I don’t know if any of you have checked out my Songs page.. I used to play a pretty mean guitar … did coffee house stuff when I was in college for a short while, church socials and the like.
My fingers took a big hit about four years ago or so. I was one of the lucky “1 in 3” folks that contracted shingles (I HATE those commercials) and it was centered in my upper left torso. I have to say that I wouldn’t wish shingles on my worst enemy – the pain was excrutiating. It felt like someone was ramming a broomstick into my armpit and the entire left side of my upper body was wracked with pain. The worst thing was that I suffered long term nerve damage as a result (again, I was one of the lucky “5%” of all shingles sufferers who experience permanent nerve damage). I still don’t have full feeling in my left hand … primarily my ring finger and pinkie.
I tried picking up a guitar during the months immediately after the pain started to dissipate and couldn’t play worth a damn. All THAT did was contribute to my depression getting worse. When I left New Jersey for Charleston, I didn’t even bring my guitar with me.
At the encouragement of a couple of friends though, I decided to give it another shot. I bought a used guitar and started playing again. At first, it was incredibly frustrating. I play a finger-picking style of guitar that involves a lot of chording, and it was my chording hand that was impacted. I decided at first to try songs that weren’t quite as intricate and started strumming more instead of “picking” songs. After about 5 months though, I found that I was able to play some of the old finger-picking songs … nowhere near as well as I had in my past, but what are you going to do, right?
Anyhow, I posted some of them for a few old friends in Dallas that I knew were guitarists (primarily the two “Mikes” … if you guys are reading this, I can’t tell you enough how much your encouragement has meant to me).
What’s interesting (at least to me) is that when I look at the songs I posted, most of them have to do with “inner pain” … whether it’s regret, moving on, relationships ending, wishing you were somewhere else, etc. I have to say that I don’t know many happy songs. I think I used to, but I honest to God don’t remember.
My buddy Mike in Houston suggested today that I try to add some new songs to my repertoire, so today, I worked on one that I’ve wanted to learn how to play since I first heard it performed acoustically a few years back. I never tried … until today. That’s how I spent my afternoon – sitting on a picnic table, watching an online tutorial while not only trying to learn a new song but trying to use a pick – something I haven’t done in at least 35 years (everything I’ve done since I was younger involved some form of “plucking” the strings with my fingers.
So here’s a rough … repeat, ROUGH version of the first verse of “She Talks to Angels” by The Black Crowes. Very rough (did I say it was rough?) I haven’t tried to play harmonics in years, and I suck at it. But overall, I have to say that this was one of the most enjoyable afternoons I’ve had in I don’t know how long!
What’s really funny is that while I was focused on trying to get the strumming right, I wasn’t paying attention to anything. I looked up after about 15 minutes to see three ducks, sitting in a little group less than 20 feet from the picnic table, watching me play. When I finally stopped, all three of them just turned and waddled back to the lake and swam away.
Everybody’s a critic! Thank God Frank doesn’t mind me playing. ;o)