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MIKE AULDRIDGE DAWN LANDES ROBYN HITCHCOCK BARR BROTHERS 4 SONGS TO PLAY NEIL YOUNG Tell Me Why

DOC WATSON Omie Wise

ANI DIFRANCO Which Side Are You On?

MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT Frankie & Albert

OCTOBER 2014 | 25TH ANNIVERSARY YEAR | ACOUSTICGUITAR.COM

HOW TO

MARKET YOUR DIGITAL RECORDINGS PLAY MELODIC RIFFS IMPROVE SIGHT READING SELECT THE BEST MIC RETURN OF THE

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©2014 taylor guitars

S pe e c h i m p ai red and com ple t el y

blind to limitations.

in elementary school nancy stuttered severely. it was the kind of disability that caused anxiety almost every single time she opened her mouth. but when nancy’s 7th grade teacher introduced her to guitar, she developed something much more than musical talent — she developed confidence. so, knowing full well that the stage is no place for a stutterer, she made the choice to step onto it anyway. and when she began to sing something astonishing happened: her stutter completely disappeared. since then nancy has written over 100 different songs, and performed in front of audiences of more than 500 people. it’s the kind of story that inspires us at taylor, and reminds us that the world needs more people like nancy. for more about nancy and other stories of people with the courage to step forward, visit taylorguitars.com

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CONTENTS

Features 18 ‘Bells’ Toll for Mike Auldridge The late Dobro pioneer answers final call with Three Bells By Orville Johnson

25 Righteous Sister Ani DiFranco and the sometimes-harsh realities of being a ‘feminist icon’ By Mark Segal Kemp

Special Focus How to Sell Your Music 32 Social Support Network Master the art of crowd-funding 33 Digital DIY All about Bandcamp 34 Stream On Spotify and Pandora: good or bad for artists?

Miscellany 10 From the Home Office 12 Opening Act 92 Events 96 Ad Index 98 Great Acoustics October 2014 Volume 24, No. 16 Issue 262 On the Cover Ani DiFranco Photographer High ISO Music

37 Tangled Web YouTube’s new music plan 40 Live from the Laptop Musicians’ guide to online concerts

18

Beard Mike Auldridge signature resonator

AcousticGuitar.com 5

Create your own masterpiece.

When you invest in a high-end instrument, it’s nice if you can make it your own.

A vast selection of tonewoods from all over the world give you the option to not only create a beautiful guitar, but choose from a wide palette of tonal colors. Give us a call at: 608.366.1407 we’ll guide you through the process.

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CONTENTS

70

An unwavering pride in craftsmanship is the glue that holds together Santa Cruz Guitars.

NEWS 14 The Beat

Barr Brothers show no signs of drowsiness on Sleeping Operator

Gruhn Style 2 dreadnought p86

74 Guitar Guru

Never let ’em see your guitar sweat! 75 Kitbag

PLAY 44 Songcraft

Dawn Landes flies the coop on Bluebird 46 The Basics

Lick ’em and slide, with these bottleneck basics 50 Weekly Workout

Mic it up—there’s no substitute for a good acoustic-guitar microphone 76 Review: Taylor 150E 12-String

Sounds like a 12-string, plays like a 6-string 80 Review: Journey OF-420

Pack ‘n’ play! Journey’s latest guitar is a ‘snap’ to travel with

Take the melody and run! 82 Review: Capo 3 app 54 Here’s How

A note-for-note beginner’s guide to reading music

56 58 60 64

Songs to Play Tell Me Why by Neil Young Which Side Are You On? by Florence Reece Frankie and Albert Traditional Omie Wise Doc Watson

AG TRADE 68 Shop Talk

Online guitar shop Reverb.com wants to take center stage from eBay 70 Makers & Shakers

Even after 40 years, there’s no ‘cruz’ control at Santa Cruz Guitars

Latest version will have you playing along to your favorite songs in no time M IXED M EDIA 87 Playlist

Robyn Hitchcock takes stock with The Man Upstairs; plus new releases by Richard Thompson, Old Crow Medicine Show, Shovels & Rope, Peter Rowan, Chris Smither, and Dom Flemons 91 Books

Guitar great John Fahey faces the music in Steve Lowenthal’s Dance of Death 92 Film

Live-performance DVD of late flatpicking great Watson shows what happens when the ‘Doc’ is in

AcousticGuitar.com 7

AG ONLINE

Ani DiFranco

Watch ‘Acoustic Guitar Sessions’ Online If you love AG’s print interviews, don’t miss our online performance series Acoustic Guitar Sessions. Go to AcousticGuitar.com/Sessions and watch excerpts from this month’s AG interview with Ani DiFranco—plus live-inthe-AG-studio performances of two brand new songs from her latest album, Allergic to Water. While you’re there, check out other AG Sessions with John Doe, Valerie June, Scott Law, and the Shook Twins, among others.

ACOUSTIC GUITAR UNLIMITED

offers clear, concise text-and-video guitar instruction with new lessons added each week. This easy-to-navigate, tablet-ready site makes it simple to learn anywhere, anytime. acousticguitaru.com

WE DELIVER—GUITAR LESSONS, GEAR REVIEWS, AND MORE

Make your Mondays better with stories about the music, musicians, and instruments that inspire you. We’ll send you tips on how to expand and reinforce your guitar skills, all the latest Acoustic Guitar Sessions, and so much more. Sign up for free today and get Acoustic Guitar Weekly delivered every Monday. AcousticGuitar.com/Newsletter-Sign-Up

8 October 2014

©2014 SANTA CRUZ GUITAR COMPANY

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FROM THE HOME OFFICE AcousticGuitar.com • AcousticGuitarU.com

CONTENT DEVELOPMENT Editorial Director Greg Cahill Editor Mark Segal Kemp Editor at Large Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers Managing Editor Jason Walsh Senior Editor David Knowles Production Designer Brad Amorosino Production Manager Hugh O’Connor Contributing Editors Kenny Berkowitz, Andrew DuBrock, Teja Gerken, David Hamburger, Steve James, Orville Johnson, Richard Johnston, Sean McGowan, Jane Miller, Greg Olwell, Adam Perlmutter, Rick Turner, Doug Young

INTERACTIVE SERVICES Interactive Services Director Lyzy Lusterman Creative Content Manager Joey Lusterman Creative Content Coordinator Winston Mapa Digital Developer Breeze Kinsey Community Relations Coordinator Courtnee Rhone Single Copy Sales Consultant Tom Ferruggia

Ani DiFranco, working the fretboard in the AG studio.

N

o doubt about it, cover subject Ani DiFranco is a polarizing force in folk music—you’re either with her or you’re agin her. But DiFranco’s pointed lyrics and political activism often overshadow an equally important part of the singer’s art: her remarkable guitar playing. And that’s a shame, because her signature percussive style on an acoustic guitar is at least as powerful as such provocative lyrics as, “I don’t need those money lenders suckin’ on my tit / A little socialism don’t scare me one bit.” When DiFranco came into AG’s studio recently to perform an Acoustic Guitar Sessions and do the interview for this issue’s Q&A, she talked at length about her music, her image, a recent controversy over her choice of venue for a songwriting retreat, her role over the past two decades as a feminist icon—and her guitars. “It’s nice after so many years of being the Righteous Babe and the grrrl singer that somebody still notices I’m playing guitar,” she said. “Because sometimes I feel like it’s all politics and, you know, you get sort of reduced to one element of what you do.” There are many elements to Ani DiFranco’s life and work, and you can find out about all of them in the AG Interview on page 25.

Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll find a comprehensive guide to getting your music to the masses from the comfort of your home. In our special Digital DIY section beginning on page 31, you’ll learn the ins and outs of streaming your songs, uploading your music to Bandcamp, and even performing hootenannies on your laptop live from your living room. Try it all out after learning and recording your own versions of the songs in this issue: Neil Young’s timeless “Tell Me Why,” the classic labor-organizing song “Which Side Are You On?,” Mississippi John Hurt’s version of the traditional “Frankie and Albert,” and Doc Watson’s take on the haunting folk standard “Omie Wise.” As for the art and craft of making great acoustic instruments, I cruised south of San Francisco to find out how master guitar builder Richard Hoover grew one of the earliest boutique guitar shops, the Santa Cruz Guitar Co., into a much-copied model of independent lutherie (the report is on page 70). And there’s plenty of hardware in this issue: beginning on page 80, contributing editor Adam Perlmutter looks at Taylor’s new budget 12-string and Journey’s latest travel guitar, and editor-at-large Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers tries out the latest version of the Capo 3 smart-phone app. Enjoy the trip. —MARK SEGAL KEMP, EDITOR

MARKETING SERVICES Director of Sales and Marketing Services Linda Black Sales Director Cindi Kazarian Sales Manager Ref Sanchez Marketing Services Associate Tanya Gonzalez

Stringletter.com Publisher David A. Lusterman

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10 September 2014

Except where otherwise noted, all contents ©2014 Stringletter, David A. Lusterman, Publisher.

OPENING ACT

DEL McCOURY

HIGH SIERRA MUSIC FESTIVAL QUINCY, CALIFORNIA JULY 5, 2014

12 October 2014

JAY BLAKESBERG PHOTO

AcousticGuitar.com 13

NEWS

Raising the Barr on folk-pop (from left): Vial, Brad Barr, Page, and Andrew Barr.

THE BEAT

Wide Awake in Montreal

The Barr Brothers Sleeping Operator Secret City

The Barr Brothers achieve sonic balance on their new album, Sleeping Operator BY DAVID KNOWLES

H

ome is where the harp is. Since moving from Boston, Massachusetts, to Montreal, Canada, in 2005, and hooking up with harpist Sarah Page and multiinstrumentalist Andres Vial, brothers Brad and Andrew Barr’s new band, the Barr Brothers, have honed in on an interesting, and largely acoustic formula for success. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, guitarist Brad Barr’s songwriting has crystalized on the Barr Brothers’ forthcoming second album, Sleeping Operator (Secret City Records). Barr and his brother’s previous band was an improvisational rock group, the Slip. “I started trying to find new ways to compose folk and pop songs and be able to put a spin on it,” Brad Barr says. Part of the genesis of that lush yet intimate sound came after he followed Andrew to Montreal and settled into what turned out to be some

14 October 2014

very well-situated new digs. “In my first few months there, I moved into an apartment that shared a wall with Sarah, who is the harp player in the band,” Barr says. “Before I ever met her, I’d hear her practicing through the wall.” On Sleeping Operator, Page’s instrument is a big part of the group’s sound. “The harp is on every song,” Barr says. “The acoustic songs dominate the body of the record.” Also up front in the mix is Barr’s fingerstyle playing on his 1945 Gibson J-45, a guitar he says has a “growl to it, but can also be very sweet.” Those contrasts are more than evident on the new record, which was recorded at Montreal’s Mixart Studios. “The space was started in the ’70s by a band called Mahogany Rush, who I’d never heard of before, but apparently were one of the premiere prog-rock bands,” Barr says. “They built this great studio and it feels like a giant hookah room. We appreciated

that vibe, but most of the gear there had to be worked on before we used it. You’d take a preamp down and have to rewire it.” When it was time to pick an engineer, the Barr Brothers splurged on Ryan Freeland, who is perhaps best known for his work with Bonnie Raitt and Ray LaMontagne. “We really liked the way he was able to capture a live performance and make every single instrument feel like an event, making them clear but not too clean,” Barr says. The result is an album that strikes a balance while pushing a genre forward. “My songwriting rides a fairly traditional line,” Barr says. “It draws from a lot of usual suspects, whether it’s Paul Simon or Van Morrison or Bob Dylan, but now I’m writing for a harp and a pump organ, guitar, and whatever my brother might bring to the table, a waterphone or marimba.” AG

NICK DRAKE PULLED FROM AUCTION

American Raga

Robbie Basho film documentary in the works

A

n often overlooked guitar legend will soon be getting his due. Robbie Basho, the Berkeley, California-based guitarist, whose enigmatic recordings and distinctive steel string arrangements earned him a loyal following in the 1960s, will be the subject of a documentary film by director Liam Barker. “As a filmmaker, the evocative nature of Basho’s music and the enigma surrounding his life appeared to provide the perfect basis for a documentary,” Barker says. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1940, and orphaned, Basho was deeply influenced by the Indian classical musicians Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, and dedicated himself to translating their passion onto the steel-string guitar. Basho began his recording career in 1965 with his album The Seal of the Blue Lotus, a record released on John Fahey’s Tacoma label.

“I feel that Basho’s ability to convey emotion through the guitar, and voice, is second to none. In my opinion he simply went deeper and higher with his work than any of (his) contemporaries. Kottke went far; Fahey went further; Basho went furthest,” says Barker. Before his untimely death on a chiropractor’s table in Albany, California, in 1986, Basho recorded several more albums, none of which were commercially successful. But Basho’s music did make an impact on numerous guitarists, some of who will appear in Barker’s still-inproduction film. “Pete Townshend told me while we were filming that he has a 12-string baritone guitar that he gets out when he wants to pretend to be Robbie Basho,” Barker says. —DK

A reel of six previously unreleased Nick Drake songs were set to be auctioned at London’s Ted Owen & Company the first week of August, but were pulled from the auction block by a last-minute copyright challenge from both the Drake estate and from Drake’s label Island/Universal Records, according to auction house officials. Recorded in 1968, nearly a year before Drake released his debut album Five Leaves Left, the tape has been in the possession of folksinger Beverley Martyn, who says Drake bequeathed the reel-toreel to her shortly before overdosing on antidepressants in 1974 at 26. The tapes are expected to fetch close to $500,000. If neither the Drake family nor the record label can provide evidence toward ownership of the tape within three months, Ted Owen and Company officials say, the auction will go forward. —DK

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NEWS SPOTLIGHT

KLAUS HENING HANSEN

NEWS SPOTLIGHT

Don Ross, rekindling the ol’ ‘Passion’

Passion Returns

Fingerstyle guitarist Don Ross revisits a groundbreaking album BY TEJA GERKEN

D

on Ross fans will recognize the percussive fingerstyle guitarist’s latest album, PS 15 (Candyrat), as a complete remake of his landmark Passion Session, whose heavy grooves threw fellow pickers for a loop when it came out in 1999. That year, Acoustic Guitar featured a transcription of the album’s opener, “Klimbim,” in the September issue. If you listen to virtually any of the current generation’s fingerstyle guitarists, you’ll hear Passion Session’s massive impact. “That basic Don Ross groove is just too good to pass up—you’ve just got to write a piece with it,” says guitarist Thomas Leeb, whose own composition, “Äkäskero,” from his 2005 album Riddle, was a direct result of having studied Ross’ song “First Ride.” Ross had many reasons to revisit the 11 songs on Passion Session, but the primary impetus was that the album became difficult to find after its original label, Narada, changed ownership and direction. “At this point, I don’t even know who controls the record,” Ross says. “I couldn’t even get physical copies to sell at my shows anymore.” Recreating an iconic work could put a lot of pressure on an artist, as the results should not only improve on the original, but also introduce something new. “I hadn’t heard Passion Session in a long time, but when I did, I thought, ‘Wow, the performances really were very good,’” Ross

16 October 2014

Don Ross PS 15 Candyrat

says. Any fear of not being able to live up to the original was overridden by the opportunity to start with a clean slate and fix a few things that had bugged him the first time around. One of those things was the album’s lively sound, which was the result of recording inside the large Passionskirche [Passion Church] in Berlin, Germany. It wasn’t an ideal sound for all of the pieces, Ross says. So, he recorded PS 15 in a more intimate church in Cannington, Canada. As for the songs, it’s only natural that some have evolved over the years. “On the original recording of ‘Klimbim,’ I always felt that there were too many repeats, so I trimmed this one up a bit,” Ross says. “I really funkified the ending of ‘Michael, Michael, Michael.’ And on ‘No Goodbyes,’ I play some variations where I always thought, ‘I wish I’d done those on the original.’” Ross had used a baritone guitar to record the track “Annie and Martin” for Passion Session; here, he presents a tighter version that he plays on a 2011 Marc Beneteau Mini Jumbo six-string. “I like it a lot better,” he says. If you’ve never heard Passion Session, the new PS 15—available on CD, digital formats, and audiophile vinyl—revives an essential, influential album. If you’ve heard the original a few thousand times, the impressive new arrangements expand on Ross’s groundbreaking sound. AG

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O G

M

I

D O B A

S O R S

Two years after his death, Mike Auldridge’s final collaboration celebrates the Dobro great’s genius BY ORVILLE JOHNSON

18 October 2014

GETTY IMAGES / WASHINGTON POST

mooth is a word often attached to Mike Auldridge’s style. Not only to his Dobro playing, but to the neatly cropped sideburns, impeccably creased blue jeans, and spit-shined cowboy boots that were an indelible part of his image. In the early 1970s, he became a founding member of the Seldom Scene, one of the pioneering groups of the newgrass movement, which combined bluegrass instrumentation and tight vocal harmonies with songs drawn from folk, pop, and country, as well as traditional bluegrass. He also recorded three pioneering solo albums, and in the 1990s toured with the group Chesapeake, adding lap steel and pedal steel to his arsenal of slide.

S

Auldridge, who would go on to face a long battle with prostate cancer, died on December 29, 2012, just a day shy of his 74th birthday. During the last year of his life, Auldridge got together with Jerry Douglas and Rob Ickes several times to record tracks for a collaborative CD, Three Bells, released on Rounder Records in September. The album is compelling not only as Auldridge’s final statement with two of his most accomplished acolytes, but for the arrangements and instrumentation, which feature only their three Dobros. “Regarding the history of the resonator guitar, you can draw a line—the Dobro before Mike Auldridge and the Dobro after Mike Auldridge,” Ickes said at a 2012 ceremony honoring the late Dobroist with an NEA National Heritage Fellowship award for artistic achievement. “He forever changed the way people approached playing the instrument and also changed what people thought was possible on the instrument.”

AcousticGuitar.com 19

20 October 2014

heritage, as his maternal uncle, Ellsworth Cozzens, played Hawaiian guitar on some of the late 1920s recordings of famed Blue Yodeler Jimmie Rodgers. One of the most influential Dobro players of 1950s was Josh Graves, who played with Flatt and Scruggs, bringing a blues sensibility to his instrument’s vocabulary. “Josh Graves was my hero. I learned all the breaks he played on the Flatt and Scruggs tunes,” Auldridge once said. “When I was in college, I met him. We played some and, in my mind, I felt like I was a weaker player, but he said to me, ‘You’re about as smooth a picker as I’ve ever heard.’ Coming from him, that was about the best praise I ever could have gotten.” AG spoke with Douglas and Ickes recently about Auldridge’s career and the new CD. What was your concept for this special recording? JERRY DOUGLAS It was the same thought I had when we did the [1994 Grammy-winning album] Great Dobro Sessions and I had the chance to get Josh Graves and Brother Oswald together. That record was a snapshot of what Dobro was like at the time. Mike was the next step. When we started planning the recording, I told Mike this is all about you, this is about what you want to do. And we’ll do it, just the three of us, just three Dobros. If we want to add an overdub to accent something, well, we can do that, but this makes it even more unique. And I know we can pull it off. We can each take a different part and orchestrate it. I brought Josh Graves’ Dobro along for the last session we

did. We used Mike’s two old Dobros and Josh’s Dobro. The last couple of songs we recorded were on those vintage guitars. ROB ICKES We started talking about it in the fall of 2011 and began recording in the spring of 2012. The first day we got together, everybody just kind of found their place. We cut a Glenn Miller tune called “Sunrise Serenade.” Mike had a great arrangement of that. We did a song Mike had written as a tribute to [pedal-steel great] Buddy Emmons. The very first song we cut was “Silver Threads Among the Gold.” That was originally recorded on Mike’s first album, Dobro, the one that got so many people turned on to the instrument—it’s just a magic record. Our version starts out with Mike by himself. You get to really hear his beautiful tone. We all three played it and Jerry and I overdubbed harmony parts on the end of it. It came out really great. When we got that one down we all knew that, yeah, this is gonna work. JD Mike had a big list of material already. A lot of it was the eight string—the swing stuff—and he was playing as good as or better than I’ve ever heard him play. It was remarkable. It was like he was set free from something. There’s got to be something—when you know what’s gonna happen to you, you must be able to clear your mind of a whole lot of things. We recorded a CONT. PAGE 22

Jerry Douglas, left, performs at a recent Mike Auldridge tribute concert in Virginia.

PHOTOS BY XX

GETTY IMAGES / WASHINGTON POST

Auldridge’s first solo album, Dobro, released in 1972, is credited by many modern players as their original inspiration to learn the instrument. The tracks ranged from originals to covers of Bill Monroe’s “Panhandle Country” and the Gershwins’ “Summertime.” He became the first Dobroist to make a record using an eight-stringed Dobro, Eight String Swing, released in 1993. His quest for the richest tone inspired redesigns of the guitar by luthiers including Ivan Guernsey, whose guitars Auldridge played throughout the ’90s, and Paul Beard, who created the Beard Mike Auldridge Resophonic 6-string signature model that Auldridge played the last ten years of his life. During his long career, Auldridge not only helped bring acoustic music into the modern era as a member of the Seldom Scene and with his groundbreaking solo albums, but also as a studio (and sometimes stage) collaborator with artists ranging from Doc Watson and Ralph Stanley to Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Patty Loveless. Auldridge brought a sense of elegance, a rich tone, and a musical conception that rescued the Dobro from the restrictions of bluegrass, country, and Hawaiian music, and applied it to a whole new repertoire. Born in 1938, Auldridge grew up in Kensington, Maryland, where he began playing at a young age and was in several bands with his brother Dave. Slide guitar was part of his family

How a Great Dobro Player Mastered His Tone Mike Auldridge was known for his sweet melodies, perfect placement of just the right note, and rich, creamy tone that was unlike that of any Dobro player before him. To achieve this, he was a stickler for detail.

also had specific ideas about the look of his guitars. “He was a classic-car buff and loved 1936 Fords—black-andchrome with white sidewall tires,” Guernsey says. “He wanted his guitar to be solid black with pearl hearts-andflowers inlay on the neck.” Shortly after meeting Guernsey, Auldridge also struck up a friendship with Beard, who had a small factory in Hagerstown, Maryland, not far from Silver

Spring, where the Dobroist lived. “Mike would come down to my shop and we’d talk about what he was looking for in a guitar,” Beard says. “I built a lot of prototypes, and it took us a while to reach a common descriptive vocabulary about the sound he was hearing. When I would show him another guitar, he was never saying, ‘I like this a little better’ or ‘This might be all right’—it was yes or no. He knew exactly what he liked or didn’t like. What we eventually

Mike Auldridge, Jerry Douglas, Rob Ickes Three Bells Rounder

CONT. PAGE 22

In the 1970s and ’80s, Auldridge played a pair of vintage Model 37 Dobros [serial numbers 401 and 426] manufactured in Chicago during the same week in 1935. He used number 401 on all of the Seldom Scene albums, his solo albums, and for the session work he did in the 1970s. He retired the instrument in 1982, and began playing number 426, which he used for the next decade. By then, Auldridge’s ideas of tone had led him to work with a pair of luthiers—Ivan Guernsey and Paul Beard—on upgrading the quality and sound of the Dobro. Auldridge met Guernsey at a Kentucky bluegrass festival in 1982, and the two soon began working together to develop a new model. Guernsey was impressed with Auldridge’s dedication to finding the right tone. “Mike would play and practice six to eight hours a day,” Guernsey says. “He told me sometimes he would play each note on the first string, going up the fingerboard. At every fret, he would pick with his right hand at five or six places along the string, finding the sweet spots.” Before he became a full-time musician, Auldridge had worked as a graphic artist for the Washington Star-News, and he used that talent to design several Seldom Scene album covers. Naturally, he

AcousticGuitar.com 21

WHAT MIKE AULDRIDGE PLAYED ACOUSTIC GUITAR Beard Mike Auldridge signature six-string resonator STRINGS D’addario EJ-42 AMPLIFICATION Neumann KM-84 mic

CONT. FROM PAGE 20

bunch of songs together and decided we should each do a solo number as well. He played amazing stuff all the way through, but he just floored us on the last one [a solo performance].

way to go, man. When your time comes I can’t think of a better way to go than making music with your friends on a real high level. He went out sounding as great as he’s ever sounded.

