Road Trip I Reviews and Recordings - North West and Ireland

January 2011 - Dave, Kendal

 

No picture of the handover as The Traveller came via Parcelforce. Here's a video of Dave playing John B. Spencer's "Will This House Be Blessed" in Open G tuning at Hebden Bridge in September 2010:

 

 

He has also recorded it Capoed at the 5th fret during The Traveller's stay. Next is a medley of Jessica Ruby Simpson's "Bob's Song"and Anne Lister's "Icarus" in CGCGCD tuning Capoed at the second fret. Then comes Dave's version of Christy Moore's "Ride On". Lastly Gilbert Bécaud's "Let it Be Me" and Dave's sixteen year old son Jack playing Jimmy Page's "The Rain Song"

 

Here's Dave's review:

 

Before I say anything else I'd like to start off by thanking Dave for letting the Road Trip happen, and with Rory and Taran guitars following suit hopefully he has started off a wonderful trend that other luthiers will repeat.

 

What a beautifully made guitar - exceptionally well crafted with some striking choice of woods and finishing touches. The Columbian Rosewood back and sides are just stunning, and Dave has achieved a very fine lacquer finish that really brings out the colour and figuring of the rosewood very well. The Sycamore neck contrasts nicely - both in terms of the colour and the tru-oiled finish. The purflings are just spot on - perfectly even with precise joints. I liked the Headstock design (interesting that Dave White doesn't seem to have a standard headstock - a new one appears for each design), and the Blackwood headstock veneers front and back were a very striking and bold choice that I wouldn't have thought of if I'd been commissioning the guitar myself (I'd have been more likely to have asked for the Columbian Rosewood to make a safe reappearance here but I don't think it would have been as effective a statement) - especially with such a pale sycamore neck, and I liked the finishing touch of handmade blackwood buttons on gold tuners. "Darkness and Light in Harmony" as the inscription says under the top!

 

The guitar body shape sits very easily and comfortably - a pleasant shape and size and I can imagine that it is very player friendly when used for long gigs. The European Spruce top is a very nice piece of wood, tight and even grain. Soundhole - nice, understated and classy and as it's in Columbian Rosewood as well it ties the front to the back. The soundport is well worth having - definitely improves the player experience - but not in an intrusive way as it doesn't kick out a huge amount of volume - just enough. I'd be very likely to have one if I was buying. You also get a great view into the inside where you can see the attention to detail and quality of the build - those carbon fibre rods are certainly different!

 

The fanned fretboard takes no time at all to get used to, and adds to the visual interest of the guitar, and the frets are really well done. It didn't need any adjustment of playing style or posture to get the best out of it. The bridge is probably the most unusual part of the design - after all of the curves and symmetry of the guitar, the offset angle of the bridge, which I understand needs to be at an angle for the fan frets, coupled with the sharp angles of the bridge shape, is the one thing that challenged the aesthetics most for me. The neck profile and width felt just right - comfortable and quick.

 

I agree with some comments about the nut - it looks like it needs nudging 1-2 mm to the bass side as it was easy to pull the top e string off the bottom of the fretboard, and I had to take extra care when putting the capo on, but this is an issue that would be easily sorted by Dave.

 

The sound was very impressive - rich and bell like at the same time with an even Bass and Treble response - and when played with a capo up around 4th or 5th frets has a really powerful and resonant chime to it - it was most like my capoed Lowden O32 - (spruce and EIR) when played up there. I thought it had good separation of the different strings - didn't get cluttered and trip over itself when put to work with a bit of strumming or faster picking. I think the action was a bit low for me, so I had to be really careful not to get too much buzz, particularly on the lower frets in dropped tunings when the tension is lower, but if I behaved myself then it was very rewarding even down to low C. Pop a capo on, crank it up, and those drop tuning sounded great! I was listening to Mark Thomsons' cd of the guitars stay with him again this evening - and the quality of sound he gets from the guitar says it all - I should have just posted his version of Leaving of Stoer again!

 

This is a meticulously made, high quality instrument, from a passionate luthier, who I'm sure would pull out all the stops to make someone a very special guitar. I can't get my head around why anyone would buy a similarly priced instrument from a megaproducer when you can have a lovingly crafted tailor made gem from a British maker. That's probably enough! Thanks again Dave!

 

January/February 2011 - Graham, Forest of Bowland.

