Bob McAlpine visits Stonebridge Guitars International to talk about his guitars, the new album and Canadian Guitar Festival.
“Just received the guitar this afternoon. It plays and sounds better than anything I could have ever imagined. It is simply transplendent. Wow! I don’t think an acoustic guitar could be made any better. Attached is an essay regarding my tribute to this guitar company. Feel free to post it on the Stonebridge website.” – John Danley
Of all the great feedback we receive about our guitars, the following essay by award winning guitarist John Danley is the most articulate. John recently custom ordered a G22LR-C and couldn’t be happier because the guitar has “reinvigorated a former passion.”
Here is the essay:
An Encounter With Excellence
Last October I walked into a Nashville music store with my wife determined to beta test a limited edition acoustic guitar manufactured by a popular luthier. The salesman told me they didn’t carry that model, but suggested I try another guitar instead. He handed me a Stonebridge G-22SR-C (I had never heard of this guitar before). The salesman proceeded to explain the history of Stonebridge Guitars and the story of Roger Schmidt and Frantisek Furch while I discreetly tuned the guitar.
For the next twenty minutes I experienced the embodiment of acoustic euphoria. Symphonic sustain, powerful projection, meticulous balance, crisp dynamics, decadent resonance, ethereal harmonics, and effortless responsiveness. It was like a serotonin generator had been implanted in my cerebral cortex when I realized the creative possibilities. After years spent compromising with resistant instruments that required various degrees of adroit negotiation, a guitar had emerged that offered every desirable characteristic imaginable and a possible cure for the musician’s version of writer’s block. Every aspect of the instrument’s design was crafted to produce maximum musicality and optimum utility without resorting to ornate flamboyance. To exhaust cliches, the guitar might as well have been playing itself as it required minimal effort to create a rich landscape of sound. In fact, I think you’d have a difficult time discovering a style of playing that wouldn’t work with this guitar.
As a musician, I’ve often encountered acoustic guitars that demand a suspension of my expectations. Maybe the neck is comfortable, but the instrument sounds flat. Perhaps the tone of the instrument is divine, but the balance is less than desirable. In worst case scenarios, playing an expensive guitar that promises to justify its reputation ends up being a confrontation with poor intonation, hampered clarity, wonky bass, harsh treble, and the feeling of having to struggle with a non-compliant instrument. Comparing guitars, like comparing pickups, can lead to neurosis if you take it too seriously. After all, the paradox of choice tends to be more of a liability than a welcome opportunity in today’s saturated market. Many years ago I decided that the search for an affordable, all-purpose acoustic guitar capable of sonic excellence and graceful playability—while also being reliable in the studio or on stage—would result in perpetual frustration. However, as science gently reminds us, sometimes the best thing that can happen is when we are proven wrong.
In 2009 I declared a moratorium on music performance and recording to pursue a career in psychotherapy. It pleases me to say that I am now the owner of a customized Stonebridge acoustic guitar and looking forward to completing another recording project to be released later this year. It may be difficult to believe that a single encounter with an acoustic guitar could reinvigorate a former passion, but it seems to be working out rather nicely.
JOHN DANLEY is an experimental, fingerstyle guitarist who composes and performs his own blend of acoustic, instrumental music. John has developed a style of guitar playing by using a housepainter’s paintbrush to add percussive sounds to the instrument while simultaneously creating colorful harmonies and distinctive melodic hooks. His exposure includes extensive airplay on syndicated radio stations focusing on folk, new age, acoustic, jazz, blues and world music. John Danley is a regular contributor to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, Public Radio International’s To The Best of Our Knowledge, a performing arts entertainer and composer of music for film and television (including TBS soundtracks for cable). He has performed at The Kennedy Center, college universities, festivals, art galleries, workshops, the Healdsburg Guitar Festival, and has shared the stage with such artists as David Gray, Iris DeMent, Gove Scrivenor, Reese Wynans, Cheryl Wheeler, Peppino D’Agostino, and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.
