People Worth Listening To- Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery was an Indianapolis born jazz guitarist who is considered one of the most influential guitarists of all time.  He influenced not only jazz music, but other forms of popular music as well.  His playing style included a lot of single note lines and octave figures. He played with his thumb instead of a pick, giving his playing a mellow and expressive sound.

I fell in love with his music and his playing when I purchased his 1960 album “The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery”, which he recorded with pianist Tommy Flanagan, drummer Albert Heath and bassist Percy Heath.

 

People Worth Listening To- The Protomen

The Protomen are an American indie rock band based in Nashville, Tennessee.  I’ve posted about them before.  Their music is loosely based on the “Mega Man” video game series.  However, their 2005 album “The Protomen” (Now entitled Act I) as well as their 2009 followup “Act II: The Father of Death” tell a darker version of events that differs greatly from the existing “official” story line.

I became a fan of this band when I was first introduced to their second album “Act II” by a cousin of mine.  To me it seemed to be highly influenced by the sounds of the 1980s, but still was something completely fresh and new sounding.  From this jumping point I also fell in love with their debut album “The Protomen” (Act I).

The band maintains a certain mystique surrounding their identities.  Little is known about the members other than their creative stage names that are generally pop culture references.  Their live performances are quite theatrical and they like to play cover versions of 70s and 80s songs that go along with the themes present in their own music.

People Worth Listening To- Tom Waits

Tom Waits is certainly among the most unique of singer-songwriters.  His voice is one of the most distinctive and recognizable voices I’ve heard.  While not technically “good” by any means, I’d say his voice carries his music very well.  He may not be a great vocalist, but he’s an amazing singer of songs.  His voice flows with raw emotion.

In his music he incorporates rock, blues, jazz, experimental, vaudeville along with various other traditional styles and even some pretty experimental techniques.  The result is music that sounds like nothing else, which is an art in itself.  That can’t carry the music by itself, it’s also got to be enjoyable to listen to.  And although Waits can be an acquired taste, I assure you that it’s a taste worth acquiring.

People Worth Listening To- Big Bill Broonzy

Perhaps one of the most prolific blues performers of all time, Big Bill Broonzy (Lee Conley Bradley) began his career in the 1920s playing country blues.  Broonzy draws influence from the many styles of music he heard growing up in the rural south.  The folk musics, spirituals and blues that he heard locally.

Moving to Chicago, Broonzy’s sound became tougher.  This paved the way for later “Chicago Blues” artists such as Muddy Waters.  There is no denying Big Bill Broonzy’s importance in the world of music.  One of my favourite Broonzy tunes is “Key to the Highway”.  It’s a wonderful “8-Bar Blues” and has been covered many times by many artists.

This recording of “Key to the Highway” Is also available on a compilation entitled “The Big Bill Broonzy Story”.

The Clash Band

The Charlottetown Community Clash Band is an uncanny group of music makers that performs in my city’s annual “gold cup and saucer” parade.  Made up of local professional, amateur, experienced and inexperienced musicians, this group comes together once a year to dress up in strange attire and make music.  I have had the pleasure of performing with this group in the last three parades, the most recent being this past Friday.

A shot of last year's parade

Normally the group has two rehearsals.  One sit down reading rehearsal the Sunday before the parade, and another marching rehearsal the evening before the parade.  Although I missed the sit down rehearsal this year and contemplated skipping out on the parade entirely I decided to blow the dust of my trombone case and give it a shot.  My chops were (and are) seriously out of shape as going 3 months without so much as a note can often do.  I managed to blow through a few scales and warm-ups the afternoon before the marching rehearsal and was feeling as prepared for the parade as I was going to be.

We finished the parade blowing through Kenneth Alford’s “Colonel Bogey” and I’ll tell you, I was super glad to be finished. The parade was hot, sweaty and exhausting, and by the end of it my chops were dead.  It was all worth it though, because it was a butt-load of fun.  I removed my camelbak and closeted my sombrero and began to look forward to next year’s parade.

Guitar Project #2: Sanding & Wood Problems

My plan originally was to use a chemical paint stripper to remove the finish.  Today on impulse I decided to try sanding the guitar’s finish off to see where it would take me.  I was convinced that I would need a palm sander and I still may, but I seem to be getting really good results using my hands.

I started with a course sandpaper and moved on to finer paper as I progressed.  I used a piece of 2X4 lumber scrap as a sanding block and after a good hour and a half of work I had pretty much finished sanding the finish off the front of the body.

I’m pretty happy with the progress I’ve been making.  There is only one snag that I’ve run into, and that is an imperfection in the wood itself.  I’m not sure if I can do anything to fix it, and may be forced to paint the guitar as opposed to stain it.

There also is a possibility that staining the guitar will more or less hide this imperfection.  I’m going to seek advice before choosing a finish.  For now I’m going to continue removing the old finish and see what else I unearth.

The Intensity of Chili Peppers

What chili peppers are hot, and what chili peppers are not?

Chili peppers are measured using the Scoville scale.  The more Scoville scale units (SHUs), the greater the amount of Capsaicin present in the pepper.  Capsaicin is a chemical that stimulates the nerve endings in the skin.  It’s what gives a pepper its heat.

Pure Capsaicin clocks in at about 15,000,000- 16,000,000 SHUs.  That’s pretty fucking hot, I doubt it’s a good Idea for anyone to even come in contact with that shit.  The stuff that police use as pepper spray comes in at a searing 5,000,000- 5,300,000.  Still pretty hot.  If that’s not a deterrent, I don’t know what is.

Moving on to actual chili peppers.  The pepper with the highest rating on the is the naga viper chili.  It was created in the United Kingdom by cross breeding the three hottest peppers known to the world.  Researchers tested it and found that it measured1,359,000 SHUs.

Naga Viper Chili

Rated at about 580,000 Scoville units is the red savina habanero.  Which is a specially bred version of the standard habanero chili.

Red Savina Habanero

Moving down the scale you’ll find the habanero chili and the Scotch Bonnet.  Both of these peppers clock in at around 100,000- 500,000 SHUs.

Habanero and Scotch Bonnet

At 50,000- 100,000 SHUs is the bird’s-eye chili.  The Thai name for this chili translates to literally mean “mouse dropping chili”.

Bird's Eye Chili

The cayenne pepper comes in at a respectable 30,000- 50,000 Scoville units.  Cayenne is typically dried and ground.

Cayenne Pepper

Clocking in at about 27,000 on the Scoville scale are these chili peppers.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Clocking in at 10,000-25,000 SHUs is the serrano pepper.  This is the chili that I most often use when I’m making chili.

Serrano Peppers

The popular jalapeño pepper clocks in at 2,500- 8,000 scoville units.  This really puts this list into perspective.

Jalapeño Peppers

At 500-2,500 SHUs we have the poblano pepper.  A fairly mild chili.

Poblano Pepper

At 100-500 SHUs we have the pimento.  Commonly used in stuffing olives, or making pimento cheese.

Pimento Peppers

Right at 0 on the Scoville scale is the bell pepper.  Bell peppers have no significant amount of heat.

Bell Peppers

 

 

Guitar Project #1: Introduction

I’ve had this guitar sitting in my closet for a couple of years now.  I got it for $50 from the place I work because it was on display and got banged up pretty bad.  I haven’t used it or played it as it’s been in an unplayable condition.  I’ve always planned on doing something with it, but have never gotten around to starting it until now.

This is a picture of the same model guitar. I hadn't taken a picture of my guitar before I started taking it apart.

I stripped the guitar of all of its hardware and removed the neck from the body.  This guitar has a basswood body, a maple neck and a rosewood fret board.  My plan is to strip all of the finish of the guitar’s body and all the black finish off of the head stock.  I may even replace the neck all together.

I haven’t decided whether I’m going to strip the body myself, or pay a professional to do it.  Paying the professional is certainly the easier route, and that may be what I’ll end up doing.  This all depends on how much each option will cost.

Once it’s all stripped down I’m going to take a look at the wood.  If it has a nice appearance to it, I’m going to give the guitar a stained finish.  If not, it will get a repainted a different colour.

This project is definitely going to take some work, but it will be a lot of fun.  I haven’t decided what I’m putting in for hardware and new pickups, that will sort of happen as I can afford it.  I’ve never done a project like this before, but I hope to learn a lot from doing it.

Robbie Robertson Releases First Album in 13 Years

 

Robbie Robertson, formerly of the Band released his first album in 13 years Tuesday.  I find hit has a modern feel, but still holds true to his roots in the Band.  It includes guitar and vocals from Eric Clapton and organ from Steve Winwood.  It was a good record and I really enjoyed listening to it.

You can read a review, and listen to it here:

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/how-to-become-clairvoyant-20110404