What was it like doing this album knowing all the time that it would be Mike’s last recording? RI We got to visit when we were first talking about getting the recording going, and we were talking about his illness, and he said, “I could go tomorrow and I have no regrets, I’ve been able to play music my whole life.” He knew how lucky he was, and it was just neat to hear somebody say that at that point in their life. I feel like he hit it out of the park. He’d been battling cancer for a long time, but every time we got together he just played great. He was smiling the whole time. I’m really thankful that Jerry pulled this whole thing together. I’ve known Mike for a long time but we hadn’t really gotten to hang out together like this. I’m really thankful for the time we got to spend. He was a wonderful musician, great person, so well respected. Whenever you mention his name, people drop what they’re doing and have a story about him: the first time they heard him, how he changed their life. It was inspiring to work with my hero and to see how he worked at it every day, was still pushing himself and still growing, and never let down a bit—it’s deeply inspiring to me. I remember when I was a kid reading an interview where Jerry and Mike were talking about doing a record together. I’m glad they waited until I grew up to do it.

How did Mike’s music affect your own playing? JD He took the bars off the windows. No longer was [the Dobro] going to be just a bluegrass instrument. He pushed it outside the genre. He was the first guy to do that. People have to understand that, at that time (early 1970s), there weren’t a lot of Dobro players around. There wasn’t a broad palette of players and styles for you to choose who you might try to sound like. He was the first one to play a modern repertoire. On his Blues and Bluegrass album, he played a Roberta Flack tune (“Killing Me Softly with His Song”) that was a current pop hit at the time. Another thing Mike did was play with musicians that were outside the genre. Lowell George (of Little Feat) and David Bromberg and Linda Ronstadt were not bluegrass musicians. He opened a lot of doors, not only for the instrument, but for the music and his own ideas of collaborating on a song. It actually goes way beyond music at that point.

JD We got so tied together, the three of us,

making this record. It was amazing. It was the

22 October 2014

RI I think he had a far-reaching vision for the instrument. I was around music a lot as a kid, but nothing made me want to play until I heard him play. He brought this pure tone. That was new. He brought so much more to it, the tastefulness, the beauty of it. He enlarged the potential of the instrument. I’m always measuring what I do by what he did.

CONT. FROM PAGE 21

found was that he wanted a guitar sound that was crystal clear, bell-like, and, as he would describe it, like a grand piano.” Development of the Beard Auldridge signature model began in 2003. The luthier and the Dobroist kept the sleek black look (later adding a cherry-finish model) and used a special birch instrument-grade laminate for the body, added an arch to the back, and tweaked the internal baffling and construction to create the clarity and sustain Auldridge was looking for. The last piece of the puzzle was the resonator cone. For many years, the standard high-quality cone was made by John Quarterman. Beard was working on a new cone and used Auldridge’s golden ears to judge the progress. “I would be in the back, spinning cones, and I’d bring one out and install it in Mike’s guitar,” Beard remembers. “He would play and give me feedback and I’d go back and make another. Sometimes we would spend two days at a time doing this. During this time, I figured out the process that I call ‘triple-spun’ that thins the cone, makes it more responsive, and allows me to manipulate the resonant frequency. “The Quarterman that Mike liked was our benchmark,” Beard says. “When we finally got to something that Mike liked better, we started putting it in all the Auldridge guitars and called it the LegendTone.” Auldridge played every signature model before it went out the door, Beard says; if a guitar didn’t pass muster, it would go back for further work until he signed off on it. “His hands-on presence in the development of these guitars was of paramount importance,” Beard says. “Every little thing about the MA signature guitars, we sat around and experimented with and worked on until we reached that ‘grand piano’ sound that was in his mind.” AG

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THE AG INTERVIEW

RETURN OF THE

Folksinger Ani DiFranco comes face to face with feminist icon Ani DiFranco

AcousticGuitar.com 25

PHOTO BY SHERVIN LAINEZ

BY MARK SEGAL KEMP

CHARLES WALDORF PHOTO

Raising the bar: DiFranco continues to challenge her fans on new album Allergic to Water.

ni DiFranco is all smiles as she cruises into Point Richmond, California, in a blue Mini Cooper convertible on an afternoon so gorgeous the hills across the bay in Marin County appear crisp against a turquoise sky. Wearing a blue long-sleeve top and brown pants emblazoned with an Aztec-looking print, the singer-songwriter and feminist icon grabs her trusty Alvarez mini-dreadnought from the trunk and is prepared to pick and thump out a few new tunes. You’d never know DiFranco has just experienced one of the worst periods in her 24-year career. It all started in late December 2013, when the singer announced she would be holding a songwriting retreat at a former slave plantation near New Orleans. The choice of venue enraged many of her fans, and by the end of the year the controversy had gone viral, with angry comments—some vicious—ricocheting around Twitter, Facebook, and several feminist websites. The worst remarks branded DiFranco a racist; the more measured ones pointed out that she had been tone-deaf to the impact of her decision. In early January, DiFranco issued a full apology. Adding insult to injury, the brouhaha

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26 October 2014

came on the heels of another controversy, involving Michelle Shocked, who had recently melted down onstage in San Francisco, launching into what fans interpreted as a homophobic rant. The two incidents were wildly dissimilar—Shocked is known for her erratic behavior; DiFranco is not—but the moral spotlight was nonetheless aimed directly at outspoken female folk singers. It was a cruel irony for DiFranco, who’s spent her career consistently fighting racism and injustice of all kinds. “The whole process of that was very painful,” DiFranco says. “It’s just amazing to be in it—this thing that we see happening, you know, where people get kind of crucified, and then to be . . . . Whoa! Now it’s me! And to understand how that affects your family and your friends and your whole community. It was like, yeah, this is a heavy place to be sometimes: feminist icon.” DiFranco has not let the incident keep her down. In recent months, she’s focused on recording her extraordinary new album Allergic to Water, the follow-up to 2012’s Which Side Are You On? She’s also been hitting the road, performing new songs, including one fine, bluesy, fingerpicked gem called “Rainy Parade,” with the

telling line “You’ve got to take your lemons and make your lemonade.” When her folk-music mentor, Pete Seeger, died a month after the controversy, she was inspired to look at the bigger picture and focus on heeding the lessons that the great champion of human rights had taught her and so many others. “If you want to be a great activist,” she told Acoustic Guitar the day after Seeger’s death, “you have to do it yourself . . . . That’s what I learned from him.” DiFranco has been doing it herself since 1990, when at 21 she released her debut album on Righteous Babe Records, the independent label she still runs. She not only fast became a role model for other young girls who wanted to play guitar well and sing about issues important to them but also for young entrepreneurs who wanted to do things their own way, without pressures from the corporate music industry. She began using Alvarez guitars, because she felt they could withstand—and correctly amplify— her signature percussive style of playing. And she continued promoting Alvarez as her music slowly broke through to larger audiences: when she released her now-classic album Not a Pretty Girl, in 1995; when she first reached the Top 40 on

Billboard’s album chart with Little Plastic Castle, in 1998; and when she began regularly topping the Independent chart in the early 2000s, with Revelling/Reckoning (2001), So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter (2002), Evolve (2003), and Educated Guess (2004). By the end of the last decade, she had released 19 studio albums, as many live albums—not to mention numerous EPs, videos, and compilation appearances—and written some of the most popular, important, and enduring feminist folk songs of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, including “In or Out,” “Not a Pretty Girl,” “32 Flavors,” “Napoleon,” “Joyful Girl,” and “Amendment.” Over the past few years, DiFranco’s begun to rethink her equipment choices, and she now incorporates several vintage guitars and amps into her arsenal. At one point in our interview, when discussing her longtime love affair with Alvarez, she reveals, “I’ve sort of learned that maybe I’m a Gibson girl now.” The recent acquisitions have enriched DiFranco’s sound. When she launched into her sets at the Fillmore in San Francisco and Napa’s Uptown Theatre in March, she played her reliable Alvarez guitars on her more percussive, rock-based songs, but she used a Gibson LG to bring warmer textures to her slower, more soulful songs. She broke out her 1930s Gibson-made Cromwell tenor guitar for the dirty licks of “Which Side Are You On?,” playing through a 1960s Magnatone Twilighter amp for the authentic vibrato it produces. She attributes her later-period sonic experimentation to the influence of her husband of nine years, producer Mike Napolitano, calling him “a real supertaster of sound. He’s been sort of helping me evolve my gear over the last bunch of years.” Sitting with the little Alvarez MSD1 in her lap, DiFranco strums a few chords as we talk about her songwriting, guitar-playing, and controversy-making—not to mention the recent honor she received up in Canada. Congratulations on your honorary doctorate. How did that come about? I went to Winnipeg to get some sort of lifetime achievement award from the Winnipeg Folk Festival, which is a great festival—huge, vast, amazing, roots- and world-music festival. I guess while I was in Winnipeg, the University of Winnipeg decided to bestow that doctorate upon me [laughs], since I was in speech-making mode or something. So, are you wearing ‘Dr. DiFranco’ well? I haven’t yet pulled it out, but when I need to . . . Next time I’m pulled over.

You’ve said before that folk music isn’t just a singer with a guitar, and I once wrote something similar in my liner notes to a Phil Ochs box set. To me, folk music can be anything from Odetta and Ochs to Zimbabwean singer Thomas Mapfumo to hip-hop acts like Public Enemy and the Coup. Would you talk about what folk music means to you? To me, it’s inextricably connected with the community that it comes from. It’s sort of a subcorporate, noncommercial kind of music that’s often politically radical and connected with activists. . . . As you said, [it] can apply to so many different genres or sounds of music, as long as it’s people’s music, whoever those people are. I got into a cab once with a fellow who was in my band at the time, and the cabby saw our instruments and said, “What kind of music do you play?” I never know how to answer that question. My friend Han said, “It’s music with a story.” Speaking of old folkies and music with stories—you were close with Pete Seeger. He performed on your last album, and you’ve shared stages with him many times. Can you talk about some of the lessons he taught you? Every interaction with him was a lesson. He was like a Buddha. By the end of his life, he just emanated that sort of loving, respectful energy. I have many memories of being at benefits where all of us folk singers collide. The first time I met Pete was at one of these big benefits. There were a lot of stressed-out folkies, well-meaning lefties, activists, a lot of performers kind of vying for the spotlight, and tension in the air—and I remember Pete showed up and transformed the atmosphere instantly. Within ten minutes of being in the building, he had everybody involved in the show in one circle backstage, holding hands, singing. It was his presence and his ability to refocus people to what matters—that was just so stunning. I told this story the other night onstage: I was at his 90th birthday party, a benefit for the Clearwater organization, and there he was, meeting and greeting, and he was an extraordinarily lucid, sharp man, even to the day he died. I remember one reporter standing up and saying: “Mr. Seeger, you’ve been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor…”—and just sort of listed [Seeger’s] many worldly accomplishments—and then his question was: “What are you most proud of?” And Pete paused, as he does, and he said, “I stayed married to the best woman I ever met. . . . We had four children and six grandchildren.” . . . I thought, what an amazing radical feminist flip of the script!

WHAT ANI DIFRANCO PLAYS GUITARS Two Alvarez Yairi WY1 Bob Weir signature guitars, Alvarez Yairi DY62C, Gibson LG, custom Alvarez baritone guitar, vintage Gibson-Cromwell tenor guitar, vintage Epiphone tenor guitar, Alvarez MSD1 mini dreadnought ELECTRONICS Alvarez System 500 preamp (WY1s), Alvarez System 600 preamp (DY62C), Fishman pickups (Gibson and Cromwell), Klark Teknik DN360 rackmount analog graphic EQs (all guitars) AMPLIFICATION Rivera Sedona, ’60s-vintage Magnatone Twilighter STRINGS D’Addario phosphor-bronze medium gauge

LISTEN TO THIS!

Ani DiFranco Which Side Are You On? Righteous Babe

LEARN TO PLAY the popular Pete Seeger version of “Which Side Are You On?” on page 58.

AcousticGuitar.com 27

TALKING GEAR Ani, get your sound Ani DiFranco admits she’s developed a roving eye in recent years, moving beyond just the Alvarez guitars she’d been loyal to since the early 1990s. Having learned that she’s maybe “a Gibson girl now,” DiFranco explains the appeal—and a lot of it also has to do with her changing ideas about electronics and amps. “I was just pursuing a bigger, ballsier sound,” she says. “What I do with an acoustic guitar onstage is start rolling off at 2K and just slope right down. So, I don’t like all that tinkle, especially if you’re talking about a magneticbridge pickup. That’s not a pretty sound up there, so . . . and then, really boosting, you know, 860, even 880, the sort of kickdrum area of thump, and then 100, 125 Hz just to make it nice and big and warm.”

It might get loud “The Gibson just gets there quicker and easier, and I also run my guitars onstage and in recording through two different amps—one of them a clean sound with tremolo, so that I can use the trem, and one of them a dirtier, sort of distortion sound when I want to rock out. I also have two volume pedals onstage that send to either of those amps, so I can sort of dial in a sound that’s got more texture and more going on than just that magnetic pickup.”

What are those amps? “I have a Rivera amp for the dirty sound, which I’ve found very versatile and good for an acoustic guitar, and I have now my ace in the hole, a Twilighter. It’s a Magnatone amp from the ’60s, and Magnatone—my husband taught me, and my ears agree—is the only true vibrato, where the pitch changes. Vibrato on other amps is just volume, but the Magnatone actually has a pitch warble, which gives you that richness. So now I’m just a total whore for these old Magnatones.”

28 October 2014

DiFranco loves tenor guitars. Here she plays her vintage Epiphone.

The day after he died, you and I talked on the phone, and you told me his activism wasn’t just activism in the big sense, but that he acted immediately on things. Can you expand on that? Yes, that was very instructive to me. When I called him up to ask him to play on my last record, I left a message on his machine, and he called me back that day. You know, I’m out doing whatever I do, and I think it took me a week to get back to him. He had already sent me a letter, with some sheet music, and different versions of “Which Side Are You On?,” and [suggestions like] “We could do it modally, or we could do it this way.” When I finally got him on the phone, he’s like “Hang on” [plunk], and he’s got his banjo [snaps her fingers rapidly]. . . . He’s just on it. Full of energy. Just one of those people who knows that to get it done, you do it yourself, and you do it now. Now! That’s pretty much what you’ve been doing now for more than 20 years, isn’t it? I’ve been trying. I’ve been trying. He is an amazing teacher. You’re one of the most influential and pioneering independent artists from an era—the ’90s—that spawned a slew of indie-minded acts, like Fugazi, who also had their own label, and many others. Back then, did you foresee a time when major labels would lose their decadeslong power grip on artists, like they have in the digital era? I don’t know that I have a better read on those macro movements than anybody else. In fact, that’s not really what I think about. I think for my personal journey it was just about following the people, like Pete Seeger, that I respect. . . . All of the industry people that approached me, it was like, “Hmm, if I follow you, I’m going to meet a whole lot of other people, and those are not my teachers.” It was just an instinctual thing, for me, about what was the right path. And then, as it turns out [adopts a faux dramatic voice], the music industry is going down in flames!

CHARLES WALDORF PHOTO

And you’re fine? Yeah, I’m fine. And I feel very lucky now that I just wasn’t dependent on anyone or anything else. Let’s talk about the way you play guitar. To me, it’s obvious why your lyrics and vocals resonate for so many people. But that combination wouldn’t work if you didn’t have an equally individual guitar style—that percussive, staccato sound that’s become your signature. How did you evolve that kind of playing? I’ve been playing guitar since I was 9, and I started playing out [at clubs] at that age. I had

a mentor in Buffalo, Michael Meldrum, who started bringing me to his gigs. I was his little dancing monkey—you know, “Look at the little girl with the big voice!” I think just being in bars playing music— coffee shops sometimes, colleges sometimes, but mostly bars—is what taught me how to play. Contrast, dynamics [she hits a chord hard on her guitar] are so important. My early songs are like [hits another chord], “Hey [hits chord], I’m [hits chord] over here! [hits chord] Hello?” Loud against silence makes somebody’s conversation at the bar stick out, and they’re like—oops. And then they turn and they look at you, and once you’ve got them, then you gotta keep them. So, I think my playing style was all about getting you to turn around and then trying to be my own band, keep enough going on to keep your attention in a bar when you’re not there to see the folk singer in the corner—you’re there to have a drink and relax. It was the early survival skills that influenced the way I played forevermore. You’ve written hundreds of songs, and you use more than 50 different tunings. What do you do, make them up? I do, I do! I think somebody taught me DADGAD when I was a kid, and that opened a door, and then after that it was like, “Well, what else can you do?” It’s sort of like changing your palette of colors. I just make shapes with my left hand. So, it’s kind of interesting that you change the tuning and then the shapes sound different and different shapes work and . . . . So, I guess that means it’s kind of a nightmare to figure out how to play your songs? Yeah. To play my songs without the crazy tunings often would be impossible. To go back and forth with these crazy tunings—if you don’t have an awesome guitar tech like I do—is hard. More recently in my life, as I saw my operation begin to downscale, and I have to think practically, I’ve been writing more in standard tuning. Like, what if that [guitar tech’s] not there someday? Also, when I think of a really crazy tuning, I make sure to write more than one song. So, if I’m going to put this guitar all the way down in this crazy C world or B world, then I better have three or four songs I can work. A lot of what I do is motivated by what’s good for the show, what gets me through the show. Even when I’m writing a song, it’s like “Oh, I have so many slow songs—I need a fast song right now.” It’s all about being onstage tomorrow night: What’s gonna work, what do I need? When you find a new tuning that you like, does that write the song? Or does the song dictate the tuning?

The tuning is often the ticket to somewhere. Just like a different instrument. I have different kinds of guitars—tenor, baritone, standard—and all the different guitars have different voices and they bring out different things. And so, it’s the same with a tuning. It will definitely evoke something in and of itself that you can follow. For a long time, you’ve been an Alvarez artist, but lately you’ve been playing other brands. Are you at a turning point, gear-wise? I started playing Alvarez guitars on stage in the early ’90s. And I think that they have, over the years, influenced the way I play. These are the instruments that I’m holding, so the way they amplify and the possibilities therein, I think, were the parameters of my sound that I developed. I have some vintage instruments that I play onstage now, and I’m looking for more. And I’ve sort of learned that maybe I’m a Gibson girl. How did this change of heart come about? You know, I messed around with some nice old Martins and was like, “Oh, that’s pretty, but not me.” The guitar I’ve really been loving a lot is a [Gibson] LG. They’re warm and I don’t have to do as much EQing to get it to where I want to go. So, does this mean you’re moving away from Alvarezes? I love Alvarez and I will always play this little guy [nods to the Alvarez MSD1 short-scale dreadnought in her lap]. It’s the one I take everywhere, and hence, I’ve written a lot on it. I play it onstage for a different sound. And the baritone. And even one of my WY1s is still good for rocking out and doing what I’ve always done. Switching gears a little: Do you ever feel burdened by constantly having to be Ani DiFranco, and all of the expectations that entails? I’ve been asked that question a lot over the years, you know, and my answer over the years has been “No, it’s not a burden, it’s a privilege. And it’s an opportunity.” I mean, wow—I can say stuff and somebody listens. That’s not something everybody gets. But lately, this year, I’ve intersected with more of the burden element of my role. You’re referring to the controversy that happened recently . . . Yeah, the controversy of a songwriting workshop that I was going to host. The host location—where people were going to stay and be involved in the seminars and the performances—was a former plantation outside of New Orleans. Some of my audience objected to the setting, or questioned it. And unfortunately, the folks that I’ve been working with for 20

AcousticGuitar.com 29

hunt you down, is what I learned. In fact, you can get in a lot of trouble by avoiding it. Finally, I had someone at the Righteous Babe office put on my Facebook page, “This is not Ani. You’re not talking to Ani.”

Not a techie girl: DiFranco prefers the offline life.

PATTI PERRET PHOTO

Are you going to start getting more personally involved in your social media now? I don’t know what the solution is for me. I’m considering shutting it down. I don’t know what it will do to a career to not have any presence in this cyberworld that so many live in, but I’m considering it. I just don’t know what the solution for me is.

years, who are awesome people and have done an amazing job, they just didn’t get it—first of all, that maybe the setting was not the right one for me. This is a setting they’ve used for many other songwriters—Richard Thompson and Todd Rundgren—but their audience is a different audience, and they don’t have the expectation of being the feminist icon. But even I didn’t. . . . I mean, I saw the word plantation and I thought, “Whoa, that’s going to be weird. That’s going to be weird. That’s going to be a crazy scene.” But I didn’t realize that there are women in my audience who were like, “That’s beyond weird—I can’t go there.” And there was a discussion that ensued online that was kept from me. It went from maybe a reasonable discussion to a very angry controversy, and by the time I found out, there was a lot of anger in the air. And it was a very unfortunate whole series of events.

