September 18, 2012

The Hired Hand by Bruce Langhorne

Bruce Langhorne’s film score to Peter Fonda’s 1971 cult classic “The Hired Hand” was Bruce’s first solo album and Peter Fonda’s directoral debut and it’s just now seeing it’s first and limited appearance on vinyl and fittingly Scissor Tail Editions inaugural vinyl release. Bruce Langhorne is most known for his session work with artists in and around the Greenwich Village folk scene during the 1960’s.

  Out September 1st - in Limited Edition of 1000 Hand Numbered 180gram Vinyl


September 16, 2012

KING OF THE 78S - Joe Bussard

Interview here with Mr Bussard.  Maybe nothing real new but I do love this line from the exchange:
Q: Tell me about a record you still regret not picking up?
A: I don’t have any.
Haha!  That's fantastic.  And that's an obsession, not a hobby.
Best part of the article are the pictures so be sure to check it out
Read it over at Dust & Grooves
Looks like a cool project to keep an eye on.

September 12, 2012

C. F. Morrison Guitars

Chuck Morrison started building guitars in 1974. In Boulder Colorado. Two years later he added mandolins to his production and named them after the flatirons which overlook the city. In 1979 he moved to Bozeman, Montana where he partnered with Steve and Maxine Carlson to build and market the mandolins. While Chuck sold his share of the business the following year and moved to Vermont, Flatiron continued on, spawning a strong musical instrument building tradition in Montana.

In Vermont, Chuck spent 12 more years building guitars of all types, a few other instruments and performing many different styles of music. He earned a B.S. in Environmental Science and returned to Colorado in 1992 to begin a new career in computing. 25 years later, having designed and built his own solar powered workshop and home, he turned is attention back to designing and building guitars.

I didn't know any of this a few months back when I started going to a new guitar society meeting in the area.  I think it was my first meeting that I saw a very unique guitar.  Chuck Morrison is the president of the Guitar Society of Northern Colorado and he was toting around this guitar and letting everyone try it out.  What I didn't realize was that he also designed and built the guitar.  

As you can see below it's not a typical guitar.  Notice the sound hole, the cut-away and there's more that isn't readily apparent; a sound port in the lower bout that can be opened and closed, an adjustable neck and Morrison's Offset Keel neck design that allows great access to the upper frets.
Chuck is gearing up to market a line of his acoustic guitars based on features used in the guitar you see above.  It's such a unique guitar I had to ask him if he would be kind enough to talk about his work for the blog.  Not only was he gracious enough to do so but he even accepted my self-invitation to tour the shop and hang out for a bit to learn more about how he builds his instruments.  It was a great visit.  Check out the interview below to learn more about Chuck and the instruments he builds.

You were a student at CU when you left to start building instruments.  What was so compelling for you at that time?
In retrospect, I have no idea. We all feel things strongly when we're young and later on we ask "what was I thinking ?"  It was an exciting prospect and I made the leap.

One of your bridge configurations is a nod to NBN guitars, a Colorado company.  How has NBN and other Colorado influences affected your instruments over the years?

I credit Reb, Andy and Monte for motivating me to start building guitars. Aside from building great playing and beautiful instruments, they turned out to be great people. How could I not try to emulate them ? They did some different things on their guitars, so it never felt wrong to change things up on an instrument in pursuit of a better result. Other influences from that time were Max Krimmel and Pete Nightingale. I'll always credit Dave Goodrich for driving me to understand what quality means.
The obvious NBN influence on my steel string guitars is the staggered bridge pin configuration. The rationale is to reduce the chance of the bridge wood splitting between the pins. It has an interesting visual quality as well, but it's primarily functional. I redesigned the bridge shape long ago and it fit the pin configuration nicely, so I kept it. The other thing I do is carve the neck heel and peghead on the classier guitars. This came directly from the NBN Limited Edition series, which in turn came from high end banjos. Reb and Monte built banjos at ODE before becoming NBN and you can see some of that influence in those guitars.
I should mention that I am proud to be a part of Colorado's lineage of instrument building, which I've traced back to 1959. There have been some outstanding builders in this area and that continues to this day. The rosette I designed and use for my Classical and Flamenco guitars honors the Colorado connection.

