I don’t know about the rest of you, but even with all of the guitar straps available today, it still seems like it’s hard to find great straps! Maybe I’m too picky, but to me your guitar strap says a lot about your personality. I’ve gotten great straps from Jeri Designs and Red Monkey, and I picked up a really nice, simple strap from Gruhn’s in Nashville by Long Hollow Leather. I’ve even started making straps from new and vintage belts that have turned out pretty well.
Black Iguana w/ Black Stitching
One of the big problems with the great custom straps though is their high cost. Straps from Moody, El Dorado, and Anthology are really nice, but set you back the price of at least a couple nice effects pedals! That’s why we were happy to find Pete Schmidt Straps at NAMM this year. You always find great stuff on the bottom floor of the convention center where most of the smaller guys have booths, and this year was no exception. Pete’s straps are some of the highest quality we’ve seen and the prices are super competitive compared to straps of the same quality. I picked up a Black Iguana strap with creme stitching and at $95 list price it’s fantastic! I’m 6’5″ so it’s really nice that they come in long lengths as well. Pete lives in Peru and contracts with local leather craftsmen to make these custom straps which helps keep the costs reasonable. Plus they come in the cool, round boxes you can see in the picture.
Pete and Andy are great to work with and can talk straps all day, so check out Pete Schmidt Straps and don’t hesitate to give them a call if you have any questions.
Vintage Icon Tele, '56 RI LP Custom, Mesa Lonestar Special
With all of the articles and press releases coming out featuring all the amazing new gear debuting at this week’s NAMM show in Anaheim, there was a release that warranted a second look as many of you may not be familiar with Trevor Wilkinson’s line of guitars. I have been fortunate enough to work with Trevor and Dennis Drumm at JHS over the last year, and this new Fret-King Black Label line of guitars is well worth a closer look.The goal with this line was to combine boutique design, custom-shop quality, and pro playability, at a price that is affordable to all players.
I have been using the Wilkinson Vintage Icon Tele for the past year and it has become one of my go-to guitars for the biggest shows we play. It’s hard to believe the extremely reasonable price-point while playing this guitar, as it more than holds it’s own next to some of the iconic guitars available today.
Here is the press release in it’s entirety:
Raising the bar… Introducing Fret-King Black Label
Worldwide trade distributor John Hornby Skewes & Co. Ltd and leading musical instrument designer Trev Wilkinson are delighted to announce the ground-breaking new Fret-King Black Label range of electric guitars and basses.
Country Squire De-Luxe
Black Label features 12 different instruments that combine tradition, boutique design, custom shop quality, pro playability and comfortable individuality. The range will receive its worldwide unveiling at the 2012 NAMM show, held between January 19th and 22nd in Anaheim, California.
The Black Label design brief was to prove that it is possible to create spectacular guitars that are totally acceptable as a real journeyman player’s working tool, fit for the highest profile player on the biggest arena stage in the world – and yet affordable to all.
Black Label takes a fresh view of how to bring real custom shop high-end features, the benefits they bring, and the advantages you get from instruments designed to be professional working tools.
Part of the Black Label design brief was to actually listen to pro players, and to work with them to create instruments that reflected their ideal guitar. The result of this collaboration between Trev Wilkinson and hugely experienced players like Jerry Donahue, Dave ‘Bucket’ Colwell, Gordon Giltrap, and Geoff Whitehorn – all players who have definitely paid their dues, reflect a huge variety of styles, and who, as well as being great players, know a thing or two about guitars – is a collection of artist-inspired guitars featuring attributes that all players will find useable, useful, and, above all, musical.
There are also standards to be recognised, passed and improved upon. The single cut Black Label Eclat, with peerless classic looks, and a tonal palette of such sophistication it could be three other guitars as well. The Country Squire is a magical fusion of the familiar with the contemporary. The Elise has a body style with a heritage that spans all musical styles, while the Corona, a moniker associated with high-end UK-built double-cut Fret-Kings for over two decades, builds on the roots of this icon. Meanwhile, the Super-Hybrid is radical, acoustic electric hybrid is so useable, and the Perception is a name synonymous with basses for real bass players.