I’m sorry. I messed up. I didn’t get it. The people around me didn’t get it.” You know, the whole process of that was very painful. [Her eyes begin to tear up slightly.] It’s just amazing to be in it—this thing that we see happening, you know, where people get kind of crucified, and then to be . . . . “Whoa! Now it’s me.” And to understand how that works—how it affects your family and your friends and your whole community. It was like, “Wow, yeah, this is a heavy place to be sometimes: feminist icon.”

How did you eventually find out about it? Suddenly, one day, my phone just started ringing, and everybody that I know and love called me up and said, “Oh my god, Ani, I’m sorry!” And I was just like “What?” And then it all came down and I had to make a statement: “Make a statement! You’re late! You’re late to the table and now you must make a statement!” So I made a statement, sort of justifying why I thought it was OK to go there [to use the plantation site], why I didn’t say no instantly. And then there was a lot of anger about the defensiveness of that statement. And I was like [sighs], “Oh . . . my god. OK, I’m just . . . sorry.

When I was reading some of the really nasty comments online, I thought, this must be incredibly painful, because these things being said don’t reflect who Ani DiFranco is. I wonder if this is just a byproduct of living in a social media world— it’s a different kind of world, isn’t it? Yeah, and the amazing thing is, you think, if you’re me, that you can just not be involved in that at all. I don’t do computers at all. I don’t do TV. I don’t have a TV at my house. I find that I’m a much saner person if I don’t engage in that moment-to-moment, talkie-talkie world. But even if you . . . you can’t avoid it. It will come

30 October 2014

Another learning experience? There’s just so much to be learned, you know. I guess that’s always been my strategy with my work and with my politics—you just put it out there, throw it out there and see what happens, what bounces back. Sometimes it’s very painful.

How would you engage with your fans? You know, it’s always been an old-school mailing list. I show up in your town. That’s how I have always operated. My career was built pre-Internet. So, it is possible, and I might just kind of steer back that way. Maybe sometimes rockin’ old-school isn’t such a bad thing? The other day we were in Grant’s Pass, Oregon, and I went to the music shop on the one street in town [it’s actually called The Music Shop], and here’s this woman, Pearl E. Jones, who’s had this shop for 53 years—she was a Gibson dealer back in the ’60s, and she’s 83 years old now, and she’s still got her shop, and she had all vintage instruments, and she had a Gibson there that I’m still thinking about [laughs]—obviously, I’m telling you about it now! I may just call her up and say, “I need to buy that guitar after all.” She sounds really cool. What else did she have in there? At first I walked in and I said, “Oh, can I play some of your guitars?” And she said, “No. We don’t let just anybody . . . ” And I was like [puts on a mopey face], “OK.” And then she kind of looked at me and said, “Unless you know how to play.” I said, “Well, I’m playing at the theater down the street.” So she starts handing me guitars, including an 1860 Martin—looks like a little peanut, with the little Indian feather. [Takes a deep breath] Wow! I mean, I’m only recently in my life playing instruments from the 1960s and thrilling to their resonance, and this guitar was insane! This guitar—this teeny little parlor peanut—just shook my body. It was like . . . Wow! I don’t even know what you’re talking about, guitar, you’re just talking . . . . But you didn’t get it? It was not for sale. Of course it wasn’t. Yeah, she just had to blow my mind.

AG

S PECIAL FOCUS DIGITAL DIY

How to Sell Your Music

n past years, AG has offered advice on recording and performing your acoustic music—choosing the right recording equipment, amps, pickups, microphones, and more to reproduce your sound on albums and on stages, for audiences both small and large. This year, we’re tackling the thorny issues of performing and distributing your music online.

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Living in a digital world, some of the best ways to get your music to larger audiences is by using your computer keyboard and doing it yourself. In the following reports, AG spotlights the ins and outs (and possible landmines) of digital distribution and performance: crowd-funding your recording sessions, selling your songs and albums, streaming your music, and performing it for YouTube videos or in live online concerts—all from the comfort of your living room. In today’s world, you never have to step foot on stage to take your music to the masses—which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t try to get out of the house now and then.

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Social Support Network Master the art of crowd-funding

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Digital DIY

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Stream On

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Tangled Web

40

Live From the Laptop

All about Bandcamp

Spotify and Pandora: good or bad for artists?

YouTube’s new music plan

Musician’s guide to online concerts

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SPECIAL FOCUS | DIGITAL DIY

Social Support Network et’s face it: from a business perspective, releasing an album these days is a dicey venture at best. Fewer people expect or want to pay anything for recorded music, yet it still costs money to produce and promote music. Even established artists who could sign with a label don’t necessarily get much help with these expenses. “Many of my friends are trying to get their finished CDs placed with labels and are hearing, ‘Well, if you want to come onboard, we suggest you hire publicist X,’” says folk-rock songwriter Peter Mulvey. “Which leads them to think, ‘Wait . . . aren’t you the record label?’” So what’s a recording artist without a trust fund, sugar daddy or mama, or lucrative day job supposed to do? The answer, for many working musicians, is to enlist the direct support of fans, via sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, PledgeMusic, and Patreon. That’s what Mulvey did this year, launching a Kickstarter campaign for the release of his latest album, Silver Ladder (Signature Sounds). Mulvey’s avid grassroots fan base, built over 20-plus years of touring, came through big time: nearly 1,000 people collectively donated more than $62,000—blowing way past his original goal of $23,000. As of this writing, Mulvey is in the process of delivering an array of pledge

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32 October 2014

Master the art of crowd-funding to raise money for your acoustic masterpiece BY J E FFR EY PE PPE R RODG E RS

rewards, ranging from downloads, CDs, and vinyl to lessons, customized recordings, and house concerts. “I felt I had a really solid record and wanted to give it the best shake possible,” Mulvey says of the decision to run his first crowd-funding campaign. “I felt the time was right to at least try to galvanize my fans, hire some first-rate publicity, and see how far up the flagpoles of the world I could fly this little flag. Being Midwestern, I felt a little funny asking people to pledge, but quickly became overwhelmed at the outpouring of both pledges and written expressions of enthusiastic support.” Not all crowd-funding campaigns are so successful. Fewer than 60 percent of Kickstarter campaigns reach their goals. Even an artist as well-known as Bjork has fallen short. Her 2013 Kickstarter campaign reached only 4 percent of

Funding Campaign Tips Be Concise People’s attention spans are very short for reading project descriptions or watching videos online. Be Specific Say exactly what you’re going to do and when, post a project budget, and be realistic. Be Yourself Share your authentic passion for the music. Ask for Help Don’t be shy about seeking help—and show your gratitude. Don’t Overpromise Rewards take time and money to deliver, so be sure to factor those costs into your funding plan.

The success of any funding campaign comes down to personal connections with fans

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its goal of about $26,000 in U.S. currency, according to Billboard. “Most unsuccessfully funded projects come up short because of a lack of interest in the project or because their creators didn’t promote it enough,” Kickstarter cofounder Yancey Strickler told the business website Techcruncher. “Success on Kickstarter comes down to making a video, pricing things reasonably, and telling people about the project.” To raise money on Kickstarter, you describe your project in text and video, create incentives or rewards for different donation levels, and set an overall funding goal—and it’s crucial that the goal be realistic, because you’ll receive nothing if you don’t reach it. Kickstarter takes five percent of the total donations, and Amazon payment processing fees take an additional bite of 3 to 5 percent. Indiegogo works similarly but has looser guidelines—while Kickstarter is all about specific creative projects, Indiegogo can also be used to raise funds for causes, start-up businesses, or community organizations. Indiegogo offers a flexible funding option that allows you to keep donations even if you don’t meet your goal, in exchange for giving the site a higher 9 percent cut. Other companies take somewhat different approaches to helping artists finance creative work. PledgeMusic, which (unlike Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Patreon) is focused solely on music, takes a flat fee of 15 percent and is very hands on in guiding artists through their campaigns—and reports that around 90 percent of artists meet their funding goals. PledgeMusic bills itself as a “direct-to-fan music platform,” in which artists share their creative process (by giving pledgers access to demos and behindthe-scenes photos or videos, for instance) as opposed to simply pitching a final product. Patreon, by contrast, is designed to raise funds not for a single event or project such as an album but for “a stream of smaller works”; fans can make recurring donations and receive new songs or videos, for example, as they are released individually. No matter which site an artist uses, the success of any funding campaign comes down to personal connections with fans—cultivated online, via email, blogs, or social media, and through real-world interactions around the merch table or elsewhere. For Mulvey, deepening those relationships has been the highlight of his Kickstarter experience. “I had a surge in sales and used it to rev up the retail end of my business, which is all a good thing,” he says. “The most valuable thing to me was to find out who my thousand most ardent fans are, and to hear from those thousand fans. That was humbling but also revitalizing, and really kept me going through the crazy-ass 80-show tour that I did to release this record.” AG

Download Here

4 steps to mastering the online music distribution site Bandcamp BY OCTOB E R CR I FASI

usicians have several options for sharing and selling original works online, but few sites can compare with the robust list of free extras that Bandcamp.com offers. All artist profiles come with Bandcamp.com addresses, easy integration with Facebook and other social media, gorgeous and customizable music players, a mobile app for streaming music, flexible price setting, stats for plays, sales, and embeds, and a slew of other helpful tools to get your music to the public. Here are some tips on getting started:

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1

SET UP YOUR ACCOUNT

It’s easy to create your artist profile, but be sure to have a few things ready before getting started. Bandcamp requires you to format your source tracks as WAV or AIFF files to ensure the highest audio quality, so convert any MP3 tracks into this format before uploading them. MP3s can be ripped/converted through software such as iTunes. (Also remember that you must own the rights to music you upload for sale on Bandcamp, so do not post any covers, unless you have the rights to do so.) Do you have extras—such as videos or liner notes—that you would like to include with a specific track or album? You can upload those, too, and Bandcamp will bundle them with the .zip file download of the track or album. Decide what genre your music falls under, as you will be asked to choose one during set-up. One of the site’s missions is to connect music lovers with new music and artists, so selecting the right genre will help listeners find you. There are about 20 options to choose from, including general categories like Folk, Classical, Rock, Country, Blues, etc.; specifics like “Bluegrass” can be fine-tuned with the “genre tag(s)” option. Your choice determines where your music will show up on the site. If you already have a website and want to use its design, you can upload your own custom profile header and background. Have a photo of yourself or band along with a brief bio (400 characters max) at the ready. Artists are allowed up to five additional website or social media listings, so be sure to include addresses for your blog, Twitter, and Facebook music pages.

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2

CHOOSE YOUR MUSIC PLAYER

You will find a host of customizable music players with which to share and sell your music on your Bandcamp profile (and elsewhere on the web). Choose whatever design you like—track list and cover art, cover art only, track list only— in a variety of sizes and color schemes. You can post cover art, lyrics, and credit information for individual tracks and albums. All players come with a code to embed the player on any website or social media platform.

3

SELL YOUR MUSIC AND EXTRAS

Now decide how much you want to charge for each download, whether a single track or album. You can set a firm price, or let fans set their own price based on a minimum you suggest; you can even let them download your music for free (up to 200 free download credits a month). A nice perk to the free download option is the ability to create a mailing list, as email addresses are required as part of the checkout process. All transactions are processed through PayPal, which means you will need to create a business account for yourself if you don’t already have one. Bandcamp takes 15 percent of each music purchase and 10 percent of merchandise sales. PayPal processing will add an additional 2.9 percent (see website for more details). While 15 percent might seem like a high number, it is half of the cost of selling music through sites like iTunes, and is worth the price when you consider the amount and quality of extras that come with your account.

4

CONNECT WITH YOUR FANS

Once your profile is created, the music is immediately listed as a new arrival on Bandcamp’s “Discover” page, and a follow button is added to your profile so fans can follow your activity. Fans can email you directly through your profile or to an email address of your choosing. Once a fan makes a purchase through the site, he or she is then invited to join the Bandcamp fan community; that enables fans to recommend your music, share a playlist via Twitter or Facebook, and follow other members. If you want to receive listener feedback on specific parts of a new track, or post a snippet of something you’re working on, consider also creating an account on SoundCloud.com, as Bandcamp is for completed and original works only. 34 October 2014

A Stream or a Trickle?

The music industry’s verdict on streaming services is split BY PAT MORAN

he swift rise of sites like Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, and Beats has made it cheaper and easier to access the music you love, but the streaming surge has upended the industry, and there’s no going back to a business model based on album sales. To some, like Thomas Honeyman, who runs the music blog findmysong.com, the stream of grassroots discovery eliminates the record company middle man, putting the business of music distribution, he wrote in the Gen Y blog Elite Daily, “firmly in the hands of the artists and consumers.” To others, like Cracker frontman David Lowery, the advent of music-streaming services is proving disastrous to songwriters. All can agree, though, that the new system is here to stay, and it’s in a state of flux. Within the music industry, there’s a broad spectrum of opinion on streaming. When Radiohead’s Thom Yorke pulled his Atoms for Peace album from Spotify in protest of the Swedish-born service’s low royalty payments, his band’s co-manager Brian Message came to Spotify’s defense. “Streaming services are a very new way for artists and fans to engage,” Message said. “As the model gets bigger…it’ll become a place where artists… can receive equitable remuneration.” Lowery is unconvinced: “Streaming has become a very effective way for record labels to reduce payments to songwriters and performers.” Now a lecturer in the business department at the University of Georgia in Athens, Lowery sounded a wake-up call about streaming services on his Facebook page last year. Most recently, he has publicly criticized Apple’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Dr. Dre’s Beats Electronics, which will compete with sites such as Pandora, Spotify, and Sirius. “As a songwriter, I get 9.1 cents per download [from iTunes],” Lowery wrote after Apple’s deal was made public. “On streaming services, the best-case scenario is .0017 cents a stream. I need over 5,000 streams to equal one download.” It’s not as though musicians haven’t asked for more. Last year, when the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) tried to negotiate a larger

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streaming cut for songwriters, Pandora filed a lawsuit that came before U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan. “There is a single judge appointed for life in New York who sets the price for all songs for ASCAP writers,” Lowery says of Cote. “I call her the song czar.” The rate court sets royalties for performance-rights licensing—the right to play a song on the radio, television, the internet, and in concert halls. This spring, Cote ruled in Pandora’s favor, keeping rates paid to ASCAP songwriters at 1.85 percent of the internet radio service’s revenue (Pandora’s combined rate for all performance rights organizations, or PROs, totals 4.3 percent of its revenue). “You think the minimum wage is bad? Try the maximum wage,” Lowery says. “Imagine the government set a maximum wage for everybody.” To be sure, it’s hard to spin Pandora’s victory in rate court as anything other than a defeat for songwriters. “Performance royalties have become critical for songwriters as sales of compact discs and downloads...have fallen,” New York Times columnist Ben Sisario wrote in the wake of Cote’s decision. Lowery has quarreled publicly with Pandora before. On the Trichordist blog, he posted his royalties statement for Cracker’s biggest hit, “Low.” Lowery, who co-wrote the song, earned a paltry $16.89 after “Low” was played 1,159,000 times on Pandora. Pandora counters that despite low royalty rates, the exposure the site provides artists is invaluable. Company

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‘Our digital album sales increased by 290 percent from the year prior.’ PATRICK LAIRD

Pandora’s main office in downtown Oakland

co-founder Tim Westergren noted that “70 million listeners tune in to our service every month, where they hear the music of well over 100,000 different artists.”  Patrick Laird of cello rock group Break of Reality is one of those artists. In a letter supporting Pandora, Laird wrote, “In the first 12 months of being included in Pandora’s music library, our digital album sales increased by 290 percent from the year prior. In the subsequent 12 months, sales rose 406 percent from our pre-Pandora days.” Lowery stresses that despite exposure and whatever the rate musicians are paid, the bulk of money earned from songwriters’ labor is not ending up in the artists’ pockets. “In contrast, the record labels are getting close to 50 percent from Spotify,” he says. Pandora also pays record labels 50 percent of its annual revenue, but Lowery points out that “the labels have equity in these streaming companies.” The extent to which streaming companies are supported by record labels remains largely hidden from the public. Despite the business issues, Lowery saves much of his activist ire for the rate court and the rules governing ASCAP and the other major performing rights organization, Broadcast

36 October 2014

Music, Inc. (BMI). Those rules stem from a 1941 consent decree which is still in effect. Under the decree, which forbids artists from pulling their songs from services like Pandora, songwriters’ rates are set artificially. “You have a government edict that forces the price of the song down,” Lowery says. “That’s essentially a subsidy for these (streaming) industries.” Pandora maintains that higher performance royalty rates will force them out of business, but Lowery suggests that’s a smokescreen. “If Pandora can’t make a profit,” he says, “they should go out of business. Nobody’s subsidizing my business as a band.” Popmatters’ Monica Corton recently reported that the battle over royalties has shifted to amending the consent decree. “The PROs, music publishers, and others (asked) the Justice Department to change the consent decree so that...digital rights licensing can be pulled from the PROs,” Corton wrote. In response, the Justice Department agreed to a review. After soliciting public comments through August on whether ASCAP or BMI could license “rights to some music users but not others” and on changing from the rate court

“to a system of mandatory arbitration,” the department’s decision is pending. An amended consent decree would be good news for songwriters, but the tension between the streaming services and musicians would likely remain. Findmysong’s Honeyman says streaming fuels a thriving new music economy based on “attention, rather than units of music (sold).” That attention can be monetized because it “leads to festival and performance attendance, merchandising sales, and other sources of revenue,” With music increasingly made by and for Millennials—who are much less likely than any other demographic to pay for music—royalties may no longer matter. Lowery says there’s more at stake than money. “It’s the death of the independent songwriter. The strength and the heart of the American music business is the performer on stage in the big theater under the lights—the guy or gal with the guitar playing these small dingy clubs, crafting these songs on which the entire business operates. That may be a romantic notion, but it’s actually true. And it would be a shame to lose that part of our heritage.” AG

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t’s not quite clear what’s going to happen to me,” says Andy McKee, the self-taught fingerstyle phenom from Topeka, Kansas, who shot to international fame on the strength of his prodigious talent and YouTube videos that have racked up hundreds of millions of views. Now those videos might be going away. YouTube is preparing to block videos featuring artists, like McKee, who are affiliated with independent labels that haven’t joined the company’s newly announced streaming-music plan. YouTube’s subscription service, reportedly called Music Pass, will launch in a few months, and major labels like Sony, Warner, and Universal have signed on. But many independents are balking over what they call unfavorable and unequal terms. In the United Kingdom, folk-rocker Billy Bragg and Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien have filed a complaint with the European Commission arguing that Google’s plan unfairly favors the major labels. The trade organization WIN has asked for a court ruling on the matter. As the dispute rages, YouTube warns it will soon block videos from indies that haven’t signed a contract agreeing to its terms that include a commitment to debut all new material on Music Pass. That threat is particularly significant because some observers believe the Google-owned company is well positioned to dominate music streaming and perhaps even the larger music market. Yet, many musicians are confused by the fracas. “First I heard that all the videos from indie labels that didn’t sign would be blocked,” McKee says. “Now we’ve heard maybe that’s not entirely the case.” Google, which bought YouTube in 2006, recently confirmed to Acoustic Guitar that the threat is real. Blocking could begin soon, says Google spokesman Matt McLernon. Once it does, anyone trying to watch a blocked video anywhere on YouTube—not just

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on the new Music Pass service—will get an error message. McLernon says that’s a necessary technical step to begin making YouTube function as it will when the streaming service goes live. But the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), an indie-trade group, sees that practice as a hardball negotiating tactic. A2IM has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

oney is the key to this dispute. The Worldwide Independent Network (WIN) is critical of the royalties YouTube is offering to independents, which the trade group says are lower than the three major labels received and, according to a WIN press statement, lower than “existing rates in the marketplace from partners such as Spotify and Deezer.” Artists with labels that don’t sign the YouTube contract could also lose ad revenue from their videos and the ability to use the site to market their music. The New York Post has reported that Music Pass would be likely to cost subscribers $5 a month in the United States with ads or $10 a month for an ad-free version. But some musicians have raised other concerns as well. One contract provision reportedly

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requires them to offer their entire catalog through YouTube and release all new music simultaneously through Music Pass. Yet, some artists don’t want to give all their music to any streaming service. And they prefer debuting new music on sites like Bandcamp, where they get better compensation. Google’s McLernon says YouTube is working to address contract concerns. He emphasizes that videos from musicians who aren’t signed to a label will not be blocked and that many independents have already signed. Despite those assurances, McKee says the situation puts musicians, especially up-and-coming talent, in a challenging spot. “It seems like it’s going to change things at least a fair bit,” he says. “If they do block a bunch of videos, it’ll be very disappointing. It may be harder for indie musicians to get noticed.” The 35-year-old guitarist is past the point where disappearing from YouTube could derail his career. Currently touring in support of his new Mythmaker EP, McKee plays some 150 live shows a year. He has performed with such guitar legends as Eric Johnson and has toured Australia with Prince. But the plainspoken guitarist readily admits YouTube made his rapid rise possible—even Prince found him through the site. McKee’s first videos went up in 2006. Back then, he was teaching guitar at a local music

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store. He’d wanted to be a professional musician since age 14. “But I figured it would take quite some time,” he recalls. Then came his YouTube launch. “Suddenly I was able to cut out ten years of hard-grinding touring because people could see my videos,” he says. McKee was affiliated with Candyrat Records at the time, so if YouTube follows through on its threat, blocking could affect those videos, including “Drifting,” which has nearly 50 million views. “The way I’ve always looked at it is that YouTube was a fast-forward button for my career,” McKee says. “I feel lucky I got into this free platform when I did.”

ven some artists whose videos wouldn’t be blocked by YouTube because they’re not signed with a label are expressing concerns about the new plan. Shelby Earl independently released her second album, last year’s critically acclaimed Swift Arrows. But the Seattle guitarist and singer-songwriter still feels YouTube’s plan could hurt musicians’ ability to earn a living. “The last thing we need is another streaming-music service,” Earl says. “It takes hundreds of Spotify plays for me to make as much as I do selling one CD. Soon it’s going to be impossible to sell albums.” Earl’s YouTube videos have tens of thousands of views, rather than millions. But when the guitarist was deciding where to debut her provocative new music video, the choice seemed clear. “It was important to me that we host it on YouTube because it’s my sense that’s where music listeners go first,” Earl says. Still, both Earl and McKee believe alternatives exist. “If YouTube makes things really difficult, I imagine indie artists would migrate to other hosts,” Earl says. The notion that musicians can just move elsewhere sounds reasonable. But with one billion unique visitors a month, YouTube’s dominance of online video is almost as pronounced as parent-company Google’s control of online search. Vimeo, which hosts some music content, pulls in just 175 million visitors—and nobody else is even in the ballpark. That’s why musicians were excited by reports that Yahoo might launch a video-streaming service this summer to compete with YouTube. Advertising Age, citing unnamed sources, reported that Yahoo’s new service supposedly will allow video producers to set up channels and embed videos on other websites. Yahoo, however, doesn’t seem poised to launch the new platform—if it exists.

