The Nashville Diary
LGA’s Country & Bluegrass specialist Luca Serino has been spending some time in Nashville – America’s Live Music Capital! Check out his blog here……
I spent a week in Nashville over the Christmas holidays; this was not my first visit, in fact it was visit number six, so pilgrimage may be more appropriate.
I could write at length about Nashville as the ideal city without ever mentioning music: excellent (and reasonably priced) food, beautiful neighbourhoods (also reasonably priced, for now, if you ever think of moving), friendly locals with a soothing accent, an unintimidating skyline and a maximum commute of 15 minute anywhere within the city.
Oh, and I had a life changing guitar lesson with Chris Eldridge of the Punch Brothers and fellow Tony Rice disciple, but that deserves its own chapter in the diary so will tell you about it next time.
But Nashville is Music City, USA and my enduring memories of the city the music: almost every musician I have heard there I would consider somewhere between ‘the next big thing’ and simply world class.
Here are some the highlights of what I heard (and saw):
Part 1 – Dan Donato and the Cosmic Country Band
After dipping in and out of a few honky tonks on Broadway, all with excellent live music, we landed on ‘the one’ – Nudies – where the ‘Cosmic Country Band’ were playing a mix of Elvis, Johnny Cash and other classics. The band featured Dan Donato on guitar who consistently blew away even the most jaded listeners on Broadway (doormen in their 70s wearing large brim Stetsons who look a lot like Bill Monroe).
Listening to him reminded me of the difference between a virtuoso and a real pro – taste, restraint and groove – he could shred better than almost anyone I’ve seen but also did so at the appropriate time; more importantly his rhythm was impeccable and he did not waste a single note.
I looked Dan up afterwards and he is all over the web – Guitar Player Magazine calls him the new “Master of Telecaster”:
Oh, and he mentioned that they play at Nudie’s for 4 hours, 3 days a week – that’s how the Beatles got their chops while in Hamburg!
Anwyway, enough talking, here’s the music:
London Guitar Academy Nashville Diary
PART 3 GREAT 2016 ALBUMS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED!
With 2017 emerging from the Christmas/New Year festivities, LGA reviewer, Paul Wood, continues to cast his eyes (and ears) over his albums of 2016. These are albums which are probably not going to appear on the “popular” mainstream music journals’ list of albums of the year, but which we certainly think are worthy of your attention.
Third off the block is “Hellbound Hymns” by The Urban Voodoo Machine – the capital’s finest purveyors of Bourbon Soaked Gypsy Blues Bop’N’Stroll!
For the album (their fourth) the band comprised:
Paul-Romney Angel – Lead vocals, guitar
Nick Marsh (RIP) – Guitar, vocals
Slim – Accordion, Piano
George “Le Boner” Simmonds – Trombone, vocals
Lucifire – Saxophone, vocals (and outrageous screams!)
Joe “Mongo” Whitney – Bouzouki, washboard
The Reverend Gavin Smith – Upright bass
Anne Angel – Sousaphone
The Late-J-Roni-Moe, -Drums
Jary – Drums
Sadly, guitarist Nick Marsh succumbed to cancer before the album was released, and with the earlier death of fiddle player Rob “The Kid” Skipper there’s an undoubted melancholic feel and sadness to some of the songs. But this being , you also get their trademark ramshackle “band of brothers” sing along sea shanties, death ballads, good old rock’n’roll and gypsy blues bop’n’stroll. It’s one of their best albums so far and well worth a listen (and purchase!)
Here’s a link to the Youtube video uploaded by the band for album track “Fallen Brothers”
It’s a great song and the video is a real example of what you get when you see the band live. Their show is a total “where do I look now experience”, band leader Paul-Romney Angel dominates centre stage but everywhere around him the rest of the band are eye-poppers too!
Although renowned for their stage shows, this album shows that they have the songs and lyrics to be more than just a great live band. The track “Baby’s Turning Blue” – about a young couple with dreams who fall victim to their drug addiction – is one of the saddest songs you’ll ever hear. “While You Were Asleep” mixes Fagin from “Oliver Twist” with the sounds of the Circus and emerges as a warning against the politicians and large corporate entities who are taking over “while we are all asleep”.
Here’s a link to the Youtube video uploaded by the band for a live version of rumbustious album track “Rusty Water and Coffin Nails”.
Buy the album and go see the band live if you can.
