Author Archives: Work & Worry

About Work & Worry

Acoustic guitarist / enthusiast from Pittsburgh, PA.

Interview : Burton LeGeyt

Legeyt_GuitarDuring my most recent solo tour, I had the pleasure of staying with Boston-based luthier Burton LeGeyt and touring his workshop. In addition to being a swell guy, Burton makes gorgeous, distinctive steel string guitars that look and play like a dream. Burton’s guitars seem to walk the line between modern and classical design traditions; when I initially saw his instruments online, the first thing I noticed was the cutaway design: a very organic, bowl-esque shape that offers a unique solution to reaching the uppermost frets. I was also quickly smitten by his logo design and the shape of his headpiece.

As inspiring as Burton’s guitars were his independent spirit, attention to minute details, and his cozy but well designed workshop. I was able to get a few questions together and Burton was kind enough to answer them below.  Shop photos by Chuck Johnson and myself, guitar glamour shots courtesy of http://www.legetyguitars.com.

W&W : Please describe your history with guitars before you started building. When did you start playing? What kind of music?

Well, it is kind of funny now that I make acoustic instruments but my introduction to the guitar was through hardcore music. I started taking lessons in junior high and by high school a few friends and I had a band and were either playing or attending shows every weekend. We were a part of a very vibrant scene in Connecticut and my life was all about music and it was a great time for me. I had a Les Paul copy and a nice loud amp and I was really into this deep saturated aggresive sound. Later when I learned more about music and started to appreciate a bit more nuance I was able to look back and laugh a bit but I still like that music and am proud of the work we did. Since then I have played in everything from jam bands to a very brief but fun stint in a speakeasy band. Lately on my own I like to noodle around with more jazz styles but I wouldn’t consider myself seriously playing anything too well anymore.

W&W : Explain what got you started with building acoustics. How and where did you begin? Who were your early inspirations and what did you hope to contribute to the craft?

I had been pursuing painting, I had finished art school and was involved in a great art scene in Boston when I first moved here in 2003. After a year or so the large studio space we were renting and sharing became a real headache to keep together. I was working in a woodshop building picture frames and had always been intrigued by the idea of building instruments so I gave up my art studio for a while and shifted my attention over to instruments. I found that I really loved it and have spent the last 6 years very dedicated to pursuing that craft. My early projects were building strange things with features I had always wanted to try but had never seen. I built a small fretless teardrop instrument with classical strings that I loved playing. I had a sitar that I liked messing around with and built a few gourd instruments as well. Eventually I got around to building a copy of my Dreadnaught and since that first one I have focused pretty exclusively on steel string guitars. I became involved with the New England Luthiers Guild soon after finishing my first few guitars and the members in that group have been a very direct influence on my work, I feel lucky to have met them and been a part of that group. Continue reading

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Interview : Sean Smith

It was our good fortune to catch up with Sean Smith in order to discuss his latest record, Huge Fluid Freedom, out now on Strange Attractors Audio House. The title of the album and its opening composition come from a piece by the thirteenth century Persian poet, Rumi:

Are you jealous of the ocean’s generosity?
why would you refuse to give
this joy to anyone?
Fish dont hold the sacred liquid in cups.
They swim the huge fluid freedom.

 

***
Drumsound rises on the air,
its throb, my heart.
A voice inside the beat says,
“I know you’re tired, but come, this is the way.”

W&W: Electric guitar figures prominently on Huge Fluid Freedom, which is a shift from the previous three albums of acoustic guitar solos, or in the case of Eternal, ensemble recordings that revolved around your acoustic guitar parts. I appreciate that you don’t treat the two instruments interchangeably. Your electric guitar playing on the new album has a distinct character… not merely electrified fingerpicking, as one might predict, but ecstatic, celebratory. Can you elaborate a bit on your approach to the electric guitar and how it’s been affecting your solo music?

