Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Neck Reset - The Hack Way

  Let me preface this by saying,DO NOT under any circumstances do this to a valuable or vintage instrument. With that said out front,right where it belongs,let's next cover what's a neck reset and why would I need one? While it's not impossible for a set-neck electric to need a reset,when talking neck resets,we're generally talking acoustics.With (most) guitars being made out of wood,over time,their geometry changes. Weather and temperature changes added to the strings pulling the neck towards the body and the body towards the neck make things change over time. Too much or not enough humidity can trick you into thinking its a neck reset issue when it's not so that's something I need to be very aware of here in the desert.Over time,this leads to the following scenario: the string height at the nut and neck relief are good,but the action is high with no more saddle left to lower. In overly simplified terms,the real way to deal with this issue is to remove the neck,then reattach it after changing it's angle. This is a costly affair that only makes financial sense on some guitars. What to do with that good mid-priced guitar with this issue? Tell the guitar owner to deal with it? Throw it away and buy a new one?
   One way is to change the neck angle by sawing into the neck heel and re gluing the break and reinforcing with a long screw. That's a hack job for sure,but a worthy dirty trick for the right yard sale special or student model guitar. Today's hack job will use a different,mostly abandoned method. Just remember: more student guitars = more guitar students!
Lots of pictures below...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 06/28/2011

Rave on Buddy Holly (various artists)
   This was a bit of a surprise. Tribute compilations generally offer up a couple of good performances and a whole batch of clunkers,usually by artists who wouldn't recognize more than a song or two by the artist they are praising. The hit to miss ratio for "Rave on" is pretty close to 100%. Of course,it doesn't hurt a thing that Buddy Holly is in that rare group of performers whose songs I find near bullet proof. This compilation features an impressive array of artists. Clearly guys like Paul McCartney and Nick Lowe have taken direct influence from Holly,but it's McCartney who offers up the most startling performance. He tears into "It's So Easy" like it owes him money,turning it into a very un-Holly like four minute rave-up. The other surprises for me were performances I like, from artists I don't.   
 Maybe I'm just too old but My Morning Jacket just bore me to tears. Here,they manage to not ruin "True Love Ways",upgrading them from completely useless to almost completely useless. Even a mouth breather like Kid Rock sounds pretty good on "Well Alright",although he does it by turning in a passable John Mellencamp impersonation. Many of the other successes are due simply to matching the good song to the good voice. Cee Lo Green (making what must certainly be his only appearance on Guitar Omnivore,No?) sure can sing,as can Karen Elson and Jenny O. Why,exactly,aren't The Detroit Cobras more popular? The absolutely own "Heartbeat". Another surprise for me was Modest Mouse. I like the band but never would have pictured their successful take on "That'll Be The Day". My apologies for doubting them. Rock royalty Lou Reed and Graham Nash each show different ways of dealing with an aging voice,Reed by simply sounding craggier than ever and Nash by delivering one of the most delicate performances of his career.
  As you can see,this weeks top pick for This Weeks Best Guitar Cd isn't about blazing guitar solos or crafty chord work. These are simply some of the best rock-n-roll songs,ever,that were actually given a genuine tribute.




  So,a disappointing second slow week in a row for jazz releases (unless,of course you're open minded enough to consider Trio Morgenland "jazz". If so,read on. A bit of terz guitar,some good heavy metal,some classical and a bit of blues await those who read on...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Epps custom guitar number 4!!!

  What guitar player hasn't dreamed of someday making their own guitar? My friend Eric Epps and his dad Roy have done it not once,but a total of five times! I've had the pleasure of being involved in all of them,and as they've gotten more confident in their abilities,I've had less to do each time.They built guitars four and five concurrently,so I've arbitrarily named them "four" and "five". They are studies on a variation on a theme. Both guitars are Gibson inspired single cutaways,both feature active electronics,both feature gorgeous woods,with a finish that allows it's beauty to shine through. As for the differences...I'll save that for when we have guitar number five for comparison. New readers can read about Epps guitar number one in parts one, two, and three.  Pictures of guitar number five will be along soon. Until then,here's guitar number four!

