Road Trip I Reviews and Recordings - Home Counties

April 2010 - Bill Briscombe and Me:

 

At 2pm on Saturday 10th April 2010 Samhain Taistealaí sang for the first time, and on the Sunday I took it on my visit to guitar buddy Bill Briscombe who has "critiqued" all of my instruments so far for me. We both played it in standard, dropped D and DADGAD tunings fingerpicked and strummed and Bill kindly filmed this. Here's me introducing Samhain Taistealaí and then playing Bill's arrangement of the Mike McGoldrick tune "Farewell to Whalley Range" in DADGAD:

 

 

I did a couple of recordings using my usual set up of a single AKG C1000S microphone mixed down with flat EQ and no added effects. The first is one of my own compositions from a few years back that for some reason I have never got around to recording - in DADGAD it's called "Lurking Within Tent". The second is a piece that has been "lurking" in this instrument and at this stage is an embryonic work in progress. It's my variant of "The Shadow of Your Smile" written by Johhny Mandel and the theme tune for the 1965 film "The Sandpiper". Again it's in DADGAD.

 

April/May 2010 - Steve, St Albans:

 

 

On 6th May Steve sent me an e-mail "Please find attached a file of me playing it, recorded about 30 minutes ago in my living room! Off the top of my head stuff in DADGAD - Clive Carrol's "Black Moon" and arrangement of "Choice Wife", followed by "Banish Misfortune" (arr Richard Thompson). I used a crossed pair of Neumann KM184 mics into a M-Audio DMP3 preamp, into an Apogee Duet and thence into Logic Pro 9 in an iMac. The only processing on this is a very small amount of reverb from the Space Designer plug in (perhaps 5% of the output), which I tend to have on all the time. I didn't have time to adjust the EQ or anything else so what you hear is pretty much how the guitar sounds in my room. Listening back, I think it gives a very good representation of how the guitar sounds in reality. " Here's "Steve's Set" - mighty fine playing indeed. Here's Steve review:

 

"OK - I've had Dave's "Samhain" road trip guitar for the last two weeks and here is my review. I'm not a veteran guitar reviewer at all (I've seen far, far too many flame wars on forums precipitated by less than complimentary comparisons of the "new" guitars to the "old" ones) but I'm obliged by Dave to do this and it's a small price to pay in return for his generosity. Reviews are contingent on the reviewer, so a bit of background: I play for personal amusement only. Been playing electric guitar for about 30 years and acoustic guitar seriously for perhaps 5 or so years - seriously means an hour or so every 2 days! I have previously owned acoustics by Fylde (Goodfellow, Falstaff and Oberon), Lowden (two F25s), Martin (two 00018 Martin Carthy models), Sobell (Model O Indian, Model 0 brazilian, and Model 1 brazilian), and Collings (0002A), and a brazilian Bown OM made for Clive Carroll initially. My current steel-strung boxes are a Bown OMX brazilian (commissioned by me and collected last October), a Sobell Model 1 scantling bought from Martin Simpson about 3 years ago, and a Jeff Traugott model R brazilian bought about 2 years ago. Playing acoustic guitar is now my no. 1 hobby and I am very enthusiastic about it. I have played hundreds of acoustics and will happily travel to try something "special" that I've read about but not tried personally, e.g. Ryans, Olsons etc. So, yes, I am a bit of a gear-head. I am convinced that the very, very best instruments are sole luthier built. I recognise that this type of instrument is occasionally very expensive if the luthier is well-known, but I am happy to stump up: If I were a football fan, a season ticket at Arsenal is also very expensive and an annual expense! I also recognise that, rather like fine wine, you sometimes have to spend a lot to eek out that last few %, and many people (perhaps most) will not deem this necessary: Well I do. In support, I have no interest in spending more on my car to get better acceleration or a rather more effective fanny-magnet than a Volvo estate! However, guitars are a different matter. I know a single tune in standard tuning - everything else I play is dropped to one degree or another. Favourites are DADGAD, CGCGCD and Carthy's CGCDGA, which requires a dedicated guitar since the string gauges are so unusual (two 18s on the top G and A!). I fingerpick, usually with a thumbpick - I never strum. I do not sing in public - God forbid. Love traditional tunes and believe Martin Carthy and Nic Jones are the sons of God while Dick Gaughan and Martin Simpson are the angels, so you get where I'm coming from. I work on about 3 tunes at a time, work them up over several weeks/months, record them, and then promptly forget them while working on the next few. So, on to the review:

