Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Martin C1K Concert Ukulele Review


Though I have owned and played many Martin guitars over the years, I have only had experience with a few of their ukuleles, and today we are going to take a look at one of their more affordable offerings: the C1K concert-sized uke.

If you know anything about guitars, you are probably aware that Pennsylvania’s Martin Guitars is the premier mass-production luthier in the world. Every major artist has played their instruments at one time or another, from Eric Clapton to Johnny Cash to Elvis. Well, they make other instruments too, and they have been in the ukulele business for a long time, and they currently make instruments that cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $5000 and more.

The C1K is a handsome little ukulele, with a clear satin finish over the solid Hawaiian Koa body and top, with a nice network of Spruce bracing to keep to top in place. There is a Spartan aesthetic with no binding to be found anywhere, and a simple white and black rosette. No electronics are available, and you can get one of these as a lefty (I think).

The neck looks like Mahogany and it has a Morado(looks like Rosewood) fretboard. The fretwork on this one excellent, and I cannot ever imagine wearing them out with nylon uke strings. The bridge is also made of Morado, and there is a Tusq nut and compensated saddle. The machined Grover tuners are open gear, and they are just beautiful.

The C1K ukuleles are made in Mexico, but the quality appears to be about as good Martin’s domestically produced instruments, which is not something I would ordinarily say about some of their south of the border offerings. The finish is clear and even, the joints are tight, and this one came out of the box with a good set-up and ready to play. Don’t sniff at where they are made – there is no way Martin could hit this price point if these things were built in the America.

It plays very well, with good intonation, a sweet neck feel, and it is comfortable to hold. It also sounds very good, with nice projection and a sweet tone that makes it sound older than it is. The strings it comes with are pretty iffy, but they are easy enough to change. It is perfect companion for traveling, especially with the uber-nice TKL gig bag that it comes with.

The Martin C1K is a good instrument that comes in at a reasonable price (list = $629, street = $479), and I am glad that Martin stepped up and made a better instrument this time around. But, it is not as good of a value as the horde of medium-grade ukuleles that are coming out of China by the container load. Those instruments are at least $100 cheaper, are often prettier, and sound almost as good. You will not go wrong with the Martin, but you might want to compare before you buy.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Memory Lane: MXR 6-Band Equalizer Pedal Review


My son and I enjoy heading to the Long Beach Antique Flea Market each month as it is nice to spend some time together poking around through piles of treasures, and we usually find something cool to bring home. He seeks out old coins and vintage video game gear, and I am always on the lookout for music equipment, old Zero Halliburton cases, and vintage skateboard crap. I have had a good run the past few months, bringing home a 1960s Acoustic brand 260 guitar amp (Jaco!) and a super clean Yamaha BB bass (not to mention a cool od Viking board). Well, I did ok this month too, as I found a neat old MXR equalizer pedal!

Judging by the logo, this one was made in the mid to late 1970s. It is on the smallish size for a pedal, measuring just 2 ¾ x 4 ¼ x 1 ½ inches, but it certainly is solid as it weighs in at just a half ounce under a pound.

This MXR unit is about as simple as they come, with single ¼-inch input and output jacks, and six sliders. The sliders each provide 18 dB of cut or boost on these frequencies: 100Hz, 200Hz, 400Hz, 800Hz, 1.6kHz, and 3.2 kHz. There is no bypass switch on these vintage pedals, so just plug it into your signal chain and you are good to go.

And this 6-band EQ is a product that does exactly what it is supposed to. It provides a lot of flexibility to your tone that you might not be able to get with your guitar or amp settings, and it does not color the tone – it is very transparent with no added buzz. It works well for guitars, and passably for bass and keyboards due to its lack of lower end.

This pedal works fine, and it is in reasonable shape for its age with some scuffs and scratches and some flaking of the original silkscreen printing. Amazingly it still has all of the little rubber slider tips, which are often missing on these. It certainly works fine, with not much of anything in the way of added noise to my signal chain, and it is definitely worth the sawbuck I turned over to get my paws on it.

