The stu­dio gui­tarist’s guide to hap­pi­ness and per­sonal ful­fil­ment. U is for Un­ex­pected.

Guitar Techniques - - IN­TRO - For more info on Mitch Dal­ton and his Stu­dio Kings go to: www.mitch­dal­

We all need a va­ca­tion some­times, a break from the rigours of free­lance frenzy or for­lorn phone star­ing. No mat­ter that the per­cep­tion in the minds of the av­er­age Brex­i­teer still re­mains that a mu­si­cian’s life com­prises of a melodic mélange of noon nar­co­sis, Twit­book main­te­nance and nightly bar bil­liards.

The fact that I write this at 7am over a black coffee in an over­priced Is­ling­ton branded out­let while await­ing the start of a com­mer­cial at 8.30am at An­gel Stu­dios is clearly an aber­ra­tion. As are the TV ses­sions that fol­low it at 10am. In­ci­den­tally, this is my real job, in re­sponse to those al­tru­is­tic in­di­vid­u­als who ap­pear reg­u­larly at the end of gigs with my wel­fare clearly their pri­mary con­cern. And thus it was ear­lier this month that I’d had my fill of fret­work and with metaphor­i­cal bucket and spade se­curely fas­tened, boarded the ferry at Fish­guard en route to Ross­lare.

The plan em­braced a leisurely week of tour­ing, sam­pling some of The Repub­lic’s bou­tique ho­tels and fine din­ing es­tab­lish­ments. I was not about to be dis­ap­pointed. Hav­ing pot­tered through County Wex­ford (Dun­brody House Ho­tel), up through Kilkenny to Adare (Dun­raven Arms Ho­tel) and on to the de­light­ful Bal­li­nalacken Cas­tle Ho­tel near Doolin, I took the stunning route along the West Coast. I ar­rived at County Gal­way and the Con­nemara Coast Ho­tel near Gal­way City. At which point, you may be re­lieved to hear, my story starts.

An ex­cur­sion to Gal­way proper seemed manda­tory, and in short or­der I found my­self in this vi­brant, cos­mopoli­tan city; a friendly mix of stu­dents, tourists and lo­cals all min­gling with good hu­mour and gai­ety on the streets. What hap­pened next is nei­ther ex­pli­ca­ble by way of ra­tio­nal thought nor the re­sult of an hal­lu­ci­na­tory ex­pe­ri­ence. What­ever the ex­pla­na­tion, within 20 min­utes I’m at a party in a pic­turesque restau­rant and club on the bank of the river Cor­rib in the town cen­tre. I know no one but no one seems to mind. In fact, I seem to have been in­vited along in a typ­i­cal act of Ir­ish hos­pi­tal­ity for no ap­par­ent rea­son.

There are canapés, there is tapas, there are bev­er­ages and, as I de­scend the wind­ing stair­case, there is... a jazz gui­tar trio and they’re play­ing Out Of Nowhere.

Did I men­tion that the leader of the combo looks about 20 years old, is play­ing a bat­tered An­to­ria gui­tar and is ab­so­lutely bril­liant? Fluid lines cas­cade ef­fort­lessly from the lad in a seem­ingly end­less se­quence, com­bined with a warm tone and prodi­gious tech­nique. It’s al­most as if Pat Martino and Chet Baker have some­how fused into a sin­gle hu­man en­tity. I boldly go and in­tro­duce my­self and tell them that they’re sen­sa­tional. Where­upon a gui­tar is duly thrust into my hand and I am in­structed to join them. ‘No’ ap­pears not to be an op­tion and the evening passes in suit­ably sur­real fash­ion. Turns out that Con­nor is a trum­pet player who has been forced to aban­don his stud­ies due to dys­to­nia af­fect­ing his lips. So he has switched in­stru­ments and learned to play this way. In two and a half years. He then asks me for les­sons when he next vis­its Lon­don. The im­age of Ein­stein ask­ing his dog for as­sis­tance with the the­ory of relativity forms in my head but I con­cur for the sake of eti­quette. Later, I emerge into the balmy night air, ques­tion­ing my al­ready ten­u­ous grip on re­al­ity.

But it has hap­pened. I know this be­cause Paul (dou­ble bass player and vo­cal­ist) later sends me a Face­book friend re­quest. And that, mem­bers of the jury, is con­clu­sive if un­ex­pected proof. Well, isn’t it?

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