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My guitar year: a brief review

Have you had a good guitar year?

My initial response to this was a resounding “no”, but I was tired, grumpy and overworked then. I’ve since been thinking about it some and there have been some pretty good highlights.

— The UK RMMGA gathering in March 2005. This is like the Little Brother Jam in Conyers GA, but with inverse proportions of Brits vs Americans (and a high contingent of Scots, for some reason). No matter where you go, acoustic guitar players are the nicest folks you will ever spend time with. I got to spend some quality time with Mark, a guy I met on the Internet, and even did a duet with me on guitar and him on small pipes. That was a lot of fun. I’m right looking forward to the next one!

— The song circle. So it hasn’t become the huge, life-changing event that I had hoped, but it has become a regular fixture in my playing and I’ve met some decent folks. There is a core of regulars and it’s settling into something good as we get to know each other better.

— The house concerts. Through the song circle, I became acquainted with a local guy who hosts house concerts. I got to see Eric Lugosch and “Philadelphia” Jerry Ricks this year, and even had the nerve to ask Eric for a lesson – he obliged and so there’s another highlight right there!

The Speak Easys. I pretty much only just discovered these, this time through the host of the house concerts. Basically it’s an open mic in a bar in down town Lux. I’ve played at two of them and met a bunch of decent folks. There should be some crossover with that and the song circles, each feeding from the other.

The LB Jam. This is a firm fixture in my annual guitar calendar. Each year I make the long journey from Luxembourg to Conyers, Georgia for a jam at my very good friend’s home. This year I taught a Celtic workshop, basically teaching how to flatpick the Butterfly, a slip jig. This was regurgitated from the lesson I got from Tony McManus at Kaufman Kamp in 2005.

The SCGC Vintage Artist. So it took a while, but it finally arrived at my home last Tuesday and I’m tickled pink with it. It truly is a terrific guitar and I’m going to have a lot of fun with it.

Do you feel you have progressed?

Not really, no. One thing that has happened is that I’ve gained some more respect for songs. My playing over the last few years has led me into fingerstyle, altered tunings, then flatpicking and working on my accompaniment. This year I’ve had very little time actually to sit down and work on new stuff, and I guess the song circle and speak easys have got me working on my repertoire of songs again. What I’ve come to realise is that three chords and the truth can sound awesome if the heart and soul are there. It’s a good and powerful thing to have learned. Everyone else seems to know this already; it’s just we guitar players who think it needs to be hard to be good!

What goals are you setting for yourself next year?

The only goals I can realistically keep are to keep playing. I know so many players who basically stalled to have a family and only really started progressing again after the kids were grown up. I’m not in any danger of quitting, but I do have to make sure that I don’t just plateau. I keep hearing songs that I think I would like to learn; I sat down with a Warren Zevon song [Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner] a few weeks back whilst watching Hamish and got it down pretty well. I can foresee more of that happening this year.

I also recently got a laptop, so, if time permits, I can sneak off to the back room with a DVD or some of Little Brother’s video lessons or whatever and try and work on progressing style wise.