Saturday, July 14, 2018

Blues Blast Magazine DVD Review: Women of the Country Blues Guitar

Hello!

This CD review was originally published in the February 2, 2017 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at www.bluesblastmagazine.com

Women of the Country Blues Guitar

Stan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop

www.guitarvideos.com

One DVD / 124 Minutes

If you are looking for a good value in guitar instruction it would be a fine idea to head on over to Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop website and see what they have to offer for you. For less than the price of one in-person lesson you can pick up a DVD or two that will get you a good head start towards your guitar playing goals.

Stefan Grossman is a music publisher AND a serious guitar slinger. He hails from Brooklyn, and was taught by the esteemed Reverend Gary Davis as well as other legends that include Son House, Skip James, and Mississippi John Hurt. After endless touring, in the late 1960s he started to produce instructional albums with play-along tablature, including his famous 1967 LP, How to Play Blues Guitar. As time went on the catalog grew and these titles became available on CDs, VHS tapes, and DVDs; now there are downloadable lessons too!

There are dozens of titles available from Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop, and there is a diverse collection of artists that provide the instruction. One of these fine instructors is Erin Harpe, talented guitarist and vocalist with serious on-stage experience. Her contribution to the catalog is a two-hour lesson, Women of the Country Blues Guitar. This is a not only a cool opportunity to learn some classic tunes, but it is also an important history lesson for the learner. The subjects of this lesson include artists that you probably have heard of, such as Memphis Minnie, but there may be a few surprises for you too.

Memphis Minnie is one of the best known women of blues guitar, having recorded over 200 songs between 1929 and 1959. Erin Harpe guides the student through seven of Minnie’s tunes, and after playing through a song (and singing it too!), Erin provides a little history and a description of how to play the song along with split screen examples. Where necessary, Harpe goes through solos in more detail too. Each of these is broken up neatly into chapters so the learner can jump back and forth to the parts they need more help with. Memphis Minnie songs in this lesson include, “I’m a Bad Luck Woman,” “Nothing in Rambling,” “Can I do it for You,” “ Where is My Good Man At,” “What’s the Matter with the Mill,” and “When the Levee Breaks.”

A similar learning strategy is used with the other four songs, each of which was originally performed by artists with fascinating backstories. Geeshie Wiley and L.V. ”Elvie” Thomas made their way from Houston, Texas to Grafton, Wisconsin, to record country blues for Paramount Records, and you will find “Pick Poor Robin Clean” and “Motherless Chile” included in the lessons. There is also “I’m So Glad” from Mississippi’s Jessie Mae Hemphill. Jessie started playing guitar in 1930, but never was in the limelight, and did not start releasing albums until the 1980s. Lastly, there is the mystery of Mattie Delaney from Mississippi, who recorded only two songs in 1930 for Vocalion Records. There is nothing written about her after this, and it is beyond cool that her version of “Down The Big Road Blues” has not been forgotten.

As some of these songs were originally recorded in open G tuning (also know as Spanish tuning), Erin demonstrates tuning the guitar in this manner as well as some common chords that are used with this tuning. This is a handy reference and it is nice that Harpe guides the learner through this before teaching the songs that use this tuning.

There are a few bonus features on the Women of the Country Blues Guitar DVD. For starters, there is a .pdf booklet on the disc that includes tablature and lyrics for each song. This document does not come up on the DVD menu, but you can find it with Internet Explorer (PC) or Finder (Mac). Also, there are audio tracks by the original artists for each of the ten songs in the lesson; this provides a nice comparison to see how close the student is to achieving competency with the source material.

This DVD is a professional project with good lighting, clean editing, plenty of camera angles, and crystal clear sound. The guitar cuts through nicely, both through headphones and laptop speakers, but it would be nice to play it through a quality pair of speakers if you have the opportunity. It is helpful that the learner can move along at their own pace, though these lessons would probably be most appropriate for intermediate and higher level students. There are plenty of other blues DVDs available from guitarvideos.com that would be more appropriate for beginners.

Women of the Country Blues Guitar from Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop has a lot going for it, as Erin Harpe is an outstanding teacher, and this is a well-made DVD with compelling subject matter. Better yet, it is also a great value, as the learner only has to pay $29.95 for a two-hour lesson. Even if you are not a guitar player, it is fascinating to see how the songs are constructed, as well as the effort that goes into learning and playing these tunes!

1982 Greco SS-600 Electric Guitar Review

Aloha!

I hope you are all doing well today! Today we are looking at a super-nice SG knockoff, an early 80s Greco SS-600. These guitars were not imported to the U.S., so this is the only one I have ever actually seen in person on this side of the pond. This thing just screams lawsuit, doesn’t it?

