Kim Walker SJ

Kim Walker SJ in Adirondack/maple

Kim Walker SJ in Adirondack/maple

In 2005 I played John Thomas’s Nick Walker at Little Brother’s jam in Georgia. It took all of two minutes before I knew I would have to put my name down on Kim’s list. In November 2013 Kim finally tracked me down to tell me that my slot had come.

In February 2015, I booked flights from Glasgow to Boston via London to go and pick the guitar up, and that has turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. Flying into the USA always makes me excited, I guess because every time I’ve been, it has been to meet friends and play music and, yes, a few times, to pick up a guitar. I took the Amtrak down to Connecticut and it was an amazing journey, filled with excitement as I looked out over snowscapes and coastline, listening to Dark Side of the Moon on my headphones.

Kim picked me up and we drove to his place and, after 10 years of waiting, I got to try my Adirondack spruce and maple SJ. Being tired after the journey, I didn’t get to appreciate fully just how amazing this guitar was, but I could feel its solid build quality and lightness straight away.

After a great night’s sleep and a fantastic breakfast with Kim and Diana, I brought the guitar up to the living room and played it for a solid two hours. It was amazing. I worked on an arrangement of Auld Lang Syne in DADGAD for new year this year and had been worrying that I’d forget my arrangement, so I put the Walker into DADGAD and had the most amazing time figuring it out and getting it back under my fingers.

John Thomas came round to Kim’s for lunch and we had a great time catching up before heading to John’s for the night. There I got to play that Nick Walker guitar that started the whole thing off once again, as well as John’s own SJ from the same batch of maple as mine, and his 1/3 century.

I’m still feeling the joy of that trip and it brings a wee tear to my eye when I consider what amazing friends I’ve made through a common love of acoustic guitars and music. It reduces us all to our bare souls and then we can join together without the social ball-and-chains of rank and fortune and play music together. It’s the most incredible thing.

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Ye Banks & Braes as part of the Arran Ceilidh Band CD.

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Photos — Copyright Kim Walker

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My Flickr Gallery of the trip

SCGC Vintage Artist

This arrived at my home a few days before Christmas, 2006.

The top is made of some special sitka spruce, dubbed ‘gray ghost’ by the good folks at Santa Cruz Guitar Company. The back and sides are some special old-growth mahogany with some really nice flaming.

It’s equipped with a D-Tar Wave-Length under saddle pickup, fitted by none other than Rick Turner himself (the “T” in D-Tar). It uses some neat electronic wizardry to get 18 volts from two AA batteries. The increased voltage means more headroom which means less UST quack.

I use this guitar for a lot of gigs with my band. We play a mixture of bluegrass and folk and this guitar fits that role extremely well.

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Clarksdale Crossroads

When Freya was born, I was feeling the euphoria that only comes with the birth of a child. I thought I would like to mark the occasion with a new guitar; something that I could pass on to her one day with the pride of a guitar-playing father and say ‘this is yours’.

Round about the same time, friends and fellow guitar junkies, Doug Jones and Mike Crixell, were in the process of having some custom blues guitars built to vintage specifications. They started up a company called Clarksdale Guitars and started work on two models: the Crossroads and the Corrinna.

Both models are the same size but made out of different woods. The Corrinna is sitka spruce on some of the most figured maple I’ve ever seen, and the Crossroads, an all-mahogany guitar.

So, a fledgling company, started in the same year that Freya was born, making small-bodied vintage instruments. Emails went back and forth, and before you could say Mississippi John Hurt, the deposit was down and the waiting began.

Doug Jones hosts an annual jam at his place in Conyers, Georgia and it was a dream of mine to go one year and finally put a name to all my Internet pals. So, we discussed the finances and decided I could go! Not long before I was due to leave, I got an email to say the guitars were ready and would be at the jam for me to get the pick of the litter.

As soon as I saw the Crossroads I now have at home, I knew that that was the one. Doug looked a little crestfallen as I think he had chosen that one for himself. But, true to his word, I got the pick of the litter and brought it home for Freya.

Having got to know it, I’m simply amazed at what a great guitar this is. The thing that makes such a difference to me is the neck profile and string spacing. The neck has an ever-so-slight V shape to it and it’s fat without being clubby. The string-spacing is wider than I’m used to and I’m amazed at the difference it makes; playing AMI triplets on the G string is so much easier now.

This is the first all-mahogany guitar I’ve played and it sounds so good with fingerpicking blues and folk music. Bert Jansch tunes sound great! It’s also a great strummer, too. The fundamentals are strong and there is no muddiness at all. Overtones are as one would expect with a mahogany guitar, which is why it makes such a great fingerpicker and strummer. It’s fun to play Celtic on it too; although it wouldn’t be my instrument of choice for such tunes, it’s interesting to hear the difference.

