Wednesday, 22 October 2014

12 String Build Update

Just a quick update.  Being a bit busy at the moment with stuff - work, course, volunteer training etc.  The build is on the go-slow.   On Monday I put the last base coat on the body.  You need to give it 2 days to dry out fully anyhow but I'll be unlikely to get to do anything until the weekend now.  The neck I've finished the base coats on.  So weekend I'll start the top coats on both.  I'm expecting 3 or 4 of them we'll see as it develops so probably at least another week or two then the advice is to leave it a full week before assembly. 

Patience... it's a bugger at times isn't it!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Music reviews - Bellowhead, Yes, Joe Bonamassa

Some overdue reviews of latest CD additions to my collection.

Bellowhead - Revival.

Bellowhead on top form.  Frankly their best yet I think.  Sea shanties a plenty kicking off with Let Her Run and straight into Roll Alabama my favourite off the whole album.  There isn't anything new here if you know Bellowhead, excellent arrangements using the huge variety of instruments their large and versatile line up gives them.  The vocals are spot on and much of this album is up tempo foot tapping sing-a-long chorus type stuff that simply they do so well.  Off to see them live in the flesh in November and on this basis can't wait.

One highlight is I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight a stonking reworking of the old Richard Thompson song.  I heard an interview with them on BBC Radio 2 where they said they included this song as they wanted something "contemporary" in the track list.  I roared with laughter at this, for most groups who trouble the top 40 with any album I doubt U2's release before last (2009's NO Line on the Horizon) would count as contemporary let alone a song that saw the light of day something like 40 years ago but given nearly all the others are probably 200 years old on here then theirs is a unique perspective in the modern music world and we're all the better for them saying things like that in my opinion.  Oh yes and the good councillors of Gosport moaning about them besmirching the name of ladies from that fair port need to remember when that song was originally written...

Joe Bonamassa - Different Shades of Blue.  

There was a time when you seemed to see a new album from JB every month!  But with him out of Black Country Communion now seemingly forever (sadly) and some crazy touring it's been a while since he turned out an album.  So this is I think only the second CD he's done with all original stuff - only the first short track is a Hendrix cover, I think that is JB being ironic in case you didn't get it.  Good album overall and I think one that will grow on me.  It isn't as immediate a hit to me as Driving towards the Daylight was but the quality of playing and variety of tone is superb far outstripping his sound on Ballard of John Henry - you can certainly still see his progression and growth as a player and that is to be highly commended given he could so easily just turn out an album by numbers and it would sell well - at least he is still working at his art.  My highlight is Heartbreak Follows Whereever I Go.

Yes - Heaven and Earth

Two Yes records in three years!  Given there'd been a decade between the two previous releases that makes you raise your eyebrows.  This one has another new line up - Jon Davison is now the singer Yes seemingly able to wear out old ones, both Jon Anderson and Benoit David having been pushed out with recurring throat issues.  Jon D sounds very very like Jon A more so than Benoit did on the last outing Fly From Here where he sounded more like Trevor Horn from Drama era - which given the major track on that was indeed one of the Buggles penned songs that got them into the crumbling early 80s Yes lineup then.

This is an odd balance, not a big conceptual album like the old ones or indeed Fly From Here but a collection of songs more akin to 90125 line up albums.  It is sadly a bit "Yes by numbers" the vocals are ok, the playing good but not great and there isn't anything that makes you go "wow".  I personally think that they should have retained Trevor Horn as producer not Roy Thomas Baker as I think that would have given the overall sound a bit more oompf.  If you're a Yes fan it is ok but I can't see this winning new ones and some old ones may go "Not as good as

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The start of the finish

There's a confusing post title and probably the title of my forthcoming 90 min epic single track progressive rock album... ;-)

No seriously folks.  I've started on the finish.

I'm using the excellent Wudtone products.  I like these since they are so easy for a DIY build like mine.  You "rag" them on, I use old cut up pyjamas as they seem best to me in terms of not soaking too much of the liquid up etc.  No sprays or complicated stuff like that.  You don't get the mirror finish a pro would get with proper spray booths etc. but the finish on the Tele Build was really good just right between colour, semi gloss shine and the feel of the real wood.  They have some sort of sealant in them so help with making the wood resistant to water etc. so all good.

