Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Monday, May 8, 2017

Review: Custom Kitchen Countercaster Guitar


A friend of mine from work brought in a guitar he built, and I must say I have never seen anything quite like it, so I asked for his permission to share it with you. Introducing the Kitchen Countercaster!

Doug is a mechanically-inclined fellow and he is always tinkering and trying to find better ways to make things work. Maybe you have run across one of his online tutorials about a better way to tie your shoes or how to make your own mini sander. Well, he also restores amplifiers and works on guitars, so it was only a matter of time until something like this happened.

On first glance, the Countercaster looks like a normal everyday Stratocaster. Until you try to pick it up and then you realize that this one is made from something special. It is solid as a rock, built from scraps of the newest generation synthetic countertop material: LG HI-MACS. As this stuff is only ½-inch thick, Doug had to stack, glue, route, and shape multiple layers of this material until he had the exact body shape he was looking for. Once things were at this point, it took a lot of finish sanding to achieve the smooth and shiny appearance that you see here.

The next step was the neck, and Doug found a good deal online for a maple neck that would bolt right to the body. But that would not be quite as special, so he planed down another piece of HI-MACS, heated it up so it could be bent to shape, and laminated it to the front of the headstock = instant matching headstock! Then he designed a custom logo, printed it out and clear-coated the headstock to preserve it for history. This thing will outlive all of us!

The rest of the build is fairly straightforward Stratocaster stuff, with the exception being a hardtail bridge that strings through the body – he even did a fine job of installing the ferrules into the back. He went with a Dragonfire “Pro Series” pre-wired pickguard, which is probably the most cost-effective way to put together a Strat if you do not already have a collection of the parts on-hand.

How does it all work out in the end? It has good sustain and plays well, and it is apparent that Doug knows how to do a proper set-up. It also sounds great, with a unique character that is unlike typical wood guitars. With his Princeton Reverb, it does have some of the typical “Strat” qualities but with a thinner and slightly metallic tone. It also seems to work better with the overdrive channels on his Carvin V3M than his Mexico-built Stratocaster, but the hotter pickups could be the difference.

Some people would say that the Achilles’ heel of the Kitchen Countercaster is its spine-compressing weight of 14.5 pounds, but I think its heft is part of the charm. After all, this thing is made out of synthetic stone, so what could possibly be better for rock and roll?

My hat is off to Doug, as this project took a lot of effort to complete, but he carried on with it to the end and fulfilled his vision and destiny. I cannot even imagine what he will come up with next!


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Friday, May 5, 2017

Product Preview: Primacoustic Element Acoustic Absorbers


Companies have been selling acoustic absorbing panels for decades, but there has not really been much variety in what is available – just a few colors and any shape you want (as long as you want square panels). Primacoustic changed things up when they introduced their Broadway line of panels in a variety of colors, thicknesses, and shapes, and now they have gone a step further with their new Broadway Element shape.

Primacoustic is based out of British Columbia, Canada, and they produce top-shelf acoustic solutions for many applications, including studios, concert halls, workplaces, and residences. Even if you have not heard the name, you have seen their products before, and you are surely familiar with their parent company, Radial Engineering. I have huge respect for Radial, as you will see if you search this blog for previous reviews of their products…

The Broadway line of panels is made from high density 6lb per cubic foot glass wool, with up to six times greater density than typical foam panels. This glass wool is perfect for controlling primary reflections and flutter echo. Also, this material has been laboratory tested and meets Class-A/1 fire safety standards by meeting stringent ASTM-E84 and Can-UL S102 requirements for flame spread and smoke development.

Broadway panels are available in three different thicknesses (1”, 2”, and 3”), and in a variety of shapes – square, triangular, rectangular, and radiused; many of their panels come with a choice of beveled or square edges. Four colors are available: black, beige, and gray, as well as a paintable white version if you need to match a specific d├ęcor.

Element is the newest shape in the Primacoustic line-up, and it definitely more stylish. These are hexagonical panels that measure 16-inches across, and they come in the same colors as other Broadway panels. Element panels come only in a 1.5-inch thickness, and only beveled edges are available. This shape provides a new range of design possibilities, especially when it is combined with the paintable finish option.

