On this week’s podcast, we talk to luthier Dana Bourgeois about a truly special one-off guitar he recently built to benefit Tony Rice. This is Dana’s first (and likely last) attempt at an enlarged soundhole D-28-style guitar, just like the famous Martin belonging to Rice and, formerly, Clarence White. Dana’s creation is a truly special instrument, with a Bourgeois Aged Tone top, Brazilian rosewood back and sides, a bound fretboard sans position markers and more. Dana will be holding a two week-long auction from his site starting December 1, 2014.
Michael Bashkin’s life took a unlikely turn when the former New Jersey resident enrolled as an Art major at the University of Montana. “Living in Western Montana, I quickly discovered the outdoors and developed a strong interest in natural resources and forest management,” Bashkin says in this 40-minute podcast interview. “I [then] switched my major to Forestry.”
Bashkin would go on to spend several years in laboratories and in the woods, researching trees and forest ecology. “It was during my master’s program that I got bitten by the guitar bug,” he says. “At some point, my thinking about the trees did shift.” Since 1998, he’s been bulding instruments full-time in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Back in November of 2013, trend analyst, author and musician Eric Garland decided to post an entry to his blog entitled “Guitar Center and the End of Big Box Retail.” He described how GC’s corporate bond had been downgraded to junk status and how, in his view, it signaled “the end of a terrible model” of retailing. Garland never expected the post to go viral but within a couple of weeks it was shared by thousands of guitarists and musicians, GC customers, industry insiders and music lovers (his most recent updates can be found here).
For our 76th podcast, we head north to Lynnwood, Washington to visit with Sinasoid Stage & Studio. Sinasoid's Andy Kim and Jonathan Suhr are two musicians who have created a whole new way to purchase guitar cables with their Custom Shop Cable Builder. The recently-launched site allows customers to select from several different guitar cable offerings, pick an exact cable length and choose from a variety of input and output plugs. Sinasoid then makes the cable for you in-house and ships it to your door. As if that wasn’t enough, they're guaranteeing each cable for life.
When Portland, Oregon computer programmer Philip Graham decided that his singer-songwriter daughter needed a better microphone, he didn’t just turn to the latest pro audio catalog. Instead, Graham decided to do some research and build her one from scratch. Two years and a ton of R&D later, Ear Trumpet Labs was born and Graham found himself with a new day job, hand-assembling microphones for professional and amateur musicians.
Though Graham’s microphones are visually distinctive and look almost steampunk with their copper tubing, plumbing flanges and unique designs, each is made with function in mind. Onstage, acclaimed acoustic artists such as the Milk Carton Kids, Tom Brosseau and Della Mae have all embraced Ear Trumpet microphones.
Noam Pikelny and Stuart Duncan are arguably two of the greatest players to ever pick up their respective instruments. Pikelny is, day in and day out, pushing the boundaries of the five-string banjo both on his solo records and with the Punch Brothers. Meanwhile, Duncan is the world-renowned fiddler who has played on innumerable country records and even with Yo-Yo Ma (The Goat Rodeo Sessions).
When he was 25, musician Chris Funk left the Midwest for Portland, Oregon. Why? “I knew John Fahey lived in Oregon, and that was a big draw for me. And I knew Bill Frisell lived here [in Seattle]. They’re two of my idols.” As he tells us in this podcast, shortly after relocating to Oregon, he’d meet Colin Meloy and, soon thereafter, become a core member of the Decemberists. In 2007, Funk and the Decemberists’ Nate Query, Jenny Conlee and John Moen decided to form their own bluegrass-inspired offshoot band, Black Prairie. Black Prairie recently released their third studio record, Fortune (Sugar Hill).
For our 72nd podcast, we chat with Southern California singer-songwriter Tom Brosseau. Brosseau is no stranger to the magazine, he appeared in our third issue. On this week’s podcast, he talks about the Largo music scene he calls home; his Martin 000-18; the story behind the Punch Brothers covering his tune “How to Grow a Woman From the Ground” and more. He also describes the making of his 2014 album Grass Punks, which was produced by Sean Watkins.
We also have a great video of Brosseau performing “I Love to Play Guitar” at our offices on our site here.
Nashville flatpicker David Grier is no stranger to our magazine, he was the cover story of our 16th issue. In this hour-long interview, part of our new Fretboard Journal Live video series, the acoustic guitarists talks about his unique background (his dad played banjo for Bill Monroe), some of the fateful encounters he had with Clarence White as a boy and how he’s developed the phenomenal technique he has today.
Grier’s playing, as always, is otherworldly. He plays a few tunes in this podcast, including “King Wilkie’s Run” and “Red Haired Boy.” Grier is playing a guitar built for him by Bellingham, Washington builder Dake Traphagen.
