Tag Archives: Larrivee

Interview : Catching Up With Denis Turbide

W&W : It’s been about a year since your first interview on Work & Worry.  What have you been up to since then? How’s life treating you?

Life’s been really busy, Ray.  I wish I could say I’ve been busy making more music, but a full time job and young children aren’t always conducive to a musician’s lifestyle!  I just need to find a better balance. That being said, I am trying to move the music thing along.

I reconnected with Alana Mark, an old friend from high school.  Facebook is amazing sometimes!  We’re writing songs together, which is new to me.  I’ve always been a singer, but lyrics have always escaped me.  We’ve started recording together, and have a couple of videos on Youtube. We still have a lot of work to do.  We’ve both been really busy this summer, so I’m looking forward to getting together with her in the near future.

There is a CD compilation, by the members of the Acoustic Guitar Forum, that came out last fall.  There’s another one coming out in August.  I wrote a new tune, which I recorded and released just a few weeks ago, called “Squish”.   I have a friend using my music in his Youtube videos to promote his T-shirt company.  Another music library has offered to add my music to their roster for use in TV and movies.   Youtube is still going strong, and a couple of guitarists out there have decided they like my music enough to cover it in their own videos, which is nice and still a bit surprising to me.  I guess I have been kind of busy. Continue reading


Interview : Yair Yona


Israeli guitarist Yair Yona

Earlier this year, Anova Music released Remember, the solo instrumental debut by Israeli acoustic artist Yair Yona. The CD is an affectionate tribute to various American and British folk guitar styles, with Yona picking on 6 and 12-string guitars, a National-style resonator, and various other acoustic instruments.

The primary touchstone for Yona’s music is the Takoma school and the American Primitive revival movement, and it’s easy to hear the influence of John Fahey, Jack Rose, Leo Kottke and Glenn Jones. Jones is, in fact, a big fan of Yair and Remember, and had this to say :

Yair is fantastic… that album is one of my favorite guitar records of the year. Production-wise, it’s very ambitious, and quite smart, and in terms of both composition and technique, there are two or three tracks that I think are as good as anything ever done on the guitar. Obviously his album wouldn’t exist without his influences… but it rises above being merely derivative into something beautiful and, occasionally, even sublime.

As a nod to Yona’s drone and indie rock influences, there are also splashes of synth and assorted ambient effects on some of Remember’s tracks, though these are mostly relegated to background atmosphere… for the most part, Yona keeps his guitar playing as the focus of his compositions.

Yair Yona – “Remember”

I decided to get in touch with Yona and conducted the following interview. Worth noting : the entire Remember album is available as a free digital download on Yona’s Bandcamp page.

W&W : How old are you, and how long have you been playing the guitar?

Yair : I’m 28, been playing [music] for 13 years. Most of that time I played bass, until the winter of 2003, when I grabbed an acoustic guitar and started a whole new journey.

W&W : Take us through the evolution of your playing… when did you start working with acoustic instruments? Was it something you moved toward after the discovery of your European and American folk and guitar influences? Did you learn your fingerstyle techniques from emulating recordings, did you use TAB, etc?

Yair : Well, I was playing bass for couple of years, and was really into psychedelic rock and prog. In 2002, I moved to London and a couple of months afterward, I heard the first Bert Jansch album, which totally changed my life and made me realize that I’m much more into that now. His technique was so breathtaking, I almost lost the will to play. But at some point, I managed to learn one simple tune of his, which gave me the strength to move on and learn more tunes and practice. At first, I had to use TABs, as my hearing was rusty and I couldn’t figure out how the guy combined the two elements of bass string playing along with a melody and rhythm. The guy is a genius. No one plays like him, and I wish he’d be my neighbor. I’ll trade glasses of sugar and milk for 15 years, for one guitar lesson from him..

W&W : Which Bert song was the first that you learned to play? When I first started playing fingerstyle, I taught myself “Runnin, Runnin From Home” from the album, but ended up with a completely convoluted fingering that made it way more difficult to play than it had to be! A friend later found a TAB online and set me straight!

Yair : We share the exact same story! I figured “Running…” was the more “easy” song on the album, so I started with it. I had no idea about alternate bass, so I made up some terrible chord positions to try and understand how to play that. Only later I found a TAB for it and realized how it should be played. When I managed to play “Angie” for the first time, it was the happiest day of my life! (More on the day I first heard Bert’s album can be found here) One of my favorite tunes of his is maybe his easiest – “Bright New Year”. But the all time favorite song for me is “Fresh as a Sweet Sunday Morning”…

W&W : Please describe the instruments you used on Remember.

