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July 2019: in this issue:

Walnut Ariel
King John Acoustic Bass
Remi Harris
Bendyminium
John Smith and that pedal show
Richard Hawley
Martin Simpson
New guitar for Martin Simpson
Billy Watman and his luxury yacht
Will McNicol in translation
Custom notation book
Tristan Seume's guitar weekend in Brittany

John James
Back stage and Onstage. Fylde at The Royal Opera House
Things that rumble deep
Flamenco guitar for sale
Mandolin for sale
For all the obvious teaspoons
Latest Whiskies
Visa complication
Stolen Bouzouki
Rosewood and CITES
Madagascan Rosewood
Favourite quote

Walnut Ariel
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A lovely set of pictures to get the newsletter started. We made this for a customer in the USA, partly to get around the CITES regulations on Indian Rosewood. It's made from figured Claro Walnut and Western Red Cedar with a neck laminated from Mahogany and blue coloured inlay lines.

The USA customs people loved this guitar, so kept it an extra 10 days just so they could look at it. They were constantly telling us there was something missing from the paperwork, but I know what they were up to, I bet customs offices all have guitar clubs.

And yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, it is left handed.

King John Acoustic Bass for sale

I was so pleased to get hold of this, we made it for a local customer in 1988, and obviously he didn't get to grips with it, as it turned up in the town music shop. It's not the sort of thing you would put on show in a small window display in Penrith, and they were not likely to sell it, so I made them an offer, and they said yes!

I love the sound of an acoustic bass guitar, particularly when played fast with a pic, check out Phil Murray and Stu Luckley. This will sit quite happily in my office and will raise a lot of interest at any show we go to.

I think this is the last of this model bass we made, they've gone out of fashion a little. We made it in two versions - a "proper" one like this, 34-inch scale and a long neck, and a more compact version, still 34-inch scale, but with a shorter neck. This one works best and is fun to watch being played by a top player.

It is for sale - and that is where it gets really interesting. To make one new, now, would cost over £3,000, without a case. I would probably ask £1500 for this bass. It comes with a fitted Calton case, worth about £1000, so I have to be creative. I would accept £2,300 for the bass and case together or would consider selling them separately. SOLD

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Remi Harris

And now on to a different sort of acoustic bass.

Remi has teamed up with a new bass player, Simon Smith, who is taking more of a lead role in the music, good to see. I've said it before; I can't get enough of Remi's music. His track on the Fylde album is superb. All the tracks are!!

Remi's site

Bendyminium

Or if you are in the USA, Bendyminum.

No, it’s not a guitar side for a heavy metal guitar, or even a light metal guitar. It's the early stages of a heated bending form. Younger makers use plywood, where is the challenge in that? This is 6mm sheet alloy, bent by hand, in a vice, with a little bit of big hammer. Massive fun. Alex and Paul tend to panic a bit when even I put ear defenders on.

I do like to work with metal when I get a chance. Well, I had a chance, and this is what happened. It might be a while before I get the next chance

John Smith and That Pedal Show.

John tours the world on my behalf, looking for opportunities to display his lovely guitars in exotic locations. I don't pay him, so he has to organise sell-out concerts and best-selling albums just so he can continue to help me.

John has been telling me about 'That Pedal Show" for a while, urging me to take it seriously. I do John, I do! There is no doubt that Acoustic players are using pedals more and more, not just to "add effects", but to shape the very basics of the amplified guitar tone.

Part of the key has to be the pickups used, and there is a large choice. Here John is using a Baggs Dual Source, in stereo mode, plus a Vintage De Armond soundhole pickup, (which is now permanently mounted in the guitar).

In the 1980s I used the Baggs "Duet" System a lot, but most players used it only as an EQ and blend of two sources, there weren't many options to work the two channels separately downline. That has all changed, let's hope I can keep up with all this clever stuff.

John's site

Richard Hawley

Richard's new Album "Further" was number two in the charts when I started to write this. It has his Fylde guitars all over it. He was very keen to contribute to the "Nimbles" album, and we tried very hard to make it happen, but first his stage play in Sheffield "Standing at the Sky’s Edge", then recording his new album and all the publicity work involved, made it impossible. We are both very disappointed, I will have to start planning "More Nimbles " so that we can try again.

Perhaps Richard's track might have been something like this.  Richard is playing one of his Alexanders, with Martin Simpson on his new 12 fret Fylde guitar, and Shez Sheridan on Richard's new Fylde 12 string, Richard says he has to fight to get it back. Martin says it’s the best 12-string he has heard.

Richard's site

Martin Simpson

Martin has been busy as well; he has a new album "Rooted" to be released in August.

This taster track was originally recorded for the Fylde Abum, and by adding extra instrumentation, Martin has added it to his own Album. I'm not sure if I can claim any royalties on that, probably not. Perhaps I won't ask.

Martins new website.

A new guitar for Martin Simpson

It's taking a long time. There will be more to say soon.

Billy Watman and his luxury yacht

What a lovely piece, and a great video, filmed in Split, Croatia.