Nominations and awards include The Nashville Scene’s “Best Guitar Hero” in 2002 and “best solo guitar album” Cemeteries, Missed Trains and Blue Skies and “best solo guitar song of the year” Hickory, 2004 JPFolks Music Awards. In addition, Drifting into Oblivion, John‘s 5th solo release, was nominated by JPFolks in 2006. Amber Dispositions, his 7th solo release, was nominated for JPFolks 2009 Solo Guitar Album of the Year. Toledo was nominated for 2009 Solo Guitar Song of the Year.
We made so many new friends in 2014 through the Stonebridge/Furch Guitars Artist Collaboration Program. We recognize the importance of working with incredible artists to help spread the word about Stonebridge/Furch Guitars. Each one of these exceptional musicians uses a Stonebridge or Furch as their guitar of choice, and we are very thankful for all the support.
Please take some time to check out the artists we started collaborating with in 2014.
Guitar: G23SC-C (sitka, cocobolo) http://adrianbellue.com
Guitar: OM31SR-C-DB (sitka, rosewood)
Guitars: G24CR-C (cedar, rosewood), D20CM-12 (cedar, mahogany, 12-string) www.bobmcalpine.ca
Brian Gundersdorf – Member of folk band We’re About 9 from Baltimore, Maryland.
Guitar: Custom G22CR-C-SB (cedar, rosewood, sunburst, logo inlay) https://www.facebook.com/WereAbout9
Guitar: D22SRA (aged sitka, rosewood) http://www.darlingside.com
Guitars: G22CR-C (cedar, rosewood) and Custom SJ22LC-C (alpine spruce, cocobolo, logo inlay) http://henrynam.com
Guitar: Custom OOM33AR (adirondack, rosewood) http://ianreid.ca
Guitar: OM33LR-DB (alpine spruce, rosewood) www.jaysonangove.com
Guitar: D22SR (sitka, rosewood) www.jimbryson.org
Guitar: G24CR (cedar, rosewood) http://www.joachimnordensson.com
Guitar: D31SR (sitka, rosewood) http://amongmillions.com
J.P. Cormier – Canadian folk singer songwriter, and virtuosic guitarist currently making his home in Pictou, Nova Scotia.
Guitars: D33SR-SB (sitka, rosewood, sunburst), G25CR-C (cedar, rosewood), D22SMA-C (aged sitka, mahogany) http://jp-cormier.com
Mark Grover – Fingerstyle guitarist and owner of website Guitar-Transcriptions.com from Perry, New York.
Guitar: G23SR-C (sitka, rosewood) http://www.guitar-transcriptions.com
Guitar: D23CR-C (cedar, rosewood) http://www.ennismusic.com
Guitar: G22CR-C (cedar, rosewood) http://www.michellequreshi.com
Guitar: G22SR-C (sitka, rosewood) http://www.heylangford.com
Guitar: OM30SM (sitka, mahogany) http://www.nefemusic.com
Guitar: G23CR-C (cedar, rosewood) http://instagram.com/nickredshred
Guitar: D23CR (cedar, rosewood) http://www.100milehouse.co.uk
Guitar: G22CM (cedar, mahogany) http://hynesite.org
Guitar: D31SR (sitka, rosewood) http://www.rosslivermoreband.com
Guitar: G22CR-C (cedar, rosewood) http://www.vindownes.com
If you are interested in learning more about the Artist Collaboration Program including how to apply, please click the link. http://stonebridgeguitars.com/2014/08/20/collaborating-artists-wanted/
“Michelle Qureshi is a composer, multi‐instrumentalist, and classically trained guitarist. Michelle’s music has been described as enchanting and healing, as mysterious and mesmerizing, drawn with delicate, soulful sounds. Currently, she has released six albums: Of Light, Illumination, Flow, Meditations, Suite Beats and Margalla Hills.” – http://www.michellequreshi.com
Luke: You are a classically trained guitarist. Where did you train and what was your favorite classical guitar piece to learn?
