Wall of Violin

Last post before I go on a break  to the Farhterland,

Here are two tracks showcasing what my recent collaboration with Emma Luker sounds like; somewhere between the Velvet Underground, Steeleye Span and the Dirty Three, as I intended. I’m kinda happy with them, but be warned, they are basically FOLK music, especially the second track, so if that word makes you want to take heroin while you tattoo cocks on your face in an effort to assure your rock and roll credibility,  avoid these tracks, they will hurt you.

The first track, Baby Kissing, has the wall of violin effect created by Emma recording six different layered tracks, all distorted. On the final one of these the input went crackly, which lends a certain VU ambience, but will have to be re-done ultimately. Also for the chop before I mix the final version are my vocal efforts here. They are alright but I am somewhat nasal, as I have come down with a feverish cold after my recent annual visit to a piggery. I’m sure it’s nothing.

Enjoy, and there’s more of this to come. In the meantime wish me well as I travel throughout one of the world’s great cultural centres, drinking beer and eating sausages.

Baby Kissing

The Perfect Hill (McKenzie / trad).


First Show in Ten Years

I played live for the first time in about ten years on Wednesday night, at the Grace Emily hotel. Overall I’d say it was small, messy, high energy and fun. Bob and Emma came on afterwards and things swelled up quite a bit in terms of crowd size, including some (rather noticeable) members of The Beards, but generally it was fairly quiet and informal, which was probably a good thing for a starter show.

A few folks asked me when I was playing again, to which I had to reply that I did not know, having only just worked out that it’s something that I actually want to do regularly. So far I have some plans to support the Fiddle Chicks that have not yet been made official. Check back here in a while and look for the ‘Upcoming Shows’ page in the top bar – which I’ll make when I’ve got something to put in it.

In other news, I’ve had two recent recording sessions, and will be putting up some sample tracks of what my collaboration with Emma on violin sounds like, within the next week or so.

After that, I’m heading over to Germany for a month with the family, so this blog is going to be quiet for a while.


Look What They Done to My Song, Ma!

Looks like Emma Luker of The Fiddle Chicks has been getting her hands on my music and doing her own thing with it again!!!

The first such incident occurred a few years back when she got hold of an old demo tape that Bill Greenwoood and I made for his Honours cello audition in about 1990, featuring an instrumental tune of mine called simply The Third Waltz. When Emma was putting together a demo CD with her beau Soursob Bob, they made a recording of the tune with violin, guitar, bass and some percussion. Here it be. I can’t give you the original to compare. I think it was pretty basic. (The tune went on to become part of a full song called Never Come Close, a maudlin epic about love and loss that is best forgotten).

Mp3 – Emma Luker and Soursob Bob – The Third Waltz.

About six months later Emma e-mailed to ask if she could cover another tune, Goldfish at the Laundromat, this time from the Live at Home CD I made last year and have been banging on about on here. It’s a melancholy folk tune about love and loss etc, but it doesn’t annoy me at the moment.

Sure, I said. Why not?

At this point I had only met this person once, briefly, at the Wheaty last Christmas, completely by accident, and was kinda wondering who she was. Well, we’ve hooked up twice now, and had a trial recording session just yesterday, and I am pleased to report she is a fine musician who also seems to make a fair living out of being that, which I had previously thought to be a myth, like Craig MacLachlan’s music career. But this photograph proves her to be quite real.


Her version of the song is on her forthcoming debut solo CD. It’s all her, except apparently that the producer snuck in and did the snare drum while she wasn’t looking.

MP3 – Emma Luker – Goldfish at the Laundromat

I think I like it better than the original version, which was kind of patched together out of several different files with the home recording equivalent of sticky tape. You might not pick that but I hear it every time I listen to it…

Mp3 – Great Southern Steve – Goldfish at the Laundromat

Anyway there’s more where this all came from. I’ll be putting up a few mixes from the trial session, maybe including one of Bob’s tunes too, and hopefully we’ll do more folk together later in the year.


GSS vs George Thorogood

monopolyGeorge Thorogood? You mean the toad-like guy with the bad hair who made a fortune out of cheese?

Yes, I do. Now, I wonder how much of the sentence “some of his early stuff is actually quite good” I can get out before you hit the back button on your browser. You seem to be still reading, so…

George and his band the Poppets (later the Destroyers) went into the studio to record what would have been their debut album, Better than the Rest, in 1974. It’s an album of blues covers from the likes of John Lee Hooker and Willie Dixon, and while it certainly isn’t better than the rest, or even some of the rest, it’s alright.

I guess that’s why MCA decided not to release it until 1979 after he had two solid albums of cheese under his belt from the previous two years. “We don’t want to confuse people with this quality music, George,” said his R and A man, Les Befriends. “You want to win over the musical heartland of America, you gotta play real crap.” So, the album was shelved for five years.

Tucked away on side 2 are two tracks featuring George solo, playing slide guitar and singing. These are, I must say, really quite fine. I’ve posted them both here as well as my own version of Huckle Up Baby, which I make sound kind of folksy because I just can’t play blues very well. Miss Me When I’m Gone also features me on the bass. I don’t know whether it adds anything but it was fun to do.

Whose version of Huckle Up do you like more?

And more importantly, who do you think would win in a fight?

My money is on me. He’s quite old now…

(Satire impairment warning: “Les Befriends” does not exist, nor did he ever say either of those things. And lots of people probably really like George’s first two albums. I’m just not one of them.)