All filmed on an iPhone. The cameraman suffered a bit, it was 33 deg and took nearly 2 hrs overall, so they borrowed an umbrella from the nearby beach. The camera phone overheated during one of the takes, but it's all worked out very well, despite a luxury yacht sailing up Billy's right sleeve and not coming out again, he didn't even flinch. Excellent playing, and some capo gymnastics. 

From September 2019 Billy will take up a place at the Royal College of Music in London, studying classical guitar with Gary Ryan. In the meantime, he has been touring and writing, and raising funds for his studies. He has a crowdfunding project on the go which I'll try and feature next month.

Billy's Facebook page

Will McNicol in translation

Will was featured in Akustic Gitarre recently, so he had it translated to find out what they said:

"Even in times like these one would be forgiven for dreaming. Imagine, after an extravagant meal, in a semi-conscious daze on the sofa, painting a picture of a guitarist, one of who encompasses the lightness of John Fahey's folk-blues, with Leo Kottke's strength of landscape painting, bound with the British tonal colours of a certain John Renbourn, the free techniques of a Michael Hedges, the melodic sensibilities of an early Alex DeGrassi and the lyrical tone of one Pierre Bensusan and Tony McManus, with modern compositional assets of classically trained people like Ralph Towner and Roland Dyens. One who's music can turn a hallowed concert hall into an Irish pub and can bring to the pub the stillness of a philharmonic, because he hits an incredible sweet-spot for sophistication and folky impartiality so precisely. And even in these times, such heavenly dreams can still come true, because such a guitarist exists: Will McNicol is being revered on the scene like a prophet, who's showing acoustic guitar the way to a mesmerising future in the promised land. In fact, the compositions of the Glasgow-born young man have a totally new quality. There's one exhilarating pastiche after another to hear on DF&B which transport the listener to a floral English field in summertime, where the most beautiful fauna frolics and the wonderful day goes by like the flight of a deep blue dragonfly. This light-hearted romantic feeling is generated by a music which has nothing to do with the soulful hippy-feeling. What McNicol takes from his steel stringed Fylde is equally strong in meditative new-age whispers, folky naivety and classical rigidity. The technically demanding songs, refined in structure, take all the positive qualities of the aforementioned directions in catchy methods to be bound compositional discipline and structure, feeling for atmosphere and drama, incorporation of themes and motives and dazzling polyphony. And all of these with the laid-back air that fingerpickers have to open an instrument up to a new world. Today he lives in the deepest South of England. Graduate of two degrees in guitar, he is equally at home on nylon and steel strings, and besides holds himself to high ability on classical guitar. He also enjoys composing totally off the guitar, for example for string quartet - even having arranged a few of his own tracks for such an ensemble. Absolutely must be heard!"

Well, I think the author likes Will's music a little bit. Quite right of course.

Custom Notation Book

Will is always looking for a "side hustle" (down with the kids, that's me).

People can now choose their favourite Will McNicol tunes, and it’ll be made into a bespoke, lovely book.

See more here:click here.

Custom notation books! It’s an idea I’ve wanted to make a reality for a while now, and I’m excited that I’ve finally been able to. Up until now I’ve only offered album transcription books, but now you can choose your favourite 3, 5 or 10 tunes to be made into a bespoke, wire-bound notation book, with options to personalise with name and message. It’s all good fun, and I’m intrigued - what would your choices be?

And here

Tristan Seume's guitar weekend in Brittany

Brittany Guitar Workshops are recruiting for Tristan Seume's 4-day workshop which will take place in La Fontenelle, Brittany from 21st to 24th August 2019. Course content will include:

  • Celtic fingerstyle guitar arrangements
  • Fingerstyle blues
  • Altered tunings
  • Useful associated theory

"Whilst the course caters for varying abilities, it is recommended that participants have a good grasp of acoustic guitar basics (standard chord shapes and a few fingerstyle patterns) to gain maximum benefit from this experience."

The cost of the workshop is £250 which includes tuition fees, lunches and refreshments. Spaces are limited to 8 participants, so please book early.

So to spend time with one of the nicest guitar players around, and to collect a little bit of his vast talent, go here

John James

Always an absolute delight to hear and see John playing.

John says. "A piece from the "Cafe Vienna" CD. This is the main guitar part of the tune. The second guitar part on the CD was recorded after the main. Luckily thanks to multi track here the opposite happens, I play the main part to a playback of the second ! The tune is about the time, the only time, that the other three members of my small immediate family were together at one of my performances. A dance, The Last Dance."

Really good to see that he has still "got it". John would crack endless jokes about a line like that.

Back stage and Onstage. Fylde at The Royal Opera House

David Buckingham sent me this.

David and his " Three Compadres” at the Opera House with the Royal Ballet production of Don Quijote.

David is the one with the hat.

Forbes Henderson on the far right of the screen (remember the band Incantation?) plus he played with The Three Tenors, David Bowie etc. etc.