If you need a basic EQ to clean up your guitar tone, you do not need much more than the MXR 6-Band EQ to do the job, and you can find nice ones on eBay for $75 to $100. Or you can buy the brand new updated ones for around $80, but they are a bit more complicated as they added a bypass switch and a clipping circuit, so you have to deal with batteries or an AC adapter.


Vic Firth: June 2, 1930 to July 27, 2015

Rest in peace, brother.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Review: Ibanez MTZ11 Multi-Purpose Tool for Guitars

Good day!

It is disheartening to arriving for a gig to find out that your guitar is not playing well, and not having any tools to try to make things right. At the least, a guitarist should make sure that they have a few basic tools with them at all time, and there are dozens of different multi-tools out there that fit the bill. I found my favorite a few years ago when I was in Japan and I needed to do some work on an axe I picked up over there. This tool is the Ibanez MTZ11.

The MTZ11 comes in cool colors (I chose red), and it is small enough to fit into any gig bag pocket. It measures around 3.75 inches long by 1.4 inches wide by 1.3 inches tall. It has 11 tools in it, including two Phillips head and a flat head screwdriver, 5 hex wrenches (1.5 to 5mm), a 7mm hex that will accept standard bits, and a 50mm ruler. These tools are made of high-grade steel, and I have not noted any wear to the screwdrivers or hex wrenches despite fairly heavy use.

But what really sets this one apart from the other tools on the market is the 50mm steel ruler. This is really handy for setting action and pick-up heights, and I would not buy a multi-tool that does not have a ruler in it if I had to buy another one.

The Ibanez MTZ11 multi-tool is cheaper than buying all of these tools separately, and it certainly is a tidy package. It is not terribly expensive, coming in at around $21 on Amazon, which is really cheap insurance if your gig is at stake. Check one out if you get the chance!


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review of Musical Theatre West’s Singin’ in the Rain at the Carpenter Center


I have been a season subscriber to Musical Theatre West for a few years, and they are one of the best entertainment values in town. They put on very good shows for a modest price, and though I gripe about minor things, overall I am a big fan of what they do. So, I was beside myself when I saw that Les Miserables, one of the most popular musicals of all time, was on their schedule for the 2014-2015 season, and I was a little disappointed to see Singin’ in the Rain on list. I was completely wrong – Les Mis was so-so, and Singin’ in the Rain was fabulous! It even rained when we went to the show, which is no small feat in a Southern California summer.

Musical Theatre West has been around since 1952, when it started out as the Whittier Civic Light Opera. Their productions evolved over time, and they went from being an all-volunteer operation to producing full seasons, currently under the capable leadership and vision of Executive Director/produce Paul Garman. Their big shows are hosted by the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State Long Beach, which is a lovely venue with plenty of conveniently located $5 parking. And only two bathrooms...

The Singin’ in the Rain stage show is based on MGM’s 1952 hit film that starred Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. The show was adapted with a book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, lyrics from Arthur Freed, and music by Nacio Herb Brown. It stays fairly true to the movie version, and it includes your favorite songs from the movie, including the title song, “Good Morning,” and “Moses Supposes.” The show originated in 1983 in London then made its way to the states where it premiered on Broadway in 1985, with a run of 367 performances. Since then it has been revived regularly, as it is still a popular show.

It is a fun story, and if you are not familiar with it, here is the skinny. The play is set in Hollywood in the transitional era from silent films to talkies. Don Lockwood (Leigh Wakeford) and Lina Lamont (Rebecca Ann Johnson) are an on-screen couple who run into trouble because Lina has a voice that can make little kids cry and old ladies faint. Don falls for a nobody actress, Kathy Selden (Natalie MacDonald), and his old pal Cosmo (Justin Michael Wilcox) brings a bit of hilarity to the action. There is a little bit of everything in the story, but the guy gets his girl in the end. Of course.

