For over a year now I’ve been frequenting the acoustic guitar forum at Harmony Central and I’ve met some very interesting people. I’ve also learned more about guitars in general than in all of my previous 18 years of guitar playing combined. The South and Midwest are very well represented on this forum, perhaps to the benefit of all because these people really know their old-timey acoustic blues. There are guitar players from around the world who post there, too.
To add some balance I’m often promoting Mandolin Bros. on Staten Island, New York. It’s probably the best acoustic guitar store in the world. George Harrison shopped there when visiting the city, which says a lot to me, but it also caters to the beginner. The folks who work there are truly nice people, too, and treated me very well when I visited last summer.
The new 2004 Mandolin Bros. catalog showed up about a month ago. I read pretty much the whole thing. The owner of Mandolin Bros., Stan Jay, writes descriptions of guitars both vintage and new. He really has a flair for it. Everyone on the forum says they enjoy reading Stan’s descriptions.
A couple weeks ago I noticed a name in the acoustic guitar forum that sounded familiar. Turns out the same name was listed in the Mandolin Bros. catalog in “Stuff We’re Listening To.” Well, the name is Howard Emerson and of his album, “Crossing Crystal Lake,” Stan Jay says: “On this album you will hear a guitar being used the way guitars are used best; to play (in this case nine) tunes, each of which individually provokes a mood, a memory, a feeling. Simply superb.”
So when I see Howard Emerson on the forum using his real name, I’m like, Do you people here know what’s being said about this guy? I added a few quotes from the Mandolin Bros. catalog and its Web site, lest people do not know the importance of this man. Emerson, in turn, contacts me and wants to know who I am. I answer vaguely, with the “still trying to figure it out” thing, but tell him I’m an editor-writer and out of work. He asks me to email my address so he can send me his CD (he says I can pay for it when I find a job). The CD has arrived. Let’s just say I’m most grateful.
In short Howard is one exceptionally fine guitarist. His is a kind of country fingerstyle playing, sometimes bluesy, sometimes classical, sometimes more contemporary, but always melodic and joyful. It’s just so nice to hear a single guitar being played so beautifully, no dubs (at least none that I can detect) and no effects, just a man and his six-stringed instrument laying it down where it counts. The album is feeding my soul as I write. I’ve seldom been happier. Ten years ago you couldn’t get me out of the mosh pit at a punk concert … now I wouldn’t get near one. It’s amazing what time does to people.
Howard has agreed to let me interview him for a freelance piece for one of the guitar mags. (I’ve interviewed Jorma Kaukonen, Phish, Mike Watt and a few others in my time.) He was off on a trip to England to display his guitar-playing expertise when I last communicated with him, but he’s probably back now. I’ve got an interview to do.