October 2020 Lullabies
This month’s track is “Lullabies”, a poignant picture of the end of a relationship composed and performed by Judith-Kate Friedman from her album Bigger Things.
About the time I completed my first Grande Steel Cutaway, Judith-Kate, my client, friend, and fellow Oberlin College (considerably later) graduate was in the middle of recording, and I offered her the use of my new guitar.
I was gratified that it could support her evocative vocal and Jami Sieber’s warm expressive cello.
Explore her music and writing here: judithkate.com and her life-affirming work in fostering the musical collaboration of others of all ages here: songwritingworks.org
November 2020 The Walking Stick
This month’s track is “The Walking Stick”, composed and performed by Jack Gates, from his album Voyage of the Troubadour. Jack had one of my instruments in the late 70’s and currently has a 2013 and 2018, spruce and cedar topped respectively. This recording was done with none of those, but from a guitar he took to his home studio to record samples using strings of different composition and from different manufacturers to help me determine which sounded best on my guitars. This track was done in his home studio, recorded simply with a stereo pair of microphones, placed about 4ft. away and 4ft. above the instrument, capturing a natural room ambience.
Since I met him those many years ago, Jack has been instrumental in the development of my craft. Whenever I complete a guitar, I feel I’ve locked my musical soul in this box, with my clumsy, fumbling technique hardly the key to set it free. Jack is one of the first people I call to try to hear what the new ax has got. His strong, clear, dynamic, colorful, and lyrical playing help me determine where I’ve come, and where I want to go. And, almost more importantly, knowing my work, he can express whether he thinks I’ve retained the traits I value, while perhaps adding something new.
Learn more about Jack and access his music at jackgatesmusic.com
December 2020 Triple E Suite
This month’s track is John Dodge’s Triple-E Suite, performed by him at a demo concert for my guitars at the Northwest Handmade Musical Instrument Exhibit, which I attend yearly, mostly to recharge my batteries staying with friends Jeff Elliott and Cyndy Burton, two of the event’s organizers. A little over a decade ago they arranged for their friend Peter Zisa to play for me. (Peter was later to charm the audience at the inaugural of my series of shop concerts). When Peter showed up the day of the demo, noticing I also made steel strings, he said that, since he didn’t normally play steel, perhaps his friend John could help us out. Summoning him on his cell phone since he was in another part of the hall, Peter called out, and got as far as “John, would you be willing to…”, before John interjected “Sure!”. They took the guitars away for half an hour before proceeding to play the mini- concert, individually and as a duo, as if they’d been familiar with my instruments for years.
I recorded John the following year on an early version of my “recording studio on a stick” , two high quality condenser microphones, phantom powered with a battery pack, feeding a small Olympus portable recorder. I put the whole thing on a 1 ft. mic stand, and plunk it down on the stage floor about 6 ft. from the player(s). That day I managed to plop it down felicitously, so you’re listening to pretty much what I and the rest of the audience heard.
While I surely appreciate a finely honed studio recording, I’m most fulfilled when a dynamic player just picks up one of my axes and intuitively mines its gifts at the service of his or her music.
John is also a fine singer/songwriter. Explore his work here: johndodgemusic.com
He’ll be playing a shop concert when it’s again safe to gather.