, Simon and Patrick fairly cracked and bounced against the floor, the bar when silent in mourning and I picked it up while attempting to look as if I didn’t really matter, but it did I guess.

Looking back now, I wouldn’t take that moment back. I’m glad it holds a battle scar from the basement of The International Bar in Dublin, good times! A time when I wasn’t afraid to sing my song and let my voice be heard in public, unlike now when I hide away like a hermit.
So from now on the crack will serve as a sign of getting out there again and letting my voice be heard in dingy little bar basements and not caring if anyone wants to hear or not or if it’s good or not, just being in the place.

thoughts about writing/recording songs about suffering

Thinking out loud again.

When I started out trying to sing the exile over Lent the idea was to try and be honest and purge the crap, to lament  the state of the world around me and in me and  give myself a challenge because I need borders in place to make things.
I thought I would treat them like Psalm’s or prayers mostly on a personal level but by going through the process maybe it would connect or resonate with other people going through the same sort of thing. Perhaps there would be enough ‘good’ songs at the end to make a small CD or something.

Then a couple of unexpected tragic events happened which shook me a bit and brought me into uneasy territory.  Watching the images from Japan of the wave come in and sweep all before it and then learning on Monday about the tragic death of young man who was loved by so many friends has made me want to lament and ask questions of God. So some of the things I was thinking about the goodness and character of God that day, or wondering if there was a God found their way into the song from that day.

But then that is what brought me into uneasy territory because you never want to think that you’re using tragic events for your own gain or to try and impress other people. Sorrow is sorrow is sorrow and the people involved in the hurt are the main people to be concerned about. At the same time though other peoples sorrow makes you ask questions of yourself and your faith because it could just as easily be you or me getting a terrible early morning phone call and you can’t help wondering ‘What am I going to when/if this happens to me/us?’

For instance on the morning that the earthquake smashed into Japan I went straight into my room and quickly recorded a song. My initial thought was ‘How many have died?’ and the first reports seemed a bit light So a song came out of that.But a few days later when the full scale of the tragedy was unfolding the tune of the song seemed a little bit jaunty or something even though I liked the tune. My feelings at the time where true, but when recorded in song and played back a few weeks later out of context it might seem distasteful

Then there is the thought of would it ever be right to try and sell songs or art that have found their beginning in tragic events or other peoples sorrow, even your own? If at the end of trying to record a song/music/sound every day of Lent there was four decent songs would it be right to put them on CD’s and say ‘Hey guys, I  recorded this over Lent if you would like to by it’

I don’t think so, it would leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I find the idea of taking a song , turning it into a shiny attractive thing that people would want to buy a hard thought to get my head around especially if the songs have been brought on by suffering.

The idea of selling the songs to raise money for something like the earthquake in Japan doesn’t really sit well with me either because

a) people might feel guilted into the songs as they think it’s a worthy cause or something.
b)you might be trying to raise money yourself using  other people’s grief and suffering

Yet by giving the songs away for free you run the risk  that people think  the songs cost you nothing to make or that you  didn’t do work making them. The truth is that every song you record or write (no matter how bad it sounds!)does take time to make.

Because we live in the digital age which allows us to zip around the internet from one song to another we have  lost the sense of the work that goes into writing a song and think that an artist came up with and recorded a music as quickly as we found it on Google.

The very least time I could write a song and have it ready for listening would be about 10mins.
For that you would basically have to pick a guitar without thinking,  play straight away and sing the song straight out of your mouth – 3mins.
Then you would need to listen to the song through and mix it first time and burn to CD – 5 mins.
Take CD to computer and upload to web site straight away – 2 mins.

Of course that nevers happens. I reckon that you’re looking at least 10 times that amount of work for even a basic out of tune song.
So  a very very rough guestimate 100mins for one of my out of tune songs.
That’s  makes it about £10 if you where being paid £6 per hour for time.

It reminds me of those very bad 5min talks I used to do for the kids in church. It might have only been a bad 5min talk but it was sometimes hours in the making because its takes a lot of time to take a big idea and try to whittle it down so that a 5 yr old can understand.

Or its like an iceberg with only a small part  of the whole visible to the naked eye.