Yair : Well, in terms of my guitars, there were only three. The 6-string is an EN guitar, which a friend of mine built me as a practice for the guitar workshop lessons that he took. The EN was built based on a Martin 000 model. The 12-string was a Fender, which I sold to buy a brilliant Larrivée. The Weissenborn was actually a simple Vineyard guitar, and right after I finished the recordings, I bought a Goldtone. Still have the Vineyard, such a wonderful guitar, especially for its price. The Royal resonator is a cheap resonator I bought to see how I’m doing with this type of guitar.

W&W : You replaced your 12-string with a Larrivée 12? What body style, model number?

Yair : The Larrivée is a new LR-03-12.

W&W : Does Israel have its own instrument manufacturers, any popular regional guitar makers? Are the popular US brands like Martin, Gibson, Taylor etc available / widely used?

Yair : There are no REALLY famous guitar builders, maybe there are manufacturers who build really few pieces a year. The American firms have some representation, but usually in the acoustic guitar rooms, you’ll find a few Martins and Taylors, usually way overpriced, and the variety of models doesn’t exist. You won’t be able to find a good 12-string second hand. It’s not a popular instrument in general, and it’s much less in a country of 6.5 million people.

W&W : Talk about your right hand… thumb pick? Fake nails? Acrylics? All natural?

Yair : Thumb pick, plastic Dunlop one. Other fingers are my natural nails.

W&W : What are the tunings you use on Remember?

Yair : Most of the tunings are open D (DADF#AD), where “Broken Rockin Chair” is in G minor (DGDGBbD), “Floodgate” is an open C (CGCGCE), and the most complicated one is on “Skinny Fists”, which is DGDF#G#C#. It’s a tuning I learned from Glenn Jones, who’s by far my favorite guitar player in this style.

Yair Yona – “Brave Walls”

W&W : Please describe the recording of Remember… did you record it yourself or were you assisted? Studio?

Yair : I was fortunate enough to become a label manager of Israeli alternative label Anova Music and we have our own studio, so I was recorded by a great engineer called Ronen Roth. We recorded the guitar tracks on a 2 inch tape, using U-87 and 67 [microphones].

W&W : Do you have plans to do any touring in 2010?

Yair : There’s a great will, just trying to figure out how to handle the road with 3 guitars, and how to avoid work for two weeks without having to be worried that something happened to my company!

W&W : What other projects are you currently involved in that you would like to talk about?

Yair : Well, I’m writing new material and I’m working on a new band that I’ll play bass in, of some experimental, noise and psych music. I want to have my own Faust. Or Califone, whatever comes first.

W&W : What albums are you listening to most at the moment?

Yair : At this very second, I’m listening to the brilliant Pockets by Karate. I’m checking my LastFm page to see what else I’ve listened to today (because I’m listening to a lot of music, with a variety of styles) – I listened to Mudhoney a lot because they are coming to Israel in couple of days, which makes me very VERY happy. The Churchills, psych rock from Israel 1969, The Veils new album and Arthur by The Kinks. The new Califone is brilliant, and the record of the month or maybe the year is the new Black Heart Procession. YEAH!!!

W&W : Could you talk a little about your blog and your mixtapes?

Yair : Sure. I run an alternative music blog called “Small Town Romance”. Now it’s only in Hebrew, but in a month and a half, I plan to have an English version of the blog, with a translation for each post. The idea behind it is to expose people to good music that sometimes is left behind, and slips under the radar. Once a week I post a mixtape of good music, an hour of great sounds of stuff I’ve listened that week. I love being an ambassador of music and exposing people to records that may change their lives. It’s somewhat naïve, I know, but when someone comes to you and says “The record you recommended me just made my week!” – it’s the best thing ever. That’s why I went to work in a record store a couple of years ago. I remember someone told me that me selling her No Other by Gene Clark got her out of a serious depression she was in. Who could ask for more?