 

 

 

"If you have any experience of British luthiers, you'll know they all have their own slant on what's what and how to stick bits of wood together in an interesting way, to give us guitarists a very personal guitar. Yet there is common ground and people talk of British guitars and how they differ from say US luthiers efforts. So, having said that, I have to say that this Dafoite Traveller is what quality British acoustics are all about, IMO. They are classy but not flashy, practical but not plain, traditional but in a forward looking way.

 

Dave has put some very traditional craft into this guitar, with solid binding and purfling on a traditional OO sized guitar. Yet it has fan fretting and a port hole in the top-side. Looks are pretty much to my taste, with a wood rosette and a delightful balance of light and dark woods that stand out yet manage to blend, at the same time. The fan fretting is something I was unsure about. Looks wise, it has a bit of a "help, I'm melting" appearance. But for playing it is very easy to adapt to and feel the benefits of. The string tensions seem far more balanced, which in itself can take some getting used to but is well worth the effort.

 

The port-hole, I'm not so keen on. Looking into the guitar is unattractive, to my eyes. All that bracing and stuff. I don't want to see it. I also blocked it up, with a (clean) hanky and didn't notice much difference in the sound. So no, it's not for me. The guitar is a pleasure to play but to my ears is far more suited to fingerstyle, at which it excels. Flatpicking? Nah! The tone is vibrant and immediate, with a clean, well defined sound, that has some really nice, woody character.

 

The finishing is to a very good standard, with some really tasty wood matching. A lot of effort has gone into making a guitar that works excellently as an instrument and also has plenty of aesthetic and craft elements to feast ones senses on. My favourite parts are the back & sides wood and the neck and head wood combination and finishing. Also the clarity and character of tone. Only the port-hole and the looks of the fan fretting are not quite to my tastes.

 

Overall then, a top, very individual guitar by a maker who would be well worth considering, if you want that special, handmade, custom guitar. A big thanks to Dave. Cheers mate."

 

February 2011 - Leo, Eccles

 

So it's goodbye from Graham . . .

 

 

. . . and hello to Leo

 

 

 

Here's Leo recordings Leo made with The Traveller - Leo Kottke's arrangement of "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring/ Crow River Crossing" in open G tuning and Ralph McTell's "The Setting" in Open D. Here's Leo's review:

 

Well, I've had the Samhain for just under a fortnight (passing it on to Fliss on Saturday) and I'll be really sorry to see it go. Mind you, given that I've played it almost exclusively since I got it, my other instruments will be pleased to see the back of it). I'm not as gifted in the technical writing as some of you lot are, constantly mixing up my saddle, lower bouts, bridges and purlings so I'll try not to be too clever and just give opinions.

 

1. Looks. When I got it home and took it out of the case my wife (who is the arbiter in all things) didn't like the look of it compared to my other guitars (a dreadnought and a 0003). She thought the upper bout looked a bit 'pinched' - whatever that might mean. For myself, I wasn't keen on the headstock (a little bit too asymmetrical for my tastes) and it didn't sit particularly comfortably on my knee (I do, however, have particularly wide thighs). This led to me holding it more like a classical guitar - which I didn't find comfortable either! I loved the woods used, and the grain of the rosewood was noticeably more pronounced than on my Moon 0003. The Sycamore neck took a bit of getting used to - I know it's all about light and dark, but the contrast was a little too much for me at first, although I grew to love it as time went on.

 

2. Sound. This is where my wife smiled - she absolutely loved the sound of it, reckoning it was louder and clearer than my Moon although not as bassy as my Guild. She thought it filled a niche in my instruments and I agree with her. The sustain on harmonics, in particular, was long and pure. I thought it was clear across the range and, when tuned down to D the bass notes were pleasantly 'grunty'. I wasn't aware of the shoulder soundhole making any noticeable difference. I like the idea of the soundhole being offset (as in McPherson guitars) - I assume that would mean that the sound wouldn't be blunted by fat arms getting in the way!

 

3. Playability. Having mentioned that I found it difficult to seat comfortably, I should counter that with my thoughts on the offset frets. For a predominant finger-picker these were a revelation - I loved them. I had expected to find them difficult to get used to but this was not the case at all. My only worry came with barre chords (or F - in which I play the bottom string with my thumb). I found myself having to bend my wrist uncomfortably to make sure I fretted the notes properly. The Samhain is much lighter than my spruce/Mahogany Guild D40, and about the same weight as my spruce/rosewood Moon 0003 and I would have like to have tried to play it standing up - but the fixings weren't there to do that.

