Immediately after Hiro, we again switched to something completely different, unique, and, most importantly, loud.

The Harp Guitar Gathering doesn’t hand out awards, but if we did, surely Keith Medley would have won this year for Coolness Factor.  Friend Tom Shinness originally described him to me as looking “like a character out of Lord of the Rings,” and I heard at least one woman in the audience exclaim (sotto voce) “I want his hair.”

Then there’s the outrageous instrument, which he built himself, from sketches he made over 30 years ago.  In Keith’s hands, and plugged into his state-of-the-art Bose system (he drove from his home near Nashville, Tennessee), this instrument yields a virtual “wall of sound” – and so the audience was treated to something closer to a wall-to-wall rock concert than the softer acoustic harp guitar sounds most of us offer.

I was much impressed with the quality of Keith’s electronics and the gorgeous and seamless melding of the acoustic and electric characteristics of his custom instrument from crystalline super-trebles (12 in all) to the 9 roaring subs (did I mention “loud”?).  Adding to the effectiveness is a backing soundtrack of intense percussion and other instruments – Keith’s CD arrangements with the harp guitar stripped out.  It’s all pretty cool and he times it effortlessly (that is, when the temperamental “Chuck” decides to work…yes, the playback system has a name…long story).

A final part of the cool factor is that Keith was exactly as I anticipated from our phone conversations.  A totally laid-back, humble, and kind soul, with a warm and self-effacing sense of humor.

These are the sort of musicians, performers, and personalities the Gathering tends to attract, and Keith fit right in as if he’d been part of the community all along.

His thank-you email sums up his low-key approach:

“Wanted to say thanks again for your invite; it was a hoot. You all did a great job with a great event. Just blog about my obvious need for manners…and a haircut. Hope all is well, buddy!”

I hope we cross paths again, my friend!

Tom Shinness sat in with Keith for a tune, as he does on occasion in Nashville.

More, even cooler, Keith photos from the concerts to come…but first:

Next up: the Luthiers!

HGG10 blog series starts here