The Rogue to nowhere: Rogue RA-090, Joshua Tree and the Legend of Gram Parsons

A scorching August afternoon at Joshua Tree National Park, California. The year was 2016 and I was celebrating a landmark birthday with a road trip to the West coast, with my girlfriend. Gazing up through the haze toward Cap Rock I was about to say goodbye to a loyal traveling companion and pay my respects to one of my all-time musical heroes ( Gram Parsons ). (You can check out my cover version of Gram Parsons’s – A Song for You)

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The last two-and-a-half weeks had been spent on the road; kicking off from LA and gliding up the meandering Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco, then on to Yosemite, Bakersfield, Las Vegas, Monument Valley and back through to Joshua Tree.

As soon as I arrived I was on the lookout for a guitar; something cheap I could put a pickup in and amplify. I had a couple of shows teed up before I arrived; The International Pop Overthrow Festival and …..I also knew that there was an open mic in Joshua Tree at the end of our trip.

We picked up the campervan (from Escape Campervans) and drove down Sunset Boulevard; LA was a pretty stressful place to get used to driving a big vehicle on the left. I checked out Sam Ash and then on to Guitar Centre.  We spent a good thirty minutes in the doorway just looking at the handprints of so many music legends, including James Burton; whom I had just supported a few weeks earlier.

The Guitar

I knew pretty much what I was looking for, so although I could have spent all afternoon looking at and playing on the jaw-dropping array of guitars, I located the cheapest guitar in the shop. I was pleasantly surprised when I picked it up for a strum. The price was just over fifty bucks. It was a Rogue RA-090 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar and it played and sounded great! The frets were a little round and seemed to scratch against the strings. It would need some ‘playing-in’ before you could noodle further up the neck but, for open chords, it was perfect.

I’d brought a Dean Markely Promag with me on the trip so I could amplify the guitar through an amp or PA system. The gig at the Hotel Utah went off fine got a good sound from the guitar and it held its tuning throughout the 3o-minute performance. The International Pop Overthrow Festival IPO is run by its founder David Bash and is held in Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Phoenix, Detroit, Atlanta, Portland, Nashville, Austin, Vancouver, and Toronto, as well as in Liverpool (at the world famous Cavern Club), and London. I had played the Liverpool Festival only a month earlier. David and his colleagues work extremely hard all year round to put on quality live shows all over and what’s more…it’s free for music lovers to attend. At the time of writing the festival has been running for 21 years! For more information check out the website

Mark Pountney Hotel Utah, San Francisco

We paid our respects to Merle Haggard, who had just passed away in April 2016. I played a version of Sing Me Back Home outside his childhood, boxcar home , which had just been installed at the Kern County Museum.

One of my favorite versions of the song is by Gram with the Flying Burrito Brothers. Sneaky Pete’s pedal steel solo on it is amazing.

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A shout out to Elmer Long who kindly let us shoot some video at his amazing Bottle Tree Ranch. An interesting guy who has no interest in technology whatsoever and lives a simple life. Californian-based photographer and travel enthusiast, Josh, has done a nice feature on the ranch check it out here.

While we were in Bakersfield, we also dropped into Trouts; an iconic honky-tonk in Oildale, where Merle Haggard used to perform. When we pulled up the parking lot was more or less empty, yet, when we stepped inside, a band was playing and a few old-timers waltzed around the floor.  The atmosphere was warm and welcoming. We talked with the bar manager and some of the musicians who were all very friendly. Before long, I was invited up on the stage to sing with the band. We did Sing Me Back Home. One of the musicians was local legend Pat (Banny) Bannister.  I recently heard that Trouts is now for sale, but the famous sign, and the original owner, have disappeared.

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Later on the trip, we took the guitar to meet, what John Wayne affectionately referred to as “the Teapot, Coffee pot and the Sugar Bowl”, Monument Valley.

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The last stop before heading back was Joshua Tree. As part of my Birthday treat we were booked into the Gram Parsons legendary Room 8 in the Joshua Tree Inn. I wasn’t sure how we’d feel about being in the room where Gram Parsons spent his final hours, but it was quite an amazing experience, very homely, spiritual, difficult to describe. We spent a long while singing Gram Parsons songs and soaking up the peaceful vibe that was everywhere.