Plenty more photos below...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Paris James at the Glendale Jazz and Blues Festival

   Here's some photos of Paris James at this past April's Glendale Jazz and Blues festival. This was my first time seeing this alternative blues man and his relaxed but tight band. Mostly original tunes with a couple choice covers.Good stuff! You can check out his website at http://www.myspace.com/prsjms or download his 2006 album "Death Letter" at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/parisjames 

Plenty more photos of Paris James and his band below:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 06/21/2011

Tony MacAlpine - Tony MacAlpine
   A self-titled album from an artist as established as Tony MacAlpine generally signifies an artistic reboot. While,this decade, he has remained in the guitar fanatics eye as a band member in various projects,this is his first album under his own name in a decade. Here,he takes the opportunity to sum up his past,keeping the strengths and building a fresh new version of what a solo album from Tony MacAlpine means these days. As part of the second wave of neo-classical shredders in Mike Varney's Shrapnel records label during the 80's,MacAlpine was already set himself apart from other guitar players with his piano abilities. No "neo" necessary in his classical, thank you very much. MacAlpine would always include a classical piano piece on his albums and the ability to add keyboards to a project kept him in high demand as a sideman. This depth of musicianship would help MacAlpine stay afloat during the lean years when high octane guitar fell out of fashion for a while. Tony was also one of the adopters of the 7-string guitar and here ups the ante one more notch by playing an 8-string. That's the mammoth Ibanez RG2228,prominently displayed on the cover of this album.
   So,what does all this mean for a solo album from a "shredder" in 2011? The good news is MacAlpine has spent the past decade growing as an artist. He always objected to the "shredder" tag and it shows. Three of the "t's", missing from much of shred guitar,touch,tone and taste,are here in abundance. I first noticed the change on his 2000 album with CAB (with the incomparable Dennis Chambers and Bunny Brunel,highly reccomended.) With the addition of some jazz fusion,arguably a close cousin to shred, to his bag of tricks, MacAlpine has added to his palate of choices considerably. Without compromising the jaw dropping chops factor one bit he has increased the musicality by an impressive factor. Songs vary from intense to languid. Composition wise,these are the best songs MacAlpine has ever laid down,so if you're an old fan like me or a newcomer,dig in and enjoy.



It's a good week for heavier music. Plenty more Cd reviews below...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 06/14/2011

Pat Metheny - What's It All About
  It's an all acoustic solo affair this time around for the always changing Pat Metheny. It's been several years since the closest similar album,2003's "One Quiet Night" . This one is a first for Metheny,not just the first to feature none of his own compositions,it offers up his versions of songs remembered from his childhood and teenage years. I'm sure this collection will engender yet more grief from the jazz purists,after all "pop" songs must be bad,right? Luckily,for those of us who still listen with our ears,Metheny has never seemed to pay much attention to those guys. All of the songs he has chosen have good bones for Metheny to grow some meaty improvisations. If you are unaware that guys like Paul Williams,Henry Mancini and Burt Bacharach write great songs,dig in and learn. Paul Simon has an incredible amount of great songs and Lennon and McCartney are also an easy choice for someone looking for "simple" pop songs that aren't always so simple.
  Not only do the songs themselves contain some melodic and harmonic hipness to begin with but Metheny uses them as platforms for some really sweet reharmonisation and is definitely not afraid to modulate to a different key. The album is mostly recorded with a baritone acoustic,but it also features a six-string,a nylon string and the guitar for the player who likes choices,the Linda Manzer 42-string Pikasso guitar.





Monday, June 13, 2011

New Pat Metheny This Tuesday!

The new Pat Metheny will be a solo acoustic album! It takes a different path than any Metheny album of the past. It will feature for the first time,all covers. An array of acoustics appear,mostly a baritone,but a regular six-string,a nylon string and the (infamous?) 42-string Pikasso guitar also make appearances. Be sure to check my review on tomorrows "Best Guitar Cds of the Week."