Michelle: Before training as a classical guitarist, I was drawn to this instrument in my teenage years and quickly taught myself many styles of guitar playing. I had acoustic guitars, electric guitar, mandolins, pedal steel guitars, and 12-strings guitars. My formal studies however didn’t begin until I enrolled in a music conservatory during my college years. From there I received a solid foundation in Western Classical music, and graduated with a Bachelor and Master’s degree in Classical Guitar Performance. Besides acquiring a different set of skills on my instrument, I also became intrigued with music from many different time periods and parts of the world. This curiosity about various music traditions may be heard in my playing and composing. My favorite music to learn that was actually composed for the guitar was the music of Uruguayan guitarist and composer Abel Carlevaro and Paraguayan guitarist and composer Augustin Barrios. But I always loved working on anything by J.S. Bach transcribed for guitar!
Luke: Your new album Margalla Hills works as a soundtrack for meditation or yoga. What has drawn you to writing this type of music?
Michelle: Well prior to this release, a few albums were specific to this genre, using elements of guitar within a somewhat new age, neo-classical framework. My first album, Of Light, from 2012, can be described as peaceful music for relaxation and meditation. It combines enchanting melodies with deep, soulful harmonies to create a wonderful tranquility. In 2013 I released Illumination, an album of mesmerizing, beautiful, and sensual music created from plucked strings and highly imaginative sounds. Flow, from 2014, contains hypnotic beats and guitars, with South Asian flavors interspersed with chanted mantras. Meditations is a world fusion album released in 2014 that is a blissful musical journey with guitars, flutes, singing bowls, didgeridoos, synthesizers and percussion. Also from 2014 was Suite Beats, a unique collection of undulating music that fuses genres of rock, world, chillout, and EDM. So although guitar has provided texture and atmosphere throughout all these albums, it is the focus in Margalla Hills.
Here is a video playlist of some guitar improvs by Michelle Qureshi. Many of the improvs feature her Stonebridge G22CR-C:
Luke: Most of the clips you post on twitter and instagram are improvisational. Tell us about the recording process when it comes to improvisations. Are the songs on your new album improvisations?
Michelle: I love that aspect of music that is based on creating in the moment. To balance the detailed and demanding work of composing, recording and producing my music, of which I am the sole executer of, I thoroughly enjoy taking breaks from this kind of work by creating the improvisations you see on Instagram and YouTube. Often times it starts with any simple progression, captured with a loop pedal, and then I improvise more and more layers until I’m ready for the “live” layer, which I record to video on my iPhone. It’s an exercise that really clears my mind. As I was getting to know the Furch guitar, I set up to record some solo improvisations in different tunings. The opening piece on Margalla Hills, Windflowers, came from this session-just a simple thought, expressed sweetly, with brevity. Other times in my composing/recording process improvisation has a role when I’m looking to capture a feeling or mood that requires spontaneity by its definition. I guess what I’m saying is there’s a place for both in music, the carefully chosen, well rehearsed notes and the spontaneous ones that just flow from your fingertips!
Luke: I think it’s awesome that you perform at venues like yoga studios, which aren’t designed for commercial music. What is the most unconventional venue you’ve ever performed at?
Michelle: I wish I had a wacky tale of playing at some crazy venue. I do play anywhere my music takes me, though! Maybe I’ve just suppressed things, but at the moment I don’t have a story. I remember one gig when I was in music school with a dear friend who played flute. She was pretty near nine months pregnant and still gigging with me. We arrived to play at a private party, apparently out of view of the hostess. When we were on our way out she thanked us for the beautiful flute and piano music.
Luke: You were borrowing a Furch from your cousin before getting your very own G22CR-C. What was it about Furch guitars that inspired you to get one of your own?
