Gregor Hilden.

Gregor is a renowned Blues musician as well as having a YouTube channel called GregsGuitars. On it he showcases guitars, giving you all the different pickup selector switch, volume and tone options. He’s an absolutely brilliant player. His touch and feel is out of this world. Incredible musician.

Here he is playing a 1989 Eric Clapton Signature Edition Fender Stratocaster.

Wishes, Birthday and Otherwise

I have sent a card out today to an old curmudgeon 🙂 whose birthday it is tomorrow. He plays guitar and increasingly more in the finger-style tradition. How the hell he manages to not knock the selector switch out of position on his Strat I shall never know. I keep f***ing doing that and it’s driving me ’round the bend.

I’ve been drawn to the psychology of having just the one instrument and putting all my energy into that. I play a Strat and it’s set up in such a way that as well as the usual 5 positions via the selector switch (neck, neck/middle, middle, middle/bridge, bridge) I also have a push-pull feature on the volume control.

With the volume control pulled out/up, and in what would be the neck position (which I call 1 and which everyone else seems to call 5*), that gives me just the neck and bridge pickups together. It’s not a Tele sound but it’s very usable nonetheless. The 2/4 position (neck/middle) gives me all 3 pickups in series, so 7 different sonic options in all. It’s just a shame then that I can’t play for toffee!!!

*I have never understood calling the neck position on a Strat, position 5. That’s going anti-clockwise and makes no sense to my mind. Same with Les Paul’s. Why are the volume and tone controls horizontal for each pickup when the pickups are vertical by comparison? It just makes no sense. In fact, why not just 1 overall volume and 1 overall tone plus the selector switch?

A good pal of mine, Pete, has been given a guitar to review on his YouTube channel and in return he gets to keep the instrument. He has already gigged it and seems well pleased. I would imagine though that guitars reviewed publicly are set up in advance of shipping. I have noticed looking around YouTube that the channels where the player has bought the instrument from a website rather than being given one to review, the results are more mixed in terms of the state in which it arrives in. It’s still amazing however how much guitar you can get nowadays for very little cash outlay. Vintage (company name) guitars are excellent for the money. This is a guitar I covet. Vintage VSA500. Their (Vintage) ‘S’ Style guitars, I think they come with a 10″ fingerboard radius. I suppose so they don’t get sued by a certain ‘F’ company.

Today, I am learning how to play Harlem River Blues by Justin Townes Earle, someone I had not heard of until listening to music on Jango. Jango is a free music streaming service. When you register on the site, if you like a track you give it a thumbs up and it’s played more often. If you give a track a thumbs down, you never hear it again. I have discovered so much great music through it. I will embed the video to the JTE track I’m learning below plus another to showcase the range of his musical style.

Sadly, he is no longer with us. I wish he was still here. Justin Townes Earle (January 4, 1982 – August 20, 2020) was an American singer-songwriter and musician. Rest In Peace x

Thank you for reading.

The good old U S of A

I met someone a couple of days back who lives in Los Angeles. Very nice person to chat with. I’m glad we bumped into each other.

I grew up on American TV shows, American films, American music. The Blues, I mean what more can be said? That genre of music flows through my veins.

I like the attitude of women from The States. The openness in their manner. Very little in the way of affectation.

Then we come to personality. It’s so stuck up here in the UK. People seem to be afraid to even smile in case it might crack their faces. There’s just so much control here. Too much uniformity of thought and conformity of behaviour. I love talking with people from The States, as they are so genuine in how they express themselves. I love their spontaneity. I have often wondered how my life would have worked out had I been born in the United States. As a child I was what is referred to here as a ‘chatterbox’ and it’s an insult, a slur.

Everything is so ‘polite’ here. Stiff upper lip and all that nonsense. I was chatting with an American couple who now live here and they were telling me how music concerts and gigs differ there to here. People whoop, holler and cheer there whereas here it’s a light ripple of applause with those same types looking around them just in case they have gone too far in showing their approval for the music. I think it was Brian Johnson, lead singer from AC/DC, who lives in The States now and he was talking about how people just let their hair down and are themselves in America, even doing mundane things whereas people in the UK don’t know how to do that. I wonder if the weather plays a part?

I don’t think my life would have been easy if I had lived in the United States. I would likely still have been bullied growing up because I was clearly different. I was a bookworm, an introvert and I kept very much to myself. I still do. I would likely have clammed up around the girls at High School and would have ended up working in a bookstore or library however I feel I would have largely been allowed to be myself, personality-wise. It feels freer ‘over there.’ I cannot recall the last time I’ve had a good old chinwag with another Brit. Everyone is so surly here now. It’s silicon valley really. The Live to Work, Work to Live mindset is everywhere sadly.