“Those are just rumors,” says Yahoo spokesperson Sara Gorman. “We haven’t announced any such service.”  Despite YouTube’s dominance, Earl believes independents will find a way to thrive. “YouTube is very important,” Earl says. “But that doesn’t mean people can’t adapt. In the music industry, everyone is doing that all the time anyway. We have to because we’re still figuring out how to make things sustainable.” AG

Google, which bought YouTube in 2006, recently confirmed that the threat is real.

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Live from the Laptop n a Sunday night, I’m performing an acoustic set of Grateful Dead songs with my band mate for around 40 people who’ve been making requests, asking about guitar tunings, leaving tips, and reminiscing about epic Dead shows they caught back in the day. We close with “Eyes of the World,” and when that final Emaj7 chord rings, the room is . . . completely silent. We’re actually playing in my living room, which is empty except for my sleeping dog. Tonight’s audience is otherwise scattered around the country and even overseas, watching online. We can’t see or hear them, but on my laptop, we can read their comments and conversations with each other. It’s a fascinating and odd experience—like being able to read the thought bubbles of your audience while in the middle of a show. Welcome to the world of online concerts, which have emerged as an important avenue for live music. In the last few years, two websites, Concert Window and Stageit, have made it simple for anyone to perform online. More importantly, the sites are designed to help artists make actual money—as opposed to offering yet another way to give music away for the dubious benefit of exposure. (I have yet to encounter any stores, banks, or utility companies that accept payment in exposure.) “I’m not one of those writers who gets a lot of mailbox money, and I don’t live in a big city where I can play out all the time,” says Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket, who’s performed nearly 50 shows on Stageit. “So it’s great to be able to work and actually get paid when I’m at home.” On the audience side, these sites present tremendous opportunities to catch intimate shows—especially acoustic performances—by great artists of all stripes. Browsing the schedules of Concert Window and Stageit in the next month, I find shows by Adam Levy, Livingston Taylor, Andy Irvine, Bill Frisell, Dan Bern, Alice Gerrard and Beverly Smith, Ellis Paul, Anthony da Costa, and Jars of Clay. On any given night, you’ll find dozens of shows happening, and that number is growing fast. Whether you’re interested in performing online or just want to tune into these virtual concert venues, here’s a guide to the essentials.

The strange new world of online concerts—or, ever wonder what it’s like to hear the sound of no hands clapping?

BY J E FFR EY PE PPE R RODG E RS

O

40 October 2014

‘I don’t live in a big city where I can play out all the time.’ GLEN PHILLIPS

Concert Window and Stageit offer similar capabilities, but have somewhat different backgrounds and musical orientations. Stageit, based in Los Angeles, is the brainchild of Evan Lowenstein, who hit the pop charts in the early 2000s with his brother as Evan and Jaron. Over the last three years, the site has hosted such well-known artists as the Indigo Girls, Jason Mraz, Sara Bareilles, Tom Morello, R&B singer-songwriters Anthony Hamilton and Brian McKnight, as well as Jimmy Buffett, who’s an investor. Though Stageit doesn’t target a specific genre, and anyone can sign up to play, the artist roster leans toward pop, rock, and country. Concert Window, based in New York, is also run by musicians—CEO Dan Gurney is a champion accordion player. The site started by broadcasting concerts from folk venues such as

Club Passim, Caffè Lena, and Freight and Salvage, and began offering online-only laptop shows in 2013. The laptop shows quickly took off, and thanks to the site’s ties to the folk community, Concert Window is like a folk/roots/songwriter festival seven days a week (though, again, the site is open to any genre, and you can also find jazz, classical, rock, and more). Neither Stageit nor Concert Window records their shows—what they offer is a live experience. Though the attitude remains pervasive that recorded music should be free, fans seem to value this kind of direct, real-time interaction with an artist in a different way. “People have just been waiting for a chance to support musicians,” says Dan Gurney. “This is the way it should work—fans to musicians—and the fewer middlemen, the better.”

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THE SITES

TUNING IN

GET SET

For watching a show, the main requirements are a good computer (tablets and iPhones/Android phones work too), an up-to-date browser (Chrome and Firefox are good choices), and a fast Internet connection—Concert Window recommends a download speed of at least 1 mbps, while Stageit suggests 3 mbps. (You can test your connection at speedtest.net.) Curling up and watching a show on your laptop or tablet is nice, but for better sound, use headphones or plug into your home audio system. It’s fun to watch on a bigger screen too. With a display adapter cable, I plugged my MacBook Pro into the TV’s HDMI input and caught some performers practically in life size. Tickets for Concert Window and Stageit shows are cheap, and often you can pay what you want. Concert Window also offers subscriptions that give you access to any show (all performers on the site get subscriber access). Both sites have built-in systems for tipping. On Stageit, fans compete to be the top tippers and earn prizes—which helps inspire them to pay, on average, around $15 per show. The ability to chat with the artists and other fans is a big part of what makes online concerts special. “The chat function keeps it pretty interactive, so their feedback gets heard and I can take requests,” says Phillips. “They also talk to each other a lot. The audience knows each other by now, and I think they like being able to talk during a song and not get shushed.”

Setting up a show on Stageit and Concert Window is free; the sites take roughly a third of whatever comes in from tickets and tips. You choose the ticket price. A good strategy is to make the show free or pay what you want, and then offer rewards—downloads, posters, Skype sessions, or whatever else—for generous tipping. Dan Bern, a prolific painter as well as songwriter, gives away paintings to the top tippers at his Stageit shows. Allow at least a few weeks to promote your show by sharing the link with your email list, Facebook friends and fans, family members, and all those far-flung people who never get a chance to hear you play live. Though some viewers may happen upon your show, your own contacts are more likely to draw a bigger audience. Think about ways to give your online concert a unique spin. Bern calls his shows Theme Park, in which “songs woven to a different theme every episode,” with past themes including baseball and presidents. On Concert Window, guitarist David Ippolito hosts a music-and-talk series called the Weekly Show, and Christine Lavin hosts collaborative shows with other songwriters.

DIY BROADCASTING GEAR You can play your own show with nothing more than a laptop, using its built-in camera and mic, and a fast Internet connection (at least 1 mbps upload speed). Using an external mic and webcam, though, you can greatly improve the broadcast quality. For audio, a USB mic like the Blue Snowball (around $70) works well, or you can plug any regular mic into an audio interface. I use my Mbox with a single large-diaphragm condenser (Audio-Technica 3060) about three feet away and out of the frame. If you want to get more elaborate, you can set up multiple mics with a mixer that connects to your computer. For video, a USB webcam such as the Logitech HD C920 ($75) gives a sharper picture than a laptop’s built-in camera. Lighting at night can be tricky if you don’t have access to studio lights and softboxes. Experiment with whatever lamps you have, and be sure to avoid bright backlighting—or you’ll wind up a silhouette onscreen.

THE PLAYING EXPERIENCE Performing online takes some getting used to. The silence at the end of a song feels weird at first, even if someone types “clap clap clap.” In talking to the audience, bear in mind there’s a lag time of up to 15 seconds—so if you ask people a question, by the time you see responses you will have moved onto something else. You won’t be able to banter with the audience as you can at a coffeehouse. Also, don’t let your reading the screen distract you from your first priority: playing your best. Some performers make a point of not reading the chat until the music is over. Finally, plan your set but be flexible. And perhaps most importantly, embrace the informality of being offstage. “It’s strange singing into a laptop, but I find if I’m honest about that awkwardness, the audience appreciates it,” says Phillips. “The favorite moments tend to be the accidental ones. People love it when my dog starts howling or if my daughter comes in and sings a song.” AG

FINALLY.

ACCESSORIES THAT HOLD YOUR NECCESSORIES. Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers (jeffreypepperrodgers.com), Acoustic Guitar’s editor at large, is author of The Complete Singer Songwriter and the Homespun

www.kysermusical.com

video series Learn Seven Grateful Dead Classics for Acoustic Guitar.

AcousticGuitar.com 41

Emily Robison of Court Yard Hounds and Collings Guitars

Emily Robison on stage with her Collings CJ SB Serious Guitars | www.CollingsGuitars.com | (512) 288-7770

44

Songcraft DAWN LANDES MOVES ON

60

46

Basics SLIDE INTO A BOTTLENECK

54

Here’s How THE ABC’S OF READING MUSIC

56

Acoustic Classic ‘TELL ME WHY’ BY NEIL YOUNG

PLAY

Mississippi John Hurt first recorded the sordid tale of ‘Frankie and Albert’ in 1928. You can learn to play it today.

AcousticGuitar.com 43

SONGCRAFT

Getting Back Up

Dawn Landes recounts her painful divorce on Bluebird and produces the ultimate breakup album BY KENNY BERKOWITZ

“I

tend to make metaphors out of everything,” Dawn Landes says, attempting a description of her career as a singersongwriter. “Maybe because I’m planning to go ice skating this weekend, but right now, it seems a bit like skating—you know, lots of loopthe-loops and twirls, and maybe some falling down.” Landes is on her cell phone in New York City, searching for a quiet place to talk about her eighth album, Bluebird, which she wrote after the collapse of her marriage to fellow singersongwriter Josh Ritter. “Sorry, here comes a car,” Landes says, before ducking into an office building. For a woman whose life has seen no shortage of impressive twirls—including an eightyear stint as Philip Glass’s recording engineer, seven stylistically distinct solo albums, acclaimed collaborations with the likes of Justin Townes Earle, Jefferson Hamer, Nico Muhly, Nada Surf, Will Oldham, and Ritter, as well as appearances with the Boston Pops, the NYC Ballet, and the Aurora Orchestra—Landes’ new record finds her getting back up after an emotional fall. An understated folk confessional, Bluebird, released on the indie label Western Vinyl, is a breakup album to end all breakup albums. “My life had kind of exploded,” Landes says. “I’d made a bunch of very dynamic, poppy music with my trio. Then I decided that wasn’t really the vibe I was going for—it didn’t feel personal enough. So I went in another direction, one that was more ethereal and less bombastic, with intricate melodies interwoven with strings and guitars, and hardly any drums . . . And I kept thinking of that T. S. Eliot line: when the world ends, does it end with a bang or a whimper? The first music I made following my breakup was the bang.” Bluebird, she says, “is the whimper.”

44 October 2014

Never promised you a rose garden: Landes and singer-songwriter Josh Ritter have gone from exchanging vows to exchanging break-up albums.

WHAT DAWN LANDES PLAYS It was a real influence on me when I was making this record. It’s a really wonderful piece, very moody, but not overwhelming, you know? Contemplative and sexy and poetic and dark and eerie. But not depressing. Dawn Landes Bluebird Western Vinyl

What was wrong with the bang? I just had a hard time writing it, to be honest. The music was all there, but lyrically . . . it wasn’t happening for me. It didn’t feel sincere. Did catharsis play a role in writing these songs? It was a process of grieving that everybody goes through, all the stages of loss. It was a time, a place in time—I recorded these songs about a year ago. I’m in a different place now, so I hope they’re speaking to some universal truth, because I’m going to have to keep singing these songs for the rest of my life. What was your approach going into the studio on this album? It was an interesting process, because this is the first time I’ve ever worked with a producer. Up until this point, I’d produced all my own records, recorded all my own records. But I was having a hard time finishing this one, and because I’m an engineer and a producer, it was just—I needed someone else to get involved, and my good friend Thomas Bartlett took the reins. Basically, he took me out of my own studio and put me with musicians I’d known, but hadn’t really played music with, like Norah Jones [piano], Tony Scherr [bass], and Rob Moose [guitars, violins, violas]. And we did the whole thing live in two days. Was there a moment when you decided to strike a somber mood on this album? I didn’t really decide—it just happened. My dad, who’d love that I’m quoting him, has this saying: “If you have to force it, something is wrong.” I was trying to make this aggressive, poppy music, and it wasn’t happening. So I just relaxed, and threw my hands in the air, and this record happened so effortlessly. Do you know John Martyn’s [1973 folk-jazz album] Solid Air?

Before Bluebird, you were writing French pop, and before that, you released a doowop album. What inspires you to switch styles? I’m just a very curious person, and I love sounds. I hear a sound, and I want to make a sound just like it. I get inspired by a period, or a certain reverb pedal, and I get really into it. That’s mostly it: curiosity. Is there a metaphor for that? Well, everybody’s on their own journey in life, and I don’t think the art you make is any different. Lyrically, I’m exploring a lot of the same themes I always have. Since my last Dawn Landes album, I did the girl-band record [with the Bandana Splits], and I did the French record, but those were just explorations. This is more . . . more me. Bluebird is 100 percent me and what I was experiencing. It wasn’t an academic exploration, or even a curiosity. It was just that I needed to say these things, and this is how I did it. And it was effortless. You know, as an engineer and a producer, you tend to worry about details, and the fact that this album happened so quickly, so effortlessly, is still a shock to me.

ACOUSTIC GUITARS 1960s Gibson B45 12-string, played as a six-string; 1966 Stella Harmony; 1968 Gibson B25; 2007 Blueridge BG-140 Historic Series mahogany with LR Baggs M1 pickup; 2009 Blueridge Gospel BR-343 with LR Baggs M1 pickup STRINGS Martin acoustic SP bronze light strings AMPLIFICATION Fender Blues Jr. amp PREAMP LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI

How does it affect your process as a songwriter to write a breakup album when people know who your ex-husband is? I didn’t think about that when I was writing. But . . . honestly, I don’t know. I feel lucky to be an artist and be able to express myself, and not to be on the other end. It makes me feel empowered to know that I have a voice, and that people will be listening to my side and what I have to say. Ritter released a breakup album in 2013. I heard. Did you listen to it? I did not. Do you think you’ll ever be ready? I hope—maybe someday—I don’t know. I love his writing. I think he’s an incredible songwriter, I really do. I’m just not there yet. AG

AcousticGuitar.com 45

THE BASICS

Slide, Captain, Slide

Learn a few riffs to improve your bottleneck blues dexterity BY PETE MADSEN

F

rom its primitive beginnings to its maturity in the age of rock ’n’ roll, slide guitar has given the guitar player a voice that extends the emotional range of the instrument. The slide allows the guitarist to find the notes between the notes—those places between the frets where the slippery quality of human emotion runs. The slide can make strings growl or whimper—it can be bold and menacing, or quiet and sympathetic. From Duane Allman to Bonnie Raitt to Alvin Youngblood Hart, the best guitarists have found the bottleneck slide to be one of the more valuable tools in their artistic kitbags. Here are some tips on using this tool in your own music, playing slide lines in standard tuning and applying what you learn to play a solo over a slow blues in the key of E. GETTING STARTED Slide players often set up their guitars with slightly higher action and heavy string gauges. Some dedicate one guitar as their slide instrument. I prefer a guitar with medium-gauge strings (.13–.56) and slightly higher than normal action. Slides come in various shapes and sizes. Choose a slide that best suits your specific needs. At first, you’ll probably want to buy a small assortment to experiment with. The best choices include metal, glass, and ceramic. Glass tends to be smoother than metal, but some players say metal is louder. You might find yourself using different slides based on whether you are playing acoustic or electric. For instance, I prefer a thinner slide for electric, because a thicker, heavier slide tends to bang around and create more noise— especially problematic if you use a lot of gain on your amp. For acoustic guitar, I prefer ceramic, because it seems to combine the best qualities of both metal and glass—it slides better on the string with a consistent pressure. But metal slides are thinner and easier to direct and get better accuracy over the fret. If you go for glass, I recommend a thicker glass, because thin glass slides tend to sound thin. You can also use household objects such as a socket from a

46

October 2014

wrench set or the cut-off top of a beer or wine bottle—a blues classic! There are various shapes and lengths of slides, too. If you play unaccompanied slide, you probably want one that’s at least 2 ½-inches long—that way, you can cover all of the strings at once and play full six-string chords. If you play accompanied, experiment with a shorter slide, but keep in mind that the shorter slide may or may not be able to cover all the strings. Many players place the slide on their pinky—this provides the most flexibility, allowing the other fingers freedom to fret other strings and make chords. Others place the slide on their ring, middle, or even the index finger. Whatever finger you use, the slide should fit snuggly. You can compensate for a loose-fitting slide by stuffing some foam, tissue, or candle wax into it. PLAY TIME Now, play around with your slide. As it touches the string, keep in mind that you don’t need to apply too much pressure—it’s more important to keep consistent pressure as you slide from note to note. The slide should cover only the strings that you are playing slide notes on. For instance, if you are playing notes on the high E string, you should only cover that one string with the slide. There are times when you want string noise and overtones, and times when you don’t want it. When you don’t want it, you’ll need to dampen some strings. This is a critical aspect of slide playing, and you can do it with both hands. For now, focus on your left, or fretting, hand, as that’s the hand less frequently used for dampening. As you drag the slide across the strings, use one or more of the fingers of your left hand to touch and drag along that string with the slide. I use my index finger, which results in a slight cupping of my hand. This technique will rid you of some unsound string overtones. The cupping of the hand also tends to consolidate your hand, making it feel as if it is one appendage moving, rather than five independent fingers.

LISTEN TO THESE!

Duane Allman An Anthology Universal Music Group

Bonnie Raitt Give It Up Warner Bros.

Alvin Youngblood Hart Big Mama’s Door Okeh

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EXERCISES The following exercises and licks are derived from minor pentatonic scales and will be played mostly on the first two strings. Play an ascending E-minor pentatonic scale on the first and second strings. With your slide on, try to aim for the actual fret wire, rather than in between the frets, to achieve proper intonation. Try sliding between each note of the scale, ascending and then descending. How does that sound? Check your intonation by fretting the notes with your finger and then the slide. Do they sound the same, or does the slide note sound a little flat? If it sounds flat, target right over the fret wire. Ready to play some licks? EX. 1 On the surface, this lick is pretty simple.

Play an open string and then slide into the notes of an ascending pentatonic scale. However, there is a trick with the damping finge: the damping finger should be the first thing to touch the string and the last thing you remove. If you play this lick and don’t use a damping finger, you will get a “ghost” pull-off sound. You may like that sound, but if it’s not intentional it’s going to be there whether you like it or not.

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added the second degree of an E-minor scale to give it a slightly different flavor. Remember: moving between strings can be a little challenging with the slide. As you move from the first to the second string, start out with the slide slightly tilted outward from the fretboard. Then tilt the slide inward as you progress to the second and then third strings. EX. 6 This covers the same fretboard territory

as Ex. 5 but is focused on the inner strings (2 through 4). You don’t need to tilt your slide for this lick. Try keeping it very straight, covering all the strings. EX. 7 Move up to the 12th fret and then up to the 15th fret. You may need to slant your slide to get up to the 15th, but that’s OK, as long as you’re only targeting the one string. (Note: when playing multiple strings at the same time, be careful that your slide is not slanted and that it lines up perfectly with the fret—otherwise you’ll sound out of tune.) EX. 8 This lick also is centered at the 12th fret,

but you play a backward slide from the 15th fret to get there.

EX. 2 Play an open second string followed by a

slide on the third fret, and then do the same thing on the first string. Keep track of your damping finger. EX. 3 Perform a descending slide lick that

moves between the second and third strings and then ascends to the fourth string and resolves on an E note. Try to lift your slide while keeping the damping finger down as you move from string to string. EX. 4 This one uses a second-string slide that alternates with the open first string and then resolves with the previous lick (EX. 3). EX. 5 If you took just the last three notes of this

lick, you would have an E-minor triad. But I’ve

3

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12th to the 15th fret. Sometimes you’ll want to use the slide to play non-affected notes, but then slide into another note. Simply use the slide to cover the string and pluck the notes at the 12th, 13th, and 14th frets on the second string; then slide into the D note at the 15th fret. EX. 10 You can use the slide to play slightly sharp or flat notes. As you slide on the second string from the 10th fret up to the 12th, let the slide ascend a little as you play the slightly sharpened E note on the 12th fret of the first string. This produces a slightly unresolved and haunting sound. The same idea is used in the second measure of this phrase as you slide

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backward, from the 12th to the 11th fret, on the second string. SLOW BLUES GROOVE Now try the slow 12-bar, three-chord groove in E to play some solos with (EX. 11). The groove is a variation on a basic shuffle. You play a twobeat, two-string chord followed by a single beat E6 and eighth-note triplet—a riff that dominates the groove throughout. There’s a lot of space in the rhythm for you to play through with your slide. There are two 12-bar solos. The first (EX.11) uses a repeating lick that is anchored by an E note played at the fifth fret on the second string. As the lick progresses, it resolves to an A note in the fifth measure, at which time the rhythm shifts to the A chord. You also play the root note of the B chord with the slide when the rhythm moves to B in the ninth measure. In the second 12-bar solo (EX. 12), move up to the 12th fret, but use a similar rhythmic phrasing as you did in the first few bars of the previous 12-bar. In measure 15, you perform a Duane Allman-style lick, in which you slide quickly backward on the first string from the 12th to the 10th fret and ascend up a little slower on the second string from the 10th to the 12th fret. Measures 16 to 18 pull notes from the middle range of the guitar; then work your way down to a lower range. Finish off with a lick that starts on the first string and works its way up the fretboard to play an E-minor triad between measure 22 and 23. Getting a good sound with your slide takes some time and discipline. You can shorten that time if you have your guitar set up with higher action and heavier string gauges. However, the key is to use the slide like a vocalist uses her natural talent, or like a harmonica player slips between vocal-like phrases. If you pay attention to the notes between the notes you will be on solid ground. AG Pete Madsen is the author of A Guide to Bottleneck Slide Guitar available learnbluesguitarnow.com.

AcousticGuitar.com 49

WEEKLY WORKOUT

Unchained Melody Keep your eyes on the prize as you add interesting riffs to your favorite songs BY JEFFREY PEPPER RODGERS

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ou’re working up a new song and want to go beyond just strumming the basic chords—you’d like to try adding some riffs, an intro, or maybe a solo to fill out the arrangement. Not sure how to find these guitar parts? The first place to look is in the song itself, especially the melody. In many classic songs, the signature guitar parts come straight from the vocal melody. Think of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” which kicks off with the dobro playing the melodic hook (“Doo doo doo, lookin’ out my back door”) and also features a guitar solo that follows the outline of the melody. Echoing the melody on guitar is a simple, powerful way to add instrumental interest while still supporting the vocal.