 

AESTHETICS: I am not a fan of bling on guitars and I like the stripped down, simple aesthetics of the Samhain. I particularly like the soundhole rosette. I like the body shape, it's comfortable to hold and quite pretty to look at. However, I don't like the headstock at all! A great headstock is difficult to get right - simple clean lines while retaining originality is extremely difficult. I think the headstock needs more work - it needs to be more elegant. The heel is, I think, much too big - a design that tapers towards the back would be much more elegant and would also make the fact that it is a layered block construction a bit less obvious. I also prefer the look and feel of an ebony fretboard. The rosewood back and sides look great.

 

PLAYABILITY: I'm the first to have the guitar for any length of time so it has been settling in over the last couple of weeks. The action is very low, but not so low that it buzzes (it did a bit the first week I had it, around the 10th fret, but this disappeared secondary to the settling-in I mentioned). If it were mine, I might have the action raised a hair. Getting an action as low as this without problems is the mark of a fine luthier, and Dave has impressed me mightily here. The neck profile is perfect for me - very nice front to back - and wide enough for finger-picking (my preferred nut size is 45 - 46mm). Importantly, the string spacing allows for lots of pull offs on the top E without the string falling off the edge of the fret bevel (something that really, really irritates me). Neck relief is just right - the slightest smidgeon of concavity. How does it compare to other guitars? Well, the easiest playing guitar I've encountered is my Sobell scantling - which has a very wide neck, lowish action, very flat radius and is very, very thin front to back (Martin Simpson's profile). Dave's guitar is very close to this indeed. It's easier to play than either my Traugott or Bown, both of which have a slightly higher action. Very impressive work indeed. I should also mention the multi-scale fretting, especially since this is the most obvious factor when looking at the guitar. I LOVE it! I had previously only played a single multi-scale instrument (a Greenfield) and for the first hour or so with the Samhain, it was a little odd, especially if I "looked down" when playing. Beyond that, I accommodated rapidly and pretty much forgot the multi-scale nature. I used 12 to 53 on this and the tension achievable on the bottom E for example, meant that I never once felt the need to go and put a 56 on (something I do on my other guitars occasionally). The tension felt very even in the tunings I used and I can say, hand on heart, that if I commission another guitar, it will be a multi-scale instrument. The multi-scale nature vastly helps the playability I describe above.

 