The body is being finished in Carmine Gypsy red and the neck in Original Vintage Yellow.

Here they are after the application of the first coats.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Birthday weekend - Coach and Horses gig

The birthday weekend was a bit of a whirlwind.  On my birthday we went out for nice meal once Mrs F finished work.  My daughters boyfriend had got away from his job early so the four of us headed out for a three course slap up at the local Harvester which is in walking distance.  Good time by all even managing to squeeze in an ice desert with toffee sauce!

My son and his girlfriend then made the trek home arriving late in the evening, for my son he'd spent too long on a train after a days work having gone back from Leicester to Birmingham and then to Kent but lovely to see him and the house was suddenly over full with people again.

Saturday I had a workshop I had to be at in the afternoon and then the gig in the evening.  Meaning I had to squeeze in cooking a huge curry for everyone too.  Must have been good, totally empty plates all round.

We dashed off the to the gig.  Roadworks!  The route I'd plan had a road closure on it, luckily I knew a back roads route and we parked just a little way from the venue with 10 mins to spare.  Arriving and just whipping the guitar out the case and straight on stage wasn't a smart move!  Still never mind.  I was first up in a long list of 6 acts, all the others were bands, largely LOUD bands mostly playing rock, punk and rock n roll covers.  So I stood out as only solo acoustic act and only all original stuff.  I rattled off a 30 min set of 6 numbers to good applause so I was overall pleased.  The family support, inc my sister and brother in law all said several people were commenting that I was good etc. and I got some good feedback from others too.  All in all good.  Now... just need the next one!

I used my Yamaha LL11 which last year I fitted with a Fishman pickup.  I decided for a loud noisy pub that would be better than the Vintage Gordon Giltrap which has similar pickup but with a microphone as well which sounds nicer but is much more temperamental regarding feedback.  The Yamaha is a fav guitar anyway and performed admirably with the help of my Zoom Acoustic processor which helps live sound a lot if only to add some "body" back in, some delay/reverb etc. and has a really handy three notch feedback reducing feature.  Laughably given I was the "acoustic" act my sons girlfriend awarded me "Best avoidance of feedback on the night" award as many of the heavy rock bands on later struggled to tame Les Pauls and 100w stacks in a small pub venue!

All back home for a good nights sleep... only... at some un-Godly hour the loft hatch feel out, snapping off it's hinges.  So Sunday was spent fixing all that back!  Monday I felt awful having a vertigo attack, which I get sometimes when I've been rushing about as long term readers will know.  Feeling better now and back to work...

Friday, 3 October 2014

Start of the 12 String Kit Build

Today is my birthday so Mrs F finally let me loose on my present.

Here it is as it arrived.  For some reason they actually fit the scratchplate and electrics, probably for safety in transit to stop them getting damaged but obviously if you want to finish the body you need to remove them... so first thing was to whip them out...

And then to try a test fit of the neck, can't resist it!

All good, all parts (body, neck and scratchplate) are marked with 35 on them somewhere showing they've been mated together before putting into the kit.  On the body and neck  this has proved valuable the neck is a very good snug fit into the pocket, so much so with friction alone holding it together you can lift the guitar by the neck and body doesn't fall off.  This is a good sign.  Incidentally the body is basswood and very light.  The neck is maple with a nicely grained rosewood fingerboard - being a 12 string the neck is quite wide measuring about 48 mm at the nut compared with say my 6 string Strat which is about 42 mm.

The headstock is supplied as a "blank" which is ok not as bad as the paddle heads you get on many 6 a side kits but still a bit boring and bland.  So my first job was to get a better headstock shape on there.

So I traced out the headstock on some paper, scketched a new look shape and then cut that to make a template to mark the new shape.  There isn't acres of room, I was hoping to do something like the old Squier Venus XII shape but not enough wood really, in the end I went for something just a little wavy and tried to reflect the bass side shape bias of a Strat body.  I'm please with it any way.  With the template I marked the new shape onto the wood and then was ready to cut it.

Here is the neck clamped down before I went at it with the jigsaw.

A few mins later after final sanding with grades down to 320 I'm pretty happy with the result.

