Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Inspiring lyrics to a songwriter

A Good Year For The Roses
Jerry Chesnut

I can hardly bear the sight of lipstick
On the cigarettes there in the ashtray
Lyin' cold the way you left them
But at least your lips caressed them
while you packed

Or the lip print on a half-filled cup of coffee
That you poured and didn't drink
But at least you thought you wanted it
That's so much more than I can say for me.

It really doesn't matter what the song does from here, does it? My goodness. First heard by me as a Costello song.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Musical instrument family portrait

Presented in 16x9 aspect ratio in homage to my back-burnered film making aspirations


The Players
1. 2004 Lebeda F5

Purchased in 2004 after getting nowhere with a lesser f-style (similar to my Granpa's other mando, a 1998 f-style which went to my older brother Jim). Gryphon Stringed instruments in Palo Alto; the only mandolin of 7 or 10 f-styles that sounded and felt right. The synthesis of my musical being. Yes it is. Allowed impossible progress in mandolin proficiency. Interesting thick neck profile, radiused fingerboard. Built by Jiri Lebeda in Czechoslovakia, this instrument has traveled nearly everywhere with me. Awesome A 'chop' chord tone, all-around beautiful tone (for the price) great feel, great soul. Underperforms a little on open G and D strings and 7th fret A and E string double stops in 5ths. That is the difference between it and a $15k mandolin, and perhaps simply a setup/humidity issue. Not a bad bargain.

2. 2005 Fender Highway 1 Jazz bass

The only bass that spoke to me of over twenty new and vintage Fender basses to choose from at Bizarre Guitar in Reno. Pickups replaced with Seymour Duncan Vintage Jazz pickups as I was after slightly more gain. Bridge replaced with a Leo Quan Badass II. Strung with various flatwounds, Pyramid Gold's preferably, this instrument has to my ears, the perfect bass tone at most volumes. Great feel and feels great playing it on stage. This instrument allowed me to look deeper into the low-end and rhythmic supporting side of music.

3. 1998 Martin HD28
Purchased as my first nice instrument for $2k, Gryphon Stringed instruments in Palo Alto. List price was near $3k. This guitar has suffered much at my hands, in my desert field areas and all over the place. Not the D28 I thought it was going to be, but instead something entirely different. Great neck, not all that loud, wonderful woody tone. The grain in the top is raised slightly. This guitar evoked my songwriting voice and continues to do so. It may be my muse.

4. 1974 Fender Telecaster

Purchased new by my Dad in 1975, this instrument was played for many years by Mark in my dad's band Stillwater Savage. After 8th grade graduation in 1986, my dad gave it to me and we refinished it that summer. A six-saddle bridge purchased from the very same Bizarre Guitar completed our remodel. Original 3 pole bridge with custom made compensated brass saddles thankfully resides on it now. I played this guitar most in 1992-93. Electric guitars require too much volume to achieve my preferred tone. The lead pickup is a Seymour Duncan Five-Two; neck pickup Seymour Duncan Alnico Pro II. It is a very much a 'Tele' sounding guitar I string up with 11's - 54s (Beefy Slinky's). The G string is replaced with a 20. This guitar told me to lean towards a country lead style, which helped me to lean, or fall completely into bluegrass. The lead style is as yet unattained. Seven shows as lead guitar in Hellbound Glory in the summer of 2005. Played a little while rehearsing with the Saddle Tramps.

5. 2000 Santa Cruz D model
Spoke to me in the fancy room at Maytan Music in Reno in 2003; I was looking for a mandolin. Interested in flatpicking bluegrass (Tony Rice plays a variant of this brand and model), this guitar felt and sounded great. Once I consciously changed my right hand technique and pick thickness, then it had some travels around the country in a UPS truck in 2005, this guitar returned to me with a $1,000 pickup system and no soul. I would like to get rid of this beautiful instrument. For a time, it spoke my mind.