1. While We Were All Asleep 2:10
2. Love And Addiction 3:19
3. Shattered Dreams 3:34
4. Hit The Road Rag 2:12
5. The Ghost From My Bastard Past 2:57
6. Bucket Of Blood 4:41
7. Baby’s Turning Blue 4:40
8. All Mixed Up 4:49
9. Let You Rot 2:39
10. Rusty Water & Coffin Nails 3:53
11. Destiny Angel 3:50
12. Fallen Brothers 4:27
13. Lullabye 2:22
There’s a live “Valentine” show coming up in London on Saturday 4 February, (“Vive Le Valentine”) at The Dome in London
For more details of the band and other upcoming dates etc see:
Album released by and available from Gypsy Hotel Records on CD and Vinyl:
LGA Podcast 2 The sounds of the guitar – Part 2
Welcome to the 2nd London Guitar Academy Podcast! A journey through the history of the guitar demonstrating the range of sounds now available to the modern guitarist. Enjoy!
Please view & download your program notes here LGA podcast 2 program notes
Welcome to London Guitar Academy Podcast!
This month see’s LGA introduce a new feature – a series of guitar related podcasts. The first program in the series – The Sound of the Guitar – Part 1 – begins the story of the guitar in the 16th century. Each of our programs will be accompanied by program notes with further background information. Here is an exert from the first program notes
The London Guitar Academy – Guitar club podcast 1 – program notes
by Terry Relph-Knight, issue 1, 02/02/16
The sounds of the guitar – Part 1
A journey through the history of the guitar demonstrating the range of sounds now available to the modern guitarist.
It is interesting to note that each type of guitar is closely associated with a certain style of music, the particular characteristics of each guitar type being best suited to certain styles, and the sound of each type has become inextricably linked with the tonality of these styles.
The guitar started life in Europe around the late 16th century as a small bodied 4 or 5 course instrument, a simpler alternative to the lute. The neck was short, with a long body and the scale length was relatively long at around 27 inches. The sound hole was usually covered by a parchment rose.
These instruments, now referred to as the Baroque guitar https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baroque_guitar, were played at court, or in intimate domestic settings, often as an accompaniment to a singer. They were strung with gut strings in pairs, or courses. The use of courses – string pairs or triplets – was an attempt to increase volume, which was a problem for plucked string instruments of the time. In fact the search for volume runs throughout the history of the guitar and has lead to the electric guitar. This is not just in an attempt to be heard. The benefit of a louder guitar is not just that it can be loud, but that it has a wide dynamic range and is more responsive to a players touch.
The use of string courses has survived in two well known modern instruments; the mandolin (to be accurate the mandolin family) and the twelve string guitar.
A five course Baroque guitar from 1653 by Matteo Seelos. Image: Olav Nyhus, licensed under CCASA 3.0 unported
Various tunings were used for the Baroque guitar, most of them re-entrant https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reentrant_tuning like the Ukulele and 5 string Banjo today, where one or two of the lower courses were tuned high. Perhaps the closest modern instrument is the 4 string Tenor guitar. Fretting rarely extended much beyond the twelfth fret because the gut strings of the time would fail in their intonation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intonation_%28music%29 and also tended to lack sustain at the higher pitches. The frets themselves were moveable and of tied on gut, with a few frets on the body of glued on hardwood.
Re-entrant tuning still survives today in some stringed instruments such as the ukulele and the 5 string banjo. Re-entrant tunings were originally used because of the difficulty of making music strings that would cover a wide range of pitches.
In the 16th century most stringed instruments had only four strings or courses and the majority of stringed instruments even today have four strings (or courses). The violin family, the mandolin and mandocello, the bouzouki and the 4 string banjo, and are tuned in fifths. In fact the 6 strings of the modern guitar are one of the things that set it apart from other stringed instruments and it is significant that most guitar string sets switch from a plain string to a wound string for the fourth string. A plain fourth the same diameter as the wound fourth would be a really stiff piece of wire and would be unplayable. Even in gut or nylon it wouldn’t work. It was the introduction of wound strings around 1659, with windings that could add mass while retaining a thin core for flexibility, that made modern string sets and modern instruments possible.
Back then string makers had a problem making strings that would cover a large range of pitches on the same scale length, particularly in making bass strings. One solution was to use re-entrant tuning, where instead of moving down in pitch with bass strings the instrument was instead strung with a lighter string, tuned to the same relative intervals as the ‘upper’ strings, but at a higher pitch. Another approach was to use an extended neck such as the neck of the arch lute and later on the harp guitar, where bass strings were added with a much longer scale than the melody strings.
Over time the early guitar mutated, at one time there were variants of the guitar that could be played with a bow (one of the reasons for a narrow waist, unlike the teardrop shape of the oud and the lute) or gained extra strings, such as the harp guitar. The guitar was made in a variety of sizes and pitches. Today, although the larger manufacturers make guitars in a range of body sizes, the pitch, tuning and the scale length are mostly standardised. Only odd echoes of the former variety remain in the form of the rarely seen terz guitar, the requinto, the Portuguese guitar and the baritone guitar. The harp guitar has also made something of a comeback through the interest in surviving and restored instruments.
