Sunday, March 19, 2017

NAMM 2017: Boogie Juice Fretboard Cleaner Review


Howdy!
There are still a few write-ups that I need to catch up on from the 2017 NAMM show, as I was distracted by many non-musical things over the past month or so. I think I am ready to back in the saddle, so here goes:

When touring the aisles at this year’s show in Anaheim, I spied the Boogie Juice banner, and just had to stop in to check out what was going on. I met up with Edd Lancashire, the Managing Director of Boogie Juice, and he patiently explained what they have to offer. He slid me a tube to try out, and I found out that `what they have to offer is pretty cool!

Boogie Juice is a cleaning and conditioning product for your fretboard (or fingerboard) that is packaged in a tidy pen-like device, and it is easy to use. It contains all-natural ingredients, and there are no harsh chemicals that will dry out your fretboard or make you dizzy. What are the ingredients?

This is not for us to know, and the recipe is patented, but as these are made in New Zealand the recipe probably includes local ingredients. And, by the aroma and the way the solution reacts with wood, I am pretty sure there is some sort of citrus oils in there somewhere.

 

This is one of the easier products to use. It is sort of like a paint pen, so if you press down on the tip the liquid start to flow. They recommend tapping the tip a dozen times to have enough to work with and then rubbing the tip gently against the fretboard to loosen the dirt. I had to give it a try for myself…

I found the nastiest fretboard in my shop, in this case it was the neck from a 1970s Aria model 1560 telecaster-style bass. The rosewood fretboard had a good build-up of funk and it was also dried out – sort of the best of both worlds. The Boogie Juice worked awesome, and it did not take a lot of work to get the wood looking good again – check out the video for yourself and see!



It is pretty easy to find Boogie Juice online or at brick and mortar music stores: I saw it on Reverb.com for 12 bucks a tube, and other places a bit cheaper. So, shop around a bit, and be sure to head on over to www.boogiejuice.co.nz for more details.

Mahalo!






Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Danielle Nicole EP Review

This CD review was originally published in the June 18, 2015 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at www.bluesblastmagazine.com

Danielle Nicole – Danielle Nicole | EP Review

Concord Music Group

www.daniellenicolekc.com

www.concordmusicgroup.com

6 tracks / 22:00

Though Danielle Nicole has just a single debut EP to her name, she is no stranger to the stage or the studio. You may know her better as Danielle Nicole Schnebelen, the lead singer and bassist for Trampled Under Foot, the IBC award-winning band out of Kansas City, Missouri. This group made a lot of hay since it was founded in 2000, with the zenith being the honor of receiving the Contemporary Blues Album of the Year at last year’s Blues Music Awards.

But, that is the past. This eponymous release is all about Danielle, providing a great sound bite of what she can do on her own, and it is a very nice piece of work. She was joined in the studio by legendary New Orleans producer and guitarist Anders Osborne, as well as his fellow Louisianan Stanton Moore on drums and Trampled Under Foot keyboardist Mike “Shinetop” Sedovic. With a running time of 22 minutes and only a half dozen tracks, there is not a lot of music here, but it is all top-shelf stuff.

This disc kicks off with “You Only Need Me When You’re Down,” and the first thing you will think is, “Wait! Isn’t that the guitar riff from The Champs’ song, ‘Tequila’?” Maybe it is, but has a super funky drum part to turn it into a blues rocker and there are a lot more words to be found in the lyrics. Danielle’s voice has a touch of distortion added and is doubled at times, giving it a very powerful sound. And then it is all over in less than three minutes, which is much too soon!

“Starvin’ For Love” is up next, and listener get a little better idea of what Schnebelen’s voice really sounds like, and it is truly awesome. This fast-faced soul tune (which is not a cover of the Stylistics’ 1971 tune) strips away the vocal effects, so the emphasis shifts to her phrasing, enunciation, and dramatic use of empty space. Sedovic lays down righteous keys throughout, but he is set really far back in the mix, so he is kind of hard to pick out of the high-hat and snare at times.

“Didn’t Do You No Good” is a huge sounding track that rocks with doubled guitar and bass parts and heavily processed organ. This is exactly the sort of song that Danielle’s voice is made for as it uses all of her very impressive range. This is followed up by “Wandering Heart,” which is a complete change in direction with its sparse Crescent City arrangement, slow tempo and Shinetop’s barroom piano. Danielle shows here that she can play the chanteuse, with a voice that is appropriate for blues, soul, jazz, or rock.