Alcohol misuse is prevalent here too and that’s understandable as for many it’s the only way they can loosen up socially and really ‘be themselves’ in a social setting. I have a good friend from the United States and when I talk with her, it’s just about the only time I can have a really great in-depth and good humoured conversation with an intelligent human being. There’s a very real sense of a line to be toed with so many people in the UK however not so when I meet someone from The States. Quite a lot of people from there have different views in terms of the spiritual side of life and I love that. There used to be so many different spiritual options here when I was growing up however that’s now largely disappeared in favour of The Big 3 religions and their spin-offs, or not believing in anything at all.

Politically, we get told about our special relationship with those who live ‘across the pond’ which is largely borne out of geopolitical concerns however for me, it’s far more than that. American culture infuses my soul. No other country on Earth has had such a wide-ranging and deep impact as The United States. It’s not just because I grew up on CHiPS, The Dukes of Hazzard, Sesame Street, The Muppets, The A-Team etc Even if I had been brought up on Canadian TV or solely British TV I would still have been drawn to the U.S. The music alone is out of this world. But the most important reason for why I would have ended up discovering the country and its people is really very simple.

I find Americans warm, friendly and their honesty refreshing.


Arborescence was my first encounter with the band Ozric Tentacles.

I can remember everything about the day I purchased it. It was a hot Summer’s day. I was young. 20 years of age. The world still felt new. Hope and innocence, my constant companions.

Around this time, I was frequenting New Age shops and had discovered the work of Alfred Watkins. Ley-lines. I was finding myself drawn to Paganism.

I only ever play this album as the warmer weather approaches. I love everything about it.

The artwork still takes me to another world. In fact, it was the cover which attracted me to it, as I had no idea what the music would be like.

I came home. Put the cassette tape into the stereo and for nearly 50 minutes, I was transported into a world I hadn’t been aware I was searching for, however, I knew I had found something very special indeed.

The rocking opener Astro Cortex gave way to the spiritual loveliness of the title track, through to the world beats and ambience of tracks such as Dance Of The Loomi and There’s A Planet Here. In fact, there was something for every part of me in each track. Ed Wynne’s guitar playing was then and still is, incredible to listen to.

This album takes me on a journey, one which I embarked upon back in 1994 and in 2023, I’m still travelling that inner road.

Contemplation Time

I am sitting here listening to a song, The River Knows Your Name, by my favourite singer-songwriter, John Hiatt. It’s from the album Walk On which was the first album of John’s I bought and still the one which captivates me the most.

In the town in which I live are three rivers and the smallest one flows into a larger one and then further along that river flows into the largest. So there are 2 points along the journey of each river where a river merges with another and becomes one before individuating once more.

I am reminded of the quote attributed to Rumi – “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” I like that. We don’t have to surrender our individuality in realising we are each more alike than different.

I was thinking about water and how it often represents emotion and just as the song began, rain started to pelt against the window. There’s a whole world outside that window. I used to get up really early and walk about and streetlights would be on and the occasional lighted window in the houses around me but by and large, everyone would be in the land of slumber having hopefully nice dreams and who knows, maybe some astral travel as well.

The rain hit the windows hard and I was reminded of the musical warrior, Gord Downie. A remarkable individual. I was introduced to him through the parent band, The Tragically Hip. The album was Live Between Us. It was so different to anything I had heard before yet I was captivated at once by the sound and feel of the band and the deftly poetic allusions created by Gord as he expressed himself artistically through song.

The first studio album I heard was In Violet Light and I was especially taken by a song called “It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken.” Gord Downie died in 2017 of an aggressive form of brain cancer, called glioblastoma.

In the time remaining after his diagnosis, he went on a final tour with The Hip and that last show is on YouTube in its entirety. The song Grace, Too is incredibly hard to watch because in the screams contained within the song is a man railing against the dying of his own light. He begins to cry. The screams become a cri de couer. It makes me want to reach into the screen and hold him and tell him everything will be okay although he and I would know that it wouldn’t be. I would still want to reassure him in some way. At least to let him know I value/valued his presence on this Earth.

Gord also recorded a haunting album entitled Secret Path which charted the short life of Chanie Wenjack, an Anishinaabe boy who ran home one night from an Indian residential school before sadly succumbing to hunger and exposure. His body was found next to a railway line. He had walked for 36 hours in sub-zero temperatures, wearing just a windbreaker. It’s a powerful musical statement pertaining to a terribly sad time in the history of Indigenous peoples living in Canada.