In the Musical Theatre West version, the leads are very good, with a standout performance by Leigh Wakeford. This man is an excellent singer, a gifted dancer, and a pretty good actor too. Rebecca Ann Johnson is perfect as Lina, and her shrieking voice is still rattling around in my head a few days later. Wilcox almost stole the show with his comic timing, and MacDonald is a very convincing Kathy, though her hair was done terribly -- this show is set in Hollywood, not some mousy-haired east coast city (or Detroit). The rest of the leads and the chorus also do a fine job and this is a huge show, with over thirty on-stage characters. They were ably led by Jon Engstrom who takes care of both the director and choreographer roles.

MTW also provides a very good orchestra for Singin’ in the Rain, with more than twenty musicians in the pit. John Glaudini is the musical director, and he does a great job of bringing Brown’s music to life. As always, it is disappointing to see that the musicians get no credit in the program, and there is no indication of whether they are union members or not. Shameful.

Making up for the terrible job they did on the sound for Les Miserables, the production staff really step things up a notch for this show by bringing on a new sound company. There is none of the previous confusion about which microphones were supposed to be turned on, and everything is easy to hear with a good balance between the orchestra and the cast. There are no problems with the rain sequence, though there is a bit more noise from the umbrella than I would prefer – but that is an almost impossible task for live theatre. They even tape microphones to Wakeford’s tap shoes, so the audience gets the full Gene Kelly cinematic effect.

Karen St. Pierre’s costumes certainly seem authentic, and Dan Weingarten’s lighting is spot-on, but the real props have to go out to Michael Anania for his set designs (pun intended). The show takes up a huge amount of stage, and it is full of wonderful elements that really make the show pop. Of course, the most impressive element is the rain scene at the end of Act 1, which is really quite astounding. The water from the show is supposedly recycled, an important note in the drought-ravaged Southland.

Of course, I always have a few things to complain about. For starters, this is a long show and this time it did not start on time, which was compounded by about 15 minutes of speechifying from Mr. Garman. They do not do this sort of thing on Broadway or anywhere else I go to see a show, so I am not sure why there is the need to tell the audience business that could easily be handled on their website or through an e-mail. The acts of the show are unevenly broken up with two hours (counting the late start and the speeches) before the intermission and about a half hour afterwards. If they started on time the intermission would hardly be necessary.

The last thing is pretty much the fault of the show’s writing, and that is that the love story between the Don and Kathy is not believable or compelling. It is one element too many in a show that was already pretty crowded. I am not sure how to fix this, as a musical needs a love story…

Despite these few things, all of the other pieces came together in a wonderful way. Singin’ in the Rain is a solid show with good performances and it is 3 hours of fun – trust me on this one! The show will be playing through July 26, so there is still time to see it, but tickets are running low and one of the shows is sold out. Ending the season on a high note, now is the time to make plans for next year’s season, which will include My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Sister Act. You can’t beat the value!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Hosa LITTLE BRO' SH 6X2 30 Sub-Snake Review


If you have done any live sound, you know that the floor and stage can become a huge rat’s nest of cables just waiting for someone to trip on one, and it can certainly look untidy and unprofessional. This is where a stage snake comes in handy. Why run six 30-foot XLR cables from the board to the stage if you only have to run one? Today we are looking at one solution, the Hosa LITTLE BRO’ (why does this have to be all caps?) SH 6x2 30 sub-snake.

My first snake was a 100-foot Hosa, and getting it was a real lifesaver for me, so I have a soft spot for the brand. I could finally run sound further away from the stage so I could actually hear what was going on, and it made set-up and teardown a lot easier. It has been in my one of my flight cases for around 10 years, and have never had a single problem with it.

The LITTLE BRO is a slightly different animal, as it is a lot shorter and does not have as many inputs, but that is where its magic is. I do not always want to lug around a 25-pound snake with twice as much cable as I need, so for smaller gigs this thing is awesome. It does not have a ton of channels, with only six XLR sends and two ¼-inch multipurpose ports. But this is certainly enough to run a bar gig with a couple of monitors or powered speakers, though. But even better this thing makes a really cool drum riser snake, so that six drums can be mic’d with returns for monitors or headphones.