SOUND: Ahh - the most difficult and subjective aspect. I have previously stated on the Forum that it's pretty easily to tell quickly whether a guitar sounds crappy or average, but pretty difficult to tell the difference between a guitar that sounds really good and one that is at the very top of the tree. At Cheltenham the other year, I played lots of very good guitars and after a while they all blur together, and decisions as to which are best can be difficult - same goes when I have been at TAMCO. I was talking to Joe (who now has the guitar) about this last night and we both agreed that it's the ability of a guitar to draw you in that defines the very best instruments. The first guitar I had that did this was a Sobell Indian model 0 - if I played it, I found it very, very difficult to put it down; Unintentionally, I would spend hours playing it. In contrast, my Collings, while a seemingly lovely guitar when played, was much easier to return to its case. I need to have a guitar at home for a while in order to see how much I want to open the case and get it out… or not. Well, I'm happy to report that I have had the Samhain out of its case a whole bunch over the last two weeks! I had played one of Dave's guitars previous to this and the Samhain on first pick was clearly way better. I'm particularly enthused because it suits the style of music I play. It's a guitar with great clarity and separation - not unlike a Sobell in that respect - and the sustain is as good as any guitar I've ever played; the notes ring and ring - that is clearly obvious on the MP3 I did for Dave. The guitar is very responsive indeed and has great articulation, which I think is a major factor in drawing you in - you don't have to put much in to get a lot out. There's no struggling with this guitar to "wake the top up". This is especially interesting as it's a brand new guitar. I think the soundport plays a major part here - the guitar seems particularly loud, resonant and enveloping: The sound is big and diffuse, and I think that's due to its sustain, the port, and its clarity and separation. OK - so you all want to know how it stacks up against other guitars I've played? Well, my benchmark for top-quality shop guitars is the Lowden F25 - it's a superb instrument that costs £2400 i.e. £300 more than this Samhain. I sold my Lowdens when I got my Indian Sobell so have no direct comparison at home, but my recollection was that the Samhain was a much better guitar soundwise. In order to verify this, I took Dave's guitar to a mate in Cardiff who has an F25 that I know is a particularly good example. We both agreed that the Samhain was the better sounding guitar and by quite a margin. It also played better. If I was being brutally critical, what does it lack? Well, the best sounding guitar I've ever played is my Traugott; it is an extremely complex and defined guitar right across the tonal range but at the same time is very rich and warm sounding - if you want to make your own mind up, you can hear Tony McManus playing it on his "The Maker's Mark" CD - Track 13, Sliabh Na mBan. This nth degree of warmth, definition and separation is an unusual combination since (broad brush here!) I've found that the majority of defined guitars with great separation tend to sound a bit on the steely/dry side (on average) whereas warm guitars can lack top and bottom end definition and separation (on average). I could never describe my Sobell as a "warm" guitar! Clive Carrol's Bown OM is another example of a guitar that combines great complexity and definition with warmth without detriment. If the Samhain had more warmth and a smidgeon more tonal/harmonic complexity, without detriment to its excellent clarity, separation and sustain, it would be right at the very top of the ladder. It's also quite a "forceful" guitar, not a shrinking violet! A touch more tonal delicacy would be useful at times. I had to keep reminding myself the Samhain costs just north of 2K, not 10K (see second paragraph of this review!). The Samhain is certainly one of the best bang-for-the buck guitars I've ever played: Easily in the same league as a Nigel Forster model ES I played a few years ago - super sound without an exorbitant price tag (its on his website). Also, the Samhain is particularly impressive given the nature of the woods used; Dave has not used premium grade brazilian!

 

FIT AND FINISH: On first seeing the guitar I mentioned to Dave that its build quality was far crisper than the previous model of his that I'd seen. Dave immediately made the point (very strongly!) that he's not interested in "furniture making" (his words), and that customers looking for CNC type crispness should go elsewhere. To be candid, I do have a bit of a problem with this: The type of person who commissions a handmade guitar is often very, very focussed on all aspects of the instrument. Sure, sound comes first and playability second but aesthetics and build quality are next. There are a lot of luthiers out there and many of them have incredible attention to detail. While approaching the fit and finish that Ralph Bown is capable of is probably unrealistic (since it's beyond most luthiers!), I think Dave now needs to concentrate on getting his fit and finish to the next level. I say this because its clear from the rest of this review that I believe he has the playability and sound right - and these are more difficult aspects to perfect than a bit of woodworking. For example, Dave's fretting etc is exemplary. Intonation is very impressive indeed given the multiscale; its plays beautifully in tune right all over the neck. However, the break angle over the saddle is very severe indeed and would be even more so should someone wish to raise the action (and many would - it's very low). Similarly, the nut slot is a bit too wide and is shimmed. The facing plate on the rear of the headstock is lifting just a smidgeon and some of the binding is separated by a small amount. Individually, these are small points but they do add up. The interior is also a bit messy here and there - there are glue marks on the carbon rods and some of the bracing slots are bigger than they need be: This is especially important because of the sound port - you get a clear view straight into the guts while you're playing! Perhaps the major factor overall is that the guitar has a very light satin finish. This demands hours and hours of fine sanding to get a blemish free surface before application. I would like to see one of Daves guitars finished by David Wilson, aka Bown, Forster and Sobell, all of whom use him. I played quite a few guitars at Cheltenham that were crisper than Dave's. Importantly, in retrospect, from what I can remember I don't think they played as nice or sounded as nice as the Samhain (and they generally cost more) but a potential customer might not get beyond that? Emphasising this, a friend came 'round (who'll be at Hebden bridge) specifically to try the guitar. I had already decided I thought it was great sounding and playing but offered my friend no information whatsoever on my thoughts. By way of background, my friend has a Sobell and has owned guitars by Marc Beneteau, Martin, Avalon, and Larivee, and often comes with me to try guitars; he's also played mine a lot (he babysits them when I'm out of town!). He was immediately struck by the effortless playability and great sound of the Samhain. I asked him what he thought of the sound and he said "easily 8 or 9". When asked about fit and finish he said "5" but added that if Dave improved on this, his score overall would move to "9" and that, if so, the value for money would be incredible. He also noted that he'd be willing to pay more for better fit and finish. So, "furniture making" is important, I believe. So, the bottom line for those who don't want to wade through the above: I really, really liked this guitar and it far exceeded my expectations. Superb playability combined with top-drawer sound. If Dave can get his fit-and-finish to the next level I believe he'll be right up there with the very best the UK (and world) can offer. Oh, and at superb value for money.