A Gibson archtop harp guitar from the 1900s with 10 bass strings in addition to the six string guitar neck. Image: T. Relph-Knight, from the collection of Paul Brett.
One man at least, Dr Hiroko Niibori http://english.niibori.com/guitar/guitar_index_e.html , has tried to formalise a family of nylon strung guitars relative to the prime or ‘standard’ guitar (in the same way that the bowed string family includes the violin, the viola, the cello and the double bass). The Niibori family has the alto (tuned a fifth above prime), the bass (tuned a fourth below prime) and the contra guitar (tuned an octave below prime).
Torres and the classical nylon strung guitar
A Torres guitar from 1859. Museu de la Música de Barcelona collection. Image: CC BY-SA 3.0 license
The defining moment for the modern guitar was in the 19th century when Don Antonio de Torres Jurado https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_de_Torres_Jurado made his guitars for players such as Julian Arcas and Franciso Tarrega. These are recognisable as modern, gut/nylon strung, classical guitars with 6 single strings, larger bodies, a lower bout larger than the upper, fan bracing for the top and scale length of around 650mm. A variant of the classical nylon strung guitar is the flamenco guitar which is constructed for a brighter more percussive sound. These types of guitars are well known today.
Up until 1948 ‘classical’ guitars were strung with trebles made from sheep gut and basses of silver- plated, copper wire wound around a silk filament core. After the II World War sheep, and therefore sheep gut, were in short supply, as mutton had been used to feed the troops and the sheep gut to make surgical sutures. DuPont had a new synthetic material – nylon – and Albert Augustine worked with Segovia, DuPont and Olinto Mari to develop nylon guitar strings. Olinto Mari was president of E.& O. Mari/La Bella Strings. LaBella http://www.labella.com/ still make strings and Augustine brand strings http://www.albertaugustine.com/ are also still available today.
The Flamenco guitar
Although the dictator Franco promoted Flamenco as a popular Spanish music form, a spectacle to attract tourists, at its root Flamenco was and to some extent still is, a sub-culture, a music of the gypsy people, with its heart in Andalusia in southern Spain.
Originally most gypsy Flamenco guitarists used the cheapest guitars, with a back and sides made from Spanish cypress, which was originally a readily available local timber, with a thin European spruce top and simple hardwood, friction tuning pegs. These instruments, by their nature, had a bright percussive sound, with short sustain, which over time has come to define the style.
The Flamenco guitar today is a distinct type of guitar that differs from the nylon strung ‘classical’ guitar in a number of ways. The body is not as deep and the general build is quite light. The action is generally set lower than a classical guitar. Nowadays instrument quality cypress is expensive and other woods, such as sandalwood or even maple, may be used for the back and sides. The neck is often made of cedar. Tapping plates or ‘golpedor’ may be fitted on either side of the sound hole to
protect the top of the guitar from the finger taps which are part of the style.
Flamenco negra guitars have also been developed with rosewood back and sides. The negra instruments have a slightly darker sound than the cypress wood and are perhaps a hybrid between classical and Flamenco. Since the emergence of the negra guitars the traditionally constructed Flamenco instruments are referred to as Flamenco ‘blanca’.
Various artists have adopted the nylon strung classical guitar to play styles it is not usually associated with. In the later part of his career, the country music guitarist Chet Atkins almost exclusively played a nylon strung and of course Willie Nelson is famous for playing ‘Trigger’, a Martin nylon strung guitar. www.rollingstone.com/music/videos/willie-nelson-rs-films-mastering-the-craft-trigger-20150211 Willie says that, for him, the great benefit of Trigger was that it had something of the gypsy jazz tone, allowing him to sound a little like Django.
Some luthiers have developed an archtop nylon strung guitar for jazz players. For example http://www.nylonstringjazzguitar.com/index.html.
The next podcast
Look out for the next podcast from the London Guitar Academy where we will be continuing the story of guitar with the adoption of steel strings and the rise of the American luthiers.
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GIG GUIDE – RICHARD HAWLEY
Last month saw Richard Hawley touring Europe to promote his latest album “Hollow Meadows”. Our LGA gig reviewer, Paul Wood, was on hand to see one of the final nights of the UK leg of his tour at the Roundhouse in London.
“Hollow Meadows” is Hawley’s 8th studio album and the evening’s show is predominantly based around the new album and its predecessor “Standing At The Sky’s Edge” interspersed with a few Hawley “classics”.