Friday, June 10, 2011

A sneak peek at the new Line6 James Tyler Variax

  Many thanks to Emory Fry,senior product specialist from Line6 for stopping by the store and showing off the new James Tyler JTV-59. This bad boy features a 24-9/16" scale length,Tylers '59 neck shape,22 medium-jumbo frets and a Tusq nut. There will be two more models available.The JTV-69 features 25-1/2" scale,22 medium-jumbo frets and a hum/single/single configuration. The more shredder oriented JTV-89 will feature a 25-1/2" scale,24 jumbo frets and two high output humbuckers.These should be hitting the street pretty soon.

Here's guitar department manager Patrick Schwab giving it a spin.
The Tyler designed hardtail bridge has an integrated L.R. Baggs Hex piezo pickup system.
The contoured neck heel felt great. This is a prototype,so the street version will look a little different.
The on board Li-Ion battery means 12 hours of play time.
You can find out more about these excellent guitars,including photos,sound clips and videos at http://tylervariax.com/guitars.php or about all the other cool Line6 stuff at http://line6.com/# .

Thursday, June 9, 2011

An Alvarez refret with a nice surprise!


  Here's a 1973 Alvarez model 5075 made by luthier Kazuo Yairi. It came into the shop needing a complete overhaul. It's worn down frets called for a refret and a new bone nut and saddle. Here are a few of the cool things I found along the way:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

This Weeks Best Guitar Cds - Week of 06/07/2011

Tedeschi Trucks Band - Revelator
   This is one of my most anticipated albums of the year. Singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi and guitarist Derek Trucks,in addition to being successful solo acts,are also husband and wife. What a way to spend your summer, recording an album and touring the country with your musical family. If you have a friend who complains about how "There aren't any good guitar albums anymore." here's one with TWO great guitar players. Tedeschi and Trucks aren't the only pair in the group,the 11-piece band seems to be filled with them. There are J.J. Johnson and Tyler Greenwell, the two drummers, for instance. Anyone paying even the slightest attention to Derek Trucks career will guess were he got that idea. Brothers Otiel and Kofi Burbridge are another pair,respectively playing bass and keyboards/flute. While both have played with Trucks for many years,I think this marks the first time the brothers are playing in the same band with him. Another pairing are Mark Rivers and Mike Mattison,the two background vocalists. Having two male harmony vocals blend with Susan's strong lead voice was a smart move.
 Messing up our whole "pairs" theme is the three piece horn section. Trombonist Saunders Sermons,Trumpeter Maurice Brown and Saxophonist Kebbi Williams add a bit of brass and reeds to the proceedings. With so many members,this music had the potential to get out of control,but everybody actually plays for the song,thanks in part to the great musicians but some praise should also be directed at the attentive production from Trucks and co-producer Jim Scott. The seemingly lost art of dynamics and detail are given well deserved attention. The songs themselves are as soaked in the blues as one would expect but  the depth of experience Tedeschi and Trucks have allows for all kinds of other goodies to sneak in.  
I hear 50's rhythm and blues,60's Memphis soul,classic rock and Motown grooves and 70's funk. They even leave room for a seamless guest spot for sarod player Alam Khan! While the album is very much a "songs" album,with the arrangements all being about providing a supportive background for Susan's emotive vocals,there is an absolute feast for guitar fans here. As a bit of a side note,I'm also glad Derek Trucks and his pal,Warren Haynes have both recently added the under appriciated Gibson Firebird to their arsenal of guitars. Life is too short to be a one guitar man! Enjoy this guitar showcase.





Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tedeschi Trucks Band - Debut album this Tuesday!

One of my most anticipated albums of the year is coming out this Tuesday! Married couple Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi,two fantastic guitarists on their own,have teamed up with an eleven piece band that includes two drummers and a three piece horn section. Here's the video for "Learn How To Love" :