 

Finally, thank you Dave for the opportunity to have this Samhain guitar. I know that the others to whom the guitar is going are in for a real treat, especially those who haven't had the opportunity to have a luthier-built guitar at home - I hope they will be blown away! The only detriment will be to their bank-balance! Cheers, Steve"

 

May 2010 - Joe, London

 

 

On the 11th May Joe sent me this recording of his arrangements of "The Princess Royal/Sheriff's Ride" in DADGAD done on a Zoom H4n, some peaks trimmed in Cubase and then normalised before converting to MP3. Here's Joe playing his arrangement of the jig "The Connaughtman's Rambles" and the Strashspey "Calum's Road" both in DADGAD. Finally, here's five videos of Joe playing on Samhain all but one his own arrangements - "My Lodging is on the Cold Ground/Haste to the Wedding", "Calum's Road" and "Chief O'Neill's Hornpipe" all in DADGAD, Mario Abril's arrangement of "Scarborough Fair" followed by his own arrangement of "Bare Necessities" in standard tuning, and finally Joe's arrangement of the traditional tune "Jackson's Breakdown." in DADEAB tuning - i.e. the tuning Martin Carthy uses (CGCDGA), but up a whole tone. The tab for these arrangements can be found on Joe's website:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's Joe's review:

 

"(a) The headstock - pale Sycamore sandwiched between Malaysian Blackwood - is very tasty, and reminds me of one of those "selection box" white-and-dark chocolates! I promise I didn't try to take a bite though. However, the actual headstock shape is not to my taste - I'm a simple man, and I prefer simple shapes, square or at least with straight lines, and to me the Samhain's headstock is a little formless.

 

(b) When using my stringwinder on the 5th and 2nd pegs the winder handle hits the 6th and 1st pegs; that's because those buttons stick out more than the others. Also, my stringwinder (not sure who the manufacturer is but it's a yellow plastic thing with "Scotty's" printed on the side) is a very tight fit on the 1st tuning peg. A bit too tight. Each wooden button was individually made so maybe the 1st tuning peg just needs another 2 seconds on the sanding jig; either that or I need to use a different stringwinder.

 

(c) Neck profile - I'm accustomed to a more rounded c-shape (with even a slight suggestion of a v-shape), whereas the c-shape on the Samhain has a flattish back. Personally, I don't find this comfortable especially closer to the nut; but then I used to own an old (1930s) Kalamazoo archtop which had a neck like a square table leg sawn diagonally in half - i.e. a prominent v-shape - and I actually found that quite comfortable ... so this is a very subjective area.

 

(d) I missed having strap buttons!