Download “Remember” for free from Bandcamp
Buy “Remember” on CD from Anova Music
Yair Yona on Myspace

Raymond Morin / Pairdown Tour Journal


Earlier this year, Pairdown, an acoustic duo that I play guitar and sing in (alongside Mr. David Leicht) released our debut LP Holykyle. It was the product of plenty of time, hard work, love… and a whole lot of beer! It was all worth it, though, when the test pressings arrived and I heard our music on wax for the first time. Here, I thought, is something that will last forever. Holykyle was released on Sort Of Records as a vinyl edition of 315 copies, and being that our act is new and relatively unknown outside of our home base of Pittsburgh (who am I kidding… we’re unknown in Pittsburgh, too) I figured that if Pairdown wanted to sell some records, we would have to get on the road. Touring is a fact of life for indie artists, one of only a few dependable ways of conquering new territory and spreading the good word about a new group.

Of course financial, family and work concerns all have to be considered when planning a (potentially money-losing) trip… because of these realities, my partner David would only be able to take to the road occasionally, while the relative flexibility of my schedule meant that I could travel somewhat regularly. We came up with a strategy that has served us well : we would play as a duo for local and certain higher-profile gigs, with each of us taking the periodic solo jaunt to keep the album on peoples’ minds. Thankfully, we’ve got a good number of songs under our belt at this point, and many of them can be pared down (yup, I went there) to a single voice and guitar when the need arises. Using this approach, we arranged several very exciting duo shows in Pittsburgh, including gigs with Sub Pop recording artist Death Vessel, the electro-acoustic drone duo Mountains, the inimitable Micah Blue Smaldone, and Pittsburgh’s own Daryl Fleming, David Bernabo + Assembly, Horse Or Cycle, Chris Neils, and some others. We also took a few exciting trips out of town, playing in Chicago, Cleveland, Youngstown and Turner’s Falls (western Mass). Sometimes we expanded to a four piece, which included drummers Jim Powell or Matt Leicht (David’s younger brother), and my girlfriend Minette Vaccariello on keyboard-bass.

In addition to the increasingly busy local schedule, I was able to go on solo trips every month or two, the most recent of which is the subject of this little tour diary. Booking this tour couldn’t have gone more smoothly, and the itinerary was exactly what I’d hoped for : six shows in a row, no drive longer than five hours, no back-tracking. I was thrilled at the prospect of playing with a couple of my favorite pickers, some very old friends, and a few people who I don’t see nearly often enough.

My guitar, a Larrivée OM-09

My guitar, a Larrivée OM-09

Before the trip, I decided that my acoustic guitar, a Larrivée OM-09, was long overdue for a setup, so I brought it to Dave Mannella at Mannella Guitars in Verona, PA. Dave set about leveling the frets and replacing the nut and saddle (my constant tuning changes had gradually worn them down, causing more than a little fret buzzing). When I got the guitar back, she played like a dream.


I packed up my guitar, cables, clothes, LPs, my recently-washed sleeping bag, my trusty farm-animal-themed blanket and a pillow, and after a quick 3-hour shift at work (I was going to be missing several days, after all, figured I’d get some hours in) I was ready to hit the road.

Minette and the infamous pout

Minette and the infamous pout

Because of the G20 summit, which was happening in Pittsburgh that weekend, most of downtown was shut off to traffic and Minette had a day off. As usual, I said my goodbyes, and she made her infamous pout-face.

The ride to Philadelphia was an easy one. It was a beautiful day, and I enjoyed the drive. For the past couple of years I’ve been more or less completely dependent on GPS on these trips, and, as usual, I just took the first route that the Garmin offered up, which was the turnpike. I’ll think better of it next time, though… I hadn’t made the trip directly from Pittsburgh to Philly in a while, and my jaw dropped when I had to pay the first toll of the journey : $19.10!!! I resolved to take a different route in the future.

I arrived in Philly around 6pm and met up with my friend Rob Dingman, who had organized the show. He opened up the space for me to check out, and I couldn’t believe the size of the room! Rob explained to me that in the past, property was taxed not by square footage but by how much space it took up on the sidewalk, which is why many of these buildings in the Old City were narrow but quite long. I strapped on my guitar and walked around the space, practicing and listening to the fantastic echo sound in the room. Before too long, The Shrinking Islands, old friends and one of the openers that night, arrived and loaded in their gear. Cases of beer were opened, and the festivities soon began.