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Whether your goal is to add melodic embellishments to your accompaniment, or to develop a full instrumental section, playing around with a song’s melody on guitar can generate all sorts of ideas. In this Weekly Workout try out the process using “Eyes On the Prize,” a gospel song turned civil rights anthem that came to my mind with the recent passing of Pete Seeger. His rousing sing-along rendition can be heard on The Essential Pete Seeger. Other great recordings of “Eyes On the Prize,” also known as “Hold On” and “Gospel Plow,” include versions by Mavis Staples (on her album We’ll Never Turn Back), Sweet Honey in the Rock (the Freedom Song soundtrack), and Bruce Springsteen (We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions). As with many



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how other artists harmonize the dramatic WEEK TWO moment in measure 9 with the move to Em. Now it’s time to start playing around with the Instead of the minor V chord, as used here, melody. This version of “Eyes On the Prize” Springsteen opts for the brighter III chord, uses the melody essentially as in Week One, in Week One while Staples hits the bluesy bVII—the same the low octave on the guitar, but adds some Am melody note works over all three of these harmony and bass runs. chords.) If you can have a friend play the As you can see in the tab, much of this chords while you play the melody, great, but example is based on the open-position Am this melody stands on its own quite well. shape (or part of it). The melody starts on the open fifth string and In the first seven bars, if you fret the fourth stays entirely in open position. Once you’re able and third strings with your index and middle 2 2 0 2 fingers, your ring finger 2 2is free to fret 0 notes on to play this example 0 3smoothly, try playing 3the 0 3 3 3 3 0 melody an octave higher: start at the third string, the fifth and sixth strings; alternatively, if you G string, seventh A m fret.G fret the A mfourth and third Estrings m second fret; or at the fourth with your Finding a melody on the fretboard by ear, without middle and ring fingers, your pinkie can grab looking at tab, is fantastic practice. the lower strings. 6 This example shows a full pass through the melody, but you could also pick out bits and pieces to use in your own arrangement. For 0 the Am hammer-on in instance, you might play 2 BEGINNERS’ measure 1 as a little chord embellishment. The 0 0 3 phrase in measures 4–8 would serve nicely as G Am an instrumental intro. Playing the melody will come a Or you could play the bass runs in measures lot easier if you can sing it first. 7 and 8 and 15 and 16 to hold the “Hold on” Unfamiliar with this song? 12 lines in the vocal. All of these ideas fit naturally Check out Pete Seeger’s with the song, since they are derived from the version online. melody. 1

4 & 4

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WEEK THREE

sounds are available (see example on page 66). When I started fooling around with the melody in this register, I noticed that the recurring E 0 can 2 be 0 played on the open notes in the0melody 2 2 first string. This version makes the most of that open string, with a fiddle-style doubling of the G Am E on the second string in measures 1, 3, and 5. In measures 7 and 8, the melody sits nicely atop a five-string Am chord and then an Em voicing with a G added on the first string, so you can play big, full chords and still have the melody come through. In measure 10, shift up

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AcousticGuitar.com 51

WEEKLY WORKOUT | PLAY

Week Three

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52 October 2014

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Classical Guitar Studies at Juilliard

TIP 3 BEGINNERS’

Sharon Isbin

In measure 10, playing the open first string frees up your fretting hand to move up the neck.

Department Chair

• Private Lessons and Master Classes • Chamber Music Performance • Guitar History and Literature

to a rich Am voicing at the ninth and tenth frets. Pay attention to the suggested fingerings to help you navigate up and back down the neck. Again, there are lots of ideas here that you could use in a melodic intro or solo.

• Fretboard Harmony Scholarship and cost-of-living assistance available Juilliard.edu/guitar Apply by December 1

WEEK FOUR For a final pass through “Eyes On the Prize,” capo at the fifth fret, where Em fingerings sound in the key of Am. The chord shapes now are Em, D, and Bm, and all sorts of possibilities open up for using open strings. In the first four bars, check out how playing the melody up the neck on the fifth and fourth strings allows space for letting the top three strings ring. These droning open strings in a minor key create a haunting sound.

Juilliard.edu/apply

TIP 4 BEGINNERS’

This example strays from the melody a bit more. Play a descending line on the fourth string against an upper-string drone in measures 5 and 6, and again in measures 13 and14. On the Bm, leave the first string open for a little extra color, and move your index finger between the fifth and sixth strings for a touch of alternating bass movement. These versions of “Eyes On the Prize” are just a few examples of what you can find by playing around with the melody. Make your own variations by learning the bare melody in different positions on the guitar and then adding chord tones, bass runs, and more. The beauty of this process is that you are not relying on generic riffs and patterns—you are letting the song itself be your guide. AG

Photo: Darnell Renee

As you play the melody with a capo at the fifth fret, have a friend play the uncapoed chords (Am, G, and Em) for a nice blend of sounds.

Joseph W. Polisi, President

AcousticGuitar.com 53

HERE’S HOW

See Spot Strum 5 steps to improving your sight reading BY JANE MILLER

A

re you ready to learn to read music? Fantastic. Why wait? Playing guitar by ear is great, but reading music will make your life easier—and it’ll make you a standout guitarist among so many players who might be able to interpret chord symbols when they see them, but who shut down when faced with a melody written on a staff. If you panic at the thought of sight-reading a piece of music, begin by taking these simple practice steps: LEARN THE NOTES ON THE STAFF Memorize the names of the lines and spaces on the treble staff: E-G-B-D-F (Every Good Boy Does Fine) for the lines from bottom to top, and F-A-C-E (Face) for the spaces in between. Put them in order beginning with the bottom line and continuing up, line-space-linespace, and you’ll see that the notes ascend in alphabetical order: E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F (the musical alphabet only goes as high as G).

1

IDENTIFY THE LEDGER LINES The low notes on the guitar need extra room on the staff, and they are shown with ledger lines—those little lines through the notes that you see below a staff. Keep things alphabetical and you’ll be able to name all of those notes, too. The “space” below the E on the first line of the staff is D; the ledger line below that is C, etc. The lowest note you’ll need in standard tuning is E (your low E string), which is on the third ledger line below the staff. Memorize the location on the staff for all of the open strings and you will give yourself a head start in finding the fretted notes in between.

3

PRACTICE NOTE READING When you get some experience reading melodies for guitar, then your goal will be to get faster at it. At this point, it helps to remember that you are dividing your notereading into two categories: practicing a piece and sight-reading. Both are valuable skills to have and develop. To practice a piece of written music, break it up into sections, repeat the more difficult passages over and over, write in some fingering numbers, and eventually you will be able to play it through from beginning to end in time.

4

BEGIN TO SIGHT-READ Sight-reading means playing a piece of music from beginning to end, in time, on the first pass, and then moving on. Turn the page. Your brain will begin to recognize the notes and their places on the neck more readily from practicing written pieces of music. Soon, you’ll be able to sight-read simple lines. Just dive in and keep going forward, no matter what happens. Sight-reading is about keeping time without backing up to fix mistakes. Don’t worry about perfection yet. The practice of sight-reading is to get more comfortable by simply doing it a little every day. Each time you read will be easier. Up the degree of difficulty little by little, then go back to an easier piece and you will be able to read it right through. AG

5

FIND THE NOTES ON YOUR GUITAR The notes of the six open strings on your guitar, from bottom to top, are E-A-D-G-B-E (Eat A Darn Good Breakfast Early). Now, keep it simple: Go from the E on the first line of written music and work your way up the staff. The E on the first line of the staff is the second fret on the D (or fourth) string. F on the bottom space of the staff is the third fret on that D string. The G on the second line of the staff is the open G string. The A on the second space of the staff is the second fret on the G string. B on the third line of the staff is the open B string. C and D on the staff are the first and third frets, respectively, on the B string. E and F on the staff are the open and first frets on the high E string. That’s it—the treble staff, from low to high.

2

®

(used, 2013) : J-200 Deco, J-200 Custom Koa, SJ-200 Montana Gold.

629 Forest Ave. • Staten Island, NY 10310 718-981-8585 • [email protected]

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54 October 2014

Jane Miller is an associate professor of guitar at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

ACOUSTIC CLASSIC Neil Young After the Gold Rush Reprise

Acoustic Gold

Mining the Neil Young classic ‘Tell Me Why’ BY ADAM PERLMUTTER

“T

ell Me Why,” the opening cut from Neil Young’s 1970 solo album, After the Gold Rush, finds the singer-songwriter at his acoustic best. On this intimate song Young plays country-tinged patterns on his trusty Martin D-28, in tandem with the guitarist Nils Lofgren. Members of Young’s band Crazy Horse pop in for the choruses, rounding things out with their high, smooth harmonies. On the original recording of “Tell Me Why,” the guitars are tuned down nearly a full step, which, to our ears, lends an autumnal quality to the song. Learn the notation here, and you’ll already know two-thirds of the song, as this part is heard in every section save for the chorus. The music is straightforward, with a classic walkup to B from G, followed by a basic pattern

of bass notes on beats 1 and 3 and chords on 2 and 4. Play the part using all downstrokes: easy enough. It might be helpful to focus on the music in the second full measure, which is a bit trickier. Use whatever picking approach feels natural here, as long as the notes sound with equal weight and ring together smoothly. I’ve streamlined the harmony a bit on the first two lines of the chorus (“Tell me why . . . .”). For the C chord, if you’d like to match the melodic fill heard on the original recording, strum these grips on the top three strings in straight quarter notes—(lowest note to highest) 4-1-0, 2-1-0, 0-1-0—before hitting the G chord on beat 4. For the line that starts with the lyric “Is it hard . . . ?” note the Gmaj7 chord that gives a hint of unexpected color to the arrangement. AG

TELL ME WHY

SONG TO PLAY

Young’s third solo album, ‘After the Gold Rush,’ started out as a soundtrack to a planned film project of the same name. The movie was never made, but the album is often ranked as one of the greatest of the early 1970s.

WORDS AND MUSIC BY NEIL YOUNG

Main Riff

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33

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G

56 October 2014

G

ring throughout lonely but younight can free me Out onI am thelet waves in the All in the 0 way 0thatDyou 0 smile 0 0 0 C

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Repeat Chorus

Interlude

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make arrangements Am7 with yourself

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The Coffeehouse Companion

The Best Blend of Contemporary & Classic Songs Melody, lyrics, and chords, for 220 acoustic favorites in a handy, portable book! Songs include: American Pie • Big Yellow Taxi • Cat’s in the Cradle • Closing Time • Don’t Know Why • Dust in the Wind • Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) • Hallelujah • Ho Hey • Leaving on a Jet Plane • More Than Words • Peaceful Easy Feeling • Put Your Records On • Summer Breeze • Walking in Memphis • Yellow • You’ve Got a Friend • Your Song • and many more. 6" x 9", comb-bound. Full song list available online! 00109748…$29.99

AcousticGuitar.com 57

ACOUSTIC CLASSIC

Of the many versions of ‘Which Side Are You On?’ Pete Seeger’s mid-1950s recording set the standard.

Battle Cry

Play and sing ‘Which Side Are You On?’ with conviction!

W

hen Ani DiFranco adapted the words and music of the classic protest song “Which Side Are You On?” as a rallying cry for the Occupy Wall Street movement, she was carrying on a grand tradition among folk singers. The thread that connects her 2012 version of the song to Florence Reece’s 1931 original is the late Pete Seeger, who in the 1950s popularized Reece’s original, and then decades later, played banjo on DiFranco’s update. The song has played an important role in political movements for more than 80 years. Reece wrote it in response to coal miners in Harlan County, Kentucky, who were embroiled in what came to be known as the Harlan County War: a sometimes violent conflict among the

58 October 2014

miners—who were defending their rights to organize for fair wages and working conditions—and the coal companies, which used law enforcement officials to harass pro-union workers. Reece’s husband, Sam, was a union organizer, and the family became targets of antiunion terrorism when a mining company hired the local sheriff to visit their home as a means of intimidation. Sam had been tipped off to the plan and fled, but Florence and their children were at home when the sheriff dropped in. When he left, she penned “Which Side Are You On?,” notating the lyrics on a calendar in the kitchen. Reece recorded her song and performed it throughout the years. It’s been covered by artists ranging from Seeger to the Nightwatchman (the solo acoustic alter ego of Rage Against

the Machine’s Tom Morello). In addition to DiFranco, other notables who have included the song in their repertoire have been Natalie Merchant, folksinger Ella Jenkins, and the Almanac Singers, a New York-based folk group active during World War II. This is the original version of “Which Side Are You On?,” arranged in the cowboy-chordfriendly key of A minor. The two-chord song should not present any great difficulties. If you’d like, start with the intro suggested in the notation. Just be sure to add some emphasis to the bass line to make it more prominent than the chords. For the verses and choruses, try using the boom-chuck rhythm shown in the last two bars. Use all downstrokes and play with conviction—remember, this is a rallying cry! AG

NEILSON BARNARD/GETTY IMAGES

BY ADAM PERLMUTTER

WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?

SONG TO PLAY

WORDS AND MUSIC BY FLORENCE REECE

Accompaniment Pattern

Suggested Intro

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Unless we organize Repeat Chorus (x2) AcousticGuitar.com 59

ACOUSTIC CLASSIC

He Done Her Wrong

Flip the script in the classic murder ballad ‘Frankie and Albert’ BY ADAM PERLMUTTER

I

n the typical murder ballad, a male character is the perpetrator of violence. But the opposite is true in “Frankie and Albert” (also known as “Frankie and Johnny,” “Frankie and Johnnie,” or just plain “Frankie”). In this story— first published in 1904 and credited to Hughie Cannon—a young woman named Frankie shoots and kills her lover, Albert (or one of the other names), after learning of his infidelity. “Frankie” is supposedly based on a murder that took place in St. Louis in 1899, though some sources claim the song dates back to the mid-1800s Since Mississippi John Hurt recorded “Frankie” in 1928, hundreds of other prominent artists have checked in with their own interpretations—from bluesmen Lead Belly and Big Bill Broonzy to guitar aces Les Paul (with Mary Ford) and Chet Atkins, early rockers including Elvis Presley and Gene Vincent, and such American folk luminaries as Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan. The song also became a jazz standard,

SONG TO PLAY

featured in the repertoire of Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and others. With such a cinematic narrative, “Frankie” also has been the inspiration for a handful of films, beginning in 1930 with Her Man starring Helen Twelvetrees. This arrangement of “Frankie” has a simple structure: ten verses, each ending with the same line of lyrics, each based on a 12-bar blues form: A (four measures), D7 (three measures), A (one measure), E7 (two measures), A (two measures). Though any number of accompaniment patterns would work for playing the song, we’ve suggested one similar to that used by Lead Belly on his 12-string guitar, alternating bass notes with chord strums. In learning “Frankie,” first try our suggested arrangement. But as with any old song, you might try listening to a handful of different recordings to synthesize your own interpretation of this classic. AG

Mississippi John Hurt

FRANKIE & ALBERT

TRADITIONAL

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Frankie pulled out a pistol Pulled out a forty-four Gun went off a rooty-toot-toot

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Albert said, “I’m leaving you Won't be gone for long Don't wait up for me A-worry about me when I'm gone” He was her man but he done her wrong Frankie went down to the corner saloon Get a bucket of beer Said to the bartender ”Has my lovin’ man been here?“ He was her man but he done her wrong “Well, I ain’t gonna tell you no stories I ain’t gonna tell you no lies I saw Albert an hour ago With a gal named Alice Bly” He was her man but he done her wrong Frankie went down to 12th Street

8. “Gimme a thousand policemen

Throw me into a cell I shot my Albert dead And now I'm goin' to hell He was my man but he done me wrong” 9.

Judge said to the jury “Plain as a thing can be A woman shot her lover down Murder in the second degree” He was her man but he done her wrong

10. Frankie went to the scaffold

Calm as a girl could be Turned her eyes up towards the heavens Said, “Nearer, my God, to Thee” He was her man but he done her wrong

Lookin' up through the window high She saw her Albert there Lovin’ up Alice Bly He was her man but he done her wrong 6.

Frankie pulled out a pistol Pulled out a forty-four Gun went off a rooty-toot-toot And Albert fell on the floor He was her man but he done her wrong

LISTEN TO THIS!

7.

Frankie got down upon her knees Took Albert into her lap Started to hug and kiss him But there was no bringin‘ him back

Mississippi John Hurt 1928 Sessions Yazoo

AcousticGuitar.com 61

HEAD & SHOULDERS ABOVE THE REST.

IT’S A BOLD STATEMENT, BUT THERE IT IS. Every detail of an Alvarez guitar is the culmination of tireless research, development and innovation in pursuit of a superior player experience.

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ACOUSTIC CLASSIC

Doc Watson grew up just west of Randolph County, where Naomi Wise and her unborn child are said to have met their eternal misfortune.

Down by the River

The legend of ‘Omie Wise’ is the best Halloween ghost story you can pick BY MARK SEGAL KEMP

BLAIR JENSEN PHOTO

I

f you grew up in Randolph County, North Carolina—as I did—the name Naomi Wise is as familiar as that of a dead relative. Every Halloween, somebody’s parent told the tale of this ill-fated damsel, who was murdered in muddy Deep River and still haunts the area around the small town of Randleman. When my friends and I were teenagers, we’d drive the eight miles from nearby Asheboro to see artists like Doc and Merle Watson play at Randleman’s Old Liberty Music Hall. On those nights, I swore to them that I could see the fluttery image of Omie, in a long white dress, at the side of the road. I may have been mixing up my local ghost tales, but that’s how ubiquitous Naomi Wise was in our neck of the woods. Doc Watson, of course, is the folksinger who made the legend of Naomi Wise famous all over the world when he recorded the murder ballad “Omie Wise.” What better time than the October issue, when Halloween is just around the corner, to brush up on your spooky ballads? And what better ballad than “Omie Wise”? On page 60, you learned “Frankie and Albert,” in which the murder victim was a man. “Omie Wise” is the

more typical song in this genre, because it’s about a female drowned by a crazed male lover, which places the tale in the same thematic territory as other famous folk songs including “Banks of the Ohio” and “Knoxville Girl.” Not much is known about the real Naomi Wise. She was born in the Randolph County area in 1789 and died in 1807. You can still find her tombstone in the graveyard of the Providence Friends Meeting, just northeast of Randleman, although even at more than 100 years old, it’s not Naomi’s original resting place. According to some accounts, including the one Doc told in this song, the teenaged Naomi was seeing a cad named John Lewis, who impregnated her, lured her into running away with him to get married, then threw her in the river. Many old-time folk singers have performed versions of the “Omie Wise” ballad, including Dock Boggs, Roscoe Holcomb, and Shirley Collins, as have British folkies Pentangle and Bert Jansch. Bob Dylan has been known to play the song in concert, and more recent versions have appeared from post-punk country-blues

singer Scott H. Biram and Austin indie-folk band Okkervil River. But “Omie” is most closely associated with Watson, who grew up about two hours west of Randolph County in Deep Gap, and learned the ballad from his mother. With its rolling arpeggios and root-fifth bass movement, this arrangement of “Omie Wise” is inspired by Watson’s version. If you’d like to play it in the same key in which he recorded it, use a capo at the second fret, which will cause all of the music to sound a major second higher than written (in B minor instead of A minor). When you play the piece, use either hybrid picking (pick and fingers) or fingerpicking; hold down each chord grip for as long as possible, letting all of the notes ring out in a gently undulating way. Structurally, the piece is pretty straightforward: 15 verses and a couple of instrumental interludes. But look out for the irregular section lengths: For example, some of the verses are nine bars long while others are 10—a device that helps give the song its narrative flow. AG’s Adam Perlmutter contributed to this piece.

AcousticGuitar.com 63

OMIE WISE

II SONG Capo TO PLAY Capo II

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BY DOC WATSON

% Intro

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AcousticGuitar.com 65

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10. He got on his pony and away he did ride

So, fool-like she met him at Adams’s Springs No money he brought her, nor other fine things

11. T’was on a Thursday morning, the rain was pouring down

Go with me, little Omie, and away we will go We’ll go and get married and no one will know

12. Two boys went a-fishin‘ one fine summer day

5.

She climbed up behind him and away they did go But off to the river where deep waters flow

13. They threw their net around her and drew her to the bank Her clothes all wet and muddy, they laid her on a plank

6.

John Lewis, John Lewis, will you tell me your mind Do you intend to marry me or leave me behind

14. Then sent for John Lewis to come to that place And brought her out before him so that he might see her face

7.

Little Omie, little Omie, I‘ll tell you my mind My mind is to drown you and leave you behind

15. He made no confession but they carried him to jail

3.

4.

As the screams of little Omie went down by his side

When the people searched for Omie but she could not be found

And saw little Omie’s body go floating away

No friends or relations would go on his bail C

9.