The biggest problem with this guitar is figuring out just how I’m going to be able to hand it over to Freya! Maybe I ought to buy another!

Recordings

Here are some recordings I’ve done on this guitar. I record using condenser microphones. Here’s a page showing the gear I used: Recording Gear

Strolling down the Highway – Rough and Ready!

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Brook Bovey

I was thinking that I’d like a parlour-sized guitar for travelling and had a Larrivée in mind. Then I found Brook Guitars, a small outfit based in Devon in the south-west of England. Before I knew where I was, my GAS had got the better of me and I’d ordered a custom-build Brook Bovey. This is smaller than the Larrivée with a scale-length of 21.5″. And it just so happened that the boys at Brook had a piece of Brazilian rosewood lying around that was too small for a larger guitar but would do a Bovey-sized guitar very nicely! Well, how could I resist?! Custom-building is a time to indulge, is it not?

Specs are cedar on Brazilian rosewood, with Brazilian rosewood used for the fretboard, bridge, rosette and purfling. The headstock veneer is ebony. The bindings and heelcap are ovangkol to contrast with the rosewood. I’ve gone for diamonds and dots fretboard markers and gold Schaeller tuners. I’m also planning to have a nice bit of custom inlay work on the headstock.

April 2004: It’s here! Video review and recordings are now available.

Recordings

Here are some recordings I’ve done on this guitar. I record using condenser microphones. Here’s a page showing the gear I used: Recording Gear

Islay Ranters Reel

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Ye Banks & Braes

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Ye Banks & Braes with Vocals

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The Old Hag at the Kiln, DADGAD arrangement by Mark Thomson

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Heiner Dreizehnter Model A

You don’t see many blackwood-topped guitars. In fact, this is the only one I’ve seen, my blackwood beauty, built by German luthier, Heiner Dreizehnter.

I met Heiner at the Open Strings Guitar Festival in Osnabrück. Of the many guitars that I played over the festival weekend, this was the one that I couldn’t forget. It took two months before I succumbed to the siren song of the blackwood, but succumb I did. I made the call, hoping that it hadn’t sold and, thankfully, it hadn’t.

It is Tasmanian blackwood throughout with maple bindings and ebony fretboard, headstock veneer, bridge and bridge pins. The specs are as follows:


* Scale length is 648mm (25.5″)
* Nut width, 45mm (1.77″).
* Lower bout, 395mm (15.55″)
* Upper bout, 290mm (11.42″)
* Waist, 245mm (9.65″)
* Depth at end pin, 120mm (4.72″)

The tone is deep and rich and it was that depth of tone that captured my heart. The craftsmanship is outstanding, something I’ve come to expect from German luthiers.

It has a nice oil-based finish, something which I hadn’t seen before and haven’t seen since. It really brings out the natural wood and there’s none of that swish of clothes rubbing against it as is the case with satin finishes.

But, aesthetics aside, let’s get to the meat of the matter: the tone. I’m a bass lover – always have the bass button pushed in on my stereo, iPod EQ set to bass boost, nice, meaty subwoofer for the 5.1 amp, you get the picture. And let me tell you, this guitar floats my boat. I don’t know whether it’s the depth, the wood, the bracing or what, but this guitar has some real meat to it.

Saying all that, one would be forgiven for thinking that the guitar is bass heavy. It isn’t. That’s what makes it so remarkable. It’s well-balanced but with presence, if that makes any sense.

The quality that this guitar has, besides the rich depth, is sustain. For Celtic fingerstyle, the only guitar I’ve played that I liked more was a Walker, and they are about three times more expensive. It has a kind of dry, vintage-like tone similar to what one would expect from mahogany, and also like mahogany, it favours the fundamental. But the similarities with mahogany end with the sustain – I could pick a note, switch on the kettle and it would be still be ringing as I was pouring in the milk.

I have posted a review of this guitar on Harmony Central.

UPDATE: September 2005

I took this guitar with me to Steve Kaufman’s flatpicking camp in Tennessee last June and am pleased how well it coped in amongst all those dreadnought banjo busters. Sure, it wasn’t a bluegrass monster, but it was certainly loud enough to stand up to some good pickin’. I had the action lowered a bit by luthier and Kamp Doctor, Ken Miller. He also installed a PUTW dual-source pickup. This guitar is now my gigging and pub guitar, as well as everything else. It’s my keeper!

Recordings

Here are some recordings I’ve done on this guitar. I record using condenser microphones. Here’s a page showing the gear I used: Recording Gear

My Mary of the Curling Hair

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Soundcheck

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Humours of Ballyloughlin

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Hector the Hero

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May the Fourth Be with You

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Gallery