These are high-quality panels, but with a street price of $279.99 USD for a box of 12 panels they are priced competitively with other products on the market and they are priced accordingly. If I get around to building a dedicated studio, I would love to pick up a few sets of these panels and create my own designs. If you are interested too, head on over to Primacoustic’s website to see what they have to offer – it is really cool stuff!


Thursday, May 4, 2017

NAMM 2017: PageFlip Dragonfly Page Turner Review


Sorry this post is a little late, but I wanted to share a little about a cool product I tried out at the 2017 Winter NAMM show in Anaheim. At this show, the founders of PageFlip introduced their new Dragonfly 4-pedal controller, and after seeing it I was definitely impressed.

The Dragonfly is a device that helps musicians manage their sheet music and chord charts by simple pedal clicks. I first saw similar products in action at a stage show in Las Vegas, and I loved the idea of being able to view the music on a tablet and control the page turns wirelessly. After speaking with the founder of PageFlip I had a lot better idea of what was going on, and I was very impressed.

PageFlip is based out of New York City, and they were founded in 2002 by people with backgrounds in occupational therapy and engineering. They were not happy with what was on the market and sought to develop better page-turning technology that was more affordable. Their products are a godsend to people with disabilities and musicians, and over the years they have refined their products to be easy-to-use, versatile, durable and quiet.

The latest product is the Dragonfly, which can connect via Bluetooth or USB to your iPad, Android device, or computer. To make this work you will need a compatible app on your device, and there is a huge list of apps on the PageFlip website (a few of the popular ones are ForScore, OnSong, and Newzik). You will also need digital versions of your music, and there are plenty of services out there that can scan your music in if you cannot figure out how to do it yourself. This unit has four pedals that can be programmed to do pretty much whatever things you would like, such as turning pages, switching songs, volume control, and control of multimedia content. Here is a list of Dragonfly features from PageFlip:

- compact 4-pedal design with standard dual pedal footprint

- four illuminated pedals for use in dim locations

- five programmable pedal modes for a completely personal experience

- 30-minute inactivity period before entering sleep mode

- wireless (Bluetooth) or wired (USB) connectivity options

- silent operation

- sturdy, hefty design for durability

- operates for about a year using two AA batteries (or AC adapter)

I had a chance to try out the DragonFly at the show, and it worked marvelously. The pedal has a very sturdy feel to it, and the pedals are laid out logically. The pedals have a nice feel and there is no annoyingly loud click when they are selected.

For $129, the Dragonfly is a great deal, and it includes a one-year warranty and the excellent PageFlip customer service. If you are working in the orchestra pit or on stage it is a must-have product, and if you have limited use of your hands it would be a great way to be able to still read your favorite books or control your computer. By the way, if you do not need to control as many functions there are some less expensive models in their line-up, so you might want to poke around their website some to see what you really need.

I think the PageFlip Dragonfly is a really cool and useful product, and I am going to purchase one of these pretty soon. For more details or to see their full line of products, head on over to pageflip.com


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: David Corley – Available Light

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the July 20, 2015 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at www.bluesblastmagazine.com

David Corley – Available Light | Album Review

Self Release


10 tracks / 54:21

Some artists need to produce a few albums to find their groove, but that is not the case with David Corley as his debut, Available Light, is a heavy piece of work. He is not some fresh-faced, wet behind the ears kid, either: he passed the mid-century mark a few years ago and has been writing and playing for over thirty years. Fortunately he has chosen now as his time to shine, and he has delivered the goods in a big way!

Corley has a lifetime of cool experiences. Starting off life in Indiana, he moved all over the country and held down plenty of day jobs, but finally settled down back in the Hoosier State where he is a carpenter. But over the decades this mostly self-taught musician never quit reading and writing. His literary influences are no lightweights, with the works of Walt Whitman, James Joyce, and William Blake (and untold others) rattling around in his mind. You can get a glimpse of how his mind works as, breaking from what other artists are doing these days, he actually included handwritten lyrics for many of the songs on this disc. They are perfect evidence of his mature songwriting skills.