The junction block on the business end is well laid out, with the connectors on the sides of the unit instead of on the top. This puts less stress on the mic connectors and makes them less likely to be tripped on by impaired musicians or audience members. Each port is also well-marked so it is easier to match up with what is going on at the mixer end.

There is no noise added to the signals, and I have no complaints about its performance. If I had one wish it would be for locking connectors, but for the price I am willing to accept this thing jst the way it is.

And the price is definitely a plus for the Hosa LITTLE BRO’ SH 6x2 30 sub-snake. This assembly has a list price of $136.50 and a street price of $89.90 – try to buy six quality 30-foot XLR cables and two TRS cables for that price (with a lifetime warranty, no less), and you will definitely come up short. Trust me, this is a great product and a great deal!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Steve Howell & The Mighty Men – Yes, I Believe I Will

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the April 17, 2014 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at www.bluesblastmagazine.com

Steve Howell & The Mighty Men – Yes, I Believe I Will | Album Review

Self Release through Out of the Past Music


10 tracks / 43:00

When Texas comes up in a conversation most folks immediately think of Dallas or Houston, and musicians always extoll the virtues of Austin. Well, Steve Howell of Steve Howell & The Mighty Men hails from Marshall, Texas, which is a lot closer to Shreveport, Louisiana than any of these places. That is fortunate for us because his brand of American roots and blues music is flavored by the Sportsmen’s Paradise and the Lone Star State; it is the best of both worlds.

Steve is an acoustic guitar genius and vocalist that was born in Marshall and raised in East Texas and Louisiana, which launched a career that was originally inspired by Mississippi John Hurt's magical finger picking. He kept up his music through a stint in the Navy overseas and after his service ended he played with artists and bands around Shreveport and his East Texas hometown.

Yes, I Believe I Will is Steve Howell & the Mighty Men’s fourth self-released disc, and it is very special. Steve is joined by friends that he has been performing with for more than 20 years, including Chris Michaels on electric guitar, acoustic guitar and bass, Dave Hoffpauir on drums and Jason Weinheimer on the keys. This album is comprised of ten traditional and cover songs, and has a very natural acoustic sound to it. It was recorded by the band and mixed and mastered by Weinheimer, but do not think of this as a garage band project, as the production values are high and it is a very well-made disc.

This set is not danceable nor is it something you will hear on the sound system in your local juke joint or roadhouse, but it is perfect for sitting back with your favorite beverage and just savoring the listening experience. In a day and age of over-processed commercial tunes, one hit wonders and cookie cutter instant hits, Steve Howell & The Mighty Men are doing work they can be proud of. The first track on the CD is “I Had a Notion,” a re-do of the song that Nick Katzman and Ruby Green contributed to The Best of Kicking Mule Record Inc. Volume One (this is required country blues listening). “Yes I Believe I Will” can be in the lyrics of this tune, and this laid-back mostly acoustic blues number will gives a good idea of what the rest of the album has in store for the listener.

This is confirmed by the traditional “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning,” a 19th-century African-American spiritual that was originally recorded in 1928 by Blind Willie Johnson. Howell is a fine acoustic player and his interplay with Michaels’ distorted electric guitar is certainly mesmerizing, but even more striking is the honesty and genuine tone his hoarse singing voice gives to this powerful song. The harsh electric guitar solo might not seem like it would fit into this serious folk blues track, but it works out perfectly as it bridges 150 years of musical and social history.

On the other end of the spectrum is “Wasted Mind,” a 2005 song from songwriter and banjo man Danny Barnes. This is a slow-paced modern country ballad with a heavy snare drum and even heavier lyrics. This song is a stone-cold bummer as it describes a lot of the aimless young folks that have no ambition and limited future possibilities. The music takes a backseat to the words on this one: “They got books at school / But that ain't cool / They got paintings at the art museum / You ain't never gonna see 'em / Because they don't serve light beer.”

