All posts tagged: Acoustic Guitar

Saturday Soundtrack: Mark O’Connor

The 15th anniversary issue of Fretboard Journal* landed in my mailbox this week, just in time to reacquaint me with an old friend: Mark O’Connor. It was a welcome reunion. First, because I discovered that O’Connor — one of the most inventive string musicians of this era — has returned to playing guitar, after a twenty year break that was required by the pain of bursitis and tendonitis. Then I also found his Improvising Toward Democracy solo fiddle pieces on the internet. As he tell his listeners, “I am recording an improvisation on my violin each day, until our country is safe from the clutches of Trumpism, Cultism, Conspiratorialism, Racism and Authoritarianism. I will record a new violin improvisation each day as a form of a sincere musical prayer until Biden/Harris are voted in to the White House ensuring that Americans will retain our hard-fought democracy. I have been given a musical gift, so I will use this in service to my country and our Republic each day now. When I improvise in this manner …

Saturday Soundtrack: Eric Skye

Making my way through the most recent issue of the Fretboard Journal (FJ #45*), I came across sixteen splendid pages on fingerstyle guitarist Eric Skye. The photos of a beautiful twelve-fret 00-sized Santa Cruz guitar were sumptuous, and I was soon to learn that this was the company’s signature 00-Skye guitar. Likewise, the writing catches you right from the beginning, with a story — and quip — about using a wedding band as a slide. (“It’s why I got married, man!”) Skye was new to me, but the Portland, Oregon-based acoustic guitarist certainly has a devoted following, and not just from Richard Hoover and the folks at Santa Cruz Guitars. He has a very broad minded approach to music, which he explains came in part from a classical guitar teacher who turned him on to blues and jazz as well. As his website notes, while often billed as an acoustic jazz guitarist, “Skye actually occupies a unique niche between traditional acoustic music, modal jazz, folk, and blues. With a technical approach that is somewhat informed by …

Saturday Soundtrack: Molly Tuttle

Roots music. The name suggests an adherence to tradition and a reverence for the elders. While there is much truth in that characterization, roots genres such as old time, blues, bluegrass and Americana are continually refreshed with exciting and talented young performers. These are musicians who show a mastery of the traditional styles that goes well beyond their years while also probing the opportunities beyond the traditions. Thinking of musicians I have long admired, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice, Alison Krauss, and Bryan Sutton all were—at one point—young bluegrass whippersnappers who pushed those boundaries and set new standards of excellence. Heck, Chris Thile—at the ripe old age of 38 who has been playing like, forever, and is the host of public radio’s Live From Here—long ago graduated from the amazing kid mandolinist stage of his life to being just the amazingly talented musician who has unbelievable chops and musical ears. Thankfully, gifted young roots music performers keep turning up. People like Molly Tuttle, the exceptionally talented 26-year-old guitar flatpicker who has recently released a debut …

Saturday Soundtrack: Al Petteway and Amy White

Acoustic duo Al Petteway and Amy White will celebrate 25 years of music together at a special Institute of Musical Traditions (IMT) concert on Saturday evening, November 23rd. Favorites of the IMT crowd (and former Washington, DC-area residents before a move to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina), these are musicians sure to fill the room at St. Marks in Rockville, the main IMT concert venue where I’ve heard them live through the years. Al and Amy’s music is eclectic yet uniformly lovely on the ears. Petteway is an award-winning fingerstyle guitarist (voted one of the Top 50 Guitarists of all time by the readers of Acoustic Guitar Magazine) while Amy is a composer and singer who is no slouch on the instrumental chops as well. Their repertoire has been described as “original, traditional, contemporary Celtic- and Appalachian-influenced music with occasional nods to Blues, New Age, and Jazz.” That about sums it up. Al and Amy have provided music for the soundtrack for several Ken Burns documentaries, most notably The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. …

Think Slow

Our 15-year-old nephew—a budding musician—was in town this past weekend, so I took him to the House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park. There he could see every type of musical instrument known to humankind (plus some) and, frankly, it gave me an excuse to play a few good guitars.  Not that I don’t have good guitars at home.  Later in the day my nephew had a chance to see and play my two prized Running Dog guitars made by luthier Rick Davis. Davis was profiled in Tim Brookes’ 2005 book Guitar:  An American Life, where the author seeks to replace a badly damaged first guitar with a hand-crafted one “for the second half of my life.”  He writes that as he nears 50 years of age, he finds an itch that can only be scratched with a new guitar.  And as Brookes notes, “Guitar makers even have a word for these baby-boomers-who-always-wanted-to-be-great-guitarists-and-now-have-the-money-to-indulge-those-dreams:  dentists.” “Much later, after the guitar is finished, Rick will refer to ‘the eternal and infinite capacity of the consumer to confuse …