This Greco was built in Japan by Fujigen in August of 1982, and it is closer to a real Gibson SG than a lot of the Japanese copies I have run into over the years. It is a set-neck guitar with a mahogany body and neck that are finished in the classic Wine Red. Also in the looks department, this instrument got MOP block fretboard inlays, neck binding, and a nice 3-ply pickguard.

The neck is beefier than I thought it would be, but would still be an easy player for those with smaller hands. I like that they did inlays in the rosewood fretboard, but they are a little on the small side and are not trapezoidal, so this kills a bit of the Gibson vibe. The headstock has an inlay that kind looks like a flowerpot if you are not paying attention, and the Greco logo is kind of Gibson-like too. The tulip tuners are sealed-back unit that have Greco logos on them. The neck is in good shape, with little fret wear and so a few bumps and bruises on the back.

The electronics are solid, with a pair of humbuckers with typical Gibson wiring and controls. The hardware is a bit odd, but appears to be original to the instrument. There are two things (besides the inlays) that just do not look right on this guitar: it came with speed knobs and the bridge is a weird big rectangular thing. Looking through the old Greco catalogs, these are what they came from, but they just do not work aesthetically. If I was going to keep it, both of these things would be changed out in a heartbeat…

The overall condition is very good with just a few dings and scratches, and no unseemly modifications (even though it could use a few). This SS-600 sounds authentic and it plays well too, which is surprising because this was a fairly cheap instrument at the time. The “600” in the model name means that this guitar originally coset 60,000 Yen, which worked out to around $250 at the time. That was a heck of a deal for a sharp-looking guitar that played well and sounded good too. Not to mention that the quality is also top notch, even though it is not a upmarket instrument.

Anyway, I think this 1982 Greco SS-600 is really cool, and if I did not have so many other guitars I would keep it. But I do have those other guitars, including a very good Gibson SG, so this is the one that will have to go. Drop me a line if you are interested in purchasing it.

Mahalo!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Paul Reddick – Ride the One

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the January 26, 2017 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at www.bluesblastmagazine.com

Paul Reddick – Ride the One

Stony Plain Records

www.paulreddick.ca

www.stonyplainrecords.com

11 tracks / 45:05

Paul Reddick is one of the pillars of the Canadian blues community, and he is working to ensure that the genre continues to grow in his country, going so far as to create the Cobalt Prize to honor songwriters who further this art form. He is also an accomplished poet, songwriter, vocalist and harpman, and he has been leading the charge for Canadian blues since 1990 when he formed the Sidemen. He recently released his first album for Stony Plain Records, and Ride the One is a wonderful effort that is a departure from what he has done before.

Reddick wrote all eleven of the tracks for Ride the One, which was recorded at Union Sound Company in Toronto, Ontario. Paul provided the vocals and harmonica parts, and he was joined by Anna Ruddick on bass, Greg Cockerill and Colin Cripps on guitar, and jack-of-all-trades Derek Downham on drums, piano, and the talkbox. Special guest Steve Marriner from Monkeyjunk helped out with guitar and Fender Rhodes; this is a form a payback as Monkeyjunk is one of the bands that benefited from the groundwork that Reddick helped to lay down.

If you are familiar with Reddick’s previous albums, Ride the One will not be what you expect as it has many more layers of sound and a decidedly intense feel. This is modern blues with an edge to it, and it takes a few listens to get the whole picture of what Paul is trying to accomplish, but he definitely succeeds. The opening track, “Shadows,” is a perfect example of this as it hits the listener solidly with Downham and Ruddick laying down a fervent beat. Over this there is a thunderous chorus of guitars and Paul carrying the melody with his howling vocals and growly harp, both of which are served up with a bit of distortion. There is a lot going on here.

The intensity does not let up for the next song, “Celebrate,” but it does have a more melodic feel with cool stereo guitar effects and a melodic bass line from Anna Ruddick. Then the listener gets a breather with “Mourning Dove,” which has a heavy swamp rock beat, sparser instrumentation, and a plethora of killer guitar tones. This is one the standout tracks on the album, as it does such a fabulous job of setting the mood.

There are also some more accessible tunes on Ride the One, and “Gotta Find A…” delivers more conventional vocals that are accompanied by organic-sounding instrumentation. The backing vocals and harmonies are a welcome addition to this track, moving it into an almost radio-friendly format. Another catchy tune is “Watersmooth” which has lyrics that are delivered in short phrases over a slick blues-rock beat. Downham adds a little piano into the choruses as a counterpoint to the guitar solo, which is a nice contrast to the inherent weight of this track.