 

(e) I prefer a gloss finish. I think it's psychological - to me a matt finish looks like the wood is unfinished, so I feel like I need to be more careful when I'm handling it; whereas a gloss finish always looks like it will withstand a few more knocks, and wipe clean! (Not that I'm in the habit of knocking or spilling things on guitars.) Also psychologically, there's something about a matt finish that makes me think "prototype", rather than final "production model". I felt the same way about a Lowden I used to own (and that, with a cedar top, was not tolerant of knocks).

 

(f) Playability. Very special. Remarkably easy to play (notwithstanding my issues with the neck profile), the neck relief, neck width, string-spacing and string height all combine make it a joy to hold and make music with. I think this is a profound testimony to Dave's talent. I found it hard to resist picking up the guitar, and even harder to put it down once I'd started. The multiscale didn't take much getting used to - at first I avoided looking at the fretboard while playing, the slanty frets have a disorienting effect on your perspective. There are no dot markers on the fretboard anyway, so you don't need to look at it (there are dot markers on the side, so you can just look at those). Then, once I'd got used to the multiscale and realised it doesn't actually require much conscious shifting of finger position, I quite enjoyed looking down and imagining I was in a Salvador Dali painting.

 

(g) Aesthetically, a hole in the side of the guitar makes me feel uncomfortable, it makes me think the guitar has suffered an injury. But soundwise, I really loved the soundport: I play guitar because I like the sound it makes and having a soundport means I can hear more of it! The best analogy I can think of is, its the aural equivalent of wearing 3D glasses - it feels unfamiliar, but you can't argue with the enhancement to your sensory perception.

 

(h) Sound. (This is the wine-tasting bit, so I apologise in advance for the overblown metaphors.) The sound is huge. HUGE! Very powerful indeed, with incredible sustain. Well-balanced too - I have a couple of tunes where I drive the bass pretty hard, but the trebles still cut through nicely. My main guitar is a Brook Teign (dreadnought) - the Samhain, in spite of a much smaller bodysize, is a fair bit louder than than the Brook - the soundport contributes strongly to this effect, but I'd say it is louder even with a sock in the port (I did try this - with a clean sock, obviously). The Brook (spruce and rosewood, 5 years old) has a richness, warmth and depth that I love to wallow in. The Samhain doesn't lack complexity, or versatility - there are pure. piano-like tones in there, but some nice crunchy overdriven ones too. If the guitars were paintings, the Brook would be a rolling seascape, whereas the Samhain a vast and magnificent mountainous snowscape (did I warn you about metaphors?). I wouldn't describe the Samhain sound as warm, but it has a brightness, clarity and strength which is quite special - for any philosophy students reading this, if the sound of a guitar has a Platonic Form, then playing the Samhain moves you very close to it! Sonically, again it's a tribute to Dave's skill: I think he has achieved something quite astonishing.

 

(i) There are some minor issues with the finishing: toolmarks and general signs that the guitar is man- rather than machine-made. Few if any of these would worry me if I had commissioned (i.e. paid for) the guitar, especially given the un-put-downable playability and wonderful sound. The nut juts out a fraction on the treble side and I'd probably try to get that fixed.

 

(j) Towards the end of my two weeks the 1st string started to develop a weird noise particularly around the 7th fret - I play in DADGAD mostly, so that would be an A for me. It sounded like the note was being pulled out of shape - no doubt amplified by the sympathetic resonance of the two open A strings in this tuning, the effect was quite off-putting. I mentioned this to Dave who thinks the recent warmer and drier weather and/or the guitar "settling in" may have exposed a fretting issue just in front of or behind that fret; this theory is supported by the fact that the effect subsided with the additional tension of standard tuning. I guess the flipside of the extraordinary sound of the Samhain means that any defects are going to be amplified too - if you leave old, dull strings, I think you'll really notice them on this instrument. Anyway, if this particular problem is a fretting issue, it shouldn't be impossible to fix.

 

Conclusion: Fabulous. Lovely. It's been a real and rare treat to be able to play this guitar every day for two weeks.