The final two cuts on this EP are live tracks that were performed on The Bridge radio station in Kansas City, which can be found at 90.9 FM if you are ever in the City of Fountains. One is an acoustic reprise of “You Only Need Me When You’re Down,” and the other is a beautiful cover of a 1963 Bob Dylan song, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” To hear Danielle’s voice in this setting with no processing and only an acoustic guitar for accompaniment is jaw dropping. She is one of the best blues singers out there today, but these songs take it a step further and highlight her unique sound and her perfect phrasing. You are not going to mistake her for somebody else!

Danielle is working on her debut full-length album, Wolf Den, which should be out late this summer, and if this EP is any indication it will be a must-buy. In the meantime, you can pick up a copy of the EP for yourself or head over to her web page to check out her tour dates, as she will be touring the US and Canada steadily until then.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Jon Spear Band – Old Soul

This CD review was originally published in the June 11, 2015 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at www.bluesblastmagazine.com

Jon Spear Band – Old Soul | Album Review

Self Release

www.jonspearband.com

10 tracks / 45:53

There are a lot of reasons why bands head into the studio: to make a name for themselves, to make a little money – maybe even to make their fans happy and provide entertainment. The Jon Spear Band from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia has not forgotten these last two things, and their debut release, Old Soul, is a stone cold cool collection of blues, soul, rock, and a touch of country.

The band is a talented quartet with more than enough experience and creativity to get the job done. Jon Spear is the leader and main songwriter for the band, and on this record he provides guitar and vocals. He was joined in the studio by Dara James (also on vocals and lead guitar), John Stubblefield on the skins, and Andy Burdetsky on bass. For a small group they have a big sound, and you will like what they have to offer on this collection of nine originals and one awesome cover tune. Besides their more obvious talents, they also give back to the art and are active participants in the Central Virginia Blues Society.

They kick off Old Soul with a slow and funky groove on “I Can’t Help Myself.” Right off, it is apparent that the backline of Burdetsky and Stubblefield is as tight as can be, and they provide a solid foundation for the rest of the album. The vocals are sweet and really clear which makes it easier to understand the lyrics, which are a funny account of a man who is stricken with love at first sight. If you listen carefully, you will hear some tasteful conga work from guest artist Nate Brown.

The title track is one of the slickest numbers on the album, and it is more radio-friendly than most songs you will hear on modern blues albums. “Old Soul” is a smoky mid-tempo burner featuring fabulous sax lines courtesy of D.C jazz saxophone legend, Ron Holloway. The story of a young woman that is mature beyond her years is full of vibrant imagery, and Spears paints a vivid image of the scene.

“Mean Mean Woman” has some nifty fast-paced calypso and Latin beats as the singer bemoans ever getting involved with the wrong person. Staying with the theme, it is backed with “Paid in Full,” the story of a long time love that has gone terribly wrong. The vocals are soulful and take advantage of cool backing harmonies on this powerful ballad. It is all about the lyrics on this one, but they make time for a rocking guitar solo that works naturally into the flow of the tune.

These fellows are able to cut loose and have a little bit of fun, too, and there is a fair share of lighter-hearted music to be found on Old Soul. “The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese” is a swing tune with killer harmonica from Dara, a fun walking bass line, and a reminder that patience is a virtue. There is very tasty country blues and a wonderful message to be found on “I Love My Skin.” The Dobro comes out and heartstrings are tugged as we get the dog’s point of view “Forever Home.” Lastly, “Live Music is Better” is a not so subtle gig plug for those of us who should get out to the clubs more often. Despite their more whimsical themes, each of these songs is chock-full of fine musicianship and solid songwriting.

The set closes out with the sole cover on the release, an epic take on Jimmy Wilson’s 1953 hit, Tin Pan Alley” (which was also covered majestically by Stevie Ray Vaughan). This is an eight-minute blues-rock jam that has plenty great guitar tones from the talented Spear and James, a tastefully restrained groove, and vocals that find the right blend of emotion and power. This song is a classic, and the boys do not disappoint as they really bring it home.