Nigel Woodhouse on the far left of the screen (does a lot of ballets and operas, also an excellent mandolin player)

Dan Thom is second from the left of the screen, he's very busy in the West End, operas, ballets.

David's guitar is the one we made to take to Ullapool last year. but David "borrowed" it and I was lucky to get it back. He also used it on the "Strings that Nimble Leap" album.

When I saw this, it occurred to me that we have an excellent marketing opportunity. All we have to do is make a hat, with the cord extended under the guitar and clipped onto the soundhole edge.

Then the player could throw up his chin in a dramatic gesture and the guitar would follow suit. It would also keep your hat on in strong winds, just think of the possibilities.

Good evening Dragons. My name is Roger Bucknall and I am here tonight to ask you for one million pounds for in exchange for 5 percent of my company “Hatstrap Ltd."

David's site.

Things that rumble deep

The Fylde charity album is selling well. Two people have bought 10 each, and six have bought four each! And no, none of them are our family. The guitar magazines have been giving good comments, and Mark Radcliffe featured it on Radio 2 last week. Buy it here - buy eleven.

Flamenco guitar for sale
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The guitar that David used at the Royal Opera House is for sale.

Spanish Cypress back and sides, the wood for the back was little under sized and we built it up by adding wings to each edge. Italian Spruce top, with a little beauty spot in the grain. I was testing the water with this, and quite deliberately used these pieces of timber, which are basically excellent, just a little visually flawed perhaps. Somebody will love it, and it's not expensive for what it is - I am asking £1700. It has been played at the Royal Opera House! SOLD

Mandolin for sale

It's a shame that "mandolin" and "mandola" are very similar words. It's also a shame that my handwriting is awful, even I can't read it, I should have been a doctor. I blame it on frantic note taking at university lectures.

I think you can see what is coming. We made the wrong instrument. It's happened a couple of times recently while I've been so involved with the charity album.

So - here we have a rather sweet Maple Touchstone mandolin. Figured European Maple back and sides, Italian Spruce top, Mahogany neck laminated with Ebony, Ebony fingerboard, head veneer and bindings. There is a tiny resin pocket on one side of the soundboard which didn’t show up until we started the lacquer. It's a beauty spot, not a fault.

SOLD

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For all the obvious teaspoons

I actually typed that in an email recently, it might have been my dodgy typing again, but I'm blaming spellcheck.


Visa complication

I speak to travelling musicians a lot and was recently given a little snippet which might be useful to some of you.

If you are travelling to certain countries, (I'd better not say which, but it should be obvious), on a working visa, just check the content of your social media, and even the last few weeks of your phone messages before you go through customs. It seems to be the latest way of checking for "undesirables". " May I see your phone sir?"

Latest Whiskies

I'd selected these from my latest acquisitions, mostly because of the range of colours, then i noticed that one was quite definitely a bit pale. Maybe it will go darker with age.

Stolen Bouzouki

Susan Spurlock had her precious Signature Archtop Bouzouki stolen in Oakland California nearly a year ago, along with a Gibson mandolin but still no sign of it.

Any sightings of such an instrument, please get in touch with me or Susan.

Rosewood and CITES / Madagascan Rosewood

Rosewood and CITES

As I mentioned a few months ago, there had been hope that the CITES APP II listing for Rosewood might be lifted, or at least, eased at the CITES meeting in Sri Lanka in May.

Unfortunately, terrorist incidents in Sri Lanka forced the meeting to be cancelled, and it is now taking place in Geneva between the 17th and 28th August.

For more details on what is happening, see the story - LINK

Madagascan Rosewood

Guitar makers have mostly been concerned over the situation with Indian Rosewood, but India is well governed and the timber trade there is well controlled. There are other countries where other species of Rosewood are suffering from more than illegal logging. In some places, politics and possibly corruption are making a difficult situation worse.

Thirty thousand logs of Madagascan Rosewood en-route to China via Singapore were seized in 2014, and the man concerned was found guilty of smuggling a CITES listed species. But now that verdict has been overturned, and the timber must be returned to him! The argument now is " who pays for the costs of storing the wood over the past 5 years?

It will be clearer if you read this - LINK

And if you think that 30,000 logs is a lot - how about two million?

This story is just astonishing. In brief, there is a huge amount of stockpiled Rosewood in Madagascar, some of which could possibly be designated as "legal", but there is no real way of differentiating between different stocks, and some of it is deliberately mixed up. Officials have been battling between two extreme options - destroy it all or let it all go for sale. There can't be a good outcome from this. LINK

I'm tempted to get back on one of my hobby horses here. Millions of Rosewood logs, hundreds of tons of Ivory.

Put it this way - if we fed all the information into an " impartial" computer and asked it for a solution, I do not think it would say "This material is very rare, it is endangered, and we have to save it, therefore we must destroy it."

And, by pure chance, I received a newsletter from one of my suppliers as I was typing that last paragraph. He has been asked to help value the stockpiles and help formulate a policy.

Link to newsletter.

Have a good look at the size of the "committee". Sigh.

Favourite quote via Simon Campbell

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."

Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)