Podcast duration: 1:05.
What exactly is “Bill-gebra”? On our 70th podcast, the always entertaining Bill Collings of Collings Guitars explains the concept to us and a lot more. We talk about the diverse Collings offerings, which include acoustics and electrics, mandolins and ukuleles. We also discuss Bill’s current obsession, creating the perfect guitar case. As Bill puts it, “whatever I like is whatever I do.”
All told, it’s a frank and funny half-hour discussion with one of the world’s best fretted instrument builders. Like this FJ podcast? We hope you’ll subscribe to them on iTunes.
Photo of Bill Collings taken by Alex Rueb.
A North American-built, handmade acoustic guitar for around $1,000? As unlikely as that sounds, Ed Bond of Halcyon Guitars is making it a reality. Bond, a former employee of Larrivee and a maker of high-end Tinker Guitars, has set out to make lutherie-made guitars affordable. His Halcyon line offers a variety of body styles, scale lengths and nut widths (and limitless customization) with a satin finish and other stripped down adornments. On this week’s podcast, the Vancouver-based builder talks about the influence of David C. Hurd’s Left Brain Lutherie book and discusses some of his favorite woods to work with. Bond is pleased with how his no-frills Halcyon creations play and sound. “It makes every guitar come out sounding really, really good,” he says.
Follow Halcyon Guitars via their Facebook page.
As a member of the legendary Romero family, Pepe Romero, Jr. grew up in a self-described classical guitar “gypsy camp.” Instead of following in the footsteps of his father and relatives, however, Pepe decided at an early age to become an instrument maker. On this week’s podcast, he talks to the Fretboard Journal about his nylon-string guitar creations, as well as his latest passion: ukuleles.
He also describes the nylon-string guitar he built for Jack Johnson (which was used extensively on Johnson’s From Here to Now to Here); his work for the Climate Reality Project; the reverse fan-bracing that he utilizes and more. “It’s a new angle on my family tradition,” Romero says of his career in lutherie, “but it’s perfect for me.”
Learn more about Pepe Romero, Jr. handmade ukuleles and guitars via his website here. Pepe has started a production line of ukuleles called Romero Creations. To learn more about the Climate Reality Project and the beetle-kill guitar that Romero made for Jack Johnson, watch this video.
Martin Guitars is celebrating its 180th year in business. The venerable, family-owned company is also the subject of two new books and a forthcoming 2014 exhibit at the Met. On this week’s podcast, we talk to Martin CEO Chris Martin (C.F. Martin IV) about Martin’s place in guitar history and much more. We discuss the groundbreaking Hal Leonard book Inventing the American Guitar: The Pre-Civil War Innovations of C.F. Martin and his Contemporaries and how Martin’s earliest creations were truly a melting pot of different guitar construction styles and techniques. Chris also discusses Martin’s important role in the world of ukuleles (a new book on Martin ukuleles is now available), what he’s excited about guitar-wise and much more.
Greg Leisz is prolific, to say the least. For decades, the Southern California-based multi-instrumentalist has been a go-to guitarist and pedal steel player for musicians such as Eric Clapton, Buddy Miller, John Mayer, Bill Frisell, k.d. lang, Robert Plant and others. Leisz recently contributed a track to the wonderful Big E: A Salute to Steel Guitarist Buddy Emmons. On this week’s podcast, we talk to him about the tune he performed on the tribute record (“Wild Mountain Thyme”), the impact Emmons’ playing had on his own music education, his gear of choice and more.
In early 2014, Leisz will be the subject of a lengthy Fretboard Journal magazine feature, penned by producer and singer-songwriter Joe Henry. As always, subscribe if you’d like to get that issue delivered to your home. We have a lot more pedal steel and steel guitar coverage in the works, too.
For our 65th podcast, we talk to banjo musician and educator Bill Evans and old-time fiddler Fletcher Bright. The duo recently released an album entitled Fine Times at Fletcher’s House.
Despite their varied backgrounds – Evans is a Bay area bluegrass powerhouse while Bright is an old-time fiddler from Tennessee – the duo sound like they’ve been performing together for years. Each of the 16 traditional tunes on the album were recorded in three or four takes with no editing – just two guys making great music. Evans plays a 1930 Gibson Granada that formerly belonged to Sonny Osborne, while Bright uses a contemporary fiddle built by Jonathan Cooper of Portland, Maine.
Evans is no stranger to the FJ. You may remember his great 14-minute crash course on the evolution of the banjo that we filmed here. And, though it’s hard to believe based on his playing, Bright is 82 years old this year. He’s been a member of the same band – the Dismembered Tennesseans – since 1945 (when he was in high school). He’s also a successful real estate developer.
At the end of our interview, the duo perform two songs from the record: “Yellow Barber” and “Polly Put the Kettle On.”
