September 2014…

…was the last time I posted. Ugh. My blog is at risk of becoming another neglected piece of real estate in the ever-expanding digital wasteland.

I actually haven’t given up on guitar blogging. I’m in the time-consuming closing stages of a Ph.D. dissertation — the subject of which unfortunately has nothing to do with music. Fear not though, close friends of the blog. My defense is officially set for July and after that I will have newfound bandwidth for all things guitar. Come August/September, you can look forward to more gear and music reviews, projects, and hopefully some new features accompanying an overall revamping of the NewOldStock experience.

In the meantime, enjoy this clip from Julian Lage, who’s been touring (and allegedly recording) recently in a trio setting — with a super-hip Danocaster tele no less. I always look forward to new material from Julian, who isn’t afraid to experiment at the margins of jazz and Americana.

6-String Diplomacy

I recently returned from a week in Beijing. Hearing folks like this gentleman casually fiddling in parks and alleyways was a highlight. While out on the town one evening in the Houhai neighborhood, I was also heartened to see just about every bar on the lakeside strip featured a guitar-strumming songster or songstress. A local cover band was even belting out an admirable rendition of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” a la Guns N’ Roses. What’s that about a U.S.-China trade deficit? I guess some exports are less easily monetized.

Local music shops were also packed full of guitars — mostly Asian brands like Fernandes, Ibanez, and Yamaha (not surprisingly), though one shop (below) boasted a sweet selection of Fenders. A luthier friend once had the opportunity to visit a Chinese guitar factory, where the guide noted the facility was cranking out several thousand instruments per day. Granted, most of those were probably destined for foreign markets (including the United States), but clearly a significant number of China’s youth share an affinity with Americans for all things guitar. I like to think that bodes well for U.S.-China relations; if nothing else, at least we can maybe agree that Use Your Illusion II was GNR’s high water mark.

Gulf-caster

I’ve spent much of this summer on the road, travel-caster in tow. Abu Dhabi is probably the furthest afield I’ve huffed my tele. It’s a worthwhile diversion when venturing outside the hotel feels like waltzing face-first into a blast furnace.

My post backlog is bursting at the seams. Coming attractions include the latest in premium plectrums, DIY pedal assembly, music reviews, and new vintage-style tuners for my Martin. Stay tuned, and stay cool!

6-String Web Roundup, May 2014 Edition

It’s been a while since I posted a roundup. May was kind of a slow month for guitars on the net, but there were a few gems…

2014 is proving an epic year for celebrity guitar auctions. George Harrison’s refinished 1962 Rickenbacker 425, the jangly tones of which can be heard on “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” sold for $657,000.

Led Zeppelin is being sued for allegedly stealing the iconic opening guitar riff from “Stairway to Heaven.” No word on whether the final verdict will affect the continued butchering of said riff in guitar shops worldwide.

Seems that everyone is trying to reinvent the electric guitar pickup this year. The folks at Dialtone Pickups — a company founded by a PhD plasma physicist — are rolling out a new design with tone-tweaking wheels built into the pickup cover. Plasma!

Fender Musical Instrument Corporation finally let go of the Guild brand, which has been on life support for some years now. The company rolled out some cool retro-inspired models this past year; hopefully Cordoba Music Group maintains the positive trend.

It was a good month for lost guitar reunions. Fretboard Journal has a nice article (with video and gorgeous pictures) about Bill Frisell reuniting with an ES-175 he foolishly sold in his youth, while Zakk Wylde recovered a favorite bullseye Les Paul from a Chicago pawn shop.

Step aside Esteban! Keith Urban is apparently the new king of HSN television guitar retail. 22,000 guitar packages sold in 8 hours. Yes, 22 with three zeroes. Guess we’ll be hearing a lot more of the “Stairway to Heaven” riff…

Ah, hometown Albuquerque. Where car thieves and cops duel with electric guitars. WAAANTED…Dead or Aliiive!