Hawley’s recent albums have gone for a more expansive (and at times psychedelic) sound with emphasis on his undoubted talents on guitar. The live set is therefore an interesting mixture of guitar based songs alongside the gentle ballads on material such as “Coles Corner” with which he came to national prominence.
The mixture works well and Hawley has an on stage line of patter which moves through being funny, self-deprecating and poignant. The Roundhouse gig included a one minute silence for Remembrance Sunday which was impeccably observed by the audience.
Here’s a link to the Richard Hawley official site where you will find videos for the rather gorgeous new song “I Still Want You” (the opening track on the new album) and the menacing guitar sound of “Which Way” (which opened the Roundhouse show)
Both new and old songs are greeted with appreciation from the full Roundhouse crowd and the band come back for an encore with breakthrough song “Coles Corner”, new song “What Love Means” (the closing track on “Hollow Meadows”) and the trademark guitar tour de force finish of “The Ocean”
Here’s a link to Youtube footage of “The Ocean” filmed in Paris on the current tour. LGA students and followers should check out Hawley’s guitar build up on his trademark Gretsch guitar which starts from 5.00 in:
Further dates have been added for Richard in the UK for February and he’s well worth catching live. He is scheduled for an appearance in London at the Eventim (Hammersmith) Apollo on 23 February.
- Which Way
- Tonight the Streets Are Ours
- Standing at the Sky’s Edge
- I Still Want You
- Leave Your Body Behind You
- Sometimes I Feel
- Open Up Your Door
- Tuesday pm
- Time Will Bring You Winter
- Down in the Woods
- Don’t Stare at the Sun
- Heart of Oak
- There’s a Storm Comin’
- Coles Corner
- What Love Means
- The Ocean
Blast From The Past
Here’s video footage of the Longpigs (featuring a young Richard Hawley on guitar) from TFI Friday performing “Lost Myself” in 1996:
GIG REVIEW – McALMONT & BUTLER
Back together to promote the 20th anniversary deluxe edition reissue of their 1995 classic album “The Sound of McAlmont & Butler”, David McAlmont and Bernard Butler played a short series of successful UK dates in November. Our LGA gig reviewer, Paul Wood, was on hand to catch the duo and their band (which included a string section) perform an impressive set before a crowd of enthused followers at the Institute in Birmingham.
“The Sound of…” album is probably the highlight so far of the post-Suede career of guitarist Bernard Butler, an intoxicating mix of his trademark guitar sounds and the impressive vocal talents of David McAlmont,
Support was provided by the Magic Numbers (or at least, three of the four members) who started the show with a stripped down pulled from their various albums before proceeding to join David and Bernard as part of their band for the evening. The compliment was returned with McAlmont and Butler lining up with The Magic Numbers for the last number of their own support set.
The set list for McAlmont & Butler was a combination of tracks from “The Sound of…” and their 2002 album “Bring It Back”, including minor hits “Falling” and “Bring It Back” from the later album. Surprise cover of the night was the 80’s soul/pop hit “Zoom”, originally released by Fat Larry’s Band.
Here’s a link to the band’s official website which contains videos of “Falling” and “You Do” plus recent live footage from shows in 2014:
The audience crammed into the slightly smaller Institute 2 hall loved every minute, and their obvious delight from both David and Bernard to the reception they were getting and the music they were creating on stage. The whole show was a treat from start to finish, with charting singles – “Yes” (UK Top 10) and “You Do” (UK Top 20) both saved for the encores.
Here’s a Youtube link to the original promo video for “Yes”:
This was a great show from a band that was clearly enjoying itself, together they put on a performance which left their fans delighted. The guitar work of Butler in particular should be of interest to all LGA students and followers. The reissued deluxe edition of “The Sound of” includes a second disc of unreleased material and a DVD. There’s even talk of a new third album on the back of the current successful tour. Can’t wait to hear it!
BAND LINE UP
David McAlmont – Vocals
Bernard Butler – Guitar
Makoto Sakamoto – Drums
Romeo Stoddart (Magic Numbers) – Bass Guitar
Sean Read – Keyboards, Saxophone
Michelle Stoddart & Angela Gannon (Magic Numbers) – Backing vocals
Strings led by Sally Herbert
- Can We Make It
- Where R U Now
- What’s the Excuse This Time?
- Different Strokes
- How About You?
- The Debitor
- Sunny Boy
- Bring It Back
- Zoom (Fat Larry’s Band cover)
- You’ll Lose a Good Thing
- You Do
BLAST FROM THE PAST
Here’s a Youtube clip of the duo playing “Yes” live on the Jools Holland Later show in their 1995 pomp. Check out the squalling guitar work from Bernard Butler as the song closes out.