 

May-June 2010 - Mel, London:

 

 

Only the first day with Mel and already two recordings "State Street Blues" and "April Come She Will" both in standard tuning which Mel recorded using a Tascam US-144 Mk2 with a single Rode N1-A mike. Here's Mel's review:

 

Body/neck shape: The size of the guitar was absolutely perfect for me. I find Dreads too big so was glad the guitar had a small body. As a result it was very comfortable to play. The neck has a shallow C shape so slightly different to mine and it felt a little wider. The fact it wasn't glossy made it easy to slide up and down the neck. I can't think of anything bad to say as it just felt so right. I was very much into it within an hour of it arriving and felt able to get down to the business of recording straightaway. One final thing on the body - it was quite a bit heavier than my Fylde. I'm not sure how that contributed to the sound but worth pointing out. The Alchemist is a very light instrument so going back to quite a heavy guitar was a bit strange at first

 

Headstock: I didn't mind the shape of the headstock but wasn't too keen on the dark wood layered over the light. Just a personal preference really - I think I may have fairly traditional tastes in headstocks.

 

Decoration: I love simple decoration and so Samhain was perfect in that respect. There are no markers on the fretboard - fine by me as I only look at the top ones. The soundhold decoration is also very simple, which I love.

 

Additional soundhole: I really liked this and thought it was one of the winning features of the guitar. You get a much better sense of what you sound like as you are getting constant feedback whilst playing. I also loved it aesthetically. The shape was pleasing and nicely rounded off and you could see inside the guitar and get a much better idea of the bracing, the neck attachment and construction in general. It felt like I was getting an added insight into the guitar.

 

General build: The quality of the build was very high to my untrained eye. I noticed one or two tiny join gaps, but suspect this is due to the guitar settling down and the fact it's handmade. As somebody who is happy to play second-hand or slightly beaten up guitars, this isn't really something I'm bothered by. I think I'm more about the love that went into making it and the sound than having a perfect finish. Personally I quite like a bit of gloss, although not laquered so thickly that it looks plasticky. I noticed after a few days that there were a couple of tiny dings on the bottom of the soundboard, but they were hardly noticeable. If it had been glossed they'd have stuck out a bit more so I think the matt finish does hide wear and tear a bit better although the gloss maybe protects more in the first place. Horses for courses I guess. Actually, as I'm writing this I'm even starting to reconsider whether I do really prefer gloss finishes.

 

Fretboard: Okay this is the biggie. It's the first thing that stands about about the guitar. My first impressions were that it was a little weird but Joe had told me just to play without looking. That helped and I soon got the hang of it. I found I could knock off some folk/blues numbers fine and the fanned frets didn't hamper my playing. However, I have also been working on some scales and stretches and I found myself going back to my Fylde for this. I found a second fret barre whilst holding down A on the top E string was a toughy for me and when playing scales my fingers weren't falling directly behind the frets. Having said that, you wouldn't really be using this as your sole guitar or for working on exercises so it's not really a problem. My tutor played it and said that if you can get your head around the fanned frets the sound you are getting in return is great. I'd be interested to hear it side by side the same model but with standard frets. Which brings me neatly onto..

 

Sound: Okay, so the sound is fabulous. Now, I've said on here before that I don't like spruce tops. Well I've changed my mind after playing Samhain. I'd written spruce off as bright and slightly brash sounding to my ears, but this guitar sounds mellow. It's completely different in sound to my Fylde but they both sound really warm. I'm struggling here to describe the sound - everything I think of seems wrong. The Fylde has a very deep woody tone. Samhain still has a nice deep bass but a sweeter top end. My tutor suggested that the lovely bass and treble came at a slight expense of the mid tone but I didn't really notice that so much. I suspect it's that the highs and lows sound so good that the mid tones don't get the chance to shine. I'm really intrigued by how each individual aspect (the wood, fanned frets, extra soundhole) has affected the sound here.

