It’s been great fun over the years watching some of our favorite 6-string fingerstyle guitar virtuosos get bitten by the harp guitar bug, to join Bennett, and later McKee, Anderson and others of the once-rarified few.
Carter Lancaster, Antoine Dufour and Don Alder are just some who have successfully jumped on the bandwagon. And this October will finally see Alex de Grassi in his “standard” (ie: non-Fred Carlson) harp guitar debut at the Harp Guitar Gathering.
And of course, all these popular players then stir the pot, inspiring their fans to try out harp guitar as well. There are a whole slew of these young whippersnappers out there, and a lot of them are already great. You guys (gals?) owe it to yourselves – and us – to get to the Gathering also!
One of the most visible “gets” the harp guitar roster is still missing is this fellow (I didn’t immediately recognize him either; he’s had a bit of a “makeover”): Don Ross, who tours and hangs with more harp guitarists than most of us ever dream of. So he’s had plenty of exposure to the instrument – with occasional rumors of an impending commission (I even remember ages ago hearing from my builder friend Arul in India claiming Don’s intent to purchase one of his Dyer copies).
Here, to tease us once again (perhaps if we all signed a petition…?) is Don ad-libbing on a Duane Noble at the home of JB Davies who recently sponsored their local concert. JB has seriously gotten into the instrument; he’s now got two vintage Dyers, along with the modern Noble and Tony Karol, plus a Beardsell, Holloway and Emerald. He describes his personal encounter:
“The boys stayed with me and had a grand time sampling all my harp guitars this morning. Unbelievably, neither of these guys presently owns one. However, it took them about two seconds to come up with some great material! I thought you would get a kick out of these photos of them playing the Karol and Noble.
“These guys are so incredibly talented that they can pick up any HG in different tunings and create music on the spot. It’s almost like instant coffee! Out of nowhere Don starts improvising the Manhattan Transfer song “Birdland.” No practice, no nothing. Just hears it in his head and plays it. Simply unbelievable.
“I also had my Dyer set up in the traditional Michael Hedges tuning for “Because It’s There.” However Don had learned it on a harp guitar with the subs chromatically tuned. Given that my harp guitar was in the GBbCAD sub tuning, he had to re-figure it out on the spot. For the most part, he was able to do just that. To me this is just unbelievable. Great to be a fly on the wall.”
Someone give that man a harp guitar!
Touring with Don at the moment is another recent Candyrat hotshot – Calum Graham. Here he is trying out JB’s Karol. Calum actually will be joining our world soon, as he told me some months ago he had commissioned a harp guitar from fellow Canadian Charles Shifflett. Remember him? He made this single Sullivan/Elliott-inspired harp guitar of his own design some decades ago (it’s been on HG.net from the beginning). He’s still been building all this time, and told me this will now be his second HG. Finishing up as we speak. Now we all need to talk Calum (and Chuck Shifflett) into coming to the Gathering.
Exciting times ahead for sure!