Though there weren’t a great many people in attendance, the show turned out to be a blast. Local duo Heirloom opened, which featured Meggie Morganelli switching between acoustic guitar, piano and Appalachian dulcimer, and Stefan Zajic playing acoustic and electric guitars. Their sound was somewhere between a coffeehouse-friendly singer-songwriter style and more modern, hushed indie-folk. I really enjoyed the sound of the dulcimer in the cavernous space.

Meggie and Stefan from Heirloom

Meggie and Stefan from Heirloom

The Shrinking Islands delivered much jangle-pop goodness in their short set… I had put out a record by this electric-guitar-and-drums duo on my label back in 2006, and though they were no longer performing regularly, and hadn’t played together in several months, they didn’t miss a beat. Singer/guitarist Kyle Bittinger’s high-energy picking and pogo-ing and drummer Andy Tefft’s busy fills put a smile on everyone’s face and a tap in everyone’s feet.

My set went just fine, perhaps not transcendent, but with no blatant screw ups, either! I opened with “Untitled For Holly” off of Holykyle, which was easy on the fingers and a good way to slide into the set. I stayed in standard tuning for the first half, performing Stefan Grossman’s “Bermuda Triangle Exit”, Davy Graham’s “Forty Ton Parachute”, and my own “Metal In My Mouth”. Several tunes were played for the first time in front of an audience, including Archie Fisher’s “Lindsay”, and the Milo Jones classic “I Belong To You”, which I was playing in a new, higher key. Though I had planned a pretty concise set, Rob got me to extend it, asking me to keep playing since his wife Jamie was on her way over. I played a few more tunes, and closed with Graham’s classic “Anji”.

Meggie picks on my Larrivée after the Philly show

Meggie picks on my Larrivée after the Philly show

When my set was done, Meggie proceeded to geek out hard over my little Larrivée, so I let her pick on it for a while. She told me that she was saving up to get herself a Martin OM, which she was planning to buy directly from the Nazareth factory. We vowed to become Facebook friends, and she promised she would send me a picture of her new instrument when she got it.

It was starting to get late, so Rob, Jamie and I went back to their place, talked for a little while and called it a night.


After a late breakfast with The Shrinking Islands and friends, I set off for the woods of northeastern Connecticut, the region where I grew up. It was another pleasant, sunny day, and knowing that my GPS would surely take me straight to the traffic and tolls of the George Washington Bridge, I decided to map out a different route, north on the Garden State Parkway. It was a smart move, and I managed to avoid traffic and see some truly lovely autumn scenery, particularly crossing from New York state into western Connecticut. I busied myself singing Ewan MacColl’s “The Terror Time” in several different keys, trying to decide which one would best suit my voice. Around 6pm, I arrived at my old friend Terry’s house on the Eastford/Union town line, greeted by Terry, his wife Sarah, and a couple of very excited dogs.

My old friend Terry

My old friend Terry

I would normally do a show in western Massachusetts en route to the east coast, but this time out I was having a hard time pulling one together. Terry and Sarah graciously offered to have a little party in my honor, a nice, relaxed affair to play some music and catch up with old friends. We had a terrific time, the guests brought amazing food, Terry grilled up some turkey burgers and had a mini-keg of Allagash White (my favorite beer, and generally hard to find in Pittsburgh) at the ready. When it was time to get down to the performances, my old friend and band-mate Jay Yonush opened up with a short set of uptempo, whiskey-soaked country songs, which he performs under the moniker Rum Glass Serenade.

My set was loose and fun, and I played most of the same songs as I had in Philly. A lot of the people at the party were kind enough to buy LPs, CDs and t-shirts to help me on my travels, and we stayed up late into the night, listening to music and catching up… Terry and I hadn’t seen each other since playing together in The Parallel Gawdheads, our version of a surf/ska/punk band, way back in 1996. Back then, Terry was endlessly championing Frank Zappa, which I didn’t understand at all (I had the more typical teen-angst driven fixation on loud, post-punk bands like Unwound and Fugazi). Of course, about a decade later I became an incurable Zappa fanatic, which I remain to this day.

One by one, the guests all said goodnight and went home. I unrolled my sleeping bag, played on my phone for a few minutes and fell asleep.


I awoke to an amazing breakfast of egg and mushroom burritos, courtesy of Terry and Sarah. I didn’t have far to go that Sunday, so we all lazed around for a while, and I noodled on Terry’s Stratocaster while he burned me a bunch of mix CDs. When it was finally time to go, the weather had changed quite a bit from the previous day… it was grey, cold and rainy outside, and I took a quick detour through Putnam and Woodstock, trying to recognize some of the backroads of my youth. I made my way to Maine, where I was to play at a new theater-style venue called The Apohadion.

