Saturday, September 24, 2011


NGD - stands for New Guitar Day... and it isn't quite accurate.  I've been on vacation and therefore away from blogging.  The NGD took place just before I left on vacation (more about that later) and I am sooooo excited.  And it was only a new guitar for me...

Some of you realize that I am a huge fan of Lowden Guitars.  George is a genius and has a design that is different enough from anything else out there to be uniquely his own with a distinctive sound.  He was also the first steel string builder to use cedar for tops to a significant degree - again a different sound than the more traditional spruce tops of most American designed guitars.  Lowdens aren't for everyone, but they work for me.  I've been playing a Lowden as my primary guitar since 1987 when I bought an L25C from  little music store in New Hope, PA that was going out of business.  That first guitar, which I deeply loved, was stolen in Philly in '99.  At that point, a friend loaned me another Lowden while the company built me a very beautiful replacement that I also love and have been playing since receiving it in 2000.  After the theft, I watched for my guitar to show up and still do check e-bay and craigslist every now and then, hoping to run into it again.  It really was my guitar but I have, for the most part, given up hope of ever seeing it again.  There was something special about the guitars built by the Lowden company in the late 80's and I've been hoping to get one at some point.  Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to purchase one so when I've seen one come up for sale, I've longingly said... "Oh well..."

A few weeks ago I came across an ad on a guitar forum looking to trade a Lowden S10 from that era for a Taylor.  Normally this wouldn't be much of a possibility as Lowdens are significantly more expensive than Taylors.  This particular Lowden was pretty beaten and had a few issues that made it less desirable and therefore worth a little less... and I had a Taylor 314CE for a back-up guitar, although not the particular model the other individual was looking for.  I dropped him a note anyway and what do you know, we were able to work out a trade.  Off went the Taylor to Colorado and the Lowden made its way to California.

The guitar arrived and it is as I expected.  It is a "lower" end Lowden with two piece neck construction rather than the typical 5 piece Lowden neck and  had come from the factory with a pickup and two little holes in the side for controls, the controls having been removed, leaving two little holes - see the left photo.   That also meant a different saddle arrangement as Lowdens are designed with a split saddle for better intonation.  At that period in time, there were no under-the-saddle pickups that worked with split saddles so Lowdens with factory pickups from that era had a single wider saddle rather than their standard split arrangement - see above.  Also, there were some Lowdens from that era that had problems with the bridges coming loose.  An easy but very undesirable fix was to drill holes and use bolts to solidify the joint.  That had been done to this guitar.  It also shows the wear and tear of 25 years of hard play and the finish is worn and scratched.  She looks as if she'd been through a war.  And the hard case is beaten, cracked, and has a few holes.  All of that brings the value down and puts it closer to the trade range of a Taylor 314CE (what I had to trade).

Here's the most important info about the guitar.  It sounds AMAZING!  It is every bit a Lowden from the late '80's.  Even the under-the-saddle pickup, which I typically don't care for, sounds good.  It is the perfect backup guitar for my primary Lowden and I am sooooo happy with the trade.  It could even become my primary gigging guitar.  FWIW, I heard from the person I traded and he is thrilled with the Taylor so everyone is good.

So, what does a Lowden sound like?  Listen to the songs in the player in the right column and you can hear both my 87 guitar and the 2000 guitar.  Heartbeat is a good example of the newer guitar and Celtic Dreams and Call Down Thunder are the old one.  You can guess at the other songs.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Sing Off

Sing Off is one of my guilty pleasures... so much great music!

here's the preview for this year's show...

where did the carriage returns go?

There has been a change in the format of blogger and somehow, the way I was using it, it left out the carriage returns.  I apologize and fixed the two posts without carriage returns.  happy reading

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

I can do math

On the day after Labor Day, I feel the need to write a short piece about what strikes me as the most important social issue for us in the US right now - jobs. There simply aren't enough of them. Far too many people have been out of work for far too long. Safety net programs are both inadequate and losing their efficacy and more and more folk are falling through the cracks. All of the politicians are marching out their plans to create jobs and frankly all of them fail to consider the long term. That is fine and indeed, that is appropriate at this time when we are in such a crisis. The question then is, do the programs work.

 Here's where the math comes in. Laying off government workers makes more people unemployed. Immediately. Unemployed people don't spend money which causes businesses to lay off people which causes spending to go down which causes businesses to lay of more people and the spiral goes down. Take away jobs... and the number of jobs goes down... in a spiral. Cutting government contracts makes people unemployed. Similar but more complicated arguments could be made regarding infrastructure and education although both are more long term issues and so probably don't fit in this discussion. 