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The day before we’d been back to the Guitar Centre to see how much it would cost to ship the guitar back home to the UK. The guy at the desk looked puzzled and laughingly told us that it would cost much more than the guitar was worth. So on the final day, I decided to leave the guitar at Cap Rock for someone to find along with a Mark One CD. For anyone who doesn’t know, the story goes that Gram made a pact with his road manager, Phil Kaufman, whoever died first, the survior woul take the other’s body to Joshua Tree and burn it out in the desert. Well, Gram went first and Phil honored the promise. He borrowed a hearse, intercepted the body at the airport, stole it and set fire to the body near Cap Rock. There’s plenty of articles on this and one film, starring Johnny Knoxville, called Grand Theft Parsons .  I left a note inside the guitar with email/web address. As yet no one has been in touch. Maybe Gram decided to keep it for a while.

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Happy 2018 – Teardrop Trail Video

Happy 2018!
Here’s a new video for a track from my third solo album, Teardrop trail. The video was filmed during a road-trip through the West Coast in 2016..somewhere in the Mojave National Preserve.

Teardrop Trail on Youtube


The guitar I used in this clip was purchased from Guitar Centre on Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood. It was a Rogue Rogue RA-090 Dreadnought, a great guitar for under $60.  Incidentally, I left this guitar in Joshua Tree, Cap Rock, where Gram Parsons was cremated by his road manager Phil Kaufman.

This song was written at a time when there was some discussions among family and friends about teardrop trailers, and how cool it would be to own one. The words teardrop trail found it’s was into a melody I was playing one day and eventually became this song. It was influenced, no doubt, by the sentiment of Leon Payne‘s Lost Highway, which was made famous by Hank Williams Sr. in the late 1940s.

I played the drums, bass and guitar over the track. The lead was played on an Eko Ranger. Ali Roberts sings from the final verse. The last thing I added to the track was some piano. I was going for a kind of Floyde Cramer thing, playing by ear. I’ve never had any formal music lessons and so the piano remains a fascinating mystery to me.

I was interested to learn that there is a real Teardrop trail; a hiking route in Vermont.

The song is available to stream on Spotify and download in iTunes, Amazon and other digital music distribution services.

For old school people (like me), who still enjoys buying CDs, they are available from this website also.

Happy new year! If you enjoy this music please follow me on Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.

Mark Pountney – Mark One Album: Songwriting and Studio Recording

Mark I Album Cover Recording

Hello, thanks for stopping by. I thought I would share, with you, some of the songwriting processes and studio recording equipment I used in the creation of Mark One.

Mark One was my first solo album, and this truly was a solo album. I didn’t have a band of musicians to support me at that time. In the past I had been lucky to work with so many great musicians in previous bands, The Mojave Collective Supergiant and the Marbles. I also decided to handle the recording side of things too.

Prior to starting the recording, I worked with an engineer in a local studio to see how things might sound solo – just me and the guitar. The recordings were good, but I felt that I couldn’t capture the best performance while keeping an eye on the clock.   I decided to record myself. I thought, what I would lose on professional equipment and know-how, I could, perhaps, make up for having unlimited time. Although, I understand that this can also lead to loss of focus. I had been recording demos on a PC since 1998 and this  seemed like a good opportunity to learn, hands-on, about sound recording and production.

The idea was very simple, set up a couple of mics on the guitar, another on the voice, and go for live takes. The album was going to be an honest representation of what I was doing live at the time. Numourous people had been asking me for a CD when I performed, and I never had one. I was hoping to satisfy this demand with a short run of discs.

1. Chasing Highways. This track fades in and begins the album. This song was originally written in May 2001. I was trying to learn Gram Parson’s $1000 Dollar Wedding from memory. I started in the the key of D. I didn’t work it out at the time but wrote this song instead.
Production: I used a Rode NT1 on the guitar body, a Rode NT3 on the neck and I sang into an Audiotechnica AT4033. Preamp-wise, I was using the, now obsolete, Mackie Onyx 1200F and a Tube Tech MMC1A on the vocals. I used a Guild GAD JF48 (also discontinued) jumbo guitar.

2. Treat me baby like you should. This was influenced by Jackson Browne, although, it doesn’t particularly come out like that. The line in the chorus originally said “…write you love letters on a tenner.” meaning, £10, but I thought that would get confused with the bladder weakness product; so I changed it to dollar.
Production: This had the same set up as Chasing Highways, but on a different day. It sounds “boxier” and I was really frustrated with that at the time…I still am. I overdubbed the harmony vocal.

3. Angels Travel on Lonely Roads. This was one of those songs that was written in a couple of hours, more or less. I had a verse and needed a chorus. I was watching an old episode of the Fugitive with the same title. It fitted right in to the changes I had. I love it when that happens, because it is so rare. It takes me months, even years to finish songs nowadays.
Production: This was recorded in three parts. First guitar (Guild GAD JF48) then a short scale, Nylon string (A BM Espana, this is my equivalent to Willie Nelson‘s Trigger; mine’s called Tregga. It is probably worth about a ten quid, still, I love this guitar). Lastly, I sang lead and backing. Some people thought it was my girlfriend singing the harmonies…but that came later.

