Saturday, 29 June 2013

Playing in the shadows.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos The guitarist in the picture, with Bonnie Raitt, is George Marinelli. He has been Bonnie's gunslinger for 20 years. A veteran session player and producer, he is one of my favourite guitar players. Spare, uncomplicated, unflashy and bluesy down to his toes, he's also great to watch. He wanders around his side of the stage, in the shadows, always thinking about making the song better, always looking for a note, a chord that will enhance the song and punctuate what Bonnie is singing. This makes him one of a special breed which the music biz calls 'sideman.' The hugely talented instrumentalist who is happy to let the star take the limelight, as long as he can make the musical experience richer for both of them. George has his own band, records and life in Nashville but he knows that life in Bonnie's band is going to mean bigger audiences, bigger fun and, let's face it, bigger pay-checks. The other night, at The Albert Hall, George was fantastic. The whole band are wonderfully seasoned pros, supporting the best female blues singer in the business. But it's George that calls the shots, the nods of appreciation, the grins of encouragement. Sometimes, not being the centre of attention makes for a better life. The spotlight doesn't suit everyone. Some of us like the shadows, thinking about the right note, the gorgeous chord that will enhance everyone's experience. Some of us like being a sideman.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Home from home.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos When Twitter alerted us to an explosion at the Boston Marathon we turned on CNN and sat in silence as bars and restaurants we love kept coming into shot. My wife and I were due to fly into our favourite City, staying at a hotel not 500 yards from the Finish line, in just 40 days. After half an hour of speculation and rumour, bombs were confirmed by the police. We looked at each other and said, together, "We're going." Boston has been our favourite place since we first went 14 years ago. My love of baseball, more specifically, the Boston Red Sox, had been absorbed by my wife when we met and so a trip with our baseball loving best friends was arranged. We fell in love. The city, the parks, the T (their underground rail system), The Sox, the bars, it was all of that. Most of all, though, it was the people. Polite, happy, funny, pleased to see us, they were kindness to a fault, every single one. So we have kept going back, every few years, for a few ball-games, great seafood and lovely hotels. And the people. A few days ago, we got back from our latest trip. We didn't do anything we hadn't done before but we met more wonderful people. At the makeshift memorial to those killed and injured on April 15th we tied a flag we had brought over from home. It's a 6ft flag of the Stars & Stripes and the Union Jack stitched together. We tied it among the running shoes and photos and Red Sox shirts and Bruins caps that cover the barriers that had blocked off Boylston Street in the days after the atrocity. In conversation with a bar man, next day, we told him the story. With tears in his eyes, he thanked us. I feel at home in Boston. I could live in Boston. More importantly, I could live with Boston people.