Some folk will come out with plans that advocate lowering taxes on businesses or lessening environmental regulations and safety regulations. Again, I think in the short term, that might be fine as a stop gap to get things moving.  Here's the problem. Neither works. Businesses already have money, what they don't have is customers. Cutting taxes on businesses doesn't create customers. Lowering safety standards and environmental protections doesn't create customers. Even cutting taxes on individuals doesn't help that much because it only impacts the folk who have jobs. What we need are jobs... and they will follow customers... but without jobs, we get no customers.

So what can the government do? Spend more money. Yes, I know that would raise the deficit and it certainly isn't a good strategy for the long term, but in our immediate crisis, it is what we need. Jobs are the presenting problem. If your house is on fire you don't stop the firefighters from hosing down the house because you're worried about water damage. You deal with that after the fire is out. The deficit is like water damage while the job situation is clearly a fire. Government should be hiring more people, not laying them off. Government should be passing money out to the states for every program that can be kick started with an infusion of cash not cutting back. Government should be hiring folk to go in and clean up after Irene. Government should be investing in research, supporting new technologies and strategies to make us more competitive. Government should be spending more, not less. If it means borrowing money. Borrow it. Interest rates are lower than they have ever been. Take advantage of that. Spend. Spend. Spend. And do it in a way that the money ends up in the pockets of real people and puts real people back to work so that businesses can begin to see customers and so need to hire more workers... and the spiral begins to go back up again. Then, when the population are more stable financially, the government can begin to wrestle with dealing with the long term problems.

Monday, September 05, 2011

they can choose when they're old enough

We've all heard that statement from parents and I'm sure it is meant with all sincerity - "I don't want to impose a religion on my children... they can make their own decision when they're older." I'm not trying to sound insensitive here but... it's a crock.

 First off, whatever you teach your children, they're going to make their own decisions when they get old enough. That is human nature. It is what we, as parents hope for, that our children will grow into fully functional adults who can look at complex issues and make decisions for themselves. You can't make it happen, and more importantly, you can't stop that from happening. To imply that somehow by raising a child in a religious tradition will keep them from making their own decisions about faith is just silly.

But there is a way a parent can make it more difficult... By not giving a child a perspective, by not providing the child with tools, you can make it much more difficult for them to make informed and intelligent decisions regarding religious life. Let me give some parallel examples. When our children hit age 9, they were required to take up a musical instrument. Alexis chose folk harp and John chose violin. We paid for lessons and made them practice. John got pretty good as a violinist and Alexis still has her harp, but neither really plays any longer. That was their decision... but had they decided otherwise, starting instruments in adulthood is much more difficult than starting as a child. Believe me, I know.

Second, neither of our children were forced to learn a second language as a child. Guess what, both are mono-lingual. I think Alexis would have been very gifted there and has touches of a variety of languages but the pathways of her brain were not formed correctly as a young child to make learning languages easier and she only has a smattering of each. Let me give a positive example. Both of my children grew up in very diverse settings interacting with people of a number of racial groups, economic classes, educational backgrounds, and sexual orientations and identities. Both are able to easily fit into just about any setting and be respectful and empathetic. 

And here is a direct example. Some years ago, one of my close friends with two daughters, one the age of my daughter, suddenly passed away. His young family was in a shambles but the church did exactly what a church is supposed to do and offered an amazing amount of support and caring. It happened that the wife had grown up in a family with no faith. Her sister watched as the church rallied around her and as her own faith gave her strength in a time that made no sense to anyone. The sister was literally amazed. I learned about a year later that she had gone home and began a search for a faith that she could embrace. It wasn't easy as she had no idea even where to begin... except she had seen faith in action as a community of grace and love cared for her sister and nieces. How different from her nieces' perspective when they grew up knowing what a real faith community looks like and how it acts.

For an adult to "make their own decision" regarding a religious tradition, it is sooooo much easier when they have a background, a perspective, a language from which to begin. That child very well may reject your religious tradition, but if you really want to enable them to make an informed and meaningful choice when they're older, give them a background in childhood. Let them participate in a tradition and discover the riches there. Give them a language so they know what they truly need and truly don't. Let them see what faith in life really looks like. Give them training so they have someplace to start.