He kissed her and hugged her and turned her around Then pushed her in deep waters where he knew that she would drown

M

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10. He got on his pony and away he did ride

ACOUSTIC INSTRUCTION As the screams of little Omie went down by his side

CY

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11. T’was on a Thursday morning, the rain was pouring down

When the people searched for Omie but she could not be found 12. Two boys went a-fishin‘ one fine summer day

And saw little Omie’s body go floating away 13. They threw their net around her and drew her to the bank Her clothes all wet and muddy, they laid her on a plank

100 ACOUSTIC LESSONS

PERCUSSIVE

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The Man Who Sold The Cyber World

Can David Kalt and reverb.com ‘retune’ the online used-guitar market? BY JASON WALSH

D Kalt caption

68 October 2014

David Kalt, from hybrid stocks to headstocks

avid Kalt has the usual complaints about eBay: the online shopping giant’s too big. It’s too impersonal. Its sales cut is too high. These considerations may not mean much if you’re selling a used book for less than $10, Kalt concedes. But if you’re an amateur guitarist selling a $500 used Taylor dreadnought, eBay’s 10-percent transaction fee can be a pretty big deal. That’s why Kalt founded reverb.com, a website looking to redefine the online used-guitar market. The 46-year-old Michigan native’s roots were in e-trade before he got into gear trade. As a founder of the online brokerage firm OptionsXpress, Kalt learned fast and furious the ins and outs of buying, selling, and trading valuable commodities over the internet. It’s an education he brought with him when he purchased the venerable Chicago Music Exchange guitar store (for a reported $7.5 million), in 2011, trading the world of hybrid stocks for one of headstocks—yet, still firmly rooted in the cyberworld reality of increasingly busy online sales. When Kalt began studying CME’s cyber-sales progress, the flaws he saw in mega-onlinebazaars like eBay really started to amp up. “They were so big that it made them difficult to communicate with for people who wanted to sell drums or guitars or whatever,” Kalt says. “And they had such a huge interface that the listing screen was cumbersome, and hard to get your stuff online.” Worst of all was eBay’s 10-percent transaction fee—a cost-prohibitive amount for the

many sellers hoping to use their sale as a means toward a purchase. Kalt isn’t alone in his appraisal of eBay. As online critic Bluescaster1973 recently posted, “All I know is they charge too much… soon as my guitar neck sells, I am going to craigslist and never coming back to eBay to buy or sell at these prices . . . all inflated for eBay’s cut . . . I am surprised they are still business.” While Bluescaster’s forecast of eBay’s impending demise may be somewhat premature, his thoughts about taking his business elsewhere aren’t—which is exactly what Kalt is counting on. Reverb.com launched in 2013 as a self-described “marketplace that empowers musicians to maximize the value of their gear.” That value maximization essentially comes from Reverb’s more modest 3.5-percent transaction fee, which Kalt believes will leave more money in musicians’ pockets to buy more gear at reverb.com. “Musicians are always aspiring to play something else,” he says. Kalt wants reverb.com to be more than just another auction/selling site with a lower fee, though. He and his 15 reverb.com staffers, he says, are constantly trying to come up with better ways to sell gear online. Part of that is to make the site more buyer-friendly. Toward that end, the site offers such features as an online price guide for buyers to check the approximate used-marketplace value of a potential purchase. That allows for haggling over a price—an element which Kalt describes as an essential holdover from brick-and-mortar guitar-store culture. There’s also an effort to list the merchandise in novel ways. In addition to categorizing guitars by price, make, and decade, the site features “handpicked collections” such as The Gear of Led Zeppelin, Japanese Vintage, and Pointy Guitars. Kalt says the strategies are already paying off, pointing to the $2.5 million per month that currently changes hands via the website. Reverb. com doesn’t yet have the inventory of an eBay. A casual search for acoustic, electric, and bass guitars turned up about 11,000 items at reverb. com; a similar search numbered in the hundreds of thousands on eBay. But Kalt sees the gap narrowing in the not-too-distant future, as websites specializing in specific markets become the go-to place for serious buyers and sellers. “I think there is a trend,” Kalt says. “That’s not to say that eBay isn’t still growing. But there are a lot of subcategories and subverticles. You could say the world has gone from independents to Walmarts and all that, but Amazon and eBay can’t really handle the complexity of a lot of these marketplaces. So this is sort of the natural evolution of ecommerce.” AG

MARTIN PRODUCES DEVILISH LOUVIN GUITARS When it comes to building great guitars, the devil is in the details— and these days C.F. Martin & Co. is taking that to heart in more ways than one. In July, the Martin guitar company announced it was coming out with a D-28 Louvin Brothers Custom Signature Edition, a Sitka-spruce-topped dreadnought which will tread the line between heaven and hell for fans of the pioneering country-gospel duo. Charlie and Ira Louvin enjoyed their share of hits on the country charts in the 1950s and ‘60s, including such songs as “When I Stop Dreaming,” “Cash on the Barrel Head,” and “The Christian Life.” But the road to the duo’s own signature-edition D-28 was paved with more than good intentions— Martin used the notorious cover art from the Brothers’ 1959 album, Satan Is Real, which memorably depicts the Louvin lads crying out from the bowels of hell, while a giant cutout of Satan looms ominously behind. The image, designed by Ira Louvin, has developed a cult following among cover-art aficionados—and it caught the attention of Martin CEO Chris Martin last year when he saw it emblazoned on a T-shirt. He was bedazzled. “I have been interested in folk art for many years,” says Martin. “I’m not sure why, but I’m intrigued by folk art that features the devil.” Martin began researching the Louvins’ legacy and says he grew an appreciation “for their devotion to authentic country music, and in particular, their melodious harmonies.” The only things left to do was create a limited-edition paean to the Louvins and their late-’50s face off with Ol’ Scratch. Designed with the help of Charlie Louvin’s son, Ken Louvin, the new D-28’s Sitka top features a special photographic imprint inspired by the Satan is Real album cover, supported by solid East Indian rosewood back and sides, and a mahogany neck. Only 50 of the Louvin signature editions will be made; price is $4,666, natch. —JW

GUILD DEAL FINALIZED, FENDER OFFICIALS SAY Fender Musical Instruments Corporation announced in July that it had finalized the sale of Guild guitars to Cordoba Music Group. The deal, first announced May 6, brings the 61-year-old acoustic-guitar brand under the wing of CMG, makers of Cordoba acoustic guitars, ukuleles and other accessories. Cordoba is expected to soon shift production of Guild guitars to its facility in Oxnard, California, under the watchful eye of veteran luthier Ren Ferguson, who had overseen the Guild line in recent years for Fender. Ferguson joined Cordoba in May, shortly following the announcement of the impending Guild deal. Guild was founded in New York in 1953 by Alfred Dronge, a specialist in jazz guitars. The brand enjoyed a heyday of high exposure in the 1960s, as Guild gained particular popularity within the East Coast folk movement and on the West Coast psychedelic scene. Fender —JW purchased Guild in 1995.

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‘Otis B. Rodeo’— aka Richard Hoover— could’ve been the next Dylan. Luckily for lovers of quality acoustic guitars, things turned out differently.

Birth of the Boutique

For nearly four decades, Richard Hoover’s Santa Cruz Guitar Co. has made some of the world’s finest custom acoustics BY MARK SEGAL KEMP

I

n late May, the acoustic-blues and folk singer Otis Taylor was hanging out at Immersive Studios in Boulder, Colorado, working on some new songs, when he ran into Bill Nershi, the guitarist for String Cheese Incident. The two got to talking about their instruments. “He said, ‘Hey man, check out this Martin I have,’” Taylor recounts. The next day, Taylor upped the ante, bringing in his new signature Santa Cruz Otis Taylor Chicago model. “Bill picked it up and started playing it,” Taylor says. “He really liked it.” Who wouldn’t like it? With its earthy, red clay-colored mahogany top, back, and sides, the small-body OT Chicago is no-frills guitar art at

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its finest. The instrument has a subtle but utterly distinctive look, with 13 frets stopping just beyond the joint where the neck meets the body, and an elegant OT insignia based on the signature that Taylor’s artist father, Otis Taylor Sr., used in his paintings. It also has a rich and resonant growl that befits the singer’s hard-hitting story-songs about racial injustice on albums with titles like When Negroes Walked the Earth and last year’s My World is Gone, his tribute to Native American culture. “People like the guitar because it has a very deep sound,” Taylor says. “It’s just such a highgrade instrument. Richard’s guitars are masterpieces.”

Taylor is hardly the only artist to be inspired by the instruments Richard Hoover makes at Santa Cruz Guitar Co., the boutique shop he founded 38 years ago in the Northern California beach town some 70 miles south of San Francisco. Other Santa Cruz owners have included Eric Clapton, flatpicker Tony Rice, country star Brad Paisley, CCR legend John Fogerty, folksinger Janis Ian, jam-band-improviser-turnedbluegrass picker Scott Law, and many less well-known players and guitar aficionados. Fogerty was looking for a road guitar similar to the two ’50s-vintage Gibson jumbos he keeps at home. His friend Brad Paisley urged him to call Hoover. “I wanted to take a guitar on tour with me that sounded as good as those old Gibsons,” Fogerty says. “Richard said, ‘Oh yeah, no problem.’ When a guy like Richard Hoover says something like that, it’s a very big deal. He has so much knowledge and expertise.” Scott Law agrees. “Be careful what you ask Richard to build, because he’ll build exactly what it is [you want],” Law says. Hoover’s team was so proud of the guitar they built for Law— whose all-acoustic solo album Black Mountain came out earlier this year—that they asked if he minded them making it a signature Santa Cruz D-Law model. “I was like, ‘Yeah, of course,’” Law says. “Everyone there—the whole crew—is a really nice family of people. . . They’re just righteous, you know?”

MICHAEL AMSLER PHOTOS

MAKERS & SHAKERS

Carlos Rios fits a center strip onto the back of a new Santa Cruz

INSIDE THE FACTORY On a Friday morning, Hoover—wearing faded jeans, brown boots, and a green sweater vest over a long-sleeve shirt—leads a group of about eight on a tour of his 9,000-square-foot factory, showing off big stacks of spruce and strips of mahogany, as young builders lean over work tables, sawing, drilling, sanding, and painstakingly constructing the inner bracing of soon-to-be guitars. The floors are concrete, the walls a dull yellow. Photos of musicians hang in the work areas: Jimmy Page, Peter Rowan, and Tony Rice in the wood room; a giant Hendrix poster and collage of magazine images—from Hank Williams and Duane Allman to Questlove of the Roots—in the finishing room. A rack of cassettes spanning from the Byrds to Van Halen keep the workers entertained as they focus deeply on their individual tasks. In the wood room, Hoover reaches for a piece of Sitka spruce and taps on it. “Listen,” he says. “It has a distinctive bass and treble sound even before we put the bracing in.” He walks to another table, taps on an already-cut guitar top that’s been fully braced, and pauses for a second: “When I tap the tops that haven’t been braced, you don’t hear this sustain.” Finally, Hoover picks up the back and side pieces that haven’t yet been assembled with a braced top. “When we put all of this together, there will be a new note—the air space,” he

says. “If these pieces aren’t brought into harmony, you lose everything you gained from the bracing.” The tour group—seven men and a woman— is getting a crash course on a guitar’s journey from trees to fully built instruments. Santa Cruz, Hoover says, has long been committed to “green” wood procurement, using materials such as responsibly harvested Indian rosewood and reclaimed spruce. At the onset of the tour, he tells the group, “We don’t have trade secrets, so ask any questions you want.” Hoover’s soft-spoken demeanor and easy smile belie a quick, dry wit that you’ll miss if you don’t listen closely over the steady whir of machinery. At one point, he motions to a stack of Adirondack spruce and quips, “This wood got a big buzz in the guitar world because it’s what Martin and Taylor used back when they made really good guitars.” At another, when discussing the difference between hand-built and mass-produced instruments, he says, “I don’t diminish cheap guitars—you can write a song on one that’ll change the world!” Then he gets serious. “But our job is to make the most sophisticated instruments.” THE BALLAD OF OTIS B. RODEO In the early 1970s, Hoover was just another 20-something California folksinger with a guitar—on track to set the world on fire—when one day someone stole his beloved Martin D-28. “I was going to be the next Bob Dylan— didn’t you read about that?” Hoover says, with a soft chuckle. He’s sitting in his factory’s front office later in the afternoon, next to a coffee table overflowing with guitar magazines. When he smiles, the 63-year-old looks like the kind of friendly folksinger the puppeteers of Sesame Street might caricature: rounded glasses, a full gray beard, and straight brown hair tied back in a ponytail.

‘When you get to this level of craftsmanship, they’re all masterpieces.’

“But when my Martin got stolen,” he continues, “everything changed.” That crime more than 40 years ago was Hoover’s crossroads moment—the planets aligned in such a way that had him building guitars rather than playing them professionally. In the years since, he’s become one of the most revered steel-string makers in the world, the Santa Cruz logo among the most coveted. Today, the company makes between 500 and 650 guitars a year, with 75 percent of those falling into the custom category. Hoover had been fascinated by the inner workings of guitars long before he dreamed of making them for a living. Growing up in Hanford, California—an agricultural town about 200 miles southeast of Santa Cruz—he’d help his dad, a commercial artist, set up local store displays. They’d build the shelving themselves, working with wood, foam, metals, and other materials. “We also made stuff,” Hoover says. “My dad always encouraged me to tinker, take things apart, figure things out.” Naturally, when Hoover got his first steelstring at 15—an all-mahogany, OM-shaped Harmony, for $47.50—he not only learned to play it to impress the girls at school, but he took it apart. “I thought, oh, I can put all this stuff together—I can play guitars, I can make guitars, I can work in wood, I can discover stuff,” he says. “How cool is that?” After leaving Hanford, Hoover traveled the country, lived in a commune, and performed with his Martin D-28 as Otis B. Rodeo, a stage name he cribbed from another childhood guitar—a cheap, nylon-string Rodeo he’d gotten for Christmas one year. “That’s the name I originally built guitars under,” he says. “In fact, I still sign guitars that way.” Hoover landed in Santa Cruz in 1972, and his Martin promptly disappeared. He looked around for a new guitar and saw an Epiphone

A little help from his friend: Otis Taylor, and his trusty Santa Cruz.

OTIS TAYLOR

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MAKERS & SHAKERS | AG TRADE

Brad Corney chisels the bracing to perfection.

Perry Vasquez Jr. makes sure everything’s all lined up.

Texan at the local Union Grove Music shop. He fell in love with the instrument, but couldn’t afford it. A clerk sent him over to nearby Beneficial Finance, where he talked with loan officer Bruce McGuire, who happened to be a classicalguitar builder. McGuire introduced Hoover to Jim Patterson, a hobbiest steel-string maker, and the two served as Hoover’s early mentors. “They’re the reason I stayed here,” he says. Hoover had already done some research on guitar making. “My mom was a professional reference librarian—she was sort of the search engine of her day—and she had gotten me everything that was available on instrument building,” he says. It wasn’t much. Before the 1970s, there was no information in print on steel-string guitar making. “Violins— tons; guitars—nothing,” Hoover says. He read everything his mother got him about building violins. “The whole principle of violin making was choosing, manipulating, and controlling the instrument to get the quality of sound you want, and that was nothing at all like steel-string guitar making, which had been born in factories for mass consumption. So I came in first assuming you made guitars like you made violins.”

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McGuire and Patterson guided Hoover in practical applications of his knowledge, the former teaching the young apprentice the fundamentals and the latter helping him learn specific things like making dovetail neck joints. Within a short time, Hoover was building Martin-style dreadnoughts. His early guitars caught the attention of local luthiers who were making mandolins. “One of them was Darol Anger, the violinist who’s now famous for pretty much everything,” Hoover says. “We made mandolins together for a while, and we’re still good friends.” Hoover soon returned to making guitars exclusively, and by the middle part of the ’70s had gotten pretty good at it. When Bruce Ross and William Davis—two repairmen from Union Grove Music—offered to invest in a company, giving Hoover $500 in credit in exchange for his teaching them to build guitars, Hoover was all ears. “They were brilliant guys who made a beautiful contribution to triangulate this thing,” Hoover says. “But of course, we fought about fundamentals like crazy and that’s part of the fire that forged the idea of Santa Cruz Guitar Co.” To some, that triangulation was the birth of boutique guitar making in the United States. “What that means to me,” Hoover says, “is that

this is not about the individual just trying to rough it out by himself, or the guy who’s trying to be the next Martin—this is the luthier principle of working together as a team.” It’s a hugely important part of how Santa Cruz began and how it has been able to continue its pursuit of creating great instruments, Hoover says. It’s why he has continued to bring budding luthiers into the fold, producing many who have gone on to make names for themselves—like Roy McAlister, who’s built guitars for David Crosby, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, and Robby Fulks; Michael Hornick of Shanti Guitars; Bill Hardin of Bear Creek; and Jeff Traugott, who still lives and works in Santa Cruz. Even today, Hoover says, “Everybody who works here is a career guitar-maker.” SANTA CRUZ GOES GLOBAL Hoover was just 25 on September 22, 1976, when he signed a partnership agreement with Ross and Davis, making Santa Cruz Guitar Co. official. Within a couple of years, the team came up with its Santa Cruz D model dreadnought with back and sides made of koa—an unusual choice for that time. Also unusual was its bracing. Tapered from the center of the X out towards the sides, it was totally unlike either the new Martins of the period, or the older ones. Its materials and design gave the Santa Cruz D just the kind of balanced bass-totreble response that some younger acoustic guitarists were looking for. With the emergence of progressive bluegrass—which blended jazz techniques with oldtime folk and country—the tenor of acoustic music had changed by the mid-1970s, and Santa Cruz aimed to serve the musicians who played this new sound. By 1978, Hoover’s earlier instrument-building partner, Anger, was performing with mandolin player David Grisman, whose

group also included a young flatpicking guitar genius named Tony Rice. In the mean time, Santa Cruz had rolled out two more models— the H, originally commissioned by luthier expert Paul Hostetter, and the F, inspired by Gibson’s J-185—and business was picking up. When Rice, who famously had been playing the late Clarence White’s 1935 Martin D-28, approached Santa Cruz about building him a new instrument, Hoover and his team came up with some ideas. Rice wanted a more up-to-date version of his Martin, but with a slightly brighter sound that he could use in the studio. The initial guitar that Santa Cruz made for him was a bit too balanced for Rice’s ears, so the team went back to the drawing board, undid all the stuff they had done to previous guitars to bring balance to them, and enlarged the soundhole. Rice loved it. When he took it on the road with him and played it before audiences, Santa Cruz got inundated with orders for guitars “just like Tony Rice’s.” At first, Hoover and his colleagues avoided making more of them, because the instruments weren’t what the company had become known for. Within three years, though, the team acquiesced and Santa Cruz rolled out its first important signature guitar, the Tony Rice model. In the years since, Santa Cruz has designed models of numerous different styles that have attracted orders from dozens of famous guitarists, including Clapton, who saw an ad for the company and commissioned a carved-back F model. By the early 1980s, co-founder Davis had left the company to pursue a different career path; in 1989, Hoover bought out his other co-founder, Ross. The Santa Cruz Guitar Co. soldiered on, and to date the company has built more than 14,500 guitars. Hoover still communicates clearly with customers who are looking for high-quality instruments to serve specific purposes. “Say you play bluegrass—you’ll probably want prominent bass. If you play jazz, you won’t want that,” he tells the tour group. “Rosewood gives you a more blended type of sound.” He laughs. “I personally like that—I don’t want people to hear every note I play.” Otis Taylor, who chose rosewood for his original signature Santa Cruz guitar—the Otis Taylor model—seconds Hoover’s emotion. “I’m not a fancy guitarist,” he says, modestly. “I do a lot of thumb work, I do some fingerpicking, but I’m not a lead guitarist—I’m a rhythm guitarist.” Taylor pauses and lowers his voice, as if to make sure no one is listening: “You know, when I play a Santa Cruz, I feel like I’m cheating,” he continues, then lets out a big, sustained laugh. “I don’t have to do too much to sound really good!” AG

artistry

1.800.788.5828 www.rainsong.com

Escape the expected. Experience graphite. AcousticGuitar.com 73

GUITAR GURU

Don’t Need No Steam Heat You may get out of the comfort zone— just don’t take your guitar there BY DANA BOURGEOIS

I keep my three acoustic guitars on stands in my living room. In the winter I use soundhole humidifiers plus I run a small humidifier in the room. If moisture in the winter is good, wouldn’t a little in the summer be OK? I just played outside in Philadelphia, where it gets hot and humid. A guitar friend said it’s too ‘sweaty’ outside and moisture is not good. I don’t get it. Could you explain? DAVE DARTNELL HAVERTOWN, PA

GOT A QUESTION? Uncertain about guitar care and maintenance? The ins-and-outs of guitar building? Or a topic related to your gear?

74 October 2014

Most acoustic guitars are built using well-seasoned woods and assembled under “average” climate conditions. I keep the assembly area of my shop at around 70 degrees and at 45- to 50-percent relative humidity—conditions that are probably typical for most shops. Guitars assembled under average conditions will remain relatively stable in climates that are either somewhat dry or a little humid, but will develop problems when taken above or below their individual comfort zones. A guitar’s tolerance to dryness or humidity will vary depending on design, woods, and most importantly, age. Older guitars are typically more stable than newer ones. Tops and backs of acoustic guitars are usually glued to arched braces, creating slightly domed surfaces. When a guitar dries out, woods shrink, domes flatten, and bridge, saddle, and strings drop below their original positions (relative to the plane of the fretboard), causing them to rattle and buzz. Worse, a top or back will crack after it can flatten no further. When an acoustic guitar is overhumidified, the dome of the top increases, lifting strings, and making for stiffer playing action. Extreme humidity can cause glue joints to fail, finish to delaminate, and mold to grow. Such damage, however, usually requires prolonged exposure to moisture, as might occur when a guitar is stored in a very damp basement.

Ask Acoustic Guitar’s resident Guitar Guru. Send an email titled “Guitar Guru” to senior editor Mark Segal Kemp at [email protected] stringletter.com, and he’ll forward it to the expert luthier.

Your friend is right to be concerned about hot and humid conditions. Consider that sides are bent using a combination of heat, moisture, and pressure. Though the effects of humidity alone are usually reversible, the addition of heat and string tension can cause permanent top distortion. Excessive top “bellying” eventually necessitates expensive neck resets. Glue joints fail more quickly under hot and humid conditions than in the presence of humidity alone. And a loose brace or bridge will accelerate top distortion and add to the repair bill. In situations such as outdoor music festivals, if you monitor the temperature—which can usually be controlled—you can afford to be less concerned with humidity. Remember that temperatures inside a guitar case, under direct sun, or inside a closed car can greatly exceed ambient outside air temperature. I highly recommend acquiring a batterypowered thermometer/hygrometer and checking it daily. Keep it in your case during any winter or summer outings, and when you’re not traveling, it can live in the room where you keep guitars. Take appropriate actions whenever conditions exceed what you have previously established as safe and normal. And always remember that whenever you are uncomfortable, your guitar is probably uncomfortable, too. AG Dana Bourgeois is a master luthier and the founder of Bourgeois Guitars in Lewiston, Maine.

If AG selects your question for publication, you’ll receive a complimentary copy of AG’s The Acoustic Guitar Owner’s Manual.

DANA BOURGEOIS

KITBAG

For the Love of Mic!

Pickups are great, but keep a good microphone on hand for performances requiring a truly acoustic sound BY DOUG YOUNG

A

pickup may give you the freedom to jump around on stage like Brad Paisley, but you can’t beat a microphone for reproducing the true sound of your acoustic instrument. In today’s highly amplified performance environments, using a microphone on your guitar is not always possible—after all, pickups offer convenience, a consistent sound, and the ability to compete, volume-wise, with other amplified instruments—but it’s good to have a mic around when nothing else will give you the tone you’re looking for. In this column, I’ll offer a few tips on things to consider when using a microphone for live performances.

GEAR BASICS A directional microphone (known as a cardiod mic) is almost always preferable to an omnidirectional mic. Cardiods tend to reject more of the sound from the back—and, to a lesser extent, the sides—of your environment, which means the mic will pick up more of your guitar, and less of the other players, the audience, or the sound from the speakers. You also can choose between dynamic and condenser microphones. Many classic vocal mics, such as the Shure SM58, are dynamic. Condenser mics, such as the Neumann KM184 or AKG 414, tend to have an extended

frequency response that is great for picking up the details of an acoustic guitar, but may be more prone to feedback on stage. Condenser mics also require phantom power to operate. Portland-area acoustic guitarist Eric Skye keeps both a dynamic and condenser mic handy. “My preference is a condenser for much-improved detail. In the right space, with a quiet audience, nothing comes remotely close,” he says. “But a dynamic can also sound great. They have a tighter pickup pattern and usually have more volume before [running into feedback] trouble.”