Those that are craving more blues will be glad that Howell included Nick Katzman’s “Devil’s Side” on this disc, though it is not entirely conventional. It is very slow paced and Weinheimer’s key have almost a circus organ effect to them. The glum lyrics build drama for inspired guitar work from Chris Michaels, making this one of the standout tracks of the CD.

The band ends their set with a classy folk remake of a 1800s Irish tune, “Rake and Rambling Blade.” There is a marvelous texture of acoustic guitar and muted electric guitar with a tasteful banjo accent that fits in well with the somber lyrics that describe the life a no-good highway robber. This is the last piece of the mosaic that makes up this album, making it a complete journey through everything that is good about the American music of the south.

Yes, I Believe I Will is Steve Howell & The Mighty Men’s best work to date and if you are a fan of roots music, folk music or country blues it is a must-have for your collection. Even electric blues aficionados will surely find many things to like amongst the ten tracks this talented quartet put together. Listen for yourself and see!


Saturday, July 11, 2015

1994 Fender TL52-88TX Telecaster Guitar Review


When it comes to guitars, I am a huge Telecaster fan and I love Japanese guitars, so when these two things are combined it is pure bliss! Today we are going to look over another perfect combo: a Japan-built Fender 1994 TL52-88TX Telecaster. This is a fairly faithful recreation of a 1952 Telecaster, and gives the performance of the American-made reissues at a fraction of the cost. I picked this non-export model on a business trip to Japan, and will be selling it pretty soon as I recently happened upon a factory Keith Richards “Sunny” Tele.

As this is a model TL52-88TX, it is one of the more expensive models. The “88” in the name designates 88,000 Yen, which is a around $715 right now ($838 in 1994). And Japanese music shops don’t bargain much from list price. The serial number on the back of the neck has a Made in Japan T prefix, dating this to 1994 (or so) according to Fender’s website. Do not be distracted by the extra serial number on the bridge. Every 52 RI Japanese Tele I have seen has an extra A-prefix serial number stamped into the bridge.

This one has a transparent finish over the nicely figured ash body (northern light ash, I believe). It is a tad porky for a Tele, coming in at a touch over 8 pounds, but it is not nearly as heavy as a lot of these I have seen (10 pounds plus, in some cases).

The 25 ½-inch scale neck is a peach with a period-correct water transfer label but with a more modern oval profile. It has a 42mm nut (I hate using inches for nut measurements) and a 7 ¼-inch fretboard radius; the 21 frets are normal-size and are very well finished. The neck pocket to body fit is very precise, showing the fine craftsmanship that went into building this instrument.

The hardware is faithful, with a classy single-ply black pickguard, and a traditional Tele bridge with 3 brass saddles. The tuners are the vintage Kluson in-line type, and they hold fine. In keeping with the 1952 Tele these, there are flat head screws everywhere, and not a single Phillips head in sight.

The pickups are original to the guitar, and they are super-hot Fender USA Texas Specials which give it the TX in the model designation. They sound great, and this thing will kill any Stratocaster on the block. Taking the control cover off, you will find that this is wired like a modern Tele (volume/tone/3-way switch), but still uses vintage-type cloth-covered wiring.

It is in fabulous original shape, with no modifications or repairs, not a lot of play wear, and no major dings or scratches. It plays great and will make its new owner very happy. Drop me a line if you are interested…


Thursday, July 9, 2015

1991 ESP M-IV Bass Guitar Review


Today we are looking at ESP’s answer to Fender’s tremendously successful Japan-built Jazz Bass Special that Duff McKagan popularized in the late 1980s/early 1990s – the M-IV. This P-bass derivative has many of the features of that iconic bass, including the pearl white finish, a black headstock, black hardware, and passive P-J pickups. As far as I can tell, they were built in Japan by ESP and were never intended for export; very few made it to the states. I have never seen one in this color combination or without the pointy ESP heavy metal headstock.

As with any Japanese guitar copy, always there are a few things that are not quite like the original. Most obviously, the back of the neck is finished in clear instead of black, and the body is more aggressively carved. Less obviously, there is no TBX tone control, and the nut is a tad wider than the Fender, coming in at around 1-11/16 inches. It is still quite fast and manageable, though.

