Torch and Fire is released, and avaible for purchase!

The original inspiration for this recording came when I borrowed a Loar F5 mandolin that is now known as "the Schultz Loar" from the owners, Jack and Sharon Schultz. As time passed, many more interesting instruments passed through my hands on loan, laregely a result of the contacts I made while I had that Loar in my posession.

Instruments used on Torch and Fire
Click the pictures for more detailed descriptions
March 31, 1924 Loar #76547
This is "the Schultz Loar", a virzi F5 made by Gibson in 1924, and signed and dated by Lloyd Loar. Loar was a celebrity endorser of Gibson instruments in his early years, and came to work at Gibson in the 20s as both a promotor and as a consultant. While Loar was at Gibson, the F5 design (a mandolin with F-holes instead of an oval sound hole) appeared, as well as numerous other tweaks to the venerable F-model mandolin design.

This particular instrument was the first Loar-signed F5 I'd ever seen in person or played, and it had a profound effect on my style and abilities. A very fine instrument will often respond in ways that make it much more obvious to you when you are playing it correctly. I used it on tracks 1,4,5,7,8, and 13

1922 Gibson "Snakehead" a #71261
This mandolin is one of the earliest of the "snakehead" design, where the peghead tapers as you go away from the neck such that it looks like the head of a snake. This particular one is a humble "a" model, but has a wonderful snappy tone that these mandolins are reknowned for. I was visiting Gruhn's in Nashville with Jack Schultz & his Loar, and picked this one up off the wall to try while we were waiting for George to be free. George commented that it was quite remarkable how like 76547 the high strings on this mandolin sounded. It now belongs to my friend Craig who appears on several tracks on Torch & Fire.

Tracks 2,3,9, and 11 have 71261.

1903 Gibson F2 #3263
This is an unusual instrument, a very early F-model mandolin from the beginnings of the Gibson company. The sound on these tend to be quite staccato, perhaps a result of having a mahogany back.

Used on track 12

1917 Gibson F4 #37254
Owned by a friend of mine in London. The Gibson F4 mandolins were the gold standard for years, espeically in the boom years of 1910-1920 when playing in mandolin orchestras was the musical fad in the USA. To my ear, a good Gibson F4 is the most wonderful mellow mandolin tone available. It's not the driving powerful sound of an F5, but it has a certain softness and gentleness to the tone that I love.

Used on tracks 2 and 3

1924 Gibosn Loar H5 #7649?
Borrowed from a friend at a festival, and recorded in the hotel with some portable recording gear! The H5 was the master model Mandola, and blends beautifully into the tenor register. I transposed the tunes on track 6 down to the mandola's range, and blended in another mandola, as well as a Loar F5 capoed into "piccolo" range.

Used on track 6

1923 Gibson F5 Loar#73485
I had the great pleasure of serving as courier with this Loar that was en route to London to a friend. This Loar was refinished by Gibson some time in the mid 30s, taking on the characteristic look of a later "fern period" f5, though retaining it's Loar signature label and original parts. This mandolin has a very nice assertive clear tone, and was used with a capo on the 5th fret as a "piccolo" mandolin on track 6
1917 Vega 10-string Mandola/Mandolin
This instrument was used as the backing/rhythm on track 6. A close cousin (a 10-string mandolin) was used to play the chords/rhythm on track 11, on which Craig Harbauer plays the lead on the Gibson A #71261. Vega made these rare instruments in the mid-teens- advertisments and photographs appear in "The Cadenza", a music magazine that was published at the time. I briefly owned the mandolin-scale version of this same instrument, but the mandola-sized one is more successful as an instrument to use all the courses on.
I used a Lebeda F5 mandolin on track 10, and Craig plays his Lebeda on tracks 1, 8, and 13. Jiri Lebeda builds his instruments in the Czech Republic, and captures a very aggressive commanding tone.
2001 Chanticleer Tenor Guitar
This guitar was made in Norwich by builder Patrick Arbuthnot. He calls his resonators "Chanticleer" after the Rooster in Chaucer, another audiciously visible and audible creature. This instrument is my favorite for playing in sessions- it can be played melody like a tenor banjo, or chording like a bouzouki. The strange look of the chrome finish is always the source of questions, but it's just the most flexible instrument I have. Used on the final track of the CD unaccompanied.
1909 Gibson F4 #9100
This is the instrument whose peghead appears on the CD cover. Originally used on 3 tracks, 2 of those tracks did not make the final cut for the CD, and on the other I used a backing track recorded on a different F4 for the final version. So in essence, the mandolin on the cover does not appear in the audio recordings of the CD!