I’ve been bad about staying in touch via this space so here goes!
I fully intended to attend the recent NAMM show in Los Angeles last month but opted for a quick getaway to Key West instead. I’m hoping to attend the show this summer in Nashville, a place I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never visited. Could be a very expensive trip considering the number of amazing guitar shops in that town. We’ll see….
But the trip to the Keys was great as always. The musical highlight was again hearing the truly amazing Ericson Holt at Two Friends bar. He had just returned from Memphis where he made the final 16 of over 800 musicians entered in the yearly International Blues Foundation Challenge. I’m pretty sure Ericson was the only blues pianist/singer to make it that far in the competition. He is certainly worthy. His warm and raw vocals combined with New Orleans/blues piano playing is a joy. He also has a quiet and funny personality and is well loved in Key West. Check him out online or better yet, catch him live if you can. He is truly the real deal.
Unfortunately, my favorite band The Doerfels (now calling themselves Fuel On Fire) have pretty much relocated to Nashville even though their home is still Big Pine Key. They were missed for sure, but they are young and hungry and talented enough to go as far as good fortune will allow. You can’t help but hope for the best for this ultra talented band of five brothers (really!).
The rest of the live music I heard was pretty average, sometimes bordering on mediocre. I have to wonder if they all share some secret set list because they all seem to play the same two dozen or so songs. This is OK I guess, but in my last couple of trips down to Key West I’ve noticed more than a little complacency in the typical one-guy-with-a-guitar acts. Not just singles either. I had dinner at one of my favorite places (Blue Heaven) and there was a duo playing and the first three songs they played were slow tempo, minor key things. Granted, this is a restaurant with an outdoor stage but geez guys, a little energy tells the audience that you like what you’re doing and appreciate that someone is listening. I have a real issue with this: ALWAYS start your set with something that shows some spirit. Doesn’t have to be loud, just energetic. I get the whole laid-back Keys thing but my guess is that someone who plays with enthusiasm and smiles once in a while and even – gasp – talks to the audience would get plenty of work in that town where live music rules.
For my part, I knew I was only going to be there for a week and also knew that there is a nice little guitar shop in town, Grateful Guitars, who happen to be an Eastman dealer and I fully intended to buy an OM size, mahogany body model as that is a gap in my collection right now. And I love Eastmans. But alas, the only one they had did not “speak” to me, plus it had dead strings and was more than a little over-priced, so I passed. Really wish I’d had a guitar that week though to play while sitting on the deck of the houseboat I rented at a small marina. When I return in April I will most definitely have a guitar with me!
As regular readers of this blog know, I am a Martin guy through and through. Strange to say, I am Martin-less right now having sold a D-35 recently. I’ve got a strong urge to take that money plus a bit more and spring for one of the new “re-imagined” OM-28s that Martin has debuted for 2018. This is yet another in the revamped line up of standard Martins and judging by the recent 000-18, 00-18 and D-18 I’ve owned since they started this re-vamp a few years ago the new OM-28 should be great. It keeps the classic herringbone binding, ebony bridge and fretboard, diamond inlays and scalloped bracing but has the new thinner low-profile neck with Performing Artist Profile, all of which are very appealing to me. They also have a revamped 00-28 but my guess is that one will be too close sound-wise to my Eastman AC-422ce, although an entirely different body shape and size. That 00-28 sure is a pretty little thing though! I’m waiting for a call from my favorite Martin dealer about that OM. I will report back when I’ve had some time with it.
A few songs I’ve been teaching students lately:
“Sparkle and Shine”, “Tennessee Blues”, “Days Aren’t Long Enough” by Steve Earle
“Someday” by Passenger
“River Song” by Tom Rush (a great oldie that I recently rediscovered)
“Any Old Time” by Sara Watkins (a real oldie, Jimmie Rodgers, done in a cool Texas swing style by Sara)
“Naked As We Came” by Iron and Wine
“Cavalry”, “House of Stone”, “Daylight” by Mandolin Orange (what a great duo!)
“New Coat of Paint” by Tom Waits (without being asked, Ericson Holt opened with this one when I heard him!!!! GREAT song!!!)
“August” by Mark Erelli
“Life is Beautiful” by Keb’ Mo
“When God Dips His Pen” by Alison Krauss & Union Station (a great old gospel tune that is tons of fun played in a ragtime blues finger-picked style).
These are all great tunes and of varying degrees of difficulty but none are too over the top, playing-wise. Just a reflection of my taste I guess and my students seem to like them. Check a few out but remember it’s just Gene’s way of doing things. Or to again quote The Dude:
Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man!
Peace & good music,