Pencil Full Of Lead – Which Harmonica?

Fraser Speirs by Harry MillburnI knew it was a G harp, but is it a high G harp?

Regular visitors will remember we recently ran a post about Paolo Nutini’s priapic UK No.1 hit Pencil Full Of Lead from his chart topping album Sunny Side Up. When the song first hit breakfast radio, the Harp Surgery resembled a madhouse as The Good Doctor, Elwood, Otis and Monica cavorted around the kitchen in total abandon. The The Riverboat Captain is still sounding his horn from the wheelhouse and singing along.. most of all, I’ve got my baaaaaay-bee!

One player from Nutini’s band, The Vipers, caught our collective eye of course – Fraser Speirs, Scotland’s Laird of the Moothie. That’s King of the Gob Iron to those of us south of the border. And having listened to the track with his good ear, The Doc concluded that Fraser was using a G major diatonic in 2nd position for the harmonica solo. A week or so later, Otis delivered a letter from our dear friend Tenbar who wrote I’ve been trying to figure out the Paolo Nutini track and knew it was a G harp, but is it a high G harp? Straight away the Good Doctor dispatched a missive to the tartan territories, enquiring about Fraser’s choice of instrument and which position he used on the hit.

I’ve got a sheet for my bed and a pillow for my head

Sunny Side UpWell this morning Otis the Postman dropped in for a nice cup of tea and a sit down and brought us the reply we’d been waiting for: Doctor, Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you. The Tombo Folk Blues 10 hole diatonic is my main instrument and I carry a few 12 and 14 hole Marine Bands and XB-40 Hohner Diatonics as well. For “Pencil Full Of Lead” I used a Tombo Folk Blues 10 hole low G for the riff and rhythm parts and switched to the high G for the solo. Hope that is of some help to your readers. Best wishes, Fraser Speirs.

So there you have it. Mystery solved and any equivocation laid to rest. Fraser also drew our attention to a track called My Father’s Coat from James Grant‘s June 2009 album Strange Flowers, on which he plays. He adds: I have worked for many years with James and this is one of his most moving songs. Hopefully it demonstrates the versatility of the instrument, played through a Line 6 Pod and performed live in the studio. No synth pads or overdubs; most of the decoration and pads are just the harmonica.

Our thanks and congratulations go to Fraser for his wonderful reply and his harmonica success respectively. To find out more about Fraser and the catalogue of top artists he’s played with, take a butcher’s at his splendid website. You can view our original post Pencil Full Of Lead here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.