last.fm charts w/e 8 July 2012

last.fm 20120716

This was a good week. Paul Heaton released a new album: Paul Heaton Presents… The 8th and it’s an absolute belter. I’ve been a fan of his since the beginning, through the Housemartins to the Beautiful South and into his solo career. I got to see him at King Tut’s last year and it was phenomenal! Anyway, the new album is like nothing he’s ever done before. It’s a concept album with a story running through it, a story which, unless you’re made of stone, will give you goosebumps at the end. Brilliant!

Nick Harper at Corrie Hall

Nick Harper next. He’s another artist I’ve been a fan of since the beginning. I saw him a few times at Roy Harper gigs (Nick’s dad, in case you were wondering!), but it wasn’t until I moved to Arran that I got to see him playing solo. I’m very happy to be able to say that he’s coming back this year, to the same venue! I cannot wait!

And on to Jonathan Coulton. What a busy music week this has been! Of course I’d Jonathan Coulton. What self-respecting nerd hasn’t? But it had never quite clicked. I had Thing-a-Week 1 but never really listened to it more than once through. Then came The Incomparable podcast, episode 98.

We tackle the works of Jonathan Coulton as our Geek Music Appreciation series continues. Join guest host Lex Friedman as he and our panelists build a JoCo playlist and discuss why Coulton has so much geek appeal. But just because Lex is guest-hosting doesn’t mean that Jason Snell won’t make a dramatic appearance at the end, so keep listening!

I spent the weekend listening to JoCo, after creating a Spotify playlist of all the songs mentioned on the podcast: JoCo incomparable playlist and spent that Sunday morning learning to play You Ruined Everything. In fact, serendipity intervened in that when Merlin Mann posted a link on his Tumblr to a video of JoCo playing that song.

[Merlin’s Post]

It’s the first new song I’ve learned in a long time and it was a whole lot of fun. I’m inspired to learn a couple more for my next gig. Not many Arran residents will be familiar with his woe I would guess!

And Merlin is to thank also for the introduction to Peter Holsapple & Chris Starney. I’d never heard of them until he posted an audio clip on his Tumblr:

[Merlin’s Post]

I will definitely be following this band / these artists some more!

It’s interesting to note that last.fm is now listing TV shows and movies that I watch on the AppleTV. I finally finished Season 1 of the Wire and it finally started to reel me in. I only persevered because so many respectful people said I should, but it ain’t no House!

last.fm charts w/e 14 July 2012

last.fm charts

This week I learned of Peter Holsapple & Chris Stammey when Merlin Mann posted a song of theirs on his blog or weblog: Kung Fu Grippe. Very good they are indeed and I’m grateful to MM for the discovery.

But Paul Heaton. Paul beautiful Heaton. His new album is out: Paul Heaton Presents the 8th … and it’s a belter. I’ve listened to it a few times, including once on headphones and it needs more of my attention. The premise is a guy who goes to jail and then gets out and what happens to him. It’s a thing of beauty and I’ve not been so struck on first listen to an album since Kate Bush’s Arial. So good!

last.fm charts

Wow, I’ve not done one of these since 2007!

I don’t listen to as much music as I used to, mainly because of the number of podcasts I listen to each week. It’s still very important to me though.

It has been a big week for The The. I’ve posted some of my favourites in a previous last.fm charts post:

The The post

Recording Gear

My recording studio is PC based. The components were specially chosen to make as silent a system as I could.

The equipment is as follows:

Computer

  • AMD64 3500+ Winchester
  • Asus A8N SLI Premium Motherboard
  • Antec SLK3000B
  • AcoustiPack BQE3700 Kit
  • Nexus NX4090 Ultra Quiet PSU
  • Mushkin XP4000 (DDR500) RAM (991482) 2 x 1GB
  • nVidia GeForce 6600
  • 3 x Nexus 120mm Case Fans
  • Scythe Ninja cooler

AV gear

  • RME Hammerfall HDSP9632 soundcard
  • MindPrint Di-Port (2 x preamps, DA<>AD converter)
  • StudioProjects B3 LD condenser microphone
  • 2 Marshall MXL 603S SD condenser microphones
  • Adobe Audition 2
  • Sony TRV22 miniDV cam

I basically went for gear that will do me for many years to come without needing much in the way of upgrades. For those looking for help in setting up a digital audio workstation, I’d recommend the forums at homerecording.com and silentpcreview.com

Guild DV4

Guild DV4

This is the first guitar I’ve bought on eBay and I’m pleased to say it went as smoothly as could be hoped. I was the only bidder, I guess as Guild guitars are more expensive in Europe and perhaps not so desirable. Anyhow, I’m really pleased with it and feel I got quite a bargain. The guitar has a spruce top with solid mahogany back and sides and a hand-rubbed (i.e. matte) finish. It’s brand new and without a ding or scratch anywhere. Of course as it’s new it hasn’t started to open up yet, so I’m expecting great things from it. The reason for buying this was so that I’d have a nice, trustworthy solid-wood guitar for busking and travelling; something plain and simple, but loud enough to be heard out on the streets. And d’you know, I think that’s exactly what I’ve got!! It came with an original hardshell case so this will be my guitar for jamming with my mate back home in Scotland. — he also has a Guild, a DV6 which I believe is a more deluxe version of my DV4.


