Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Carolyn Sills Combo releases debut album!

Well friends, it's been quite some time since I last updated the ol' blog, but I am proud to announce that we have a new record! The new cd features the beautiful and talented, Ms Carolyn Sills on electric bass and lead vocals, me on various acoustic & electric guitars and harmony vocals, and our west coast combo (sometimes referred to as the Santa Cruz Music Mafia) Charlie Joe Wallace on steel guitar, Jimmy Norris on drums and the lovely Ms Sunshine Jackson on harmony vocals.  The record is the culmination of our adventures out west, including a 6 month stint in Phoenix while I attended Roberto-Venn, to our lives here in Santa Cruz where we've been busy building guitars at The Santa Cruz Guitar Company, playing and writing new music and exploring the coastal wonders of Northern California. The album reflects our deep love of American roots music, from western swing, country, blues and even the spaghetti western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone (not exactly direct from America but hey...)

The Carolyn Sills Combo cd is available through our website, iTunes, CD Baby, and Amazon.You can listen to songs at our CD Baby page and our SoundCloud page.

We also have the first of several videos available on our YouTube page.  Here's the direct link to the video for Johnny Cellars.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The next gig: Joe's Bar, Boulder Creek, CA

Well folks, we're gearing up for another fun night at Joe's Bar in Boulder Creek, CA. This time we'll be joined by our pals, The Good Sams.

In other quick news: I'm about halfway done with the body on my next acoustic guitar, we have a killer four piece band, I've been devouring the Bob Wills Tiffany Transcriptions (can ya tell by the gig poster??) which has gotten me a couple feet closer to playing some serious western swing and also... we got an Australian Cattle Dog mix puppy named Cowboy. Much rejoicing!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Carolyn Sills - Patsy Cline Spectacular at Don Quixote's - May 12, 2011

We played our second Patsy Cline Spectacular show at Don Quixote's in Felton, CA a few weeks back. The band lineup featured Jim Norris on drums, Jon Dryden on piano, Jerry Logan on bass, Charlie Wallace on steel guitar, yours truly on the Gretsch and of course, Carolyn delivering a burning vocal performance. We had a great time! Thanks to KPIG and KZSC for all their work promoting the the to all who came to see the show! Some photos:

We also played The Redwood Mountain Faire this past weekend. Much more to come!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The 2011 Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival

I'm your huckleberry...

Howdy folks! Last weekend, the missus and I drove south through Bakersfield, all the way to beautiful Santa Clarita, California. There, on the site of former owner Gene Autry's Melody Ranch, was the 18th annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival. We went to spread the good word about SCGC, setting up a display of 5 guitars for festival attendees to try out.

What made the festival unique was the setting itself: on the ranch stands an authentic old western movie set. The 1/4 mile long 'town' on Melody Ranch has been used in over 750 western films since 1916. The larger than life set is a wonderfully cliched image of the Old West built in vivid detail. Or is it simply cliched since we've seen it in so many westerns? Regardless, what brought the set to life were the people roaming up and down the street, dressed in full-on old west cowboy chic. These folks weren't foolin' about! The costumes were amazing! Many of the attendees have worked as movie extras. I met folks who had been extras in films such as Tombstone and TV shows such as Deadwood and Wild West Tech. At either end of the town were two stages where musicians including Don Edwards, The Hot Club of Cowtown, and The Sons of the San Joaquin performed. We also caught acts by cowboy poet, Waddie Mitchell and a spectacular trick gunslinger exhibition by Joey Dillon. Special care was taken to emphasize that the music at the festival was cowboy music, not just country. This was the original country music.

Ok... on with the photos! (click to enlarge)

view down main street, Saturday 11am. SCGC was set up in the third building on the right:

fiddler in the street:

cowboy singer on horseback:

Hot Club of Cowtown performs:

The store fronts along main street were full of vendors selling everything from hand tooled leather gun belts, buck skin jackets, tacky cowboy art, custom made spurs, cowboy cook books and a whole lot more. I finally found a hat that fit my large melon:

The most recent addition to our company's stable of professional guitarists is legendary cowboy singer, Don Edwards. He and SCGC president, Richard hoover, collaborated to make a signature model guitar, honoring Don's 50th year in the entertainment business. Don headlined the festival and was a major attraction at the SCGC booth. Well, I should say his 6'5" cardboard like-age was a huge attraction. Here's a photo of a young fan at the SCGC booth:

A photo of Don Edwards and me at the SCGC booth:

A Japanese gentleman who spoke broken English stopped to check out a few of our guitars and even sang a few old cowboy tunes for us:

Shopping for wares in one of the many tent vendors on the outskirts of 'town':

Me on day 2, having just picked up the Otis B. Rodeo horseshoe from the blacksmith across the street from us:

It was a great time! The folks at the festival showed a lot of interest in the guitars we had on display and man oh man... what fun to be duded up and part of the fun in this over the top weekend! We're already looking forward to next year.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Archtop Guitars at The Met!!!

I had the pleasure of checking out the incredible exhibit on archtop guitars at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan a couple weeks ago. Simply stunning! Here is a link to the exhibit's website. While working at Rudy's Music in 2007-8, I was lucky enough to play many of Rudy's archtop guitars, some of which are included in the exhibit. The experience of playing, hearing, and just studying the fine craftsmanship of these guitars made by D'Angelico, D'Aquisto, Monteleone, Stromberg & Gibson was a major inspiration. I credit those guitars with getting me into luthiery. It's a rare and humbling experience to play these instruments. What a sound!

I should also note that Rudy Pensa released a magnificent large format book, "Archtop Guitars: The Journey from Cremona to New York" on the three great New York archtop builders: D'Angelico, D'Aquisto & Monteleone. My wife surprised me with my own copy and it's just jaw dropping, gorgeous stuff! Highly recommended. More info at Rudy's website.

New Acoustic Build Begins

Well folks, it's finally time to make saw dust again. I began work on another guitar build the other day. This one will be an acoustic dreadnought. Here are the basic ingredients:

L to R: ebony fingerboard, a small piece of cocobolo for the overlay (a thin decoative laminate on the front of the guitar's headstock), the brownish wood its bookmatched Indian rosewood for the back (the matching sides are not pictured) and two pieces of bookmatched Adirondack spruce lie on what look like two 2x4s. Those 2x4s are in fact a set of tiger flamed maple that I'll be carving into the guitar's neck.

The top, or soundboard, gluing up:

and the back:

You can see two sets of orange clamps applying pressure from either side of the wood in the above photos. The four blocks are firmly wedged under a steel bar to apply downward pressure, keeping the wood flat and preventing buckling. I used hot hide glue to join the soundboard and will also use it to glue the braces to the top. Hide glue is an animal derivative that has been used for thousands of years and has many advantages over synthetic wood glues. Commonly used in violin construction & repair, hide glue dries to an incredibly hard, crystalline strength. This extreme hardness greatly enhances vibration transfer from one piece of wood to another, producing a stronger and fuller tone from the instrument. One disadvantage though, is the fast working time. Hide glue is kept warm in a glue pot and applied with a brush. It is necessary to work very efficiently as the glue sets up extremely quickly as it cools off outside of the heated pot. Read more about hide glue here.

Acoustic guitars are typically built with mahogany necks but I had the hankering to do something a little different. Below are my two maple slabs sandwiching a black decorative strip. When the instrument is done, the black strip will run a simple pinstripe up the back of the neck.

The more clamps the merrier! The next day, clamps removed:

More to come!