Old Soul is a strong debut from the Jon Spear Band, and throughout all ten tracks they present top-shelf musicianship, mature songwriting, and a most importantly, a good time for the listener. Check it out for yourself, and if you are around Old Dominion this spring or summer click on their website for their gig schedule so you can see them in person!

James Cotton: July 1, 1935 to March 16, 2017

Rest in peace.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

NAMM 2017: Cling On Magnetic Series Tuner Review

Aloha!

There is no shortage of mountable guitar tuners on the market, and for the most part they are clip-on units. This is usually an ok arrangement, but a clip across the headstock does not look very nice, and those clips do break (especially if you leave it on the guitar and close a case on it). Also, the clips are usually pretty huge, making the tuner almost twice the size that it needs to be. Cling On Magnetic Series tuners are a great alternative to regular clip-on tuners. I was pretty stoked when I saw them demonstrated at the 2017 NAMM show.

The idea with the Magnetic Series tuner is that it is equipped with a very strong neodymium magnet so the user can stick it to a tuning peg or even a screw. Boom – out of the way, unobtrusive, and no big ugly clip. I have tried it out on my guitars and basses and in the real world this set-up actually world really well.

There might be cases where there is nothing magnetic to stick the tuner to, so there is also a small (0.7-inch) magnetic puck that can be stuck anywhere on the instrument that has a flat surface. The puck’s 3M adhesive sticker also holds very strongly (good thing, because the magnets are so strong). The manufacturer says that the sticker will not harm finishes, and comes off easily if you work a piece of string or dental floss underneath it. But the really hot ticket is to not have to use the puck at all.

This Cling On tuner is attractive, with rubberized trim and a sleek Lava Red finish (Titanium Gray is also available). There are only three buttons to deal with: Power, Hz, and Mode. It takes a single CR2032 battery (included), and this common size is available at most every drugstore or supermarket.

The tuner has a dual-swivel base, and an LCD screen that is big enough for me to read without glasses, and bright enough that I can see it in daylight. Concert A can be adjusted from 440Hz to anywhere between 430 and 450Hz, and there are five different preset tuning modes: Chromatic, Guitar, Ukulele, Violin and Bass. It is easy to use, and seems to be accurate enough for any stage musician.

The Cling On Magnetic Series tuners are right there with the rest of the market as far as pricing, with a list price of $19.99 (they also have a clip-on model for a dollar less). This includes the tuner, a magnetic puck, and a really nice box. Not to mention a 1-year limited manufacturers warranty and a 3-year replacement guarantee, including accidental damage. If you need extra magnetic bases, they have them available for $4.99 for a 3-pack. I think this is a pretty cool product, and the magnetic base is a real selling point. For more details, head over to the Cling On website.

Mahalo!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

NAMM 2017: Product Preview - Martin Titanium Core Acoustic Guitar Strings

Aloha!

I headed into the Martin booth at this Year’s Winter NAMM to try out their new Titanium Core strings that I saw on the media preview day, and it was utter chaos. They have a lot of new products this year, so they were very busy. But, I did manage to flag down someone to talk about these strings and enjoyed a few strums on a guitar that was loaded up a set of their latest and greatest.

I have been using Martin strings on my acoustics for years, so I am pretty familiar with their products. In fact, they are my preferred acoustic strings and I have never had any complaints about them. The company’s goal with the Titanium Core strings is increased corrosion resistance (extended life), better stability, and increased playability due to reduced player fatigue. Who could argue with this?

Sets of light gauge Titanium Core strings will be available this spring (March 31), with other gauges to follow later. From what I could tell, these strings felt to be about the same tension as the Martin light gauge phosphor bronze strings that I usually use.

Overall, the fingertip feel was very normal for nickel strings (the titanium core is wire wrapped with nickel, and the plain strings are cryogenically treated stainless steel). The volume seemed to be a bit more than what I am used to with their conventional strings, with the caveat than NAMM is the worst place on the planet to evaluate anything acoustic.

I am not sure how the Titanium Core strings will live up to the rest of Martins promises, such as long life and better stability. One thing I do know is that for the price, they better last a really long time. These strings run $39.99 a set, and if the president makes a tariff on Mexican goods come true, the price might go up even more. Stay tuned, and I will let you know what I think after I get a set to try in the real world!

For more details go to martinguitar.com for more details.

Mahalo!