4. The Last Chance Saloon. This song was written in July 2009. As I’ve said, these days, it can take me months, even years to finish a song. Occasionally, you’ll get something out in a single sitting. This was another one of those. This was the first talking song I’d ever written (and the last) and was influenced by the likes of Golden Guitar by Bill Anderson (which my dad used to sing to me at bedtime when I was an infant) and To Beat the Devil by Kris Kristofferson. It’s a tale of a woman who tries to tempt her lover into settling down and giving up perusing music as a way of life. I had a dilemma when deciding how to sing this accent-wise. Too scouse and it would grate, too American and it would also grate, so, I sort of blended the two…perhaps it still grates ;D.

I had originally envisioned having to sing both parts myself and doing the woman’s part too. I thought Mick Jagger‘s tongue in cheek vocal on Dear Doctor by the Rolling Stones, would be the only feasible way to approach it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do this because Ali Roberts stepped in for this part.  She did a great job, considering she is more accustomed to singing à la Amy Winehouse.
Production: This is the first of the two “full arrangement” songs on the album. I used a Guild GAD JF48 miked with a Rode NT1. I direct injected (DIed) the bass, an Aria DMB-380 (discontinued), through the Mackie Onyx 1200f. I played the drums in a rehearsal space, and used only the room mics built into a Zoom R16, which was placed on a music stand behind the drums. We used Rode NT1s to sing into, passing through an ART Pro MPA II tube compressor.

5. Minnie the Mouse. I wrote this song for my girlfriend, as she was always singing in the kitchen. This was mainly because we had no wallpaper up at the time, and the sound would reverberate like an echo chamber. The sentiment of the song needs little explanation :).
Production: Again, I used the Guild for this and Rode NT1s all round. I think I used the Tube Tech MCC1A through the Mackie Onyx 1200f for the vocal. The guitar ran through the ART Pro MPA II with a Rode NT3 on the neck and NT1 on the box. I harmonised over the lead vocal.

6. Sweet Love. This is one of my early compositions; written in April 1998. This rarely gets played live but I thought it would fit in with the other material here. A bit of a McCartney influence here. I resisted the temptation to put harmonies on this. Since the song was simple, I thought the production could be as well.
Production: This was recorded live with Tregga (nylon string acoustic) and vocal happening at the same time. Three mics; 2 x Rode NT1s on the guitar and an Audiotechnica AT4033 for the voice.

7. Ton of Majic. This song was written in January 2003. I was listening to a lot of Neil Young at the time, as well as the Flaming Lips. I have demoed this a couple of times with full arrangement, but, for this album I just needed something simple.
Production: Same set up as Minnie the Mouse.

8. In Good Hands. This song was written quickly around the same time as Angels Travel on Lonely Roads. An inspired spiritual love song.
Production: For this, I used and old acoustic by made by a company called Woods. It’s a cheap guitar but has that full bodied sound. I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to use your ears and not worry about the make/model/price of a guitar. If it sounds the way you want it, that’s what you should record with. I used the body of the guitar as overdubbed percussion. ART Pro MPA II with a Rode NT3 on the neck and NT1 on the box. I used an NT1 for the vocal through the tube pre. You can hear some distortion from the tube in the first verse, but I decided to leave it in.

9. Sorrow Killers. This song was inspired by whisky and wanted to include loads of whisky brands in the song. In the end I managed four. Do you know which ones?
Production: Production-wise and in terms of performance, this is the odd one out. The beginnings of this recording began before I considered even doing an album. It was recorded with live acoustic guitar (Guild), stand up bass (played by Chris Simpson) and vocal. I later added drums, again, recorded in a rehearsal room using the built-in mics in the Zoom R16. Some very classy piano was added a few weeks later by Mary Beth Bowman. The R16 mics were used again. The whole mix and mastering was done on the R16. It does have a “sheen” that I didn’t catch on the other tracks.

10. Feels Like I’ve Come Home. This was another of those songs that are written in one sitting. I hoped for something uplifting to finish the album and to sonically hint at some production possibilities for future recordings. This fitted the bill.
Production: The guitars where miked in mono using an old Electrovoice PL10. I used the Woods, Guild and 12 String Washburn and just stacked them. I introduced some string and brass samples to give it a slight cinematic feel.

The album was mixed using Logic Pro X and Mastered in T-Racks.