It’s been a while since I brought my trusty steel-string Lowden acoustic out for a gig. I have toyed with the idea of using it on a duo date with guitarist Tony Hughes but I always default to an electric, specifically my mid-70s Hagstrom Viking. Being such a strong jazz player Tony always plays an archtop guitar (as in Guild X500, Gibson L5 and Howard Roberts) with flatwound strings and a broad sound. While I do go for a brighter sound on the top, I do think my sound blends better with him if I’m using a comparable instrument. While I don’t currently own a full-size archtop guitar my Viking gives me the sound and a great deal of the feel of the ‘big box’ – it’s 2/3 hollow and made of solid birch with an impressive amount of acoustic volume. Yes, I have performed with the Group using a solidbody guitar, even my little Cort-Steinberger and I still had my ‘jazz’ sound – in a duo it’s a bit different. I did, in fact, use the solid-bodied Swede one evening at Paris Wine Bar. While the sound was perfectly good the feel was not.
On Friday afternoon I decided to practice with an amp and reverb for the sound I’d be using on the gig. As soon as I plug in I hear humming and it changes amplitude with a turn of the volume knob. Though my home is physically close to more than a few radio/television/miscellaneous transmitting towers, this electronic malady is guitar-based, possibly a loose ground wire. With a guitar built around 1974 that has only had service once in the time I’ve owned it (neck adjustment) it may be time for some wiring upgrades. Out comes the Lowden. I currently have two pickup systems in this guitar – an older Lowden-approved piezo pickup and an EMG ACS which I obtained during my brief endorsement with EMG. There are separate circuits and outputs for each – I have the brilliant idea to use only the EMG pickup. It affords a humbucker-like sound but with an acoustic ‘edge’. It sounds pretty good in my living room.
It worked on the gig! Tony played his Gibson Howard Roberts and I alternated between fingers and a pick and found a lot of music just flowing from the Lowden (as is always the case). Of course, as I’ve mentioned before, an archtop should find it’s way into my possession at some point. But for the time being I think I have the guitar(s) I need at hand.
We played a wine tasting room in West Chester. Sadly, the clients were there for the social atmosphere first and our music ended up mostly in the background. We are a bit spoiled as the Paris Wine Bar in Philadelphia has been our proving ground thus far and it’s a true listening room. But it was great to continue the duo with Tony – every gig goes a bit further than the last.
In addition, my other duo with flutist Katherine Barbato will be playing a concert date next month. Details will follow but I am looking forward to resuming our musical explorations. This duo is very different from my work with Tony – I play nylon-string guitar, for one thing, and I am the only chord player. When I solo it’s all me. Of course, comping for Katherine is different as well. That’s what makes the different pairings so much fun and so challenging.
It’s all good (to quote my associates at Godin Guitars)!
I’ll be back with more.