The room wasn’t difficult to find, situated in a semi-industrial section just around the corner from downtown Portland. I was excited to be sharing the stage with Micah Blue Smaldone, one of my favorite guitarists and songwriters, and a Maine native. He arrived at The Apohadion shortly after I got there, and he, his girlfriend Rebecca and I departed for some pre-show Japanese food. I wasn’t very hungry, so I contented myself with a seaweed salad, while Micah and Rebecca shared a quite amazing looking spread of assorted sushi and fried delights.

We got back to the gallery and the room slowly started to fill up with people. By the time local opener Listo took the stage, a pretty nice crowd had assembled. Listo was the combination of Apohadion founders David Noyes and Pat Corrigan, lately of the band Seekonk, and local songstress Kelly Nesbitt. Their music was quite a treat, combining a lovely vocal harmony blend and the interesting combination of two nylon-strung acoustic guitars and Pat’s electric, treated generously with a wah-wah pedal. They sang several songs in English and several in Portuguese, and closed with my favorite Caetano Veloso song, “Canto Do Povo De Um Lugar”. Sublime!

Pat, David and Kelly from Listo

Pat, David and Kelly from Listo

I took the stage next, and instead of making up a setlist, I decided to just write a bunch of songs down, divided up by tunings. The room was pretty full at that point, and I was a little nervous playing in front of Micah, who I consider to be a world-class picker. I did my best, though. Once again, I opened with “…Holly”, and played another song from the Holykyle LP, the folk-rock track “Good Wood”. According to my list, I played “Forty Ton Parachute”, though I don’t remember it… I threw in the old drop-D Pairdown chestnut “Threadbare”, and also played our newer “No Occupation”, which Micah later commented was one of his favorites.

The set went well enough, and I settled in the front row to watch Micah. He performed several tracks off of last year’s “The Red River” LP, my favorite of his three full-lengths. As an artist, Micah has undergone something of a transformation over the years… on his first album, “Some Sweet Day”, he conjured a very old-timey sound, playing on a National-style resonator guitar and singing in a pinched, affected voice. His songwriting has always been top-notch, though, and over the course of his next few releases, he gradually eased into a more natural singing style and a very moody, economical approach to the acoustic guitar, eventually relying almost exclusively on his Guild 12-string. His lyrics are at once elegant and stark, and his sad stories evoke another time. I was able to capture this video of “A Derelict”, one of my favorite tracks from the newest record.

After the show, we shot the shit for a little while, and Micah handed me what I later determined must have been most or all of the door money from the show, a very kind gesture. We drove over to his house in west Portland, and he put me up in his housemate Caleb’s (formerly of Cerberus Shoal and lately of husband-and-wife duo Big Blood) studio room.


That Monday morning, I threw down on the most substantial piece of toast I’ve ever encountered, 2″ thick easy, on bread baked fresh by Micah’s housemate Sean the night before. It was quite tasty, and kept me from being hungry for most of the day. The short drive to Boston meant another easy morning, so we lingered for a spell, talking about the various upcoming projects Micah had happening around the house, from installing doors to working on his moped. I finally got to gettin’, as I’ve been known to say, and had a quick, uneventful drive over to Boston’s south end, where I met my friend Nate (who incidentally also mixed Holykyle) for lunch.

Kelley Shaw-Wade, owner of Pinkergreen

Kelley Shaw-Wade, owner of Pinkergreen

We had a fine lunch indeed, me devouring a large plate of drunken noodle with shrimp and chicken (can’t remember what Nate had… I was focused!) Nate had to work for a couple more hours, so I walked around the south end, and decided to visit my old friend Kelley Shaw-Wade at the offices of her Pinkergreen design firm. We had a nice visit, and soon I picked up Nate and we drove over to his place to relax before the show.

It was at Nate’s house that evening that I had one of the strangest, most modern experiences I’ve had in some time… Nate’s housemate John and his girlfriend Nellie had arrived, and we began talking about smart phones (my girlfriend had recently given me an iPhone as a gift, which I’d been using to document the tour with photos and videos) and the various music-related software applications that could be procured. John proceeded to download an interesting “virtual guitar” to his phone, and after a couple of minutes, got pretty proficient with it! Of course, Nellie and Nate had to get in on the action, and pretty soon we had a proper smart-phone symphony happening… all improvised, of course.