The materials are good, with an alder body, maple neck, and a rosewood fretboard with 21 frets hammered into it. The hardware is very nice, with a high-mass bridge and large base open-gear tuners, and all of it is finished in black that has not oxidized yet, unlike every Japanese Fender I have ever seen. The controls are simple: volume, tone, and a 3-way switch.

It is a really well made bass, with great fretwork and excellent fit and finish on the neck pocket. The truss rod has not maxed out and it is easy to dial in a low action with no buzzing or other untoward side effects. It has been well cared for with no damage, repairs or modifications. The pearl white paint has faded into a very light yellow, but not nearly so much as the Fender Jazz Bass Specials from the same era.

All of this adds up to a great playing and sounding bass that is very versatile. Some guys are down on the P-J pickup set-up, but it is still one of my all-time favorites. The electronics are quiet and high output and this bass can sound very smooth or aggressive. The body cutaways provide a little better access to the higher frets, but who uses those things, anyway? Oh yeah, and as an added bonus, this thing weighs just a touch over 8 pounds – not bad!

Nothing stays around here very long, but it is sweet for now and I love the look of it. Drop me a line if you are interested, maybe we can make a deal!


Monday, July 6, 2015

Review: Apogee JAM Guitar Input for iPad, iPhone and Mac


I recently had to lay down a couple of quick guitar lines for a voiceover track I was working on (long story), and it turned out to be no big deal. When you need to add a little guitar to a digital track, and there are plenty of ways to do it (the worst way being the built-in microphone on your computer), but one of the easiest has to be using an Apogee JAM to directly throw the sound into the Garageband program of your Mac.

This has to be one of the simplest devices I have run into. When you open the box you fill find the JAM (made in the USA!) and USB, Apple 30-pin and Apple Lighting connectors. The JAM itself has a ¼-inch input, a US output, an LED and a gain control. The gain is easy to use: if the LED is green, you are ok, and if it is red, turn it down a little bit. There are no batteries involved, it is powered by whatever you plug it into, which would be your computer, iPhone, or iPad.

When plugging it into my computer or iPad, no set-up was needed, Garageband immediately recognized the JAM and I could start hacking around right away. Supposedly it will also work with Logic and Mainstage, but I do not have those so I could not verify if this is true. It is optimized for guitar and bass, and it did not have any trouble with any of my passive or active instruments; even the 18-volt preamps worked with no overloading. There is no mention in their literature about keyboards or mics, but I do not see why they would not work pretty well too.

This is a digital unit, and the sound is very good through all registers. There is no noise added to the singal, and it does a good job of delivering a clean signal to the device of your choice. By the way, the JAM gave me the opportunity to finally screw around with the amplifier emulations in Garageband, which is a fantastic way to lose all track of time!

At $99, the Apogee JAM is not the cheapest interface out there, and it is not even the best now that there the a newer product on the market – the more sophisticated Apogee JAM 96k (for $129). But it is simple and effective and mine is not going anywhere anytime soon. Check one out for yourself and see what you think!


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: The Claudettes – Infernal Piano Plot…Hatched!


This CD review was originally published in the March 13, 2014 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at www.bluesblastmagazine.com

The Claudettes – Infernal Piano Plot…Hatched! | Album Review

Yellow Dog Records



13 tracks / 39:32

House bands are almost an extinct species, but there are still a few club owners that are willing to shell out dough every week to make sure that their customers have consistently good entertainment while in their establishments. Johnny Iguana and Michael Caskey are fortunate enough to have a regular house gig, but there is no house anymore. In 2010 Miss Claudette hired them to play at her bar and grill in Illinois, but after it closed down in 2011 she kept them on the payroll to keep the entertainment going.

She keeps this piano and drums duo, known as The Claudettes, busy by booking them in clubs and off-beat locations such as video rental outlets and office supply stores. Often she will set-up her own bar within the club and sling bizarre drink specials that the guys advertise from the stage, sometimes with lighted signs around their necks. It would be hard to make this stuff up!