Your Keel neck design is your own invention.  It has its obvious purpose, but what do you hope is the result of players having improved access up the neck of an acoustic guitar?
Ultimately the hope would be that the repertoire of the acoustic and classical guitar would expand to include the greater range. It takes a while to get out of first position playing, but once you make that leap, you shouldn't be limited by the instrument your're playing. I'm removing the physical block to the upper notes. Actually using them is up to the players/composers.

Your site is full of what you call technobabble, you have a very scientific approach to building, like your examples of Chladni patterns.  How has that affected your approach over the years?
I started looking at Chladni patterns in the 70s. At the time there was very little published research regarding how this related to guitars. It was primarily violins and even that was not in great depth. So it was completely guesswork. Over the decades various people started publishing on this subject. Alan Carruth's work published in American Lutherie in the 90s and Trevor Gore's recent design book are good examples.
My own approach changes all the time as I try to relate what I see in spectral analysis and chladni testing to what I hear. It's a very complex subject that is complicated by the fact that hearing is such a limited sense in humans. In the end it's all about how a guitar makes you feel as to whether you want to play it again and again. 

Your site mentions a philosophy of improvising in your building, comparable to that of a musician improvising in a song?
I view building an instrument in the same category as composing a piece of music. Many builders make their guitars all the same, copying some well known pattern. But that's the same as playing the same piece of music over and over again. Aside from being boring to do, it's boring to everyone else. I'm improvising with the wood as I build. In the process I learn a lot that just copying a pattern can't teach me. The instrument is more interesting and has it's own identity because of this. That scares a lot of people who think that guitars should all be the same. 

I get the feeling you don’t build anything very traditional.  You are drawn to the new and innovative?
The way I see it, every "traditional" instrument was just someone's experiment that ended up being successfully marketed. The joy in building for me is in creating something that has it's own identity. Why would I want to make someone else's instruments?  For that matter, why would I want to make two the same?  I'm not a factory and my instruments aren't clones.

The steel string guitar you've been displaying lately has an adjustable bolt-on neck, a sort of pie-slice shaped sound hole in the upper bout and a voicing port in the lower bout.  How did you arrive at all of this?
The upper bout sound hole was to be able to access the neck adjustment. The shape of the hole was entirely based on the shape of the area involved and the voicing port was based on my understanding of the properties of resonant air masses and my desire to adjust the sound of the instrument dynamically. It all does what it was designed to do. There are many variations on these themes and I'm exploring them in newer guitars.
New design for the upper bout sound hole.

Is everything done in your shop by hand?
That is a matter of definition and most people don't have a clear one. That's why companies get away with calling instruments that are obviously built on factory production lines "Handmade". So in commerce today, the term is meaningless.
However, to answer the spirit of the question, compared to how a guitar would be built in a factory, absolutely yes. Compared to how Antonio Torres built guitars in 1860, not so much. I've done it both ways and I lean towards the latter.

You are planning on employing a small team to start building soon and making your guitars available.  Will there be a focus on a specific design and when and where can people start buying these instruments?
Employing is perhaps the wrong term to use. I'm attempting to combine the skills of a few experienced builders to create a new line of instruments based on some of my design principles. We will be going in together on these instruments and see if some of the variations we come up with speak to people enough to justify further efforts. The marketing strategy has not been fully vetted yet, so if anyone is interested they should probably just email me directly.
Folks, you can browse Chuck's site, C. F. Morrison Guitars for a ton of interesting stuff and find his email there if you are interested in contacting him about his work.


September 11, 2012

Leo Kottke - December 7, 1974

Leo Kottke
Orchestra Hall
Minneapolis, Minnesota
December 7, 1974

CD-R1 - SB 4 (FM)

Approximate Set List (NOT A TRACK LIST)

1. Medley
2. Pamela Brown
3. Easter
4. Vaseline Machine Gun
5. Morning is the Long Way Home
6. Louise
7. Eggtooth
8. Sailor's Grave On the Prairie
9. Tilt Billings and the Student Prince
10. Taking a Sandwich to a Feast
11. "Carillons"
12. The Tennessee Toad
13. Hear the Wind Howl
14. Busted Bicycle
15. Can't quite put it into words
16. Crow River Waltz
17. Jesu, Joy of man's desiring
18. Jack Fig
Download it HERE
Happy birthday, Leo!!