More soon.  I'll let you know how the finishing goes with which is the next set of actions before we can think of assembly.  This might take a couple of weeks or so as the finish providers recommend several coats and some days between each coat.  A lesson in patience about to be needed I think.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Book Review - Shout, Sister, Shout! Gayle F Wald

This book is a billed as "The Untold Story or Rock N Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe".

Some of you may recall my waxing lyrically about Sister Rosetta when celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Chorltonville blues gigs that ITV recorded in April 1964.  By then Sister Rosetta had over 20 years been at the head of her game.  Over the years principally known as a gospel artist she crossed into Swing in the early 40s to much controversy and then was accepted particularly on the European side of the Atlantic into the secular blues boom of the late 50s and 60s.

This book charts her entire life and career and is a fascinating read.  It is more a scholarly biographic work than a story and reads as such so whilst extremely well researched and very thorough it sadly isn't a whirlwind story.  Which is a shame since her life was like that, even to signing a deal to hold a wedding in 7 months as part of a huge gospel service/gig without a husband available!  She delivered the husband and the service/gig drew a crowd of over 20,000!  Just one of the great stories of her life.

Now my interest comes in her incredible guitar playing, I never realised how important she is in the development of blues/rock guitar.  She was a great acoustic player before electric guitars came along but along with T-Bone Walker she realised you could play an electric guitar differently, the increased sustain and note clarity on a solid body meaning she rewrote how to solo.  Also she was at one with the instrument.

So I'll give this book a single thumbs up on my scale - but that is a bit unfair given the quality of the story and the terrific research that has gone into it, just I'd have loved a more passionate involved personal narrative but that is me...

Go search her out on YouTube and other places - esp on the YouTube stuff and watch her strutting around and playing great solos infront of gospel choirs on USA tv shows, the brief but brilliant Chorltonville appearance is just terrific too.

Here are a two Youtube clips that sum her up in the 60s Didn't It Rain from Chorltonville and Up Above My Head from a US TV Gospel show - but do search out more and read the book which catalogues her life superbly. 

Sadly Sister Rosetta died in October 1973 just days after I got my first guitar for my 11 birthday from a blood clot on the brain brought on by diabetes over a number of years when she never sought treatment, she'd had to have a leg amputated after a stroke in 1970.

Now ... watch this woman... then remember she is this rocking black woman guitar toting genius in a time when she could barely get served in many hotels and restaurants in her home states.  Such an amazing lady and story.
I recommend the book highly 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

New project....

So my birthday is fast approaching... 52 before you ask...

Mrs F graciously offered to buy me a guitar kit again!  So following on from my Tele Build a while back I've ordered a Strat shaped 12 string ... yes you did just read that right.  I don't have an electric 12 string and this is a cheap and fun way to get one into the collection.

So the kit has everything you need - including a set of strings and a cable, both of iffy quality frankly!  I've ordered some finishing kits from Wudtone who's product I used on the Tele.  I've decided to used their neck finishing kit too this time since because the Danish Oil on the Tele neck was ok but I was so impressed with the body finish from Wudtone I thought I'd go for the neck kit too.

What I plan to do is not as complicated as the Tele build which is you remember I updated the pickups and ultimately the bridge as well, with this one I was going to build it as is... However I've spent an hour or so exploring some electrical options.  So I do plan a couple of electrical mods.

Firstly the wiring has no tone on the bridge pickup, standard strat, now my Squier is fitted with USA Standard electrics from the mid 90s with a TBX control on the middle and bridge.  Honestly the TBX added treble I don't get, it isn't needed so rarely use it but the ability to adjust (tame) the bridge pickup I've found indispensible.  So I plan to get the tone control into the circuit in a similar way... again I'll probably go for middle and bridge combined.  I've looked into the "magic seven" wiring too.  This is what Fender themselves offer on Strats with all single coils and fitted with the S1 switching system, which is a clever little button in the tip of the vol control, very discrete.  Now I don't think I'll splash out on new pots etc so I'm likely to just add a small switch somewhere on the scratchplate.  Essentially the "magic seven" adds just two sounds impossible to get on a standard strat namely; all three pickups on together and the bridge and neck on together.  I'll explain my choice of how I do this when I work on it all.

So... await some updates in the coming weeks.  I think the set up of a 12 string might test my patience just a little!