I appreciate your ability to hear the difference and, as a champion of acoustic fingerstyle, not be turned off by the fact that I’m working with a broader palette. Also, your description of my playing being “ecstatic and celebratory” is a very apt and welcome view. That’s exactly what I’m going for, or rather, what I can’t help but do. Continue reading

Raymond’s Fall 2011 Tour Journal

While I don’t get out on the road nearly as often as I’d like, it seems that for the last few years, I’ve been able to tour with some regularity… and though I normally relish these trips as an opportunity to be alone with my thoughts and tunes on the sometimes long drives between gigs, my last three outings have been cooperative tours with other musicians, which is really the more interesting way to go. This time out, I had the good fortune to spend a week with Chuck Johnson, in my opinion one of the coolest players recording today.  Chuck had secured a small arts grant and was hitting the road to promote A Struggle, Not A Thought, his debut solo LP on the Strange Attractors Audio House label.  I’ve been following Chuck’s music ever since his appearance last year on the amazing Beyond Berkeley Guitar compilation, and was really excited to spend some quality time with the man, exploring each others perspectives on our tool of choice, the steel-strung acoustic guitar.  Throw in our mutual friend Trevor Healy, not only a talented luthier but a fantastic fingerpicker in his own right, and we had ourselves a week-long guitar bro-down of epic proportions!  Having interviewed both men for the release of BBG, I knew that they would be thoughtful and intelligent travelling partners, and alas the short time we spent playing shows together passed far too quickly.

For me, this particular trip started with a whimper: having played a house party the night before and getting to bed in the 3am area, I was not able to rise in time to catch my 7am Megabus from Pittsburgh to New York City, where I was supposed to meet up with Chuck and Trevor to start my leg of the tour.  I wasn’t actually on the bill in NYC, but was planning to concentrate on getting photos and videos for this here blog, and I was looking forward to visiting the Zebulon venue for the first time.   As it was, it gave me an extra day to pack properly and to practice, which was welcome… but it also meant that I’d have to figure out how I planned to get from Pittsburgh to Cambridge the next day for our gig at Zuzu.  I decided to rent the tiniest car that Budget offered (and my budget afforded), which turned out to be a Chevy Aveo.  Tiny it was, for my dreadnought case didn’t even fit in the trunk!  It mattered little, though, since I’d be leaving the car in Boston and travelling in Chuck’s rental the rest of the trip.  I spent that grey, rainy Monday traversing Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and finally gunning it across the Mass Pike to get to the gig with a little time to spare. Continue reading

Review : Nathan Salsburg “Affirmed” LP/CD (No Quarter, 2011)

nathan_salsburg_affirmedSince I already told the story of my friendly history with Nathan Salsburg in my review of his Avos duet LP earlier this year, I’ll cut right to the chase in talking about the compelling music on Affirmed, which is the Louisville-based guitarist’s debut full-length as a soloist.  Salsburg’s picking is clean, confident, and sometimes even a bit flashy. These eight upbeat and melodic tracks clearly indicate that Salsburg is a fingerpicker with little to no interest in the down-tuned, borderline new age exotica being explored by so many of his peers… and Affirmed sounds all the better for it.

Opener “Sought & Hidden” sets the tone: bouncy and upbeat, Salsburg throws down a strong alternating bass with nimble melodic figures in the middle and upper registers.  Like most of the tracks on the album, “Sought & Hidden” is highly composed with a strong narrative quality in the way the song unfolds. The primary theme is probably the most “minor” sounding of the entire record, though the mood here is anything but dark.  “New Bold Ruler’s Joys” picks up the pace a bit.  This jaunty rag-blues originally appeared on one of Tompkins Square’s Imaginational Anthem collections, and this newer recording is more or less faithful to the original rendering. This track has a pleasing sophistication to it, with some very cosmopolitan jazz chords and cadences. Continue reading

Interview : C Joynes

NJD: The first thing I always notice when I open a new C Joynes album is that it always looks like a very personal art concept on your records.

CJ: Yeah, definitely. It’s one of the things that I’ve always really enjoyed. For me it’s always been part of the whole process – it’s included artwork and design and all of that sort of thing. I’ve always really liked albums that are put together and presented in a way where it looks like a hermetically sealed concept – where it’s stuff that’s been produced by one person or a very limited group of people. For example, all the self-released Sun Ra albums, I just love the artwork and graphics on those. Also the stuff that Billy Childish put out when he was self-releasing his own stuff. So right from the get go that’s always, I don’t know how essential it is to the music but it’s all part of the process of putting together an album.

NJD: Is this album called Congo because that’s somewhere that you’ve visited?