From there, the listener will encounter modern electric blues (“Diamonds”), Midwestern rock and roll (“Living in Another World”), and moody rhythm and blues (“Love and Never Know”). Before you know it, things come to a close with “Moon and Star” which is a poem that is presented with muffled vocals (and a touch of echo) alongside Reddick’s harmonica. This bare-bones formula works, and it is a cool acoustic coda to an otherwise heavy and complicated album.

Ride the One is a strong effort from Paul Reddick, and it is a satisfying 45-minute set of hard-hitting blues-rock that is played by a very tight crew. It has been four years since Paul last released an album, but he took his time to get everything right, and he certainly has not lost a step. Check it out for yourself to hear some awesome modern blues out of Canada, and head over to Reddick’s website to see if he is gigging anywhere near you – it will definitely be worth your time!

Inventory Update: 3nd Quarter of 2018

Hi there!

What with career changes and school, the pile has gotten a little out of hand and I need to make some room. If you see anything here that you cannot live without, drop me a line. It is all good stuff…

First off, the basses:

∙ 1974 Aria Telecaster Bass (STILL apart for repair)

∙ 1983 Ibanez RB630 Roadstar II

∙ 1984 Aria Pro II Wedge

∙ 1986 MIJ Fender Jazz Bass Special Short Scale

∙ 1986 MIJ Fender 1962 re-issue Precision Bass

∙ 1986 Aria Pro II SB Elite

∙ 1987 Aria Pro XRB-2A

∙ 1995 ESP Christian Olde Wolbers Horizon 5

∙ 1995 Fender JB75-90 Jazz Bass

∙ 1995 Fender Geddy Lee Signature Jazz Bass

∙ 2001 EBMM Stingray 4

∙ 2003 Fender PB70-70US Precision Bass

∙ 2005 Fender PB57-70US Precision Bass

∙ 2007 Fender PB70-70US Precision Bass

Electric Guitars:

∙ 1970s Yamaha Studio Lord Les Paul copy

∙ 1981 Greco MSV850 Flying V

∙ 1982 Greco SS-600 SG Copy

∙ 1983 Fender JV ‘62 re-issue Stratocaster

∙ 1983 Squier JV ‘62 re-issue Stratocaster

∙ 1984 Squier SQ Stratocaster CST-50

∙ 1985 Squier Stratocaster ST-331

∙ 1986 MIJ Fender ‘62 re-issue Stratocaster

∙ 1986 Yamaha Lord Player Les Paul copy

∙ 1989 Fender Telecaster TL72-55

∙ 1990 Gibson Les Paul Standard

∙ 1996 Gibson SG Special

∙ 1997 Fender Jag-Stang

∙ 2003 Fender TL52-SPL Telecaster

∙ 2005 Fender TL52-80TX Telecaster

∙ 2006 MIJ Fender Stratocaster XII

∙ 2008 Epiphone Les Paul Custom (Silverburst!)

∙ 2010 Gibson Explorer with custom pimp paint job (out on permanent loan)

∙ LTD George Lynch Kamikaze 1

∙ Memphis Cigar Box Guitar by Matt Isbell

Acoustic Guitars:

∙ Martin Backpacker steel string

∙ Kala solid mahogany soprano ukulele

∙ Takamine EF341

Amplifiers:

∙ 1967 Acoustic 260 Guitar Head

∙ Genz Benz Shuttle 9.2 with Aguilar GS112 and GS112NT cabinets

∙ Fender Acoustasonic 30 DSP

∙ Fender Champion 300

∙ BOSS Katana 100W 1x12 Combo (review coming)

Check in again in October to see what is still around. As always, you know it will be different!

Mahalo!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Steve Soto - August 23, 1963 to June 27, 2018

Rest in peace, brother. 54 doesn't seem old to me anymore...

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: John Long – Stand Your Ground

Hello!

This CD review was originally published in the November 10, 2016 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at www.bluesblastmagazine.com

John Long – Stand Your Ground

Delta Groove Music

www.johnlongblues.com

www.deltagroovemusic.com

13 tracks / 52:54

John Long is a fine bluesman, and the path he took to where he is today was not the easy one, but he ended up in the right place. Growing up in St. Louis, he sought out the blues at a young age, and it certainly did not hurt that his mom was a guitar teacher or that his brother, Claude, was also a bluesman. By his teens, John was playing out and started exploring the intricacies of pre-war blues. In the early 1970s, Long moved to Chicago where he mentored under a new father figure, Homesick James Williamson, who was a protégé of none other than Elmore James.