Despite this bizarre back story, do not write this project off as shtick as both men are accomplished musicians. Iguana (born as Brian Berkowitz) and Caskey have played and recorded alongside artists that include Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Chuck Mangione, and Koko Taylor. After getting to know each other through countless performances, The Claudettes have finally hunkered down in the studio and cranked out their debut album, Infernal Piano Plot…Hatched!

And what you get with this disc is 13 high-octane tracks, 12 of which are originals that were penned by Iguana (Berkowitz), with nothing but piano and drums instrumentals. That is all: no vocals, horns, guitar, or guest artists – not even a Howlin’ Wolf cover. They describe their music as a blend of jazz, blues, punk, soul and space echo, or what they define as “Cosmic Cartoon Music.”

Johnny Iguana hits his piano hard from the first track, “Stumblin’ Home Satisfied,” a song with a 12-bar blues base and a heavy back-beat from Caskey’s drum kit. The recording is clean, with bright piano and organic-sounding drums. It sometimes sounds like Iguana has three hands, notably in the faster sections of tunes like “Motörhome” and “Land of Precisely Three Dances.” Those years spent touring with the Junior Wells Band and Otis Rush certainly honed his skills, even on non-blues songs such as these.

The sole cover on Infernal Piano Plot…Hatched! Is a respectful take on Little Brother Montgomery’s “Tremblin Blues.” It is a little faster than other versions I have heard before, but Johnny has the phrasing and feel down pat. The drum line is unconventional with its intermittent spouts of energy, but adds a sense of drama that is not found in the original.

Things draw to a close with “Do You See it Too?” which is a combination of jazz with some classical elements. The innovative drumming with a heavy kick drum and off-beat snare that accompanies this song is yet another reminder that these two are in perfect sync throughout the album, and it unquestionable that they are kindred souls that are on the same mission. This is the standout track, and was a wise choice for their finale.

The Claudettes took a chance by going their own way with Infernal Piano Plot..Hatched!, and their ambition and hard work have been rewarded with a fabulous album. This is not easy-listening by any stretch of the imagination, but it is fabulous music that is unquestionably danceable and refreshingly unique. This is 40 minutes of high-energy fun, and if Johnny Iguana and Michael Caskey can maintain their momentum, Miss Claudette will have to start booking them into larger clubs, and maybe even shopping malls!


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Inventory Update: 3rd Quarter of 2015

Hi there!

Another three months have gone by, and here is the quarterly list of what is stacked up in the studio. The pile has shrank a bit since last time, but things are always coming and going. If you see anything here that you cannot live without, drop me a line. It is all good stuff…

First off, the basses:

∙ MIJ Fender 1962 re-issue Jazz Bass

∙ MIJ Fender 1970 re-issue Precision Bass

∙ MIJ Fender 1987 Jazz Bass Special

∙ MIJ Fender 2005 Precision Bass (All Black Model) – on loan to a friend

∙ ESP Phoenix-B (2 of them – one black, one burst)


∙ ESP Vintage 4

∙ ESP Original Series Amaze AS – straight out of Japan!

Electric Guitars:

∙ MIJ Fender ‘62 re-issue Stratocaster

∙ MIJ ’52 re-issue Telecaster

∙ MIJ Fender 1987 Keith Richards ’67 re-issue Telecaster

∙ 1990 Gibson Les Paul Standard

∙ 2010 Gibson Explorer with custom pimp paint job

Acoustic Guitars:

∙ Martin D-18 Golden Era (the King)

∙ Martin Backpacker steel string

∙ Martin S1 soprano ukulele

∙ Kala solid mahogany soprano ukulele (on loan to a friend)


∙ 1967 Acoustic 260 Guitar Head

∙ Genz Benz Shuttle 9.2 with Aguilar GS112 and GS112NT Cabinets

∙ Fender Acoustasonic 30 DSP

∙ Fender Champion 300

Check in again on October 1st to see what is still around. As always, you know it will be different!