No. There’s a statue that appears on the cover of the album, and the statue was christened Congo. It was given to me as a gift when I was in Kenya. The little statue does actually come from the Congo and he’s been sitting on top of the right hand speaker of my hi-fi system all the way through the mixing process. There’s a little sphinx that someone gave my wife as a gift on the left hand channel and Congo on the right hand channel, and the pair have been kind of like the totems for this album, kind of overseeing the whole thing. It’s got something about it, a real personality. I’m always a little bit suspicious about “concepts”, but it’s definitely contributed to what I see as an underlying theme to this album. It’s the notion of this very distinctive totem that has come from a very different and very unusual part of the world and ended up in this little cottage outside of Cambridge. If there is a concept it’s about the exotic in a small, domestic traditional English setting – the kind of clash of cultures that’s going on there. Continue reading

Bert Jansch, 1943-2011

Bert_JanschText lifted from the BBC. I don’t really have it in me to write anything of my own right now.

Scottish folk musician Bert Jansch, a founding member of the band Pentangle and a well-known guitarist in his own right, has died at the age of 67. Jansch, who had cancer, passed away in the early hours of Wednesday morning at a hospice in Hampstead, north London.

Born in Glasgow in 1943, the musician recorded his first album in 1965 and his last, The Black Swan, in 2006. Between 1967 and 1973 he was part of acoustic group Pentangle, best known for their 1970 hit single “Light Flight”. John Renbourn, Jacqui McShee, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox were the other original members of the band, whose albums included Basket of Light and Solomon’s Seal. The group reformed in 2008 after receiving a lifetime achievement honour the previous year at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. As a solo artist, Jansch received his own lifetime achievement accolade at the same event in 2001.

A scheduled solo show at the Edinburgh Festival later that month was cancelled due to the singer’s ill health. Speaking to The Guardian last year, Jansch – who is survived by his wife Loren – said he was “not one for showing off”. But he admitted that his guitar-playing “sticks out” – a skill that once prompted Neil Young to put him on the same level as Jimi Hendrix.

Booking agent John Barrow, who helped the musician stage shows throughout his career, said he would remember Jansch as a “hard-working musician” and “a great man”.

“He was very quietly spoken,” he told the BBC. “People used to say to me, ‘he doesn’t talk much, does he?’ But when he could play the guitar like that, why should he be talking?”

Rest in peace, Bert. We loved you very much.

Grayson Currin Interviews Glenn Jones

 

glennjones

This interview originally appeared on Pitchfork.  Reprinted with permission.

As best as he can remember, Glenn Jones has been playing guitar since 1967, when he was 14 years old. Despite four decades spent behind six strings, though, he still talks about the instrument like an infinite terrain– not only for himself but also for the current crop of new, young guitarists following the sounds of his calloused fingertips. He discovers and sometimes discards new tunings almost constantly, and his best tunes sport the sense that they were considered and carved with the diligence and patience of some elaborate wooden trinket.

“It was a gradual process that came from a lot of time and hours and weeks and months and years playing guitar alone and being alone,” says Jones. “Eventually, it’s to say this is mine.”

The Wanting, Jones’ first full-length album for Thrill Jockey, is a collection of tunes for banjo and guitar that explores dozens of different ideas within its hour run-time. From the redolent moan of the title track to the withdrawn sigh of “Even to Win is to Fail” and from the gentle climb of the opener to the elliptical expanse of the 17-minute closer, Jones has made a record that twists and turns through both feelings and techniques, impressing even as it empathizes.

Pitchfork: Even more so than with your previous records, I was immediately taken by The Wanting. I kept needing to hear it. For you, what’s different on this record than your other LPs?

Glenn Jones: I’m not sure if it felt that different going into it. I’m not a fast writer. It takes me about two years to write enough material for an album. Generally, that two-year period is just a reflection of where I’ve been during that time, new tunings I’ve uncovered, and how I’ve navigated the twain of those particular tunings. The only thing that feels different about this one is that I spent more time with the banjo in the past two years than I had going into Barbecue Bob in Fishtown, which had a couple of banjo pieces. Also, the duet I recorded with Chris Corsano is a little bit of a departure, at least for my solo guitar records. It’s not so unusual maybe to Cul de Sac fans. That may be the extent of what I think is different. People tend to look for new directions, and I’m not sure if there is a marked new direction rather than a further exploration of what I’ve always been interested in. Continue reading