 

All Thawed Out

 

I’m officially back from my winter blogging hiatus, with a backlog of posts waiting for prime time. I like to think my excuses were legitimate — foremost among them being preparation for my first gig in at least eight years! My jazz band masterclass performed for the first time last week at Jazzy’s in Bowie, Maryland. The repertoire included tunes by Wayne Shorter, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Andy Timmons, and I was using all my free time to get my chops up to speed. I’m looking forward to a few more gigs this summer.

I also vacationed to New York City a couple weeks ago, which included a few guitar-themed diversions. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently hosting an amazing collection of 35 early American guitars, including an assortment of pre-Civil War Martins (the earliest known Martin, from 1834, is pictured above). The exhibit was clearly designed with input from guitar geeks, because the descriptions included detailed technical analysis of the instruments — particularly the evolution of C.F. Martin’s bracing pattern from the Spanish-style fan to the X-brace reinforcing the top of most contemporary steel strings.

The other highlight of the trip was catching Pat Martino’s organ trio at Birdland. This was my second opportunity to see Martino live, and I was once again blown away; the man’s combination of old-school soul and awe-inspiring chops is unmatched. Besides being a legendary picker, Pat has a fascinating backstory that makes his music all the more inspiring. I waited for an autograph after the show, and he’s also one of the warmest and most likable musicians you’ll ever meet. Besides catching him live, make sure to pick up Martino’s latest release, a (formerly) bootleg live recording from 1969 appropriately titled Young Guns.

 

6-String Web Roundup, December 2013 Edition

Happy Holidays from NewOldStock, sharing the best of the guitar web this merry month!

The Bob Dylan Newport Folk Strat sold for $965,000, breaking the previous record held by Eric Clapton’s “Blackie.” The lucky bidder remains anonymous.

The Winter NAMM show is coming, which means a month of new gear announcements! Early press releases include:

  • Paul Reed Smith is expanding its affordable U.S.-made S2 line with the addition of the S2 Singlecut and S2 Custom 22.
  • Fender has added the 12W, 2×10 Vaporizer to its “Pawn Shop” line of 50s-inspired amps. The $399 combo is the first in the series to sport reverb.
  • Gibson is rolling out twenty-seven new models for 2014, including a raft of Les Pauls to celebrate the company’s 120th anniversary. Robot tuners and exotic pickup switching options abound.
  • Electro-Harmonix is now offering the “Soul Food” overdrive, which is designed to put Klon Centaur-inspired tones within reach of the working guitarist.

Slate, of all publications, posted a great explanation of how the ubiquitous wah-wah pedal functions. Bow-chicka-bow-wow.

I usually tune out the Grammys, but it was reassuring to see a who’s who of classic rock guitar bands among this year’s nominees — Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, and the Rolling Stones all received well-deserved nods.

Speaking of guitar gods, Keith Richards turned 70 on December 18th. It’s hard to believe that he’s been at it for more than fifty years now; you can read about some of the highlights in his highly readable and entertaining autobiography. So many great riffs.

Shredders unite! For only a couple grand, you too can spend a week in August 2014 with Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert, Andy Timmons, and Mike Keneally as part of the G4 Experience. Sweeping arpeggios will rock the peaceful forested hills of Cambria, CA.

On a sad note, legendary pickup designer, guitarist, and all-round nice guy Bill Lawrence passed away last month. Bill earned his reputation through a combination of innovation, word-of-mouth marketing, and emminently reasonable prices — contenders in the increasingly crowded boutique pickup market can still learn a thing or two from the humble pioneer.

Finally, it always pays to protect your guitar with a quality case. Also, you never know when it might come in handy as an improvised cold weather survival shelter.

6-String Web Roundup, Nov 2013 Edition

The interwebs abound with great guitar content — far more than most of us can keep tabs with. For my latest N.O.S. posting experiment, I’m going to aggregate some of the highlights on at least a monthly basis. Obviously the roundup is skewed toward my preferences, so feel free to submit additions in the comments!