 

Overall, I would have liked the guitar for a wee bit longer (say, a lifetime). But whether the fact that I couldn't get it sat comfortably for long periods (presumably because of the 'pinched waist') would eventually mean that it was played as regularly as my other instruments, I couldn't say. My 50th birthday is coming up and, with a slightly wider waist and a cedar top, I reckon my wife might have had to be putting in a call to Dave (except that she doesn't love me QUITE that much!)"

 

February 2011 - Fliss, Chester

 

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Here's Fliss's thoughts on The Traveller after one day and her first recording:

 

"The size is very similar to my Brook Torridge, so that's the easiest direct comparison, but it's a very different guitar. Let's start with looks - it's a nice looking little guitar, no question. When you lift the lid of the case, you want to touch it, and to pick it up and play it. The understated aesthetic is pleasing and a little organic, and the wood is very pretty. It's also a well-made guitar, very neat and tidy. The fan frets do give it a rather odd look, to eyes that are accustomed to more standard frets. In my purely personal / subjective view, there are a few things about the aesthetic that I'm not so keen on, namely the shape of the headstock, the chunky heel, the headstock/neck join at the back (I love the more flowing lines of my Brook) the veneer on the back of the headstock and the shape of the tuner buttons. I know that lots of people will love exactly those features, but it's just my own personal preference.

 

Playability - it's a comfortable size and shape for me, but feels quite heavy - noticeably heavier, for example, than my similarly-sized Brook. I prefer the lighter build, but the weight isn't an issue in terms of playability, although it might be if I were playing standing up, with a strap. The neck profile is also different from what I'm used to, but I didn't find it difficult to play and the action is nice and easy. The fan frets also don't pose a challenge, even though I was a little concerned that the longer scale on the bass strings (noticeably longer than on any of my own guitars) might be an issue. It's not, even with a capo, and even with a partial capo, it's no problem. Even switching back to playing my Brook afterwards, I didn't find it difficult to adapt. Perhaps I'm more adaptable than I thought . On the other hand, I can't say I found that the fan frets made it easier to play either. One other thing that possibly comes into the "playabillity" category since it's to do with how the guitar handles when you play it is the tuners. They're Gotohs, the same as all of the three of my guitars that are in the picture with it, but they feel totally different, not as firm, not the same resistance. Not sure why that would be, but I'm just recording it for completeness.

 

Sound - very nice, and I am sure Dave will take this for the compliment that it is when I say that's clearly his main objective with the guitars he makes. It's warm and has a lot of sustain. Compared to my own guitars, the trade off seems to be a little punch, a little focus. My Manson, for example, is at the other end of the scale - very bright and crisp, whereas I'd say my Bascetta has warmth with brightness, and my Brook has a little more darkness and overtones. My playing is quite different to that of a number of others who have played this guitar; I'm not really a fingerstyle player (though I do a bit) I don't do a huge amount in alternative tunings, and my level of ability is at a lower point on the learning curve than many here. But what I can say is that the Traveller is responsive, and seemed quite happy to handle what I asked it to do, whether strumming or picking, in standard tunning or drop D - I haven't tried it with DADGAD yet though I suspect that will be a particular strength. I'm not a fan of the soundport, although it's interesting to get a different view of the inside of the guitar - I think it takes a little of the focus out of the sound (I tried covering it so I could hear what it might sound like without it.) But again, that's personal preference - I don't think I'll be asking for one on my next custom build, whatever and whenever that may be!!!!

 

I've tried a first basic recording - just "as is" with the Zoom H2. This is one of two new songs I wrote last month, which I haven't previously posted anywhere, "The Lighthouse Keeper's Lover." It's based on a story which I believe is a Japanese folk tale"

 

Here's Fliss's second recording - her own composition "Layers of Snow" in Dropped D tuning. Here's Fliss's third recording - Jim Tozier's arrangement of "The Flower of Magherally" played in DADGAD. This is An and I singing a song called "The Cold Lad" which is a brand new one of mine, I'd literally just worked out the melody before this recording! I'm playing the Traveller in DADGAD, An is playing my Brook in standard tuning, then switching to the Shruti box for extra spookiness. The song is (very loosely) based on a folk tale from the north east of England.

 

 

March 2011 - Me, High Wycombe

 

Before going to the last Road Trip participant in Northern Ireland, "The Traveller" spent a week with me and I managed this recording of The Beatles "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" in DADGAD.

 

March/April 2011 - Martin, Larne, Northern Ireland

 

Here's Martin's first video:

 

 

Next is Martin's version of "Classical Gas":