Mo’ Keb’ Mo’

Just a quick post about the Ke’ Mo’ PBS show last night. The seeds for this show were planted almost four years ago during one of  Keb’s visits to the Workshop. The two of us had lunch together with Jack Forchette who is Infinity Hall’s Director of Entertainment and Business Development. Infinity’s PBS TV show was just being planned, and it seemed like a three-time Grammy Award winner like Keb’ Mo’ would be an excellent fit for this intimate venue.

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I arrived at Infinity Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut moments before the tour bus pulled up and Jack and I were able to welcome Keb’ and his band at the front door. To my delight, Keb’s manager John Boncimino was there as well. John and I go back to the old blues club days in Chicago, so it was great to catch up.  Keb’ was in good spirits and ready to get down to a long day and night of work, so inside we all went.

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My first task was to take a look over “Big Red” which is one of Keb”s main guitars. Everything seemed fine so I hustled up to the mezzanine with Jack and John to watch some of the run through.

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The shot below shows how cozy the hall is, and the Meyer Sound system makes every seat a perfect audio experience. I was happy to see Keb’ Mo’ Band regular Jeff Paris again, today he was playing guitar and mandolin. That’s him on the far left. Seated in the center was legendary producer Russ Titelman, who was working with Keb’.

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After a long sound check we all got to hang out a bit and then have some dinner. The show went well with only one break for some difficulty when the jib/crane camera went down. It was replaced quickly and it was on with the show. The band went through old favorites like “Rita” and “Shave Yo’ Legs” as well as some material from the latest CD The Reflection to get it down on video.

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Directly after the taping the TV crew shot some Q&A footage with show patrons and Keb’ for a while then we all disappeared downstairs to the dressing rooms. It was great to be among friends and to celebrate the occasion. Everyone seemed really happy with the show, and Titleman was delighted. With all the tension of the long day gone, Keb’ and I were able to have a little time to sit talk about some future projects. Around midnight it was time to go, with warm goodbyes all around before we headed our separate ways in the night.

 

Tweed Case Buildup and Keb’

There’s been a lot going on since my last post. Hurricane Irene gave us a good scare but fortunately we escaped with very little damage. Some of our neighbors weren’t so lucky. Most of the work here involved strapping stuff down—moving and waterproofing things. The ramp up and wind down were more stressful than the storm itself. A few downed tree limbs and a general mess outdoors was the extent of it as we dodged the bullet.

After months of back and forth with the manufacturer, the case husk for the Crow arrived. Despite my sending samples for the vintage antique tweed, the color and finsih were not to my liking. I had paid for an entire hide of smooth, dark brown leather for the trim to match the antique suitcase—fortunately that was perfect.

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Because I’d already tested a lacquering process for the samples, I knew that I could get the tweed right. It was just a matter of taking the case apart and antiquing it. The next step was to mix up the lacquer tint.

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The color I wanted simulated decades of darkening and discoloration from use. The recipie included yellow, red, brown and a hint of violet all mixed into a thin base of lacquer. The application would be done with a two inch brush in order for me to work it into the weave.

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Even though the tint was strong, I wanted to use multiple coats in order to replicate the uneven weathering of the original. This gives it a more authentic look and feel.

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I’ll get the last coat on this morning before I head down to Infinity Hall to meet up with my old friend Keb’ Mo’. He’s taping a PBS concert tonight, and I had a small part in hooking him up with the gig. We’re gonna be talking guitars and catching up. There are some new ideas on the boil—can’t wait to see what we come up with.

 

Headstock from Hell

Pressing onward with the Hell’s Half Acre guitar, I’ve gotten the neck blank to the rough carve stage. To do this, I use a cabinet scraper as described in my previous post. After the truss rod has been installed and the spline glued in, the final headstock shape could be cut. Jim looks on as I finsih up.

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In the photo below, you can see the tuner holes which are undersized until the moment the tuners are fitted. This will give a snug fit for improved vibration transfer.

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The stepped channel for purfling and outside binding has also been cut. I’m using a half-herringbone purfling made of alternating maple and ebony pieces to create a look that evokes an image of the cowboy’s lariat. Here, you can also see the ring groove that has been cut at the headstock tip for the pearl monogram inlay. More after a while…

Crow Wing Spread in Guitar Player

With about fifteen minutes to kill before our pizza was ready for pick up, my wife and I ducked into Barnes & Noble. Carla headed directly for the photography magazines while I hovered over a copy of Vintage Motorcycles. Eventually, I made my way to the music section and opened up a copy of the latest Guitar Player.

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The main subject was dedicated to fuzz boxes so I was curious and hoping to see some coverage of my good friend Analogman. Before I got to the effects-pedal article I found something that stopped me dead and brought a smile to my face.

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Wow! Just wow. There she was, spread out over two full pages—Rick Whittey’s epic shot of the Crow perched on a tree branch. Now, of course I knew that the editors had the shot, but I wasn’t prepared for this. Even when you pour yourself into a project like I do, you’re still happy when people “get it” and this told me that they did.

I rounded the corner of the aisle where Carla was standing and flashed the spread just to see her beautiful smile.

Thanks guys.

 

Ye Ancientest Bone Orchard Angels

A while ago I wrote about how my headstock design came about. I was reading a book called In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaology of Early American Life, by James Deetz. The book is a study of the archeological history of  early America (or New England) which is where I currently reside.

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Chapter four entitled Remember Me as You Pass By outlines the evolution of headstones carved in Connecticut and Massachusetts  in the period between 1715 and 1829. I was struck by the author’s description of  how the symbolism used on headstones changed in step with society’s evolving ideology and notions about life, death and the hereafter.

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The gravestones begin as simple markers with warnings about death, transitioning to the memorials that we are more familiar with today. The inscriptions begin to refer to the “earthly remains” alluding to the idea of a soul or afterlife being separate from the buried husk. It is interesting to note that society’s concept of the human being’s place in the universe is not static. Even today, despite our “modern” scientific arrogance, we are still evolving our understanding of what it is to be alive.

Yesterday, my casual glance came across the book. I was reminded of my earlier post and the way that chapter influenced my design. It was a gorgeous day so I decided to take a field trip to one of the early graveyards mentioned in the book.

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Sandwiched behind a freeway entrance ramp and a dead end street, I found New London’s “Ancientest Bone Orchard” quiet and almost forgotten. I made my way around looking at the stonework and reading inscriptions. Just as I’d hoped, I found examples of exactly what I’d read about.

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This is an early example—a winged death’s head. Note the row of scary teeth and blank eyes. Certainly a grisly warning about the end of the line.

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Next is a transitional winged skull. The bottom of the nose resembles a frown as the teeth become less evident as well.

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Another skull sports crossed bones and a very prominent frown. The teeth have migrated to the bottom and appear almost as a collar.

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Finally, surrounded by urns and flowers, the cherubs and angels appear around 1860. These headstones clearly are memorials as opposed to just body markers. The upturned wings, eyes and mouths signify a happier ending than the death’s heads of just half a century before.

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Although tramping around in a three hundred year old cemetery isn’t my usual idea of a picnic, I was thrilled to witness the actual articles in the Deetz book. It was a sobering reminder of the transience of life. As I read the inscriptions I couldn’t help but to think of the families who have grieved at their loss. I said a few words—a kind of haiku—and moved along home.

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Even though the shape of my headstock isn’t exactly the same as the headstones that helped to inspire it—I’m still hoping that it too will be remembered as people pass by.