David wrote the music and lyrics for all ten tracks on Available Light, and laid down the vocals as well as some of the guitar, piano and bass parts. It is a self-produced effort and he enlisted the able help of Hugh Christopher Brown, who took on the producer role and manned the keyboards. They were joined in the studio by a respectable crew that included Tony Scherr on bass and guitar, Gregor Beresford behind the drum kit, and backing vocals from Kate Fenner and Sarah McDermitt.

It is not possible to classify these songs in any neat or orderly way. There is a bit of roots, blues, folk, country, and rock to be found here. Americana is probably the closest you will get to pigeon-holing this thing, but the depth of the lyrics and the musicality goes a bit beyond what you might expect from that genre. Corley’s voice is equally hard to place: there is some Lou Reed, Tom Waits, and Bob Dylan in there somewhere, but David has definitely developed his own unique growly baritone style.

Production values are high for this release, almost sounding like it was recorded live in the studio, but it is just a little too slick and well put together for that. Not that there is any digital trickery going on here: just a lot of hard work with analog equipment and a good set of ears to guide things. This is true for every song, including the title track, which kicks things off. “Available Light” is a solid opener that is built around the acoustic guitar and vocals, and it builds with drums, electric guitar, piano, B-3, and ethereal backing vocals.

After a few of these softer tunes, Corley turns up the rock with “The Joke” which layers acoustic guitar with electric rhythm and lead parts, and a significantly harder dose of drums and bass. This ability to switch easily from folk to rock, and everywhere in between, shows that David is not a one-trick pony. Somewhere in the middle of this spectrum is “Dog Tales,” which is the standout track from Available Light. The intro and the music are beautiful, but it is his vocal delivery that sells this song. His emotional howls are a marvelous contrast with the sexy sighs of Fenner and McDermitt.

It was hard to pick a favorite song, though, as there is not a single clunker to be found here. The sequencing of these diverse songs is spot-on and they flow well into a singular entity. With a running time of almost an hour, most of the tunes are pretty long, but before you know it, “The Calm Revolution” closes thing out with a slightly more psychedelic take on things thanks to its gloriously distorted electric guitars.

Though Available Light might not sound like the blues as you have come to expect it, David Corley certainly captures the spirit of the genre, and there is no denying that this is a mature album that is very well crafted. If you are willing to step outside the land of more conventional blues and venture into the realm of roots and Americana, this disc will be a great addition to your collection. Hopefully he will be gigging in the United States soon, as he is currently touring Europe where his music has really taken off. The really good news is he is thinking about starting another album this fall – you didn’t think that he spent thirty years writing and only came up with ten songs, did you?


2017 Chicago Blues Camp Sign-ups


I just got an email that there is still room in the June sessions for the Chicago Blues Camp. This is a cool 5-day growth and development activity for musicians. Packages include accommodations in downtown Chicago, and here is a summary from their website:

The Chicago Blues Camp offers you an exceptional experience to learn Chicago Blues that will enhance your understanding and abilities. Our Mission is to be the best place to learn to play Chicago-style Blues, and to create a unique and fulfilling immersion experience in the Chicago Blues music culture.

We seek to become a vital member of the Chicago Blues community, actively supporting and promoting Chicago Blues music, performers and venues. Through our camps, our goal is to share our expertise and appreciation of Chicago Blues so that others might love it and embrace it as we do and continue to support the musicians, clubs and festivals that make Chicago Blues come alive.

Chicago Blues Camp’s supports the Chicago Blues community by:

- Hiring more than 40 working Chicago Blues musicians as teachers, guest artists, lecturers and staff;

- Providing training and education in Chicago Blues music history, culture, style and performance;

- Providing access and guidance to the Chicago Blues community;

- Donating 20% of our profits to Chicago Blues nonprofit organizations to support the blues community and help it thrive;

- Sponsoring outings to listen to the Blues at the top Chicago Blues clubs; and

- Supporting the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University by holding the camp at the university in downtown Chicago.

Sounds pretty cool, huh? It is $2195 to sign-up and there is also an optional $400 Chicago Blues Festival package should you wish to extend your stay. For more information or to sign up, please visit their website.