To consider two extremes, mics can work great for a solo guitarist in a concert setting, and will most certainly not be useful for a loud rock band. Your choice of amplification also matters. Mics almost always work best with a full-range PA system, preferably with the speakers out in front of you. “If you’re used to standing in front of your amp and basking in all its glory... that ain’t gonna fly with a microphone,” Skye says.

SOUND CHECK A microphone is most effective with a good sound system and low stage volumes. To consider two extremes, mics can work great for a solo guitarist in a concert setting, and will most certainly not be useful for a loud rock band. Assuming your setting allows for a mic: the first step is to find the right location. The usual starting place when recording is near where the neck joins the body, and that position can also work for live use, but you may have better luck with other placements. Skye recommends the area between the bridge and the soundhole, where the guitar produces more volume. However, the soundhole itself is likely to be too boomy. Your guitar and your technique also play a role. To get a consistent sound, you need to maintain a constant distance from the mic. On the other hand, you can deliberately vary your distance from the mic to control your volume and tone. One example of this is the “One Mic Technique,” often used by bluegrass bands, where everyone plays in a semicircle around a single microphone. Soloists step up to the mic to increase their volume during their turns. According to Skye, small-body guitars often work better with microphones, because they project well and are less boomy. Also, the louder you play, the easier it will be for the mic to pick up the sound. “If you have a fairly solid and somewhat authoritative attack, you solve a lot of problems,” he says.

MIX IT UP Keep in mind that using a mic doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Mixing just a tiny amount of mic with a pickup can often provide a dramatic improvement in your sound. If your amplification system includes monitors, you might use both a pickup and mic, and send only the pickup to the monitors—reducing feedback potential—while mixing the mic more heavily into the mains, to give the audience the best sound. Having an instrument mic as part of your kit is handy, even if you usually plug in. It can provide a backup if your pickup fails, the batteries die, or you decide to have an unexpected guest sit in with an instrument that has no pickup. Most importantly, when the situation is right, it can let you and your audience hear your instrument at its best. AG

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NEW GEAR

VIDEO REVIEW ACOUSTICGUITAR.COM/GEAR Sitka spruce top

Chimes of Freedom

Taylor’s 150e is the 12-string guitar for players whose primary instrument is a six-string BY ADAM PERLMUTTER

76 October 2014

T

aylor’s new 150e might be the most playable 12-string guitar I’ve ever tried—and I’ve tried a lot of them. Whether strummed or fingerpicked, played in standard or alternate tunings, the instrument is a breeze to tool around on, with a sleek neck and low action that makes it as comfortable playing barre chords for extended stretches as running singlenote lines up and down the fretboard. That’s not always the case with a 12-string. Ideally, the instruments’ octave and unison strings should make beautiful, shimmering, choir-like sounds, but the reality is that many

Sapele neck

AT A GLANCE

TAYLOR 150E 12-STRING

Ebony fretboard

BODY Dreadnought size

1 7/8-inch nut width

NECK Sapele neck with scarf joint Ebony fretboard

100 series 12-string bracing

EXTRAS Elixir 80/20 light strings (.012–.053)

25.5-inch scale length Gig bag

Laminated sapele back and sides

1 7/8-inch nut width Die-cast chrome mini tuners

Varnish finish

JINGLE, JANGLE The sound of this guitar is immediately satisfying. Cowboy chords sparkle and jangle, just as they should, and the intonation is spot-on. More complex voicings, whether incorporating open strings or played with fully fretted grips, have excellent note-to-note definition, free of any murkiness. The guitar feels dynamic and

ELECTRONICS Taylor Expression System

Solid Sitka-spruce top

Ebony bridge

12-string guitars are marred by problems with intonation and playability. Neither of those issues afflicts the 150e, Taylor’s latest addition to its popular—and affordable—100 series.

Die-cast chrome tuners

responsive, handling the gentlest and heartiest strumming equally well. And when fingerpicked, the 150e sounds smooth and complex— it’s very responsive to the nuances of the picking fingers. When I tune the guitar to open D, down a half step, to play Leo Kottke’s “Watermelon,” the instrument retains its lushness. In the slacker open-C tuning, the guitar sounds equally superb for the Robbie Basho piece “Mountain Man’s Farewell.” Thanks to the guitar’s smoothly operating tuners, it’s easy to get into (and out of) the alternate tunings.

PRICE $918 list/$699 street Made in Mexico taylorguitars.com

NOTHIN’ FANCY The 150e boasts a solid Sitka-spruce top, thicker than a six-string soundboard. It also has heavy, non-scalloped bracing specially designed to support the added tension exerted by 12 strings. Still, at not much more than five pounds, the instrument is comparable in weight to a typical six-string. Why is it so affordable? For one thing, its back and sides are made from layered sapele, an African wood whose density and appearance are similar to mahogany. Layered is another word for laminated,

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NEW GEAR | AG TRADE

which means the back and sides have inner and outer veneers of sapele sandwiching a core of poplar. The laminated construction—which Taylor also uses on other less expensive offerings, such as the GS Mini and the Baby Taylor— has the bonus of being less sensitive to fluctuating humidity levels than solid woods. On the 150e, Taylor uses a varnish coating instead of its trademark glossy UV-cured polyester. But the matte finish hardly feels cheap—it’s smooth and comfortable all over. What’s more, Taylor applies the varnish on unfilled wood, which means the pores of the sapele are left open, lending an organic feel to the instrument. Unlike the instruments in Taylor’s 800 and 900 series, the 150e is not a fancy guitar. But it is handsome. The amber soundboard has a lovely aged appearance, and the sapele on the back and sides is a warm and reddish brown. On the test model, the back is nicely bookmatched, with a neat character marking: a single birds-eye figuring on each side. The ornamentation is sparse, with unobtrusive black binding on the body, matched by a black pickguard, truss-rod cover, heel cap, and

bridge pins, which pair well with the inky dark ebony fretboard and bridge. Meanwhile, a rosewood headstock cap offers a nice contrast. The craftsmanship on the 150e is every bit as good as it is on Taylor’s more expensive models. The fretwork is smoothly crowned and polished, without any jaggedness at the edges, and the Tusq nut and saddle slots are notched perfectly. Inside, the bracing and kerfing are smoothly sanded—there are no traces of excess glue or other artifacts of the manufacturing process. EXPRESSION YOURSELF The 150e would be a great guitar without electronics, so Taylor’s original Expression system only sweetens the deal. The same system you see on some of the company’s higher-end models, it includes a magnetic pickup mounted to the soundboard, coupled with an additional sensor under the fretboard. It also incorporates a preamp with three simple controls—volume, bass, and treble—mounted on the upper bass bout. The guitar is plugged in via a quarterinch jack at the endpin, next to which is a compartment for the 9-volt battery required to power the system.

The Original Guitar Chair

Taylor designed the Expression System to avoid the artificial, tubby sound associated with acoustic guitar pickups. Instead, the system simulates the warm and woody sound of a mic’ed acoustic guitar. Plugged into a Fender Acoustasonic amp, this 12-string sounds much like its unplugged self, shimmering as it should, and without the slightest hum of electronics. The Expression System’s treble and bass controls work well for fine-tuning the sound, and their rubber control knobs are easy to grip, and less aesthetically obtrusive than the hunks of plastic housing so many other onboard preamps. With the 150e, Taylor seems to be courting the six-string player looking to occasionally transform his or her sound by using a 12-string. But given its robust sound, easy playability, and excellent craftsmanship, and the flexibility afforded by the Expression System electronics, this guitar would be an excellent choice for any 12-string specialist. AG Contributing editor Adam Perlmutter transcribes, arranges, and engraves music for numerous publications.

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NEW GEAR AT A GLANCE

Going Mobile

JOURNEY INSTRUMENTS OF-420

Journey Instruments’ OF-420 brings a new design concept to the growing world of travel guitars

BODY Small noncutaway body with Manzer Wedge Solid Sitka spruce top with scalloped, forwardshifted X-bracing

BY ADAM PERLMUTTER

T

Rosewood back and sides

he hazards of traveling with a guitar have been well documented. Just watch Dave Carroll’s viral 2009 video for his song “United Breaks Guitars,” about the unfortunate fate his beautiful Taylor met when mishandled by a major airline. Today, guitarists have a handful of fun and inexpensive carry-on options—small guitars such as the Mini Martin and Baby Taylor, foldable instruments like the Voyage-Air, and easily disassembled models, including Yamaha’s Silent Guitar. Add Journey Instruments’ OF-420 to that growing list. At just 18 inches long and 12.5 inches wide, it’s a real enigma. At first, it’s hard to see how this guitar—whose neck dangles precariously from the body, hanging on by its six strings only—can be used to make music without the services of a repair expert. But snap the neck into its pocket and voila!—the guitar is ready to play. Amazingly, it’s even in tune. What’s more, it has a robust and well-balanced sound that belies its compact body. SMALL WONDER Given this guitar’s diminutive size, it seems only natural to first give it a workout on some fingerpicking. Played with basic Travis picking and country-blues patterns, the OF-420 has a snappy sound with a clear treble matched by an ample bass response. The instrument has a surprising amount of headroom and responds well to the nuances of picking in a normal tuning as well as a slackened tuning like DADGAD. When strummed with a flatpick, the guitar has a decent amount of volume, but somehow feels a tad lacking in fullness. And while you wouldn’t necessarily lead a bluegrass jam on this instrument, it would be plenty good for campfire strumming, accompanying a singer, practicing, or composing. The OF-420’s neck meets the body at the 14th fret and incorporates a dual-action truss rod with carbon-fiber reinforcement. Though it

80 October 2014

Satin finish NECK Collapsible mahogany neck Satin finish Rosewood fretboard and bridge 24.5-inch scale length 1.75-inch nut width Grover 18:1 mini tuners ELECTRONICS Proprietary undersaddle pickup

has a short scale of 24.5 inches, the neck does not feel dinky, thanks to its generous C-shaped profile and standard nut width of 1.75 inches. The action is comfortably low, and the neck is easy to play in all of its registers. All of the notes sound true and clear up to the 20th fret, and the intonation is spot-on. WELL-DESIGNED MOBILITY The guitar sports features befitting of a costlier, full-size guitar. Most notably, it has a Manzer Wedge—a design the luthier Linda Manzer pioneered in the late 1980s, in which the body is tapered from bass side to treble, allowing for greater comfort than a body of uniform depth, not to mention improved visibility of the strings when played. The review model boasts a tightly grained, solid Sitka spruce top; a genuine mahogany neck; and lovely dark rosewood back, sides, fretboard, and bridge. Wooden detailing lends

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With its collapsible neck, the OF-420 is literally a ‘snap’ to travel with.

VIDEO REVIEW ACOUSTICGUITAR.COM Acoustasonic amp, the pickup captures a fairly realistic snapshot of the guitar’s natural sound. When used in conjunction with recording software on a laptop, tablet, or even a smartphone, this feature lends itself nicely to recording ideas on the go with good, quality sound.

an organic feel to the proceedings. The body has plain maple binding; rosewood is used for the headstock cap, truss-rod cover, and rosette. Ebony bride pins with shell dots are another attractive flourish. Overall, the craftsmanship on the OF-420 is good. The frets are tidily crowned and polished, with no jaggedness at their edges; the slots on the bone nut and saddle are similarly clean. Inside the guitar, things aren’t executed quite as well. The bracing could have been better sanded, and there’s some excess glue here and

there—details that, to be fair, should hardly be deal-breakers in an otherwise nicely built guitar. THE ELECTRONICS A proprietary three-piezo under-bridge transducer pickup is standard equipment on the OF-420. This system lacks the preamp and controls on many acoustic-electrics and connects to an amp via a quarter-inch plug at the endpin—handy for plugging in and playing with a minimum of fuss. Through a Fender

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IN THE BAG The OF-420 comes in a ballistic nylon bag with two padded handles and twin hideaway straps. Even with the guitar inside, it weighs only about seven pounds. The exterior of the bag includes padded compartments designed to fit accessories, easily accommodating a laptop, its power supply, a few pedals, and a handful of cables. The interior is well padded, as well. Half of the case houses the guitar’s body, while the other half contains a zippered pocket with extra padding for the neck. A sheath with a Velcro tab keeps the strings from rubbing against the face of the guitar. Smartly designed and lovingly protected, the OF-420 and its bag should instill the utmost confidence in traveling with an instrument in tow. AG Contributing editor Adam Perlmutter also reviews the Taylor 150e 12-string guitar on page 76.

Guitars in the Classroom trains, inspires, and equips classroom teachers to make and lead music that transforms learning into a creative, effective, and joyful experience for k-12 students from coast to coast and beyond.

Thanks to Martin Guitars and the C.F. Martin Foundation, Oriolo Guitars, the Bill Graham Foundation, and D'Addario & Co. for helping us launch the latest round of GITC programs!

Please visit

to learn more and check out GITC's first publication: The Green Songbook Available now from Alfred Music Publishing at www.GreenSongBook.com.

AcousticGuitar.com 81

NEW GEAR

AT A GLANCE

CAPO 3

REQUIREMENTS Mac OS 10.9/Mavericks. (An iPhone/iPad version is available but lacks key features of Capo 3. An update is in the works.) PRICE $29.99 SuperMegaUltraGroovy.com. Free demo available.

For a video demo using capo 3 with the Milk Carton Kids’ ‘Honey, Honey,’ see acousticguitar.com/gear

82 October 2014

Click It & Pick It

The Mac application Capo 3 offers powerful tools for learning songs off the record BY JEFFREY PEPPER RODGERS

T

hese days, guitarists who want to learn a song often head straight to the keyboard—the computer keyboard, that is—to look up lyrics, chords, tab, a performance video, lesson, or music-learning software. The newest version of a Mac application called Capo, released last fall, promises to take computer-aided learning of songs to a new level—and even detects chords and generates tab. Eager to see how the app works, I got Capo 3 up and running on my MacBook Pro. Getting started is easy: pick a song from your iTunes library (any unprotected mp3, m4u, aiff, or wav file), and Capo 3 quickly delivers a graph of the song’s harmonic content called the spectrogram, placed over a tempo grid, plus a sequence of chord grids and an empty tab system across the bottom. Then comes the fun part.

Got a song that flies by too fast for your brain and fingers? A slider allows you to slow the song down to 25 percent of the original tempo (or, if you are a masochist, speed it up to 150 percent) without affecting the pitch. Want to transpose? Using the same slider, you can raise the pitch up to two octaves (for the Alvin and Chipmunks effect) or lower it two octaves—and the chords automatically reflect whatever key you choose. Pitch adjustment comes in handy if you want to play a song in a different key, or if the guitar on the track is tuned, say, down a half step and you want to bring it up to standard tuning. The quality of speed- and pitchadjusted audio is quite good, and you can export it if you’d like to have, for example, a slowed-down version of a song on your iPod to practice with.

If you want to zero in on a passage, Capo 3 makes it easy to loop a region, and it provides useful tools for hearing the guitar part more clearly. You can pan the audio (in case the guitar is primarily on one side of the stereo mix), use EQ, or try voice reduction (with builtin settings for male and female voices). The real groundbreaking feature of Capo 3 is chord detection. I tested it with a bunch of songs—including the Beatles’ “And I Love Her” and the Milk Carton Kids’ “Honey, Honey”—and found that Capo 3 gives you a good start, but gets some chords wrong and misses changes, too. So you need to use your ears and clean up the chords, which is straightforward: click a chord and hit delete to remove it; double-click to select a different fingering of the same chord, or an entirely different chord, from an extensive library of chord grids (a chord sounds when you click it, so you can judge by ear if you’ve got the right one). While the song is playing, you can also press ‘k’ when you hear a chord change, and Capo 3 detects a chord in that spot. (Note that at press time, an update of Capo was coming soon with a new chord detection engine the developer says is much more accurate—so the next iteration of the app may require less correcting of the chords.)

played in multiple places on the fingerboard, you can select a single note (or a group of notes) to move it to a different string in the tab. Given the relative complexity of the tabbing process, I suspect that many guitarists will use Capo 3 primarily for its speed, pitch, tuning, and capo functions. Another missing feature, is the ability to export or print a chord chart or tab sheet (though you can export notes you entered as a MIDI file). Clearly, this is an app for learning songs, not for creating charts. Though guitarists may fantasize about an app that can generate an instant, perfect transcription of a song, such a thing may never exist given the complexities of music. What Capo 3 does is give

you some remarkably powerful tools for analyzing a song and mapping it out in different ways on the guitar. I actually like that the app requires you to use your ears—the process of correcting chords and drawing notes is great ear training and has benefits beyond the specific song you’re trying to learn. This smart, sophisticated app is well worth a look for any players who want to translate more songs from their Macs to their fingers. AG Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers (jeffreypepperrodgers.com), Acoustic Guitar’s editor at large, is author of Songwriting Basics for Guitarists (Stringletter) and the Homespun video series Learn Seven Grateful Dead Classics for Acoustic Guitar.

The real groundbreaking feature of Capo 3 is chord detection. My favorite features of Capo 3 are the dropdown menus on which you can change the tuning and the capo position—and then the chords (and tab) automatically adjust. Choose from 55 tunings, including the most common as well as esoteric options like “double drop Bb” and “Guinnevere” (David Crosby’s EBDGAD). The tuning notes aren’t listed, so Googling may be required to know what some of the programmed tunings even are. You can also choose a capo position all the way up to the 18th fret— no partial capos, though. Another menu allows you to change the instrument: switch the chords to uke (in your choice of five tunings), mandolin, five-string banjo, or bass. Generating tab on Capo 3 is a somewhat tricky process that’s most applicable to transcribing single-note solos. You look at the spectrogram—fuzzy gray shapes representing all the pitches detected—and click around to find the target shape or pitch. Draw the note with the mouse over the spectrogram and Capo 3 automatically places it on the tab. It’s easy then to move your note up, down, earlier, or later by clicking and dragging. But you can’t edit the tab directly—you have to make changes on the spectrogram. Because the same notes can be

AcousticGuitar.com 83

Each 6" x 9" book includes complete lyrics, chord symbols, guitar chord diagrams, and short melody cue. Folsom Prison Blues Melody:       

Words and Music by John R. Cash

I

Intro Verse 1

 B7



E

hear

 the

  train

   

a com

-

in’;

(Capo 1st fret)

B7

E

E

2 13 4

2 31

A



123



I hear the train a-comin’; It’s rollin’ ’round the bend, And I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when. A

I’m stuck at Folsom Prison E

And time keeps draggin’ on. B7

But that train keeps rollin’ E

On down to San An-tone. Verse 2

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E

When I was just a baby

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Don’t ever play with guns.” A

But I shot a man in Reno

© 1956 (Renewed 1984) HOUSE OF CASH, INC. (BMI)/Administered by BUG MUSIC All Rights Reserved Used by Permission

52

GUITAR CHORD SONGBOOK

87

PHOTO BY ANDREA BEHRENDS

PLAYLIST ROBYN HITCHCOCK’S ‘MAGIC’ SHOW

89

PLAYLIST DOM FLEMONS’ GEM OF A SOLO DEBUT

92

EVENTS SIZING UP OCTOBER FESTS & MORE

MIXED MEDIA

88

Strong ‘Remedy’: Old Crow Medicine Show

AcousticGuitar.com 85

SHUBB CAPOS

After

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still the best! [email protected] • www.shubb.com 707-843-4068

86 October 2014

PLAYLIST

Embracing Magic

Psych-folk troubadour mixes signature trippy originals with re-energized alt-rock classics on new acoustic outing BY PAT MORAN

PHOTO BY GRANT LEE PHILLIPS

O

n The Man Upstairs, Robyn Hitchcock draws on his legacy as a psych-folk troubadour, magical realist poet, and intuitive guitarist to craft an acoustic-based set of originals mixed with covers of songs he could have written himself—including the Psychedelic Furs’ 1984 hit “The Ghost in You” and the Doors’ ’60s chestnut “The Crystal Ship.” Like most Hitchcock albums, it’s a blend of sweet melancholy, dreamlike imagery, and giddy discovery that dances playfully with human vulnerability and death—a point driven home by the Dia de los Muertos-style cover art (painted by Gillian Welch, no less!) depicting a black-hatted skeleton playing solitaire and staring at the ceiling, presumably toward the man upstairs. It’s also Hitchcock’s most heartfelt music in years, lingering in the subconscious long after the last note has decayed. Unlike most Hitchcock albums, this one gives as much weight to his intricate, diamond-sharp guitar playing as it does to his singer-songwriter side. His custom Fylde Olivia acoustic rings and rattles as he strums “The Ghost in You,” transforming the baroque ’80s gloss of the Furs’ original into a yearning, lyrical folk song, with cascading piano, sighing cello, and ethereal harmonies from Anne Lise Frøkedal of the Norwegian indie-pop band I Was a King. With no drummer on the album, Hitchcock uses his guitar for percussive propulsion on some songs. His shimmering acoustic and delicate upper-register vocals retain the heartbroken romance of Roxy Music’s “To Turn You On,” while liberating the swooping melody from the original’s Technicolor cloud of dissipated savoir faire. With spidery guitar lines, Hitchcock’s acoustic weaves a dewy web on the Doors’ “The Crystal Ship,” putting the focus on his climbing vocal, which winds like tendrils of ivy. When Frøkedal puts an electric-guitar solo to his spare strumming on the version of her band’s song “Ferries,” the wistful tune channels Hitchcock’s own earlier classic “I Often Dream of Trains.” Complementing the covers are Hitchcock’s original songs, such as the fragile and poignant “ C o m m e To u j o u r s , ” w h i c h f l o a t s o n

Robyn Hitchcock The Man Upstairs Yep Roc

Unlike most Hitchcock albums, this one gives as much weight to his intricate, diamondsharp guitar playing as it does to his singer-songwriter side. fingerpicked filigree and shadings of sorrowful cello. In the pensive “Trouble in Your Blood,” he uses an open-G tuning, capoed at the fourth fret, to underpin his and Frøkedal’s keening harmonies. Hitchcock breaks out his Strat for the jaunty, Django-style jazz-pop of “Somebody to Break Your Heart,” layering a wailing railroad harmonica over lyrics—like “skeletons lounging in the zoo”—that recall the surreal whimsy of his old band the Egyptians. Much of the success of Hitchcock’s acoustic turn can be credited to producer Joe Boyd,

nurturer of such ’60s-era Brit-folk artists as Nick Drake, Vashti Bunyan, and the Fairport Convention. Hitchcock and Boyd have collaborated before—their 2012 “Live and Direct from 1967!” tour combined Hitchcock’s performances of songs by Drake, the Incredible String Band, and others with Boyd’s spoken recollections of that whirlwind era. Central to Boyd’s uncluttered approach is what he subtracts from Hitchcock’s arsenal. On past efforts, the singer has frequently doubletracked his vocals, but here his voice is stripped bare, save for some slight reverb. Each cut was recorded live with few overdubs, resulting in Hitchcock’s most unselfconscious singing to date. On the eerie, enthralling “Recalling the Truth”— one of the album’s standout originals—his existential cowboy yodel echoes through ghost canyons and ascends to moonlit mountains over picking that’s as clear as spring water. For the most part, Hitchcock has left the dark lysergic carnival of his Egyptians and Soft Boys days behind. On The Man Upstairs, his empathetic outlook only flirts with despair while embracing everyday magic, as Boyd’s production hones the delicate edges. Rarely have songs recorded this simply sounded so lush. AG

AcousticGuitar.com 87

PLAYLIST | MIXED MEDIA

Old Crow Medicine Show

Shovels & Rope

Peter Rowan

Remedy ATO Records

Swimmin’ Time Dualtone

Dharma Blues Omnivore Recordings

Roots rebels return with another round of rollicking firewater

South Carolina duo perfects its rough-hewn sound on third album

The Bluegrass Boy gets metaphysical on new album

Old Crow Medicine Show returns with its latest “remedy” for what ails ya, and like the rest of the Americana music world, what they’re selling, I’m buying. Of course, on their fifth album since the late Doc Watson “discovered” them busking on the streets of North Carolina in 2000, this doesn’t taste much different from the last time the show pulled into town—which is precisely the point for fiddling frontman Ketch Secor and Co., whose musical elixir has always boiled down to a stiff shot of old-timey country with a tall chaser of populism. The Tennessee septet wades into Remedy’s rivers cautiously—the first two songs are the jokey “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer” (a unique hangman’s tale, indeed) and “8 Dogs 8 Banjos” (about the good things in life, sigh). But the tone soon turns more serious as Old Crow—a band that has always sought topical street cred—takes on working-class alcoholism (“Firewater”), the price of military interventionism (“Dearly Departed Friend”), and the dismal plight of miners (“Brave Boys”). It’s all presented with OCMS’s tornado of acoustic guitar, fiddle, harmonica, banjo, and the occasional hambone that lures critics into throwing the “punk” label their way. But they’re punk in the way Bob Dylan is country—admirers and occasional dabblers only. It’s not where their heart is. These ol’ boys’ are about yearning for a future “Sweet Home” (as in heaven) and a past “Doc’s Day” (as in Watson)—not necessarily in that order. And if, for the second time in their career, the best song on the album is a rootsy rewrite of a Dylan throwaway (last time “Wagon Wheel,” this time “Sweet Amarillo”), so be it. They’re country-er than he’ll ever be.