Folk music icon Richie Havens passed away on April 22, 2013. On this week's podcast, we listen in to an interview we conducted with Havens in 2010 at the Guild Guitars factory in New Hartford, Connecticut. This informal conversation covered Havens' earliest days as a folk musician, his love for Doo-wop, his appreciation for Guilds and a lot more.
During our visit, Havens performed a few tunes for the Guild employees. Below, is some shaky footage we took of the musician performing "Here Comes the Sun."
As one of the founding members of the Fireballs, George Tomsco is a true rock & roll pioneer. In the late ‘50s and ‘60s, his guitar playing was ubiquitous on the radio waves with hits as “Torquay,” “Bulldog,” “Sugar Shack” and “Quite a Party.”
Tomsco is the subject of a comprehensive, 18-page interview in the Fretboard Journal #28, where he talks about the sessions the Fireballs did at Norm Petty’s studios, his gear and his influences. On this week’s podcast, we ask Tomsco a bit more about those early sessions, how the classic surf instrumental “Torquay” got its name and how he stumbled upon the Fender Jazzmaster. We also hear about what Tomsco is up to these days and the future of the Fireballs. Also on the podcast: Fretboard Journal updates and much more.
Running an independent guitar store is no small task, but Reuben Cox of Los Angeles’ Old Style Guitar Shop has found success with an unusual formula. On this week’s podcast, we talk to Cox about his unique store, which is filled with vintage gear from the ‘40s and ‘50s, along with funky old guitars that Cox has personally rebuilt for playability. It’s quickly become a cult favorite with both famous indie rock musicians and area players who just need a new set of strings or accessories. Interview conducted by the FJ’s Ryan Richter.
Be sure to check out Old Style’s Facebook page for their latest creations.
Seattle artists David Lasky and Frank M. Young have produced one of the most impressive graphic novels of 2012, a 200-page tome following the history of the Carter Family entitled Don't Forget This Song. On this week’s podcast, the Fretboard Journal's Michael Simmons talks to the duo about the book and the years of work that went into it.
A teenage John Greven built his first instrument, a 5-string banjo, in 1962. Over the last fifty years, he has built over 2,000 instruments and become one of the world’s most in-demand luthiers. On this week’s podcast, we talk to Greven about his unique career trajectory, including his invaluable time working for George Gruhn in Nashville; how he's able to create so many instruments a year; and why so many of his guitars end up in Japan. Greven also talks about some of the magical moments he had with vintage Martin and Gibson guitars during his stint in Nashville. Greven now resides in Portland, Oregon. He is currently at work on his 2,200th instrument, a 000-sized guitar with Brazilian rosewood back and sides.
On this week's podcast, we talk to Stan Jay, founder of Staten Island’s Mandolin Brothers. Jay is considered one of the foremost experts on vintage instruments, but, as he tells us this week, it all started in 1971 with a bag of banjo parts he was able to flip for a tidy profit. As his now bustling store celebrates its fortieth anniversary, we ask him about buying trends in vintage instruments, the guitars he actually plays when he's gigging and the magic behind those legendary Mandolin Brothers instrument descriptions. Intro music from Bill Evans' album, In Good Company.
These days, Seattle guitarmaker Steve Andersen is known primarily for his stunning archtop guitars. That wasn't always the case, however. In part one of our interview with Andersen, we ask him about the early days of Roberto-Venn (he was one of the school's first students) and the Sand Point, Idaho lutherie scene of the '70s (including the store Guitar's Friend and fellow builders such as Franklin Guitars and Bob Givens). We also hear why Andersen will no longer make the F-style mandolins he was once known for.
Singer-songwriter Matt Munisteri is a fixture in New York’s jazz scene, but—as he explains on this week’s podcast—his first obsession was bluegrass. In this 30 minute interview, Munisteri talks about his love for the five-string banjo (including the lessons he took from Tony Trischka), the funk sounds that captivated him in college and the vintage guitar tones he now embraces. Munisteri also discusses his latest project, an album featuring the music of songsmith Willard Robison.
Producer and singer-songwriter Joe Henry is the consummate guitar enthusiast. In the Fretboard Journal #26, he walks us through his vintage acoustic guitar collection and his varied music career. As a follow-up to that lengthy interview, we talk to Henry about his relationship with Folkway Music of Canada; the 13-fret Gibson Nick Lucas that Dylan played (an instrument that Henry has seen firsthand); his forthcoming book project on Richard Pryor and more.
When it comes to repairing vintage Martin guitars, TJ Thompson is, quite simply, one of the best. He’s repaired famous instruments played by some of the biggest names in music and has brought seemingly basket case guitars back to life. He also builds his own Martin-style guitars, which command five digit prices.