Perception 4-String Bass
Dennis Drumm, JHS’s Managing Director, said: “Fret-King Black Label is taking Trev Wilkinson’s affordable boutique guitars to a new level. We’ve worked with a group of amazing artists to produce a line of guitars and basses with flair and creative innovations that give you an incredible, tactile and emotional guitar playing experience.
“Part of the design brief was to prove the point that it’s possible to create guitars that really ‘raise the bar’ – while still being affordable to any player. We love a challenge – see these guitars and you’ll be amazed! Unique and distinctive, memorable and reliable, 101% playable. Black Label represents tomorrow’s classics today.”
And Black Label has already made waves with esteemed musicians and journalists. Dave Burrluck, Gear Reviews Editor at Guitarist magazine, said: “You’d be foolish not to audition the Fret-King Black Label range – the bar has been raised!”
For more information, visit the Fret-King website, and view an introduction to Black Label with Trev Wilkinson here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcMficw1R0Q&feature=player_embedded
JHS will be at Hall E 1212 at NAMM 2012, so make sure to stop by and see Black Label, as well as the entire ranges of Fret-King, Vintage, Santos Martinez and Encore guitars.
You can find the entire line of Wilkinson Guitars here:
John Hornby Skewes & Co. Ltd.: www.jhs.co.uk
Fret-King Black Label: www.fret-king.com/black_label.htm
Graham Oliver Vintage signature guitar: www.jhs.co.uk/vintageelectric.html#go
Paul Brett Vintage signature guitars: www.jhs.co.uk/paulbrett.html
So we’ve had a few people ask us why we don’t have more bass-related articles on here (since Ray is a bass player and all), so I came across something that was pretty interesting and somewhat bass-related. We have a good friend down in Eugene, OR named Chris Ward who plays guitar with Amy Clawson & Coltrane, and he just sent me an interesting audio clip that I thought you all might be interested in.
Apparently Alex Aguilar, who is the former president and design engineer at Aguilar Amplification, has started a new company called Eagle Lair Audio, and their initial focus will be on cutting edge products geared toward guitarists. (See, there’s the bass player angle, although he’s seen the light and come over to the 6-string side!).
The first product being launched next week at NAMM is the HALO (Harmonic Amp-Like Overdrive) pedal. The goal of the HALO is to provide a high quality, no compromise effects pedal delivering harmonically rich distortion characteristics that feel, sound and react to picking nuances like the best tube amplifier designs. The result is a pedal that is sonically equivalent (and, in many cases superior) to tube saturation in the best guitar amps, while also producing tones that previously were not possible within solid state circuit topology. List price for the HALO is $399.
So as it turns out, our friend Chris down in Eugene actually had use of a prototype of this pedal last year and recorded a short audio clip of the various sounds. Here is the clip and what Chris had to say about the pedal:
“This is my Tele into the Aguilar prototype pedal into my ProReverb at a low, clean volume. If I remember right the mic is a 57 straight into ProTools. I am adjusting the guitar volume knob to get different amounts of overdrive. Good sound and very responsive for a pedal
It is the same Alex Aguilar that makes the bass amps, but as I understand it, he has sold that company and is no longer involved. I gather that he has been working on this prototype pedal for about three years now. I guess the electronic circuit is a completely different way of generating overdrive compared to anything that has been done before. He is going for a tube amp like responsiveness with the ultimate goal of building a solid state amp with this circuit as the preamp.
Somehow he got in touch with a collective of players here in Eugene who passed the pedal around and gave feedback on the design. I gather that he has addressed some concerns and changed the design a bit since we had the prototype.
McKenzie River Music had some first run pedals in for sale and I think they have an order in for more. He is building them by hand right now. (apparently it takes him two days to build each pedal.)
I should add that this pedal is also extremely versatile. With the tone knob, the bass, contour, and presence knobs, the three way clipping shape switch and the saturation switch, a very wide range of tones can be dialed in.
In the clip that I recorded, I had spent some time dialing in the pedal to try to see how closely I could match the recorded tone of my Metro Amps 50watt Plexi.“
Ray and I will definitely be checking out this pedal at NAMM and will let you know what we think after we have a chance to play through it. Very special thanks to Chris Ward for the great demo clip and info on this cool new pedal!