Before I knew it, it was showtime. The venue was Zuzu’s, a fantastic bar and restaraunt housed between the two entrances of the legendary Middle East Club on Mass Ave in Cambridge. I turned in a pretty good set, debuting a pair of new instrumentals. “Tanning” is in double-D-down tuning (DADGBD) and has become one of my favorite duets in Pairdown, but since it was originally designed around my guitar part, I figured I’d give it a try solo. It held up okay, but I definitely missed Dave’s complimentary guitar work. The other new instrumental, “Work & Worry”, is in DADGAD and is something of a fingerbuster, written deliberately as a solo piece. It took me a good 15 seconds silently looking at my fretboard to remember how it even started, but once I got going, I picked out a more than respectable version. Three of my all-time favorite acoustic guitarists, KG Fields, Milo Jones and Micah were in attendance that night, and they all voiced approval for the new material, which was very exciting for me!

Micah once again played wonderfully, quieting down the noisy room with his first song and keeping their undivided attention for the duration of his set. Unfortunately, it was raining cats and dogs outside, and the low-lit room was far too dark to shoot any decent photos or videos.

The final act of the night was Nate and John’s band Quoins, who defy classification. Though their music is economical, it isn’t minimalist… though it is powerful and sometimes loud, it isn’t “rock”. The lyrics and melodies are consciously intelligent and angular, and many of the songs had three part harmonies in the vocals. I was very impressed with their set.

At the end of the night, Nellie and her bike hopped into my car while Nate and John went back to their practice space to unload. We all met up back at the house and went to bed.


Pete's Candy Store

Pete's Candy Store

On Tuesday afternoon, I slowly made my way toward New York City and Pete’s Candy Store, a lovely little bar on Lorimer Street in Brooklyn. I had played Pete’s a few years back with The Bee Gentles, a Bee Gees cover band that Minette and I formed to play tunes off of their pre-disco, Beatles-esque LPs. I’ve always loved the layout of Pete’s, the performance area being placed just off of the bar with a door in-between, perfect for quiet, intimate performances. The bartender, Sam, is one of the nicest in New York, and he gave me more free-drink tickets than I could use.

Well, my set that night was intimate alright… being the last act added to the bill, it meant that I would be playing around 8:15, before most people go out in NYC, including the other bands that were playing that night! For about a half-hour, I shared that little back room with a crowd of about ten folks, all of them waiting for their friends in other bands to show up. They lent me their ear, though, and I did my best to introduce them to my brand of fingerstyle acoustic music. I was done before I knew it, and since none of my NYC friends had found their way to the show, I decided that I would pack up and hit the road for home.

The drive home was pretty excruciating. If you’ve ever done NYC to Pittsburgh in the dark, it’s pretty boring to begin with… but when you factor in road fatigue, fog, rain and deer (I shot out of one of the tunnels and found myself alongside a huge buck, running in the same direction in the passing lane!) it makes for a long drive. With stops for naps and gas, that 4 ½ hour trip took me all night. I rolled back into the ‘Burgh at 7:30 AM.


Though I was back home, the tour wasn’t quite over. I had saved the best show for last, a Pairdown duo show at Morning Glory Coffeehouse, hosting and opening for the legendary Jack Rose. After a day filled with fitful attempts at sleeping, I drove over to Jeffrey Alexander’s lovely little coffeeshop and met up with David. David had been in touch with Jack throughout the day, and it turned out that Mr. Rose was at the very end of a month long tour of his own, and was pretty wiped out. To make matters worse, he got turned around trying to get into Pittsburgh, and had the potential of being in a very bad mood by the time he arrived.

Once Jack showed, though, a case of Lord Chesterfield beer was opened and everyone relaxed. I was thrilled to be reunited with my guitar playing partner, and we did a set of mostly new Pairdown songs, including recent instrumentals “Capitano” and “The D.Putnam Strut”, as well as “Cathedral”, our version of an acoustic blues. It was great to be back to the duo versions of “No Occupation” and “Spotted Eye”, and we closed the set with “Tanning”. I was very satisfied both with the way that we played and with the nice crowd that had filtered in to see us and Jack Rose.

