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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!

Freya Shuffle

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!

Black Water Side

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


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

Trainstop Blues (Lakewood)

Ye Banks & Braes

Hurt – Johnny Cash version

Hurt – Johnny Cash version

The Queen & the Soldier
The Queen & the Soldier


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!


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!
Strolling down the Highway


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.


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

Islay Ranters Reel

Ye Banks & Braes

Ye Banks & Braes

Ye Banks & Braes with Vocals


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

The Old Hag at the Kiln



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!


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

My Mary of the Curling Hair



Humours of Ballyloughlin

Humours of Ballyloughlin

Hector the Hero

Hector the Hero

May the Fourth Be with You

May the Fourth Be with You



Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat

Recorded at last night’s rehearsal.

Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat

Night Snipers

This is a fairly new discovery for me, found through when listening to my favourite Russian band, Akvarium. They’re called Night Snipers and this song is called Black Sun. I uploaded it for two friends of mine who I thought would like it since they like Apocalyptica (which I actually don’t, but there you have it).

Sons and Daughters

I had heard of Sons and Daughters from my mates and had Love the Cup on my hard drive but hadn’t given it its proper attention. Then today I was doing the vacuuming and put S&D on on the iPod and had a rocking time. For some reason it made me think of dave, knowing that he has a penchant for British alternative music. So dave, I had a look through your and saw no sign of S&D in your charts so I thought I would upload some for your enjoyment introduce you to them. Maybe you won’t dig it, but just maybe you will. Give it a go and see what you think. I love it!

They’re a Scottish band, from Glasgow.

Gilt Complex
Rama Lama



What’s good in your life?

I need to blog. Not sure what this will achieve but maybe I’ll can look back on this period in a year or so and thank God that we got through it.

Life is hard. Too fucking hard.

This new business is great; I’m really enjoying the work, enjoying being an employer, enjoying the respected position in the community, enjoying being part of a community that I want to be a part of, enjoying the day-to-day challenge and the feeling of a good, honest day’s work at the end of the day.

But we’re skint. Rooked. Nae cash. No moolah.

Lorraine is working all the hours that she can. I get home and am too tired to do anything but reheat my dinner, eat it and go to bed. I haven’t properly played the guitar for maybe a year or so. When Lorraine manages to meet a deadline (usually by working well into the night for the last few days) she either has another deadline looming for the next batch or has to clean the house as it gets into a dreadful state when nobody can do it because nobody has the time. And on top of that she’s dealing with eBay auctions for cards for the shop, putting them in cellophane bags, printing labels to say what the message is inside.

We came to Arran because it’s beautiful place but we never get out to see it. We haven’t been out together since Hamish was born (he was two this week). Even when we’re home we don’t really see each other. Lorraine is fucking exhausted but keeps on going and won’t quit. She looks dreadful. There’s no joy in our lives and we’re not sure how we’re going to make ends meet financially and whether we’ll be able to keep the business going long enough to make it profitable.

Have we made some dreaful mistake? I try and be grateful for all the things that we have: two healthy and happy children, our own health, a roof over our heads. Then things happen like a stone flies up off the road and lodges itself into the gap between the windscreen wiper and the bonnet. So when I try and work the wipers, they don’t move, and I keep trying, thinking that they’re just stuck, and the motor burns out, and we’re left with a 400 quid bill. How is that fair?

I listen to music and am moved as much as I always have been; I feel the urge to play and get excited. I get home and am too fucking tired to do anything. I pick up the guitar to play but it’s no good. I have to go to bed. If I get to bed after 10 p.m. it’s late and I’m tired the next day. Between 9 and 10 and I’m okay. At work I forget it all because I’m doing the next thing and then the next thing and roll through the day and quite enjoy it, but what’s it all for if, when I get home, I’m too fucked to do anything, I don’t see the kids, I don’t see my wife and she’s burned out and stressed and hating herself for having no patience with the kids and feeling like a failure because the house is dirty and there are boxes everywhere and the kids aren’t eating very well?

Oh, fuck knows. Maybe I should just put on some NIne Inch Nails really fucking loud and try and block it out. As Lorraine keeps telling me, worrying about it doens’t help. Yeah, I know. At least I’m not drinking though, eh? I’ve found a great bunch of recovering alcholics here and although I don’t get to many meetings, I still make a few and thank god that there are meetings here and people I can turn to.

Back in Lux we had a decent income and did see each other, although at the time it seemed that we didn’t, but compared to now we most certainly did. But we were never really happy, me especially, living in a foreign country where we didn’t really fit in. Now I do fit in and I love that to bits, but it just seems that there are too many sacrifices. I’m working my bollocks off and the business may be breaking even if I’m lucky.

But I guess this is what we expected, at least for the first year and possibly second and third. Maybe I should just stop fucking whinging and get on with life. As the great John Lennon said, life is what happens while you’re making other plans. My wee girl cuddled me while she fell asleep tonight and told me that she loved me. That’s what I should be focussing on, right? I’m not the drunk, fucked up dad that I might have been (and was for the first 18 months of her life). And I’ve also got Beppe. So I’ll leave you all with a Beppe tune, the one that I just tried to play, and ask you all (hood only, of course) to give the tune a wee listen and, as you listen, sit back and think of what’s good in your life and I’ll do the same.

Ave Maria
Beppe Gambetta


Last chart of the year (featuring Spear of Destiny)

Spear of Destiny

23 Dec 2007 – 30 Dec 2007

 1Spear of Destiny
 2Georg Friedrich Händel
 4Paolo Nutini
 5Nic Jones
 5Nine Inch Nails
 7Michael Jackson
8 Stephen Fry
 8Spice Girls
110Jona Lewie

Ah yes, Spear of Destiny keeps Handel from the top. How about that ladies and gentlemen. I always listen to Messiah on Christmas day in the morning but it’s so darn long I don’t think I’ve ever heard the whole thing.

But, to the Spear. What a trip it was to listen to them again. I liked them a lot in the mid 80s. Post punk was the label given to them. Kirk Brandon certainly was an angry man and rather politicised too, just the sort of thing a boy in his teens should be listening to really whilst guzzling six packs of Lamot lager, Diamond White, Rossco’s homebrew and the odd quarter bottle.

World Service (1985) and One-Eyed Jacks (1984) rock, and Outland (1987) takes me back to my army days big time.

Listen to Tracks



Never Take Me Alive


Аквариум (Aquarium in Russian) will be an artist of the week for certain at some point. They are very, very good.

Happy New Year fellow last.fmers.

Last fm charts

No time for much any more. Trying to pack and it’s mental. Probably dismantling the network and boxing up the computers in the next day or so. I’ll keep the MacBook out through.

Here’s last week’s charts. Yeah, I discovered Amy Winehouse. She’s good! And Dave made me seek out Ace of Base too, after his post about some cover or other. Good fun.

Oh, and talk about vanity – I’m in my own charts! I was listening to recordings of myself on the way to a gig so I could get the lyrics in my head again. I’m no Yam Hinewouse but I ain’t bad.

And Led Zep I just plain rocks. Can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get around to it.

Top Artists this Week (see more)

16 Dec 2007 – 23 Dec 2007
 1Amy Winehouse
 2Ace of Base
 2Yann Tiersen
 4Red Hot Chili Peppers
 5Johnny Cash
 7Led Zeppelin
68Stephen Fry
39Jona Lewie
29Paul McCartney