Michelle: My cousin continues to be generous with his guitars, but after two years, I was the one thinking he should be getting it back. His Furch is beautiful instrument with a strong, focused tone. I really hadn’t had a good steel string since I was a teenager; I think I recall having a Martin D-28. The memory is foggy though, because I was always trading and swapping instruments back then. Anyway, the coincidental meeting between Furch and Stonebridge happened when I met Henry Nam, where we were both performing at the Serendipity Festival in Indiana this past summer. Our paths crossed but we both kept missing the opportunity to play together. Finally at one point he told me I should really check out his Stonebridge guitar, and I told him about my Furch. That’s when he told me of the alliance between them! It was all quite serendipitous! We keep in touch and his connection to Stonebridge guided me to applying for the Artist Collaboration program. I very happy to own this G-22CR-C. Steel strings dictate such a different approach than nylon string guitars, and I love the sound it reveals to me. I am hopeful that the opportunity to experience a nylon string Stonebridge will arise in the very near future!
Luke: Thank you Michelle. Please visit http://www.michellequreshi.com for more information.
Calum Graham has checked another once in a lifetime experience off his list. He is currently in Laguna Beach, California, co-writing a music score for a new IMAX documentary on humpback whales.
Calum brought a new Stonebridge G24CC-C along for inspiration. This guitar features premium grade cocobolo on the back and sides. Calum let us know that it sounds amazing and is really working some magic in the studio. We’re excited to hear the recordings.
Canadian songstress Jenn Grant has released four albums to her name garnering critical acclaim. A Juno nominee, Polaris Prize listed and ECMA winner, Grant has recently returned from touring in Ireland, and released an EP called Clairvoyant. This EP features the best of Grant, debuting songs from AquaAlta (Grant’s undersea dream pop side project) a Leonard Cohen cover, reworked visions and new releases. Clairvoyant also sees Grant joining forces once again with Buck 65. She also has a new full-length set to be released this fall!
Luke: The video for your cover of Lover Lover Lover by Leonard Cohen is fantastic. What led you to that song?
Jenn: My friend Ben Goldberg who runs BaDaBing! Records in NYC asked all his artists to record two songs from the 1970’s to release on a special 7 ” lythe cut. I was drawn to this song because I’ve always wanted to record a Leonard Cohen song, and my forthcoming album is a bit of a throwback to some folk music of the 70’s.
Luke: I really enjoy your side project AquaAlta. What was it like creating vocal parts for that project?
Jenn: It was at times challenging to find the time to write something for a side project, whilst touring the The Beautiful Wild and also beginning to write my own new album. But once I would go to that creative space it was very rewarding and a big stretch in my imagination for how to approach writing songs and melodies in a new way.
Luke: Speaking of your new album. What can you tell us about the new songs?
Jenn: There was a trip to Spain that I took in 2012 after some personal loss, meant to be a bit of a voyage. The songs really stemmed from this time and then percolated for a good year while touring The Beautiful Wild. You can hear some Spanish influence in parts of the material, as well as a throwback to 1970’s psychedelic folk. There is a mix of personal stories alongside imagined tales from characters I have invented in my head.
Luke: You’re working with Daniel Ledwell again to produce your new album. How does Daniel’s production style influence the sound of your new album?
Jenn: This new album sounds incredibly warm. He’s very tasteful as well as prolific with how he creates sounds and the right vibe to simultaneously cradle and enhance the sound of my voice and writing. This is the hardest we’ve worked on creating an album together and I’m very proud of the way it’s turning out.
Luke: Thanks for the info on your new album, I really look forward to hearing it. Your latest release Clairvoyant, is quite collaborative. What collaborations are in store for the new album?
Jenn: While this album began as a very solo endeavour, (I wrote most of it in a camper trailer close to my house) there are amazing artists singing with me. Sarah Harmer, Ron Sexsmith, Buck 65 and Doug Paisley to name a few. My brother, Daniel Grant, a cinematographer based in Toronto, also tickles the charango on several songs.
Luke: That is an awesome lineup of guests. Tell us about your Stonebridge, does it have a name? That is a pretty special guitar.
Jenn: It’s a beautiful guitar! The first time I played was right by the ocean here in Nova Scotia. It rings out with the sea! I was thrilled to write on this as well as play it on the new album. She doesn’t have a name.
Jenn Grant’s Toronto album release show will be on November 20th at Harbourfront Theatre presenting by Massey Hall.