Practicing

Over the holidays I returned to a book I first read some ten years ago.  Glenn Kurtz’s Practicing:  A Musician’s Return to Music is, in its simplest form, a memoir of a young child prodigy on the classical guitar who attends the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music and then quits playing in his early 20s when he realizes he won’t be the next Segovia.  Fifteen years and a career change later, Kurtz returns to the guitar and finds, in the process, a richer love for music. But like all good memoirs, Practicing is so much more than a simple life’s story. Kurtz has been practicing since he was eight years old, but it isn’t until he returns after his hiatus that he begins to understand all the richness of the various aspects of preparing for performance, or life. “Practicing is training; practicing is meditation and therapy. But before any of these, practicing is a story you tell yourself, a bildungsroman, a tale of education and self-realization. For the fingers as for the mind, practicing …

Observations from the Road: (The Family, Friends, Community Edition)

This is a tale of family gathering to grieve in the best way possible – by telling stories.  It is a tale of being part of a community. It includes guitars.  (Always guitars.) And it includes a haircut in a mini-United Nations. Hang with me.  I’ll try to be brief. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I received a call early in the morning from my sister Debbie.  She called to tell me that our brother-in-law Raouf – husband of my younger sister Carol – had passed away suddenly as a result of a heart attack.  Their two boys had come home from college the day before and the family had shared a meal together on Tuesday night.   By mid-day Wednesday, their lives had changed forever. My older brother Steve and I spoke.  We were not able to get to the funeral, but quickly agreed to find a mutual time to travel to Tennessee to see Carol and the rest of the family. Our father – he of the recent 90th birthday – had just moved into …

Observations From the Road (The “Thankfulness” Edition)

Tuesday, August 19th (and day #19) – is the last one of the cross-country Not All Who Wander Are Lost tour. Later this morning I’ll be flying home.  I can’t wait to see Candice and Andrew (who leaves for his senior year in college on Friday morning).  But I also want to put a wrap on the wonderful two-and-a-half weeks Claire and I had on our exploration of this amazing country we live in. It has been an experience I’ll never forget. I’ve had several parts of this series where I’ve thrown together random thoughts that I’ve entitled Observations from the Road.  For those who want to see them in order, you can find them here as: The First Edition The Central Time Edition The Prairie Edition The Jeez, Montana is a Big State Edition The We Made It (Well, In One Sense) Edition The On the Edge Edition So this grouping of random thoughts wraps up the Observations From the Road posts as well as the series on our cross-country tour.  I’ve entitled it …

Guitar: An American Life

“You start off playing guitar to get chicks and end up talking with middle-aged men about your fingernails.” This is just one of the dozens of truisms, cogent observations, and laugh-out-loud lines found in Tim Brookes’ 2005 Guitar: An American Life. Candice gave me the book for Christmas, and though I finished it shortly after New Year’s Day, I’ve only now found the time to say how much I enjoyed this “part history, part love song” to the guitar. I learned of the book last summer when I met Rick Davis, the builder of my two Running Dog guitars. Rick – along with a new guitar he built for author Tim Brookes – are featured in Guitar. After baggage handlers broke his Fylde guitar, Brookes turned to Davis to build him a new one.  In alternating chapters Brookes chronicles the building process while taking the reader through an idiosyncratic yet compelling history of the guitar. Since the book has been around for a few years, it is easy to find good book reviews online. I’ll content myself …

Live at BWI

Every now and then there are advantages to getting on a plane once a week.  Tonight I experienced one of them. I am a fan of guitarist Muriel Anderson.  You’ve got to love a classical guitarist whose first influence was Doc Watson!  She can play anything…from classical to jazz to bluegrass. So I was pleased and surprised when I saw on her Facebook page earlier this week that she would be playing something called BWI Live. At BWI Airport.   In Baltimore.  Among the baggage carousels and Hudson Books.  On April 7th.  The night I was returning from a day trip to Cleveland.  Through BWI! So in the midst of a very busy day, week, month, season – you name it – I had a sublime evening sitting in the aforementioned baggage claim area listening to beautiful music with ten or fifteen other guitar aficionados.  Muriel Anderson shut out the noise of passing travelers, the cleaning staff, and God knows what else to showcase music from her most recent CD New World Flamenco and other …