The sunburst Fender Stratocaster strummed by Bob Dylan at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival is up for auction. Just like that landmark performance, there’s some controversy surrounding the guitar.

Speaking of famous Fenders, two of the company’s master builders recently had the opportunity to examine two heavily modded Mustangs used by Kurt Cobain on the In Utero sessions. Talk about a dream job. More video please!

Another live preview of Jim Campilongo’s upcoming Dream Dictionary is up on YouTube. I can’t be the only who thinks that a Tom Waits-Jim Campilongo collaboration would be epic. Check out “Nang Nang” to hear why.  

Vintage Guitar profiled a 1965 Supro combo amp that may or may not be the same model used by Jimmy Page on Led Zeppelin I. It’s a whole lotta amp in an 18-watt package.

Reverend announced several new signature model instruments, including a fifth Pete Anderson guitar. The hollowbody PA-1C features two humbuckers and a fixed tail piece, offering a more conventional alternative to the Bigsby-equipped PA-1 and PA-1RT.

The organ trio of Peter Bernstein (g), Larry Goldings (org), and Bill Stewart (b) was featured on NPR’s “Live at the Village Vanguard.” Killer stuff. Also, check out Peter’s latest album Live@Cory Weeds’ Cellar Jazz Club.

Gruhn Guitars has a 1940 Stromberg Master 400 for sale once owned by none other than Freddie Green. The ad for the 19″ acoustic archtop is accompanied by an amazing vintage photograph of the Basie band with electric jazz pioneer Charlie Christian. 

Finally, no matter the bond that may exist between picker and ax, perfectly good guitars don’t belong six feet under. Dear Prudie agrees.

Blame the music…

…for my lack of posting. Between lessons and ensemble preparation, I’ve been hitting the woodshed pretty hard. Having a day job doesn’t help either. Speaking of which, it feels good to occasionally haul my axe on the bus and prop it in the corner of my cubicle, awaiting evening ensemble practice. Makes me feel kinda like…a musician.

While on the job last week, I happened to spot a keyboard in the office of a fellow D.C. bureaucrat. Who knows why it was there — it could have been a Christmas gift for someone’s kid. I like to think though that it was an individual much like me, holding down a desk job while harboring a secret desire to escape the office permanently and eek out a living playing tunes.

Posts are coming, including recent tuneage from bearded dudes with guitars and a weekend test drive involving Fender’s latest retro retread.

 

Visit Your Local Record Store

April 20 was Record Store Day, dedicated to the preservation of a vanishing institution. Like many consumers, I buy much of my music digitally these days, mostly as a space-saving concession. That said, I still have a strong affinity for physical media; there’s something about the cover art, liner notes, and sense of tangible connection to the art that can’t be replaced by an audio file. I also enjoy rifling through the inventory of record shops, especially cavernous used outlets like CDepot in College Park. It’s often possible to find albums that have been passed over by the digital transition, like these two finds. Corn Pickin’ and Slick Slidin’ is a 1968 instrumental album by two leading session musicians of the era — James Burton (lead guitarist of Ricky Nelson and Elvis fame) and Ralph Mooney (pedal steel sidekick to Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings, among others). It’s an interesting if unexpected album. Rather than dazzling with instrumental wizardry, the duo opt for a more restrained and tuneful approach, displaying the taste and melodic deference that earned them spots on so many hit tracks. Three for the Road is a typically solid 1997 outing by leading Canadian jazz musicians Rob McConnell (trombone), Ed Bickert (guitar), and Don Thompson (bass). Regular blog readers probably know by now that I’m a huge Bickert fan.  Much of the guitarist’s output is either out of print or unavailable in the States, so stumbling on this CD was a pleasant surprise — a surprise that’s increasingly hard to come by as brick-and-mortar record shops fall off the map.