Visit Jenn Grant’s website at http://jenngrant.com for more info.
Ewan Dobson is continuing his string of prolific output with the independent release of his latest album “12-String Guitar”. Dobson recently had his Stonebridge 12-String re-fretted with jumbo frets, and he immediately put it to use to record this album. All the tracks feature his Stonebridge SJ24SR 12-String. SJ=super jumbo, SR=spruce rosewood
Here’s an excerpt taken from Dobson’s website:
The album “12-String Guitar” contains four new fingerstyle songs as well as re-recordings of some of his previous songs on the 12 string guitar including a duet (multi-tracked) version of the hit song “Time 2.” The extra strings give a new flavour to his already existing works that are normally played on a standard 6 string guitar. This album was dedicated to Leo Kottke, the American fingerstyle guitarist who pioneered the aggressive 12 string guitar style and influenced numerous fingerstyle guitar players around the globe.
Check out “Time 2″:
Hear the previews and download the album at Ewan Dobson – 12-String Guitar at CD Baby
The Ross Livermore Band are gifted live performers. How do I know this without ever seeing them live? Their unique approach to getting their music out is what has convinced me. They have been releasing a steady stream of high quality music videos with ‘live off the floor’ studio quality sound.
The first video I watched was Valerie, and immediately sent Ross a message to tell him that his band’s groove was “deeper in the pocket than grains of sand in the back pocket of my jeans after a day at the beach.”
For more on their unique live video series doing check this video out:
Luke: Briefly elaborate on a few of the positives of releasing live videos as opposed to a traditional album.
Ross: Releasing an album like this has been great for a few reasons; the this campaign has given us the opportunity to work with a bunch of super talented people that we have been wanting to work with for a long time. We also are recording it all live, with no overdubs so that has been a bit of a challenge. You set up in a room, hit record and play. It’s forced us to step our game up in a performance setting and we have noticed a great improvement to our live show because of it.
Luke: What is the best response you have received from releasing these high quality live videos?
Ross: I don’t know if we have have had one singular response that I can think of. Before we released this campaign, Paul (Drums) and I talked about what our tendencies are as fans. What do we look for from a band. When ever I hear of a new band, the first thing that I do is look them up on youtube. If they have a bunch of videos, I will sit, watch, and learn about this band because I want to feel like an insider. We see if now with most of the entertainment industry. People build relationships with their favorite band, actor, or even athlete or team. We don’t just want people to listen to our music, we want them in our corner, and by doing this project it’s allowed us to do that.
Luke: Your version of Oh! Darling has an incredible feel. You mentioned in your promo video that you need to be careful when covering a Beatles tune. You did great job! You mastered the late sixties rock sentiment. Has this type of rock been your main influence, and why?
Ross: Thank you! It’s always touchy when you take a song from The Beatles and change it, but we put a lot of time and effort into that one and are extremely proud of how it came out. The great thing about our band is that our influences range so much. I think its very important to be well rounded as a musician and as a listener. We absolutely take some ques from late sixties rock, but we also take from soul, funk, folk and even progressive metal. I know the metal thing doesn’t reflect in our music, but if Neil (Bass) is in the back of the Element (RLB Tour Bus) and he say’s “lets listen to Dream Theatre”, you know we’re all going to be like “Hell Yeah”. There is so much amazing music to listen to, and we can always learn from it.
Luke: I’m sure that rehearsing songs to perfection for these videos has had a positive effect on your live performances. Am I right here? What’s the response like at your live shows?
Ross: Totally! Recording live has forced us to do way more rehearsing for studio, than we have done in the past. On our last couple of albums we have done Pre-production but also allowed a good deal of the creativity to happen in the moment while recording. Doing it live like this is the opposite; we did at least 10-15 rehearsals for each session to pick apart every little section of the songs. Like I said before, this has made us so much better as a live band because we now have every song dialed in just the way we want it and we are comfortable performing them live.
Luke: Welcome to the Stonebridge family! You recently picked up a Stonebridge D31SR from us. Tell me what happened when your Stonebridge arrived?