As many acoustic guitar accolites are aware, Jack is one of the leading American Primitive-style pickers working today, and the heir apparent to the late John Fahey. His relentless touring schedule has made him an incredibly powerful and accurate player, and he performs slide, raga and back-porch instrumental guitar with the best of them. He played a little of each that night, ending his short set with a loud “That it!!” and leaving the crowd wanting more. I was completely satisfied, and glad that the night would wind down early.

Everyone agreed that the show had been a great success. Jack and David went back to David’s place in Allison Park, but I demured the invitation to come along, prefering to get home to Minette, the cozy red glow of my TV room, and then a good night’s sleep. The next day it was back to my job and normal life, if only for a little while.

Interview : Denis Turbide

Denis Turbide, playing a Larrivée 00-50

Denis Turbide, playing a Larrivée 00-50

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten to know Denis Turbide, a very fine fingerstyle guitarist from up Canada way. Denis has a self-titled, self-released CD out now… you can read the Work & Worry review here. The man also obliged W&W with a nice interview, presented below.

W&W : How old were you when you started playing guitar?

Denis : I was 13 years old when my parents got me a classical guitar for Christmas, and I took lessons for a few months after that.

W&W : When did your interest in fingerstyle guitar develop?  Please talk about your early influences…  what moved you to work in the style?

Denis : There was always fingerstyle, right from the start.  It was a classical guitar my parents had given me, after all.  My dad was a classical/opera guy.  He sang on French-Canadian radio and early TV with choirs when he was younger.  He wanted me to play classical guitar.

My first teacher taught me Beatles and Supertramp…the pentatonic scale.  I had a classical teacher after that first summer but I didn’t like reading music.  At the same time, I was listening to, and trying to learn, a lot of Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, James Taylor, Neil Young, America… obviously anything acoustic.  Jimmy Page’s acoustic playing is still some of my favourite music.

W&W : Did your dad enjoy the rock and pop music that you were getting into?  Could he appreciate the stuff you were working to learn?

Denis : Dad was a real Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Rossini, Leoncavallo kinda guy.  Glenn Gould, Yehudi Menhuin, Mario Lanza, Pavarotti, Beverly Sills, Maria Callas…  Pop [music], when he was young, was Elvis and Chuck Berry, but Dad didn’t dig it too much.  Classical music did rub off on me, though.  I love hearing Bach especially.  Some of the most incredible and powerful music ever written.   All that said, I’m sure he could sing a few Beatles tunes…

W&W : So you gave up on the lessons pretty early on, and decided to follow your ear?  How long was it before you switched over to steel strings?

Denis : The lessons I did for about 8-9 months altogether, over the course of about a year and a half.  I learned fast and nobody ever had to force me to practice.  I knew a lot of chords, found changes and learned new songs all the time. The next guitar I got after 2 years with the classical was a 12-string.  I guess I didn’t play much fingerstyle on it, but I’m sure I played some… we’re talking some 25+ years ago.

W&W : Have you always flown solo, or did you spend any time playing in groups?

I wasn’t ever really in a group.  There was a duet for while, over a decade ago, but since then it’s been pretty much me.

W&W : What tunings do you use on your recent s/t CD?

Denis : “A Little Bit” is in standard, “Derivatives” is dropped D, “After the Battle” is in DGDGBbD (open G min) and then DADGAD for “Samuel”, “Havre-aux-maisons” and “Firstborn”.  My new tune, “That Face”, is in open G or DGDGBD.

W&W : You have a lot of YouTube hits and a lot of people requesting TABs for your songs…  it has obviously been very good exposure for you, but how do you feel about the internet and social networking sites (Myspace, etc) and how it relates to the essence of playing guitar?  Do you think it’s a natural progression from learning about guitar through books, concerts and albums?

Denis : How it relates to the essence of playing the guitar?  Natural progression?  Not sure about that but it’s been helpful getting the music out there, [though] obviously it does take up a lot of time getting things together.  There are so many different sites now as well.  How does anyone choose the one(s) that will get the most exposure?  They all want you to join their site and all of them say that they will get you noticed….blah, blah, blah.

It is fun being an indie artist, though.  Everything I’ve acheived so far is all because of the effort I put into it.  The fact that people actually ask for my tabs is still a bit mindblowing for me, though.  Sure, I’d love for more people to hear my music and to love it, but the fact that some out there want to actually learn my stuff is pretty exciting.

W&W : What was the process of getting the TABs together?