“You can’t help but wonder how long it will be, before the restless ocean comes lapping to the bridges of the trees,” Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent sing on the title track of their gripping, gritty new record, Swimmin’ Time. In an age of rising sea levels, the married duo, who live on low-lying Johns Island, in South Carolina, are perhaps the first artists to merge that issue with the blues, let alone do so with such an infectious, foot-stomping urgency. Produced by Trent, who recorded the songs on his home computer, the album builds on the success the couple achieved with O’ Be Joyful, Shovels & Rope’s previous collection, which spawned the single “Birmingham.” Laden with songs in which bodies of water serve as a leitmotif, Swimmin’ Time navigates between experimental, Jack White-influenced dirges like “Evil,” and porch-setting acoustic numbers like “After the Storm” and “Save the World.” The latter features two voices and two acoustic guitars, and defies you to keep from pounding out the rhythm with your foot. The duo harmonizes every line on this down-home collection in unison, giving verses a chorus-like heft that can sometimes feel, if anything, a tad too overpowering. One thing that never becomes tiresome, however, is Hearst’s raspy voice, an instrument that harkens back to Loretta Lynn, but which frays in just the right ways when Hearst steps on the gas and reaches for her upper register. “My mistakes, they are so many, for my loving heart is wild,” the two sing on “After the Storm.” It’s that same perfect imperfection that makes Swimmin’ Time a roots-inspired classic for a waterlogged world.

—JASON WALSH

—DAVID KNOWLES

“Ain’t no God up in heaven, ain’t no devil down below,” Peter Rowan moans over a blanket of bluesy fingerpicking, droning tamboura, and fluttering bamboo flute. “Just these blue dharma blues follow everywhere I go.” The line—from the title track of Rowan’s new Dharma Blues— taps straight into the tao of the eccentric bluegrass maverick’s full career, from his mid-1960s beginnings with Bill Monroe, to the psychedelicfolk he and mandolin player David Grisman created as Earth Opera, to his decades of picking and singing on the festival circuit. The songs on Dharma Blues—grounded in Appalachian folk but with brush strokes of blues, gospel, rock, and Indian ragas—all center on love, the passage of time, and the quest for spiritual fulfillment. Kicking off with sweet, a cappella vocals, “River of Time” is a religiously plural gospel song about reaching “the other side” on a “boat of love”; the album ends on a specifically Eastern note, with the gently fingerpicked “Grain of Sand” featuring the familiar Sanskrit mantra, “Om mani padme hum hri.” In between, guests including Hot Tuna bassist Jack Casady, flautist Manose Singh, and Jody Stecher (on instruments ranging from bass sarod to the banjo) bring breadth and depth to Rowan’s bluegrass-centric picking and nimble, highlonesome vocals. In standout track “Raven,” Rowan harmonizes with Gillian Welch over oldtime guitar and banjo, an eerie pedal steel, and Casady’s signature crawling bass lines. Dharma Blues harkens back to Rowan’s Jamaican experiments on Reggaebilly, only this set feels more authentic. Its release coincides with Christine Funk’s new documentary, The Tao of Bluegrass: A Portrait of Peter Rowan, which follows the singer on his nearly half-century musical and spiritual journey. —MARK SEGAL KEMP

88 October 2014

PHOTO BY MICHAEL WEINTROB

Chocolates, dropped: Flemons has parted ways with the group he cofounded in 2005.

Carolina Shout Former Chocolate Drop turns in unpretentious gem of a solo debut

Dom Flemons Prospect Hill Music Maker Relief Foundation

BY MARK SEGAL KEMP

I

n the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Dom Flemons served as dynamic on-stage storyteller and chief ethnomusicologist for the old-time black string band he cofounded in 2005. When Flemons announced he’d be leaving the group last year, his decision somehow made sense. After all, the Chocolate Drops have evolved into a live juggernaut, their performances bigger and flashier than ever—in all the best ways. By contrast, Flemons’ talents are best-suited to intimate settings, where he can sit with his banjo, guitar and percussion, jam a little, tell stories, and talk with audiences about the rich history of African-American folk traditions. That’s exactly what Flemons does on Prospect Hill, his debut solo album of mostly original tunes—with arrangements of some well-chosen traditionals—all harking back to an earlier era of American music. In unpretentious liner notes,

Flemons gives a little background on each song in this set of gritty jazz, blues, rags, jug-band, country, and folk. The album’s acoustic-guitar centerpiece is an unassuming instrumental, “Georgia Drumbeat,” charged by Flemons’ spare picking on his Fraulini Angelina six-string—a custom-made instrument inspired by an old grand concert-sized Stella—with some badass wailing harmonica played by another great storyteller, Guy Davis, the blues-making son of the late Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Davis and Flemons’ chemistry is positively infectious throughout. On their version of Memphis country-bluesmen Dan Sane and Frank Stokes’ “It’s a Good Thing”—an almost proto-rap song—Flemons spits out lines like “You may be brownskin, you may be black, but what I say about these women, I don’t take it back,” while Davis ad libs the jive talk. Another

track showing the importance of “rap” in African-American music traditions is the improvised “Grotto Beat,” which sounds like Run-DMC performing fife-and-drum music, but doesn’t come off as cheesy as that might suggest. For the Tom Dorsey/Tampa Red tune “But They Got It Fixed Right On,” Davis plays a Gibson GB -1 six-string banjo along with Flemons singing and playing a jug, and Native American singer Pura Fé providing backup vocals. The set’s loveliest moment is Flemons’ wistful “Too Long (I’ve Been Gone)”—about the loneliness of life on the road—which he gently fingerpicks alongside the terrific guitarist Keith Ganz playing a 1972 Martin N-10 nylon-string. In his liner notes, Flemons nods to the late Pete Seeger, suggesting the great American singer’s death was a spiritual signal that 2014 would be “the year of the folksinger.” If that’s true, it got a little help from Dom Flemons. AG

AcousticGuitar.com 89

PLAYLIST | MIXED MEDIA

Richard Thompson Acoustic Classics Beeswing Records Richard Thompson’s acoustic mode is every bit as dazzling as his electric Brilliant folk-rock guitarist and singer-songwriter of mordant spirit and biting lyrics, Richard Thompson has been turning out masterful recordings for four decades. Following two recent albums of new material— the Grammy-nominated Dream Attic, in 2010, and last year’s Electric—you might expect a collection of newly recorded acoustic arrangements of his older songs to be a bit pro forma.

Instead, Thompson’s 14th studio release is studded with tour-de-force solos for which his one-man acoustic shows are famous. Six of the 14 tracks on Acoustic Classics come from the decade Thompson spent recording with his former wife Linda; three more are from his popular 1991 album Rumor and Sigh, including perennial favorite “52 Vincent Black Lightning,” here given a faster tempo and bluegrass-jazz slant. Others range from mid-’80s to mid-’90s favorites. Performing on a Lowden Richard Thompson Signature acoustic, the guitarist’s right hand is equally at home with driving, rumbling propulsion (“One Door Opens,” “I Misunderstood”) and intricate fingerstyle (“From Galway to Graceland”). Techniques like pull-offs that imitate fiddle double-stops give “Beeswing” and “Down Where the Drunkards Roll” a Celtic lilt, while “Shoot Out the Lights,” the standout rockabilly tune “Valerie,” and “When the Spell is Broken” are bluesy jaw-droppers. Each arrangement is fresh, original, and rich with virtuoso flourishes, none gratuitous. Yet the slower ballads, like “Dimming of the Day” and “Walking on a Wire,” tug harder at the heartstrings, with Thompson’s deep, raggedy voice and sublime lyrics perfect foils for the subtlety of his playing. Acoustic Classics should rank with the finest of Thompson’s career, a testament that a single guitar can equal an entire orchestra when played with conviction, skill, and power. —CÉLINE KEATING

90 October 2014

Richard Thompson, unplugged

Chris Smither Still on the Levee Homunculus Fall in love again with the soft-spoken acoustic bluesman from the Big Easy With all due respect to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, sometimes a quiet, understated voice feels just right for the blues. Take Chris Smither, the New Orleans folk troubadour whose often-mumbled vocals and sure, steady acoustic fingerpicking warm you like a snifter of brandy or a morphine drip. “There is a way that subtle changes come to stay, barely noticed, hardly known,” Smither intones on a reworking of his classic song “Slow Surprise,” one of the affecting tracks on his outstanding new double album, Still on the Levee. Billed as a 50-year retrospective, the softspoken collection features 24 re-recorded highlights from Smither’s career, spanning his early folk years in New England in the 1960s, his emergence from alcoholism in the late ’70s, and his return to prominence on Hightone in the ’90s. Recorded at New Orleans’ Music Shed in 2013, Still on the Levee was produced by David Goodrich, who wisely leaves Smither’s gravelly voice reverb-free, giving it the immediacy of a parishioner offering confession to you and you alone. With few exceptions, the instruments that accompany Smither—violin, piano, drums, bass, cello, and his own acoustic guitar—are similarly left to shine in all their unadulterated simplicity. While there are a few up-tempo moments, such as a spirited version of “Love You Like a Man,” originally on his 1970 Tomato debut I’m a Stranger Too!, the real treasures here are found in the collection’s softer turns. On his update of “Don’t it Drag On,” the title track from his acclaimed 1972 album, his timescarred voice brings fresh resonance to familiar lines like, “I’m just a lazy man fallin’ in love again.” Thanks to Still on the Levee, falling in love again with Smither is a sure thing. —D.K.

BOOKS

Fahey stares down his fate in director James Cullingham’s 2012 doc, ‘In Search of Blind Joe Death.’

Danse Macabre

How a self-destructive guitar genius changed the game for acoustic music

Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey, American Guitarist Steve Lowenthal Chicago Review Press

BY MARK SEGAL KEMP

J

ohn Fahey was many things: a creative genius, a pain in the ass, sensitive, selfdestructive—and one of the modern era’s most influential acoustic guitarists, whose imprint can be heard in the works of artists ranging from Leo Kottke to Kaki King to Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Fahey’s blending of the blues, Appalachian folk, classical, Eastern music, and other styles with unconventional experimental forms such as musique concrète resulted in spidery, percussive, sometimes dissonant webs of often strikingly accessible avantgarde music he dubbed American primitive. Steve Lowenthal’s Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey, American Guitarist attempts to tell Fahey’s story in the relatively brief span of 221 pages, and the author achieves it about as well as he could, given Fahey’s notoriously mythologized accounts of his life in his own writings and interviews.

What Dance of Death—with a foreword by Rolling Stone’s David Fricke—accomplishes best is zeroing in on Fahey’s discomfort in his own skin, his solace in music, his passion, and his ultra-high standards of musical integrity. In a section on his earliest years, when Fahey was recording for no one in particular, Lowenthal recounts, the guitarist came up with his Blind Joe Death alter ego. Fahey, who died in 2001 at age 61, had been critical of the late-’50s and early-’60s urban-folk revivalists, accusing them of trying to recreate music that was outside of their experience. “It might be interesting if they expressed the anguish of the suburbs, but they didn’t,” the author quotes Fahey saying in a late-period interview. “It would be authentic if that’s what a suburbanite talked about and sang about. The pathos of the suburbs or whatever . . . . Believe me, there’s a lot of pathos there, but instead

they adopted other cultures’ music, which they didn’t know anything about.” Fahey did know about the dark side of growing up in a dysfunctional suburban family, and with instrumental music that expressed his anguish and pathos in every nuanced drone, thump, and finger-picked melody; every improvised twist and turn, dissonant detour, and alternate tuning, he created sounds and personae that were truly authentic. Writes the author, “The darker side of Blind Joe Death, according to Fahey, is the embodiment of all the hate and negativity rippling under the surface of the faux suburban dream.” “I was fascinated by death and I wanted to die…,” Fahey said in another interview. “Blind Joe Death was my death instinct.” That instinct served to push the boundaries of acoustic-guitar music far beyond where it had been before. AG AcousticGuitar.com 91

DVD

EVENTS

What’s Up, Doc?

Flatpicking great Doc Watson shines on new DVD BY GREG CAHILL

October Doc Watson The Guitar Artistry of Doc Watson Rounder / Concord

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival San Francisco, California

“T

o me, music was something wonderful and magical, ever since I can remember,” Doc Watson says on the filmed, Dolby-quality studio interview that intersperses this collection of live concert recordings. Watson’s good humor, gentle demeanor, and love for bluegrass, country, blues, and rockabilly ring out in 32 performance and interview segments on this 100-minute DVD, on which the late guitarist discusses his songs, performance anxiety, and such musical heroes as Blind Lemon Jefferson. The performances of familiar songs including “Shady Grove,” “Wabash Cannonball,” “Black Mountain Rag,” “How Long Blues,” and “Tennessee Stud” are striking. On many of the segments featuring Watson’s often fiery fretwork (suffice to say, Watson owns the 1930s jazz standard “Bye Bye Blues”), the camera lingers on his left hand to give the viewer a clear view of the flatpicking great’s fingerings. He’s joined at various times by such guitar royalty as Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, and James Coffey (the latter on a spirited version of “Shake, Rattle and Roll”); as well as mandolinist David Grisman. Guitarist Clint Howard and fiddler Fred Price join Watson on “New Lee Highway” Essential material for students of flatpicking guitar. AG

92 October 2014

OCTOBER 3 – 5 Hardlystrictlybluegrass.com

The free bluegrass festival that prides itself on merely dabbling in bluegrass returns for its 14th year in the City by the Bay, where 800,000-plus music fans (at least according to previous years’ numbers) will gather at Hellman Hollow (named for festival founder Warren Hellman), Lindley, and Marx meadows in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California, to hoot and holler to their heart’s delight. At press time, the lineup hadn’t been announced; check out hardlystrictlybluegrass.com for updates.

Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance Pittsboro, North Carolina OCTOBER 9 - 12 Shakorihillsgrassroots.org

This four-day, four-stage, 60-plus band downhome festival bills itself as “a music-lovers paradise,” and emphasizes participation from everyone—performers and visitors alike. This year’s “official” participants include the Indigo Girls, the Del McCoury Band, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Jim Lauderdale, MC Yogi, and more. Indigo Girls

Led Kaapana, left, will hold the slack-key to your heart this month at the Richmond Folk Festival.

Richmond Folk Festival Richmond, Virginia OCTOBER 12 – 14 Richmondfolkfestival.org

This outgrowth of the National Folk Festival— which strung its strings in Richmond from 2005 to 2007— toasts its 10th year on the downtown waterfront with more than 30 artists on seven stages. Early announcements of performers include Indian slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya and Hawaiian slack-key guitarist Led Kaapana. Get there early for a taste of Folk Feast, where Richmond’s finest gourmands offer their tastiest dishes at an October 7 fundraiser for the festival.

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Foothills Fall Festival Maryville, Tennessee OCTOBER 17 – 19 Foothillsfallfestival.com

The festival is ending its run after 15 years at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains—festival organizers cite the rising price tag for luring quality performers as the primary reason the curtains are closing. They say they’d rather end the festival on a high note than see it continue on with inferior music offerings. The FFF appears to be going out with a bang, though, as the lineup includes the likes of Tim McGraw, Pat Benatar and Neil Girado, Dustin Lynch, and Chris Young. It’s better to burn out than to fade away, folks. AG

NOTES

a c o u s t i c g u i t a r. c o m / N e w s l e t t e r - S i g n - U p

AcousticGuitar.com 93

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Masecraft Supply Co., masecraftsupply.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Taylor, taylorguitars.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

Ernie Ball Music Man, ernieball.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

McPherson Guitars, mcphersonguitars.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Woodstock Invitational, woodstockinvitational.com . . . . . . . . 16

Paul Reed Smith, prsguitars.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Radial Engineering, radialeng.com. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 RainSong Graphite Guitars, rainsong.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 Original Guitar Chair, originalguitarchair.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78

Shubb Capos, shubb.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86 Stewart-MacDonald’s Guitar Supply, stewmac.com . . . . . . . 78 Sweetwater Sound, sweetwater.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79

96 October 2014

Tanglewood Guitar Company UK, tanglewoodguitars.com . . 21

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GREAT ACOUSTICS

WHITE PHOTO BY GJON MILI

Civil rights-era folksinger Josh White was the first black musician asked to promote a signature guitar model. His Ovation remains a coveted item.

Fishing with Josh

Could this Ovation be the prototype of the Josh White signature model? BY PAT MORAN

I

t was the best gift Betsy Chalfin had ever received. In 1968, she was 19 years old and just starting a semester studying political history at New York University. A family friend from New York, Josh White, picked her up at the airport and dropped her off at college. “That’s when he gave me his Ovation and took back the Martin [he had left with her family],” Chalfin remembers. “He knew I liked to play, and he didn’t want to leave me without a guitar.” White is the legendary civil rights-era folksinger whose career included Hollywood film

roles and a friendship with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1966, three years before his death, White became the first African-American spokesman for a guitar company when Ovation, which was developing its fiber-composite bowl-backed guitars, created the Josh White signature model. “Josh and the designers discussed and drew up plans for the guitar in 1964 and ’65,” says Douglas Yeager, manager of the Josh White estate, recalling a conversation with White’s now–deceased widow Carol.

Chalfin believes the guitar White gave her is the prototype. Her father, 1940s New York folksinger Burt Chalfin, shared stages with Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and got to know White during the heady early days of the Greenwich Village urban–folk scene. After Chalfin married and moved his family to Florida in 1956, a gig brought White to Coconut Grove. The folksinger renewed his relationship with Burt and often stayed with the Chalfins when he toured Florida. After one such visit, White hit the road with his Ovation, but left his Martin behind with the Chalfins. When Betsy went off to college, she took the Martin with her to return it to him. That’s when White picked her up at airport, and the two swapped guitars. There’s a wrinkle to this story. Yeager, who also manages White’s son Josh White Jr., says another Ovation may be the prototype. “I arranged for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to display a Josh White model Ovation, and Josh Jr. provided them with the only one he possessed,” Yeager says. That guitar’s serial number (123) precedes the one on the guitar White gave to Chalfin (291), which might indicate that Josh White Jr.’s guitar is an earlier model. But Yeager adds that Josh Jr. isn’t certain that his guitar is the original. As for the guitar White gave to Chalfin 46 years ago, the paper trail that would confirm its provenance vanished long ago. Fender, which acquired Ovation in 2007, also can’t confirm it. In 2009, Chalfin sold her Josh White Ovation through Dream Guitars in Weaverville, North Carolina. “My hands had lost some of their dexterity,” says Chalfin, who today lives in nearby Asheville. “This is a guitar that is meant to be played, not collecting dust in a corner.” The guitar found a player when oceanographer Gene Feldman bought it. “Josh White had inspired me to pick up a guitar in the first place,” says Feldman, 61. He cites physical evidence that he believes points to White’s hands at play on the guitar. “There’s a video of Josh and his daughter Judy performing ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out’ on Swedish TV in 1967, where you can see lateral marks just above the sound hole. Those marks are like fingerprints, and they’re on the guitar that I have.” Feldman firmly believes the instrument he now owns is the prototype. But even if it is not the original, the fact that White owned the guitar is a valuable reminder of the singer’s legacy. “I’m not a spiritual person,” Feldman says, “but the first time I held that guitar and struck the first notes, I felt a connection. It was magic.” AG

Acoustic Guitar (ISSN 1049-9261) is published monthly by String Letter Publishing, Inc., 501 Canal Blvd., Suite J, Richmond, CA 94804. Periodical postage paid at Richmond, CA 94804 and additional mailing offices. Printed in USA. Canada Post: Publications Mail Agreement #40612608. Canada Returns to be sent to Pitney Bowes International Mail Services, P.O. Box 32229, Hartford, CT 06150-2229. Postmaster: Please make changes online at AcousticGuitar.com or send to Acoustic Guitar, String Letter Publishing, Inc., PO Box 3500, Big Sandy, TX 75755.

98 October 2014

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