When I was in Intensive Care last year, I got chatting to a nurse who worked there. She was mad keen on the band Rush, another group of incredible Canadian musicians and it was through her I reacquainted myself with them. The drummer Neil Peart had himself passed away due to brain cancer. I had in the past been crazy about the band and had seen them in London on their R30 tour. The only concert I have been to where people not only stayed for the drum solo but awaited it with baited breath and Neil didn’t disappoint. Three master musicians.

Anyhow, I started watching YouTube videos and I came across a performance of “It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken” performed at the 2021 Juno Awards with the remaining members of The Tragically Hip and with special guest Feist on vocals. It broke me in two. Here I was, still close to death and yet suddenly remembering how precious life was/is. Sometimes I forget. I have healed and life goes on. Gord isn’t here. Neil isn’t here. Their music however remains, as do I.

And as do you reading this.

If I could, I would reach out from this screen and hug each and every one of you and let you know, in no uncertain terms, how grateful I am that I know you.

Thank you for your Earthly presence in my life.


I have been absolutely miserable since 1994. Yes, all that time. I was thinking back to then and trying to work out what could have occurred to make me feel that way and I realised it was the year I got into organised religion. Organised religion may work for billions of people however it didn’t work for me at all. It caused me to wallow in depressions, caused me to hate myself and it definitely caused my mind to fragment.

So, I started thinking back to that time. What brought me enjoyment? Music. I had discovered some great musicians around that time and I had my Sony Discman and my rechargeable batteries and I would charge up a load to get me through a day’s listening and really give my attention to a couple of albums, not flitting between mp3 albums like I got into the habit of doing. I wonder if I would have loved music the way I used to had I been brought up on Spotify? I developed a kind of musical ADHD in relation to it. I would be partway through an album, see the tab for Related Artists and before I knew it I was listening to another album and then another and so after a few tracks into each album I would be off listening to something else. You really can have too much choice.

I grew up with a television which up until 1982 (I was born in 1973) had only 3 channels and the programmes didn’t go through the night, there was a cut off point around about 1 a.m. but there was always something to watch, not like now when I can trawl through 50+ channels which are on 24/7 and seldom find something I a) want to watch and b) is actually edifying to sit through. Most of it is dross. There was infinitely more quality back then.

So, I made the decision to go out and buy albums again. We have a charity shop here in the UK called Oxfam and they have stores dedicated to music and books while their other stores deal with clothing, bric-a-brac, jigsaw puzzles, board games etc It was in one of these the other day I bought 2 albums, one by Ray Wylie Hubbard and one by North Mississippi All-Stars. Both still factory sealed and at £2.99. I felt that old rush of excitement buying music. I have not heard these albums but I know something of the artists in question so I know I will like them. To actually give my time to music rather than keep zig-zagging about.

So, today I connected my mp3 player to the dvd player and have sat through individual albums again. One interestingly from 1994.

Those albums are:-

(Blues) Freddie King – Burglar (1974),
(Jazz) Esbjörn Svensson Trio – Seven Days of Falling (2003),
(New Wave) Men at Work – Business As Usual (1981),
(Psychedelic/Space Rock) Ozric Tentacles – Become The Other (1995),
(Rock) Dave Matthews Band – Under the Table and Dreaming (1994),
(Heavy Rock) Dynamite – Blackout Station (2014),
(Contemporary Rock) Albany Down – South of the City (2011).

This was how it used to be. My Mum and Dad would give me a tenner (£10) each week and at the weekends I would head to the record stores and pick up an album or 2 and they would get played through the week. If I liked the music, I would seek out other albums by the same musician/band and if I didn’t like it, I would swap the album for something someone else had and didn’t really listen to or else I would give them to charity shops.

I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to music today. So far, all of the albums I’m keeping. If I come across some I don’t like I will just delete them from the device to make way for something else.

I have also jettisoned organised religion from my life and I have renounced everything from the Abrahamic faiths. I was happiest when I was involved in Earth Spirituality. Mother Earth, Father Sky. No names for it. Just a simple appreciation that everything is living and wanting to connect with all life forms, from the smallest insect to the largest cetacean.

In my mind, it’s 1994 again and I’m on the correct path once more. I wish I was 20 again rather than nearly 50. I’ll just call it 1994 with 30 years worth of experience under my belt.

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