Several weeks ago the Spring 2010 issue of The Fretboard Journal showed up in my mailbox. I was traveling a great deal at the time, so I popped in it my briefcase and caught up on all the news from the world of beautiful instruments in airplanes and hotel rooms.
Ricky Skaggs, the young acoustic band Bearfoot (which I caught at last year’s Merlefest), and Bedford County, Virginia luthier James Jones are all featured in this issue. But my eye was immediately taken to an article on harp guitars.
I had never seen a harp guitar until I attended the Shenandoah Valley’s Oak Grove Music Festival one year and Stephen Bennett pulled out the strangest instrument imaginable. But then he began playing the most beautiful music, and I was transfixed. I’ve since met Stephen through my friends the Pearsons and Harringtons, and I’m always amazed at how someone can play such lovely music on such an awkward looking guitar.
Stephen Bennett and Gregg Miner (whose guitar photo from harpguitars.net leads off this post) are featured through the article.
Harp guitarists approach their instruments with what can only be characterized as religious zeal. Thus, it’s fitting that if you want to learn about the harp guitar, you’ve got to make a pilgrimage to see the “pope.” The pope is Gregg Miner, a musician and collector at the center of the harp-guitar universe.
Miner is a musician and incredible collector, and I encourage a visit to his harp guitars web site to learn about this mysterious world. However, I can talk all I want about harp guitars, but the best way to understand the allure of these instruments is to let you hear one. Fortunately, YouTube has several terrific videos of Stephen Bennett working his magic, and the Oregon clip below includes the bonus of a quick tuning lesson at the beginning.
Treat yourself. Give a listen to Bennett on YouTube and find out when he’s next playing at a venue near you.
More to come…