September 10, 2012

Harry Taussig - Fate is Only Twice

It’s hard not to make comparisons to his first simply because it was 47 years ago.  It begs compare & contrast.  Nonetheless I’ll refrain from much of that.  If you have his old one you’ll like this one.  If you like this one and you’ve not heard the old one, you’ll like that one too.  Though they aren’t the same, there’s more similarity than difference.  This one feels old. Almost like this was recorded as the sophomore effort and released some 40 years late.  But while that one was dominated by ragtime pieces this one is not.  These pieces have more of a classical influence, some have a Takoma feel to them as well as a strong element of improvisation.

That earlier recording is no crisp, clean Windham Hill production effort and this one isn’t either, but much better while still retaining the dry, straight ahead approach to capturing the sound.  Nothing fancy.

Taussig’s playing is equally uncluttered and sparse.  Make every note count.  Make every pluck of the strings a worthwhile and apparent part of the whole.  Don’t play it just because you can.

Rondo in D starts off the work with a proper American Primitive feel reminiscent of the dark, simple feel so well established by Fahey.

Listen: Rondo-in-D-On-Southern-Themes

Electric Forest , Electric Trees begins as though Taussig was in the middle of the piece and the record button was just hit, an act of capture?  Perhaps.  The song feels improvised and thoughtful at times with returns to the main theme that includes some nice use of harmonics.

In the Corner of the Circle is a delightfully odd piece that seems to almost pick up where the last song left off.  Quirky timing, odd slide work and notes bouncing around like they can’t escape the corner of the circle.  One of my favourites.

Living in the City is the lone 12 string effort.

Perpetuum Mobile Revisited is a ragtimey piece much like his favored approach in the first release.

Fate is only Twice is the fitting title track of the album and closes this effort with a 7:12 minute harkening to the first release.

It’s great to hear Taussig’s meeting with Fate once again captured for our benefit.

Interview with Taussig in 2006
Interview with Taussig in 2012
Buy it from Tompkins Square

September 6, 2012

George Cromarty - Wind in the Heather

Ok, so it's like a game of click through all the links, but really, gotta give the credit where it is due, so click on through.  Bookmark TYWILC and the Doom & Gloom From the Tomb site for all kinds of good stuff.
This one is a gem.  I don't remember this one from when it came out.  So cool to see this bump in respect for the efforts of the Windham Hill folks from so long ago.

Go HERE, follow the links...enjoy.


September 3, 2012

American Primitive Concert in Vancouver, BC

RC Johnston has organized an acoustic guitar concert at Cottage Bistro, 4470 Main Street, Vancouver, BC, 7-11 PM, Sunday, September 16th...featured guitarists: Ryan Leaf, Paul Schutz, Dibson T Hoffweiler and RC Johnston...(aka Ragtime Ralph).
I thought this a good time to introduce a few of these guys here on the blog.
If you've around here a bit you should be familiar with Ralph, if not click on the tab above for lots of Ralph info.

Ryan Leaf, by all accounts is a fine and talented guitarist, but I don't have too much to share with you.

Ryan has been working hard to get some recording done so I hope that goes well and we all get to hear some more from him soon. Till then head over to his site, These Paths We Tread where you will find some great content and if you look hard, even some his own playing!

Paul Schultz is from Portland OR. and he's been working on a bunch of stuff this spring and thought he'd share. He is actively seeking gigs in Portland and beyond, so if you know of anything please let him know!

Paul also organized a Fahey Tribute concert this year featuring Sean Smith and Ragtime Ralph.

Dibson T Hoffweiler has just released the following work and I for one find it to be just fantastic.  His version of Red Pony is excellent.  Check it out.

      Email or RSS feed not displaying?  Head on over to the blog for all the content.

September 1, 2012

Alex De Grassi - Binghamton 02-02-1984

Binghamton NY
State University of New York
Casadesus Recital Hall

1 White Rain/36
2 Inverness
3 Causeway
4 Klamath-Slow Circle
5 Turning Back
6 Midwestern Snow
7 March Sky
8 Autumn Song
9 Blue & White - Street Waltz
10 Cumulus

Download HERE