Ray and I have been fortunate enough to work with a lot of national acts over the last couple of years, and I always try and take a lot of photographs backstage (mainly because I’m old and don’t want to forget all the cool stuff we did!). Some shows I’m more successful than others, but we have met some really interesting and helpful band members and techs and been given access to all kinds of cool things. I thought I would start a new TGM series called “CrossWire Backstage With:” and post backstage pictures from some of these shows for you to enjoy.
I thought I’d start with our most recent shows as we did the Northwest leg of the Colt Ford tour. If you’re not familiar with Colt Ford, he wrote Jason Aldean’s #1 hit, Dirt Road Anthem, and is known for creating “Hick Hop,” a blend of hard rockin’ country and hip hop. They were great to hang out with, and his band were really great guys as well.
Ray and I are always looking for guest writers here at The Gigging Musician, and we recently received a great article from Jamie Briggs about Joe Bonamassa’s reaction to the latest Grammy Nominations. Like Toby Keith and the CMA’s, and many other deserving folks before, Bonamassa is just the latest in a long line of snubbed artists. Thanks for the article Jamie!
Joe Bonamassa isn’t happy with the Grammy Nominations, but do awards matter much?
Bonamassa in Portland, OR - 12/14/11
The Joe Bonamassa musical juggernaut has showed no signs of slowing since he was awarded the Breakthrough Artist of the Year Award in the UK’s Classic Rock magazine in 2009, a year in which he was also awarded Best Blues Guitarist by Guitar Player’s Reader’s Choice Awards. With a new album released this year to widespread acclaim, along with a sell out world tour that is also receiving rave reviews, 2011 has been a good year. This is ‘business as usual’ however, for a man who has topped the US Blues chart with astonishing regularity and has the Joe Bonamassa range of guitars to his name. As a child prodigy who was playing Hendrix at the age of seven, this has always been his throne to take.
And yet, despite his massive international success, Joe Bonamassa has not been nominated for a Grammy again, making this the twelfth time in a row. Though known as a humble and quiet person, his trademark cool vanished, and he vented his anger via Twitter:
“stats.12 records.. 9 # 1 blues albums… Sold out shows around the globe.. 0 Grammy nominations.. Honestly.. I used to care.. not anymore (sic)”
“Im honestly so done with this bullshit… I will never submit another record again for the Grammys.. Its a waist of my time and postage. (sic)”
These were among the tweets posted following the nominations, and, well, who could blame him. It does raise questions once more, however, as to whether industry led musical awards have any validity. The more interesting question however, is why artists with such adoration and commercial success, and who manage the near impossible task of matching this with the respect of their musical piers seem to need an industry award for validation? Perhaps this is the last achievement left to add to his musical CV, the name ‘Grammy’ still holding as it does, a huge amount of historical kudos.
Bonamassa’s indignant stance goes against the grain of many musicians’ attitudes towards the Grammys, however. Famously, in 1996, when Pearl Jam won the award for ‘Best Hard Rock Performance’ for ‘Spin the Black Circle’, Eddie Vedder stated in his acceptance speech, “I don’t know what this means. I don’t think it means anything.” The award itself was dragged out of a dusty basement on film, during the Pearl Jam documentary Twenty. This is an attitude shared by Justin Vernon, front-man for 2011 nominee Bon Ivor, who has branded the award ceremony as ‘ridiculous’, and even gone so far as stating (in reference to artists who have ambitions of receiving a Grammy) “98 percent of the people in that room, their art is compromised by the fact that they’re thinking that.”
Whilst it’s easy to criticise Bonamassa, if viewed from the perspective of a man ‘doing a job’, it is hard not to sympathise. How many readers would not feel a little disgruntled if, after performing your job at the highest level for twelve years, had received none of the commensurate recognition? However, the most important aspect of any music, or any creative art for that matter, is the relationship between the performer and the audience. If the audience is held by the performance, and emotionally or intellectually stimulated, and leaves satisfied, their life enriched as a result, then that, surely, is the performer’s role fulfilled. And who would want more than that?