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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Trainstop Blues

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Lola, the Kinks

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Quicksand, David Bowie

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Brook Tamar Baritone

Brook Tamar Baritone: European spruce top, English walnut back and sides. Gold Schaeller tuners; bound fretboard and headstock. Scale length: 690mm (27 inches).

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

Messing around in CGCFGC

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Ye Banks & Braes

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Gibson J150

Gibson J-150

I’ve now sold this guitar but shall keep this page up for those who are interested in seeing some pictures and hearing some recordings. I sold it to make way in part for the Heiner D and Brook Tamar baritone.

Meet my Gibson J-150. I went into the shop where I bought my Lakewood for some some strings and thought I’d have a browse, as one does in a guitar shop. I saw this ugly, gaudy-looking guitar that screamed out country & western hanging on the wall and thought I’d give it a try. It took just one strum of an open E chord and I was floored. This was a J-200 and, after that chord had been strummed, its gaudy pickguard and over-the-top fretboard inlays were suddenly things of great beauty. GAS had struck! I hung it back up, palms sweaty, heart thumping and walked away. Well, who wouldn’t with a ticket price of €4,200?

But of course I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and started trying to justify it. I needed a strummer, right? Something loud and flamboyant for when I’m feeling in need of some chest-rumbling bass, right? Long story short, I bought it, got it home, and was horrified to find a crack across the bridge, right where the holes are for the bridge pins. I rushed it back to the shop and awaited the results. A week later the shop guy brought it round repaired but I’d decided that a repaired guitar just wasn’t what I was after and got myself a refund.

A month or so later I was in London for the Paul McCartney gig and popped into the Acoustic Centre near Liverpool St Station. They had a J-150 there, which is basically the same guitar as the J-200 but with fewer appointments, i.e. no binding on the neck or headstock, no rosewood seam down flamed maple back, Indian rosewood moustache bridge and fretboard rather than Honduran, but as far as I could tell, the grade of woods used is the same as on the J-200, but for a lot less lolly.

The Acoustic Centre has a pretty impressive inventory and I got to compare the J-150 with a couple of Lowden Os, a couple of Lakewood jumbos and a Martin D-28; that made me sure that the J-150 had the tone I was after and then the umming/ahhing process began. I’m pleased to report that my lovely wife told me to stop being so silly and just buy the darned thing. So I did!

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

Highway 29, Bruce Springsteen

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Trainstop Blues

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Lakewood M14

The Lakewood M-14CP (cutaway, pickup) has a solid cedar top and mahogany back and sides. This was my first “real” guitar, bought in December 2002 after much deliberation. Much thanks is due to the generous posters on the Acoustic Guitar forum, which I stumbled upon when I knew next to nothing about acoustic guitars. The advice I got over there was sterling, and still is for that matter. Of course, the downside is the affliction affectionately known as GAS: Guitar Acquisition Syndrome, an affliction for which there is, sadly, no cure.

I’ve got to know my Lakewood pretty well now and it has inspired me more than I thought possible. It found a great partnership with Elixer Nanoweb 12s. I compared those with a set of D’Addario EXP 11 lights and would say that the D’Addarios give the guitar a more “woody” tone, but the brightness of the Elixers seems to suit the Lakewood very well. For altered tunings, I hunted for a set of GHS True Mediums to try out but couldn’t find them. I was then pointed in the direction of John Pearse’s Slack Key strings which did the trick; this package of strings is put together for altered tunings, being a mixture of lights and mediums and they work great. I was also put onto a custom set of Newtones by Rob Jessop, who favours CGDGAD for his Brook Lyn. They use a different core for the wound strings, which results in more tension. Tonally speaking, they’re similar to the Slack Keys, but, for longevity, I’d choose the Newtones every time.

I spent some time working on String Letter Publishing’s Acoustic Blues Guitar Essentials book on the Lakewood and it really suits bluesy chord progressions and boogie woogie bass lines. I recorded a song for our inspired by Freya called the Freya Shuffle; have a listen and see what you think!

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I’ve also been taking advantage of Little Brother’s resources — I got his DVD and have to say it’s pretty good! I picked up his interpretation of John Hurt’s Candyman from his site too. Nice work, Doug!

I also have a Mel Bay book of British Fingerstyle Guitar, featuring Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Davey Graham, and have been working on Bert’s Black Water Side. It’s a tricky one but it’s coming along nicely with hours and hours of practice!

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I’ve also recently got two instructional videos of Tony McManus, a Scots fingerstyle guitarist who plays celtic pipe and fiddle music on guitar. If you haven’t heard this guy, I strongly suggest that you do – unbelievable!

And my most recent discovery is El McMeen; he plays almost exclusively in CGDGAD, a tuning which seems to be what I’ve been looking for without even knowing it! I’ve had the Lakewood in that tuning for a couple of weeks now and really like the way it sounds on the Lakewood.

I’ve posted a review of this guitar over at Harmony Central under the username Cams.

Here is a high-ish res image showing the colour of the mahogany. I sat the guitar down to stop playing for a bit and the sun was coming in the window and it lit up the mahogany making it almost magical.

Click image to see bigger

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

Trainstop Blues

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Blackbird

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Ye Banks & Braes

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Hurt – Johnny Cash version

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The Queen & the Soldier

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Gallery

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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Gallery

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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Video

Gallery