The Archivist
1. 1906 Martin 'tater bug' mandolin

Handed to me by my maternal grandfather James Kenneth Wells, one month before death in 2003. Given to him in the 1950's by New England fiddler Joe Robichaud. This is the instrument grandpa played when he and I played together prior to 1998. He purchased an F-style mando about then, I think in hopes of alleviating arthritic pain when playing. The first mandolin I ever touched in 1993. Pleasant, quiet, 'fruity' kind of tone, long scale length precluding bluegrass style. Sterling and abalone inlay. One tuning key built by grandpa by layering endless amounts of mother-of-peal nail polish. It is the instrument that reconnected my grandfather to music after many years of playing only while visiting home in Kentucky. It is his possession of this instrument that made think "neat. I have a long tradition of rural American music in my family." Delicate and virtually unplayable, nor repairable. It is no wonder this design is obsolete.

2. 1906 Augustus True fiddle

Obtained in 1936, 8 years after my maternal grandmother's grandfather David Bennett passed in 1921. Given to him by the Maine builder without finish sometime before his unconfirmed death in 1916. Augustus was unsatisfied with the instrument. David was not a musician and it sat in a drawer. Completed by my maternal grandfather's father Claude Wells after 1950. Likely one of the nicest instruments to be had by the rural eastern Kentuckians. Returned to my Granpa Jim in 1968 following Claude's death. Given to me by my mom Susan Wells in 2005, who got it after my Grandpa Jim's death in 2003.


3. 1960's Harmony Sovereign Jumbo
My Dad bought this guitar for $10 from someone on the street in Chico sometime around the time I was born. When I was about ten or eleven, he would play it if I took it out of the closet and handed it to him while lounged watching television. In 1985 he showed me chords. In 1991, I picked up this guitar and did not put it down until it became totally unplayable by about 1996. This guitar gave me so many gifts but a the ultimate cost. Loud, brash, unrefined, and hard to play, this guitar was just like me. The top has become balsa-like brittle, and has split along the grain in five places. A large hole in the rear near the strap button from a fall. Ultimate demise? The lower bout split along the grain just distal to the top. The mahogany was startling thin and brittle and separated for about 9 inches. That was a sad day. There is almost no resonance in the body now. It is noteworthy that the desire to repair this guitar took me to the fine luthier Frank Ford in Palo Alto and thus directly connects this instrument to both my HD28 and my Lebeda F5.

4. 1960's Harmony Sovereign Jumbo

Purchased in 1997 from a guitar store in Mendocino California. Seeking to replace the unrepairable first Harmony. Contacted by luthier in 2006 who offered to work inexpensively on this instrument. Got it back in early 2007. Returned with it to my undergraduate field area in the Coyote Mountains, California, where I first realized that my music was at least entertaining in 1994. Played it for family over Christmas, much as my first sovereign. The repairs did not keep, but this guitar is in many ways a superior clone to the destroyed Sovereign. It's coming your way David.

5. 1972 Mustang Bass

Given to me by my dad in pieces in 2003. First bass played on stage in 2005. Purchased from a music store in Chico, California in 1972, the year before my birth. Played continuously on the nightclub stage until 1991. Intermittently still used on stage by me. Needs electrical work, perhaps a pickup rewind. The unusual scale length of 30" and rarity of the model makes it a bit of a dinosaur.
6. Classical guitar
This guitar was taken from my dad's, likely acquired as a garage sale item. I was interested in classical guitar as early as 1983. Not a well made guitar, but it does the job and is not particularly hard to play. I tried to learn Andrew York's Andecy in about 1994 on this instrument. I think classical guitars are their own beast, which I have almost no familiarity. Perhaps one day I can perform that piece. This guitar has a shallow soul and I aim to replace it with a nice Spanish guitar. Perhaps one crafted by Guy Clark.

7. Unknown fiddle

Taken from my dad's collection. He got it from a neighbor in Orland, California at a yard sale in the mid 1990's. Perhaps $25 spent. I spent $200 on a neck reset and other minor repairs in 2004. It seemed to me I wouldn't own the Augustus True fiddle, and very much desired to learn to play, I took and repaired this from my Dad. Played by New Zealand friend Aasha Pancha's sister (Aneela) in 2004. In the hands of the professional violinist, I was dismayed by the tone and my wasted money. Perhaps to someone else, with it's new $150 bow, and $100 case, I hope to get a fair price for this instrument.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Kerrville Folk Festival


Never has so much poured from this hand.

Morning, Day 8.

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