The End of the Ancient World

Free Mp3 – Useless Life

Once, when I was an undergraduate in History in the early nineties, I had this bizarre anti-epiphany about life and knowledge while I was in the library.

The exact trigger for the episode was a book called The End of the Ancient World and the Beginning of the Middle Ages by Ferdinand Lot. While the library did have this French edition, the edition I used was an authoritative, blue-bound hard-back from Oxford UP, whose very appearance promised definitive solutions to an essay due at the end of the week.

I think it must have been the OUP cover insignia that did it for me – many other books in the section were equally weighty, but that one, above all, called out to me and said:

You will never write a book like me. You will never read enough to know enough to write it, and even if you did, you would never be able to write it down. And even if you did, you would never get it published. And even if you did, you will never get it published by a major university press and have copies distributed around the world.

Don’t get me confused with Mark C., the guy at my university who actually did hear the books talking to him and is now on sickness benefit. This was just a feeling, but a very strong one, and one which made me leave the library in haste, feeling quite useless. I did not get that essay in.

As the years have gone by I have told myself that my skills lie in other areas. You know the drill: Herculean labours are not for me, I am a mercurial and whimsical critic, relying more on nuance than on stodgy completist scholarship to produce my masterwork, etc. (A masterpiece which, of course, is yet to be produced. And then published. By a major publisher.)

While studying medievalism, I had scumbag friends. One in particular, Janet C., had a heroin addiction which probably predated Ferdinand Lot, and often used to have trouble walking upright, not due to heroin but a combination of alcohol and methadone. She once told me she was quite happy to be useless but didn’t want her friends to be that way; her idea of the perfect day was one in which she could get drugged up and then just lie there on the couch while we played music, or talked about what we wanted to do with our lives.

Somehow, those two things sum up a place I’ve been, in one way or another, most of my life; not happy being useless, but not willing to chuck it in either, just slowly working away at things to better myself, a process that seems to take forever. And part of me is always wanting to hang out with the sort of people who haven’t got the slightest intention of “making something of themselves”, just because that sort of company can be so much more fun than being with stressed out career-heads; but then inevitably I wind up feeling on the outer, because in another way, I can’t relate to that. I’d love to make something of myself.

So anyways this song, Useless Life, is about all that. It has a little banjo, for those that dig it, but it’s mostly about the lyrics:

Someone figured out how to put a man in space

But you still ain’t got the world right

Someone figured out the circumference of the earth

And you can’t even walk straight

I think I’d like to come along with you

You could show me how to get nothing done

But you’d probably get bored with me

You probably got no use for me at all

I envy you

Even though you think you never know what to do

Just because you’re happy to be useless

Because you’re happy to lead a useless life.

Oh, by the way, I’m moving to Australia next week.  And thanks to Janet for recent kind words, and to Kevin Dunn, who has been giving me props, and playing my tunes on his podcast.


Steve McK, November 14 2008

A Career in Virtue

Great Southern Steve – A Career in Virtue (mp3)

Here’s some more banjo folk from the Live at Home album, as a few folks liked the Golden Retriever tune from a few posts back.

This song, however, is anything but jaunty, although it does have kind of sombre sea-shanty thing going on. It’s based on a banjo riff I wrote when I was about nineteen. It’s worth remembering the things you wrote when you are nineteen because they are often more natural than things you write later.

Anyway, I had in mind for the lyrics the character of a priest in a remote location, who had brought his wife along, promising glory in the service of God, but delivering misery in the service of his alcoholism.

Yes, I know, what a cheery thing to write about. I’m such a ray of sunshine.

The final part was written over here in Melanesia. ‘Blacktop’ is what they call a ‘tar’ road, to distinguish between that and most of the roads, which are just dirt. It is dusty, hot and everyone drinks too much.

Anyway here it is.

So starch my collar up and bring my liquor down

And I’ll kill the memories that dog my days

Even if I’d lived across the other side of town

I’ll bet this would have happened anyway

I gave up a career in virtue

For the chance to hold you by my side

I promised that nothing could hurt you

Sweet innocence,

You know I lied.

I’m a Golden Retriever

Mp3 link – Golden Retriever.

My long-standing ambition to write a tune for Sesame Street resulted in this song, Golden Retriever.

I love guide dogs, often more so than their owners, and was imagining an old-style, flickery super-8 film to complement this clunky acoustic folk track about the noble beasts. But the Sesame Workshop has gone very modern and the music is hip hop, as recent viewers will note. I guess they have to cater to what kids are interested in now, and don’t have time for their old fans any more, probably rationalizing this on the basis that people in their thirties should no longer be watching the show. Point is, they just don’t have time for the old-style folk any more. Even so I might send them a copy.

The song is from an album of folksy-rock I did in 2006-2007 called Live at Home. Other than sending a copy of it to my mate Soursob Bob, I haven’t done much with it so far but might put the cover art and more tracks up at some point.

Lyrics – extract

Oh when I grow up I’d like to be a seeing eye dog

When I grow up I’d like to change the world

But there’s so many muddy fields i want to explore

Sometimes I think I’ll never change the way I’ve been since I was born

I’m a Golden Retriever

I said I like to retrieve

And I will go anywhere you want

Just so long as my leash will reach

I can do anything

that a doggy can nominally do

Just so long as I can see you throw

Then I will bring it on back to you

You better believe that I like to retrieve…

(pant pant)