Chris Buono is a good personal friend as well as one of my best test pilots. For the last decade he has fearlessly played anything I’ve built — often sight unseen…and before a live audience. The only exception I can think of is the Harp Guitar (but we are also in the midst of a pandemic).
With the possible exception of Steve Sjuggerud, Chris has certainly played the greatest range of instruments I’ve built, which makes him uniquely qualified to make comparisons and discuss preferences. If you ever want an objective opinion about my work from a working professional…contact Chris.
I’ve never (ever) asked any of my artists to be exclusive to the guitars I’ve gifted or sold them. I believe in free markets and free association. If an instrument is a good match, it will naturally become an honest favorite. Chris owns a Goshawk™ which seems to appear on a high percentage of his work since it arrived to him.
A good sign.
Chris is a master teacher. Hit him up to take your playing to next level.
“Hey!” I asked, “Would you guys be interested in recording an album? I have an idea in mind.”
A flood of yesses flowed in before I had a chance to explain…
I had developed independent friendships with each of them as individuals, but most had never met one another in person, just basic awareness as fellow artists via my website. All of them have been loyal long-time supporters of my craft. I knew this mix of personalities would be synergistic and supportive.
Even working professional musicians find it difficult to gain enough time and space to be able to record an album. The pressures of touring, teaching, writing, and performing are intense. And so many of my clients are passionate amateurs — in the purest sense — they make a living unrelated to music, yet dedicate their free time to playing. Many are highly skilled but have no outlet to record.
I want to change that.
To keep our focus tight and set logistically achievable goals, we established several criteria. Each participant will be featured on at least one song. Choose someone(s) to collaborate with or perform solo if you wish. Most importantly, recordings will be first or second take…looking to capture spontaneous magic.
Steve Sjuggerud contributed his time and resources with incredible generosity. He hosted us at his location Sugar Pointe, surprised everyone with custom t-shirts and a coastal waters sunset cruise, plus brought in supremely talented photographer Adam King (check out those photos!) and drummer Dan Ostrowski to add depth to our mix. Thank you, Steve. Thank you also to Steve’s wife Kassy, and his business partners Chris & Kelly Manus.
Killick Hinds generously contributed his audio recording and production skills, first in tandem with me on location, then in his studio mixing and mastering. His deft touch transformed the raw audio into a coherent whole — a difficult task because each song was an entirely different arrangement of room, mics, musicians.
I gratefully thank Chris Buono, Todd Haug, Ken Kinter, Gabriel Levi, and Ede Wright for flying or driving to Florida to contribute their beautiful art.
PS: This album is dedicated to SB. You have inspired many more lives than you could ever know.
There’s a local tavern with a long history. During the War for Independence it quartered Hessian troops, the commander of which — Count Carl von Donop — was infatuated with a “beautiful young widow” by the name of Betsy Ross (age 24).
Betsy, when she was not sewing flags for the Revolutionaries, applied her skills such that Count Dunop was “distracted” by her company on Christmas Eve, 1776.
She held him out of position that night, allowing George Washington’s significant victory a few miles north, in the Battle of Trenton. Von Donop’s desire to occupy her territory proved fatal to the British Empire’s ambitions to control the American Colonies.
Betsy entertained the Count at her place in Mount Holly, New Jersey, a few miles south of this very same tavern. Mount Holly is home to a fantastic start-up — Spellbound Brewing — which brings us full circle to Ken sitting beside me on a bar stool drinking Spellbound Porter as we talked politics, sports, and music.
Ken is almost done his doctoral dissertation in psychology, and despite off-hours, the psychologist’s lens is never really dormant. He turned to me, looking over the top of his spectacles: “Son,” he said, “when was the last time you actually played music?”
We’ve been friends since 7th grade.
“All work and no play makes Rick a dull boy,” he concluded.
“You have set yourself a huge first challenge, I’d say. An a-rhythmical lyric, with syntactical sense that spans multiple line ends, sung at the edges of your vocal range, against a rhythmic accompaniment where the melodic component is a textural combo of counterpoint, choppy guitar and an extended, almost freeform bass line. You know how to aim high, for certain.” (Gethyn)
“I like the minor second above the root in the melody on ‘mare’ and ‘feet’!” (Adam J. Wilson)
“Whoa. That’s a left turn!!! Hats off, Rick. That took a lot of guts. Is this gonna be a thing?” (Chris Buono)
“PISCES: You might feel yourself shying away from a situation, which is actually a good indicator that you should go forward instead. The only way to conquer fear is to let it dissipate through the action it was so afraid of.” (Holiday Mathis)
“Rick: Was not expecting this! Very different, love the vibe. Great recording…the tones of your guitars are so recognizable to my ears.” (Gabriel Levi)
“What’s amazing is how quickly you took this from concept to full realization. The tensions and resolutions and irresolutions (and ear resolutions!) really speak to the spirit of what we need as creative souls navigating our paths. Good to see you, too.” (Killick)
“So intense, it made me think of the writings of Emerson and Thoreau which always for me have a certain gravity and profound thoughtfulness about them, a timelessness.” (Will Pitt)