In the forty years since then, John has continued his journey, honing his craft and writing solid material, earning a BMA nomination for his debut album, and eventually moving back to Springfield, Missouri. His new Delta Groove Music album, Stand Your Ground, is a really cool collection of original and classic acoustic blues. Long did most of the heavy lifting here, writing eight of the thirteen tracks, singing all of the vocals, and taking on all of the harp and guitar parts. He was joined on a few of the tracks by a handful of tight and very experienced musicians from Southern California, including Fred Kaplan on piano, Bill Stuve on upright bass, and Washington Rucker behind the drum kit.

This disc was cut in only two days at Audiogrand in North Hollywood, California, and the resulting music has a very natural and live feel. First up is a tribute to Long’s mentor, and the message of James Williamson’s “Baby Please Set a Date” is the timeless story of a man who does not want to wait another day to be with his lady. Long’s voice is perfectly worn, and his inflection and tone hearken back to the early days of blues music. Fred Kaplan’s piano work fits in wonderfully on this track, as he carries over his years of experience from Hollywood Fats’ band.

The remaining cover tunes are sequenced near the end of Stand Your Ground, and Long does not screw around at all with Blind Willie Johnson’s 1920s gospel blues song, “I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole.” John takes this one on as a solo effort with his jangly slide acoustic, and he displays a lot of vocal versatility, adding in a wicked warble that is to die for. There is also a slow-tempo version of Thomas Dorsey’s “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” with a neat drum accompaniment from Rucker, and harp-heavy take on Blind Willie McTell’s “Climbing High Mountains” (big time falsetto here!).

But this is not a cover album, and Long’s originals are well written and stand up well to the blues masters’ songs that he chose for the mix. His guitar playing on these songs is fascinating, as he is innovative and goes far beyond what pre-war players did with their instruments, but he never loses the vintage vibe. “Red Hawk” is a prime example of this, as he uses a lot of double stops, harmonics, and descending patterns that sound amazing on his resonator guitar. Long also covers subjects that were not song-worthy back in the 1920s or 1930s, and he can write a tune about living with Parkinson’s disease (“No Flowers For Me”), and have it fit in perfectly with the classic material. The same can be said for “One Earth, Many Colors,” which carries a beautiful message of inclusion.

The originals are righteous enough that the title track turns out to be one of the standout songs on the album. “Stand Your Ground” brings Stuve and Rucker back on stage and these two fellows really click, contributing a fat and woody bass tone, as well as lovely rhythms on the drums. The melody is very catchy, and the lyrics are about a father’s advice to his son, not the controversial Florida law.

John ends his set with his original “Suitcase Stomp,” and as it is only two minutes long it is a neat coda to this project. This is a fun and rowdy song, and Long get the chance to shine on his harp and guitar one last time before he leaves the stage.

John Long has the pre-war blues sound and feel nailed down tight, and he is able to carry this mood over to more modern lyrics with no awkwardness or feeling that things are contrived. Stand Your Ground works on a lot of levels, including its content, musicianship, and production. If you dig classic blues and want to hear something fresh, Stand Your Ground would definitely be a wise purchase.

Press Release: New Effect Pedal - Cinnamon Drive from Aclam Guitars

Aloha!

I know there are a million pedal makers out there, but I dig Aclam, a Spanish company that is run by music fans and professional musicians. Their new Cinnamon Drive pedal is set-up for Smart Track pedalboards, and I look forward to trying one out in person.

www.cinnamondrive.com

“Barcelona -

After a few years being an innovative pedalboard manufacturer, Aclam has started to expand its catalogue with a pedal line. This first unit named Cinnamon Drive is a dual stage overdrive pedal, inspired by the tones of the greatest 60’s and 70’s guitar players like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck. Created to have the tube saturation characteristics inside its DNA, it is highly dynamic and touch responsive, you can play it like your favorite vintage tube amp. It features a custom enclosure designed to fit Aclam Smart Track pedalboards and other major brands. Available worldwide from our website and authorized dealers this summer.

‘Our goal was to make the ultimate riff machine. With an amazing tone and offering new possibilities with an enclosure designed to take the most advantage of the Smart Track pedalboard, and making it easy to place onto all other boards.’

The Cinnamon Drive has a dual stage engine, featuring both soft and hard clipping circuits, starts from a clean preamp to a light overdrive, leading to a highly saturated distortion to cover a wide range of tones. Its simple controls let you dial two completely different tones thanks to the “Boost” section, which gets activated via footswitch. It also features a gain knob and independent volume control. It has internal fine-tuning controls for the most demanding players.

Take advantage of the patented enclosure using the two side thumbscrews on Smart Track pedalboards or attaching it to your pedalboard through the holes using standard screws or zip ties. It also comes with a super-strong Velcro® pad for classic boards.

Assembled and tested with care, one by one in Barcelona with the best components available.”

Mahalo!