 

Strings/spacing: I didn't change these as I'm not a fan of new strings so was happy to have them played in. Not sure what gauge they were and was debating that with JCUK yesterday. I've been learning a few blues tunes with bends in so had to go back to my Fylde with its Newtones for that, but I found the strings that were on gave a lovely tone. The string spacing was good, slightly wider than on the Fylde and I preferred the extra width tbh. I don't have large hands/fingers but the Fylde is only 43cm and has quite tight spacing and I do sometimes feel I could use a bit of breathing room. Also, the top string on the Fylde sometimes slips off the fretboard if I pull it slightly but I had no such problems with Samhain.

 

Tuners: Absolutely love the wooden pegs. Not a fan of gold tuners though and would have gone chrome myself.

 

Overall: Wow, I didn't think I'd write so much but I couldn't stop once I'd started! This guitar has made me re-evaluate some things about my tastes and playing style. The standout points for me were the additional soundhole and the tone that came from the spruce/rosewood combo. I'll definitely be thinking hard about those elements when guitar-hunting next time. I also won't be afraid to go for a slightly wider neck. I don't think I'd have the fanned frets, it's a step too far for me but it's an honour to get to try this feature out. The thing I'll take away most from this experience is that it's made me question a lot of my assumptions. As a relative newcomer to guitar-playing, I haven't actually played lots of different guitars yet but I was surprised at how closed-minded I'd become already. Samhain has opened up a lot of possibilities for me. I said in my earlier post that yesterday I got to try half a dozen different guitars, a banjo and a CBG. This is more than I've tried in all the time I've played guitar. I feel that in guitar terms I've grown up a lot in the past fortnight. Thanks Dave for your generosity in setting up this project for us.

 

June 2010 - Jane, London:

 

 

Only the first day with Jane and already a recording - her version of  "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" recorded using a Zoom H2 recorder. On the same Soundclick page are Jane's recordings of "St James' Infirmary", Noodling in Dropped D", "A Version of Stagolee", "Cheery Blues" and "Blues in Open D" played on Samhain. Here's Jane's review:

 

"Aesthetics: These things are a matter of personal taste, of course. I'm very taken with the headstock shape, and the way it gives a signature individuality to the guitar that is quite distinctive to Dave's instruments. I also love the finish -I own some glossy, shiny guitars, but I bought them only because I liked their tone, and would have much preferred a matt finish. The woods are beautiful, the peg buttons wonderfully tactile as well as lovely to look at, and I really like the contrast between the dark and light wood on the headstock, although I would have preferred dark wood on the back of the neck. I'm also not keen on gold fittings, and much prefer silver, but that's just me. The overall simplicity of the front of the guitar appeals to me, and I think the contrast between the simple no-bling rosette and the attention-grabbing angled bridge makes the guitar really interesting to look at. In general, I love the angled bridges on these fanned-fret instruments - it gives this guitar a kind of lopsided, wry smile!

 

Playability: This guitar is very playable! Like Gekko, I was briefly wrongfooted by the fanned frets, but you adjust to them almost immediately. It took me a while to realise that what was initially throwing me wasn't the fanned frets, but the lack of fretboard markers. I hadn't realised I was so dependent on them to get my bearings, and once I'd figured that out there was no problem at all. The action was low, which is perfect for me, and the neck is smooth and fast. The fretboard is wider than I'm used to, but I came to really like it, and I now think that a wider fretboard might be preferable to the slim ones I usually play. I think this is because the shape of the neck suited my small hands perfectly, making the wider fretboard a bonus rather than an obstacle to playing.

 

Tone: Well, what can I say ... this guitar just sounds great! As I've said before, I wouldn't have thought a spruce top would really suit me, but this guitar has changed my opinion on that completely. This would be an excellent guitar for blues. It has that amazing warm, full bass, as well as bright trebles if you want them. And I heard notes on this guitar that I didn't really hear I was playing on other guitars, especially in the mid-range. I loved the soundport - it allows you to hear much more of what you're playing, and what a listener would hear, and I also liked the way it enables you to see inside the guitar. I really don't understand now why they're not more common!

 

Overall: If I had any money in the instrument pot at the moment, I'd be on the phone begging Dave to make me one right now. Thanks for giving me the chance to play the guitar Dave!"

 

June 2010 - Daniel, London: