LIVE 048 • Slack Key #1 by Sonny Chillingworth

Slack Key No. 1 is a classic showpiece of slack key master Sonny Chillingworth. I first heard it on the Dancing Cat release “Endlessly,” and it also appears on his 1964 solo release “Waimea Cowboy.” The Waimea Cowboy version sounds like it was recorded on an electric guitar, while the version on Endlessly was recorded on acoustic guitar. Both versions are very similar, though with some slight differences. I have incorporated elements from both versions in the arrangement I play. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 412ce LTD (Rosewood/Spruce, Gotoh 510 tuners, strings are Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD gauge set) and a Neumann TLM 102 microphone.

LIVE 050 • Moonglow

Moonglow is a dreamy fingerstyle song I wrote years ago while sitting outside under a full moon. I’ve played it on and off for years, most always on steel string guitar. Recently I tried it on nylon and found it worked quite well – perhaps even better. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 414ce-NR (Rosewood/Spruce grand auditorium nylon string) and an Ear Trumpet Labs “Edwina” microphone.

LIVE 057 • Wake Up Slack Key

Wake Up Slack Key (also known as Ho’ala Ki Ho’alu) was one of the first slack key style songs I wrote. It stayed in my set for a number of years, though I haven’t played it much lately. This demo was an early version of the song recorded not long after I bought my first Taylor on eBay, a 310ce that became my main guitar for 9 years. This take among the others in my archive really captures the spirit of the tune. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 310ce (Elixir Polyweb 80/20 Bronze) in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i, 5/13/06.

LIVE 062 • Straight Ahead Blues (Demo)

Here is an improvised song from the vaults I dubbed “Straight Ahead Blues.” At the time I recorded this song, I was listening to a lot of the Clapton Unplugged album, which I still enjoy going back to from time to time. Same with the blues on acoustic guitar. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded with a Taylor 310ce (Elixir Polyweb 80/20 Bronze) and a matched stereo pair of Shure KSM 141 microphones in Holualoa, Hawai’i, 2/26/09.

LIVE 066 • Brownsboro Road, Original Fingerstyle Guitar

Today’s song from the vaults, Brownsboro Rd., is one of the earlier fingerstyle songs that I wrote. The recording was made in an attic apartment with the windows open on a warm night and features the sound of crickets in the background. Brownsboro Road was the second track on a project I had called Signs Music Has Changed Your Life. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded in Louisville, KY. Mixed and mastered by Kevin Ratterman.

LIVE 061 • New Day

Here’s a demo of a song I wrote on electric guitar a while back. Then, as now, I played and recorded mostly acoustic fingerstyle tunes. This is one of a relatively few demos I made on electric guitar from that period in time. Hope you enjoy.

Setup is a late 90’s Fender Jimmie Vaughan Stratocaster, through a Keeley tubescreamer (either a TS9 or a TS808) into a 1968 Fender VibroChamp. Recorded in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on 5/3/06.

LIVE 058 • Raindrops (Original Fingerstyle)

Today’s song from the vaults, Raindrops, starts with the eponymous sound effect of individual raindrops made on the guitar. The rest of the song features recordings I made of light rain and a storm as a backdrop for the song. Raindrops was the closing track on a project I had called Signs Music Has Changed Your Life. Hope you enjoy.

Recorded in Louisville, KY. Mixed and mastered by Kevin Ratterman.

GEAR 511 • Taylor Nylon Series Guitars

This video gives an overview of Taylor’s nylon stringed guitars, along with some sound samples of my 414ce-NR (sorry, forgot to mention the “R” in the video, which designates the rosewood back/sides). Taylor’s nylon string guitars are not true classical guitars, but rather cross-over nylon models good for a variety of uses. A Taylor nylon guitar would be a good fit if you like the playability of steel string Taylor guitars but want the sound of nylon.
Similar to their steel string models, Taylor nylon guitars are very playable, they work well with alternate and open tunings, and they have a good pick up system (most feature the excellent ES-N pickup) which makes them adaptable for live performance. While you can play some classical pieces on these, they are probably used more for jazz, Latin, Bossa nova, folk, slack key, and anything else you might want try with a nylon flavor.
Playability, versatility, and stage readiness make these guitars great for players looking for a nylon crossover guitar, as well as steel string players looking to add a nylon sound to their palette.

Recorded with a Taylor 414ce-NR (Rosewood/Spruce grand auditorium nylon string) and an Ear Trumpet Labs “Edwina” microphone.

GEAR 512 • Taylor 414ce-NR Review

This video gives an overview of my Taylor 414ce-NR (sorry, forgot to mention the “R” in the video, which designates the rosewood back/sides), along with some sound samples. Taylor makes nylon string guitars in a variety of wood combinations, but just two sizes: Grand Concert (smallest body size) and Grand Auditorium (the next size up from Grand Concert, and their most popular body style in general). Though I often prefer Grand Concert Taylors for steel string work, I chose this Grand Auditorium size model as my nylon string guitar for a couple of reasons. First, the larger GA size worked well with the rosewood back/sides to give a nice, rich bass sound. Second, I do like to use notes on the upper frets, and Taylor’s nylon Grand Auditoriums feature 14 fret necks. With the cutaway, that gives ample access to the upper frets. By comparison, the GC nylon strings are only offered in 12 fret configuration; while they usually come with a cutaway, you also lose a few of the upper frets with that design. Overall, I have found the 414ce-NR to be a practical, playable, and enjoyable way to add a nylon sound to my palette.
Note – the song featured at the beginning/end of the video is an adaptation of Leonard Kwan’s famous slack key arrangement of Silver Threads Among the Gold, which was also quoted in the intro to Country Comfort’s Waimanalo Blues, another beloved song in Hawaii.

Recorded with a Taylor 414ce-NR (Rosewood/Spruce grand auditorium nylon string) and an Ear Trumpet Labs “Edwina” microphone.

GEAR 510 • Armrests on Taylor Guitars

For extended playing sessions on the guitar, especially when wearing a short sleeve shirt, you can develop a set of creases on your picking arm where it lies over the lower bout of the guitar. Taylor has alleviated this problem by offering armrests on some of its guitars at both low and high price points. Their Academy series offers armrests in a budget priced guitar, while more aesthetically refined versions can be found on some of Taylor’s higher end guitars such as their 900 series. Overall, I figured having an armrest would be an improvement, but I am really surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed it. It does make the playing experience more comfortable, especially on longer sessions.