Ross: Well, I got home and my roommate told me it had arrived. It was like Christmas. I actually hadn’t played a Stonebridge until this one, but I had read up about them and asked a lot of my guitar geek friends about this artist collaberation opportunity and all the signs pointed to yes. I took it out of its packaging and it smelled like a new acoustic. I played a big open E chord and I instantly got the chills. The low end and warmth was something I hadn’t heard from any acoustic I’ve played. My Martin is a 000 body style so I was set on getting a Dreadnaught from Stonebridge. I just put a nice K&K pure mini in it and I have to tell you, it feels amazing and it sounds great in any setting. I’m so stoked to start playing, writing, and recording with this beautiful instrument!
Luke: Thanks for taking the time to check in with me, and I look forward to the appearance of your D31SR in one of these awesome videos. One last question, what is next? Will you go back to making a traditional album now, or do you have another inventive project up your sleeve?
No Problem, Luke. It’s my pleasure. I look forward to playing the new axe in some new videos and live. I’m sure we will be getting back to the studio sometime by the start of 2015, but I definitely don’t see us doing another full length for a while. The next thing on the horizon though it touring. We have developed our sound so much through live shows and it’s what we enjoy doing the most. Now that we’ve let everyone into what we are all about via our videos; we need to start bringing it to the people, and thats what we plan to do.
Visit Ross Livermore Band at http://www.rosslivermoreband.com
Every summer the Canadian Guitar Festival happens near Kingston, Ontario.
Now in its tenth year, the festival features performances from many of the most talented acoustic guitarists in the world. It’s also host to the Canadian Fingerstyle Guitar Competition which has launched the career of many of the world’s best fingerstyle players.
Legend of the acoustic guitar, Don Ross (named by CBC Music as one of the top 25 greatest Canadian guitarists ever, and tops many lists of best acoustic guitarist in the world), performs every year.
Grammy winning Ed Gerhard is returning this year after mesmerizing the audience with his tone last year.
Legends of the acoustic world appeared at a near staggering rate last year, like flat picking master and guitar historian, Dan Crary and Antoine Dufour, one of the greatest contemporary fingerstyle players ever. While the Men of Steel, Don Ross, Tony McManus and Beppe Gambetta riveted guitar fanatics.
This year the line-up is no less impressive. Former member of the Frank Zappa band, Ike Willis, is someone to look forward to. What guitar enthusiast wouldn’t want to see him burn up some trademark Zappa sounds? He’s made a long career for himself, and we’ll be witness to the reason why.
Jon Gomm is coming from the UK to dazzle is with his incredibly alive and expressive brand of fingerstyle. See his famous guitar, Wilma! Michael Manring will prove to us that bass can be played solo with as much dazzle as any instrument, it just takes a genius to do it. The Italian fretboard killer Pino Forastiere will be sure to bring an international splash to the stage this year. As well young UK Singer Songwriter sensation John Ainsworth.
Calum Graham, former 1st place winner in the competition, is back to show us his latest inventions. He’s been on tour with Don Ross most of this year, so there might be a duet performance in the cards. The list goes on, and on, with Dylan Fowler, the ever impressive Gregory Hoskins, Maneil Jamal, Brooke Miller and Ray Montford of Ottawa.
As tradition dictates, last year’s winner of the competition will also be showcasing his talents, the only difference being that Justin St-Pierre will now be welcomed back to the stage as a featured act.
If you’re in attendance you may be able to mingle with the performers as they take in some of the inspiring entertainment. It’s a family friendly event, and not surprisingly there’s a wonderful grassroots atmosphere created by a big family of acoustic guitar lovers. The acoustics are great, and can easily be enjoyed under the beautiful sheltered outdoor amphitheatre. There’s also camping on site, so relax and enjoy yourself for a weekend of the best guitar music, period.
Visit the Canadian Guitar Festival website for more information. www.canadianguitarfestival.com
The festival runs for three days from Friday August 1 until Sunday August 3. Buy tickets in advance to save yourself 10% off gate prices.