Denis : I checked around online looking for someone who tabs out tunes as it would have taken me a long time to do it.  Writing out a few bars on some tab paper with a pencil and doing a whole tune on a computer are two different things.  Alois Kleewein checked out the tunes… he really liked “Samuel”. He sent me some Tabledit previews, then he ran them through some software he’s got.  They came out pretty nice.  He plays in a funk band in Austria and we’ve only ever communicated online.

W&W : Talk a little bit about the guitars you’re using, string gauges, fingerpicks or no?  Do you use the ring finger when you pick, thumb and two fingers, no particular approach?

Denis : I’ve been playing Larrivées for the last few years.  Great guitars.  Late last year, some members of the Larrivée online forum came up with some specs for a custom model that I was really interested in.  It’s a smaller version of their proprietary L model, an LS, but they made it with a 12 fret neck, which I love.  Mine has an Italian spruce top and mahogany back and sides.  Outstanding.

Denis' Limited-Production Larrivée LS

Denis' Limited-Production Larrivée LS

For the CD, I used an L-03R and OO-50, both Larrivées and both I no longer own.  The new LS I used for [the new recording] “That Face”. Uncoated D’Addarios are pretty much what I use when it comes to strings.  The plain old EJ16, phosphor bronze light gauge. Their quality is consistent, they’re cheap and everyone has them in stock pretty much all the time.  I’ve never been able to use finger/thumbpicks.  I use a combination of flesh and nail when it comes to the picking, and I do use the ring finger as well.  When I used to teach, I would tell the students to use the ring finger for the first string, middle for the second, index for the third and the thumb was for the top three.  But then, no rule is written in stone.

W&W : Earlier this year, you talked about pursuing gigs again, after a pretty good hiatus…  how has that been going?  Do you see any touring in your future to promote this or future releases?  Any upcoming gigs to report?

Denis : I would love to tour and stuff but I’ve got shared custody of my 3 and 6 year old sons, a full-time job, a mortgage… responsibilities.  I’m not 20 anymore either!  I should be more proactive, more aggressive but I’ve got so much going as it is.  I’d love for this to become a career but, as everyone knows, the music business isn’t exactly a steady job with a regular paycheck.  I have a regular monthly gig in Ottawa, Ontario at a pub called Woody’s.  Great place.  I started playing the open mic on Mondays about 2 years ago.  It’s a relaxed, no pressure kind of place.

No future releases in the works right now but that could change if I come up with something new.

W&W : What cover songs are in your current repertoire?  Which songs, cover versions or originals, do you find the most challenging to play? 

Denis : My repertoire includes just about anything I can remember!  I’ve been learning songs and pieces for nearly 30 years so there’s a lot that I forget I know how to play.  Some of my favourites are up on YouTube now… “Little Martha”, “Never Going Back”, “That’s the Way”, and “Take Five”.  I do a fingerstyle/vocal version of “Whiter Shade of Pale”, “Fragile” by Sting… I’m a big Beatles fan, so I do a bunch of their tunes like “Blackbird”, “Norwegian Wood”, and “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”.  I do a couple of [Pierre] Bensusan tunes, John Renbourn’s  “Luke’s Little Summer”… that’s one of my all-time favourite pieces on the guitar.

W&W : Your picking style seems to have a healthy dose of American Primitive influence (Kottke, Fahey, Takoma Recs… steady boom-chick with melodies in the high strings, etc..)  Would you say that that was an important influence, and have you kept an eye on the current crop of American Primitive-style players?

Denis : Well, I started learning the alternating bass thing way back with tunes like “The Boxer” and “Dust in the Wind”… still play those live too!  But Leo Kottke, Fahey… amazing players.  I don’t really play any Kottke tunes but there are some that I love… anything off of 6 and 12 String Guitar… wow, what a great album!!  Jerry Reed’s “Heavy Necking” book… great stuff for any picker in there!  I’m not really familiar with much new music/players these days.  It appeals to me but I just can’t seem to find the time to really listen and enjoy.  I barely have time to sit and play myself!

W&W : Your children seem to be one of your biggest inspirations.  Do you think your children might follow your lead and become players?

Denis : My kids are my life.  I’ll love them no matter what.  I’m not sure if they’ll ever want to play, let alone want to play with the old man!  I just want them to be happy with whatever they choose to do.  That’s all any parent can hope for.

Interview by Raymond Morin

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