95. Karen

Carolan has spent a few weeks staying with Nottingham Guitarist Karen Macleod. Karen is an acoustic blues guitar player and finger style instrumentalist. She has played at many acoustic venues in the East Midlands as well as festivals up and down the country and in the USA where she lived for a number of years. She was part of the duo The Hogrenderers whose CDs If Whiskey were Blues and Far from Gruntled are available on Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music and Bandcamp. Her most recent album, The Wind on the Sea, is an acoustic chronicle of original solo instrumental compositions and arrangements across a lifetime. This album, played and recorded during the first lockdown, is now available online and on CS. Karen writes eloquently here about her thoughts as she first encounters Carolan at the start of their relationship and also leaves us with a lovely rendition of the gospel-blues song Ain’t No Grave. Thanks for being a generous and thoughtful host Karen.

Thurs June 16th 2021

First thoughts – I’ve never seen a guitar case that colour. It reminds me of a Milky Bar. Never seen a guitar designed like a doily either. Reminds me of the inlays round the sound holes of old lutes and Chinese cork carvings, and also my Nan’s tablecloths…

I like the headstock. It’s unusual. I’m surprised it sounds as full as it does as it also feels very light.

Lovely sized neck, width and lengthwise so there’s plenty of room to play up the neck. Wonder what it sounds like through an amp and what a weird sound hole position – fits like a kid’s block play set. All in all a pretty instrument, but somehow perhaps not a serious one being used, by design, for fun and games and experiments …

Friday June 17th

So it seems this project is similar to an oral history project with the instrument taking centre stage and the material arising from an inanimate object instead of the voice of people. I feel there is something inherently or at least slightly disturbing about creating an instrument for experimentation with technology –  Dolly the sheep comes to mind. Call me old school – or just old!

Having played it I have got used to the sound. It’s not perhaps as rich and vibrant as my Northworthy, but it is lively and vibrant and it lends itself to being played with or without a thumb pick.

Because I am aware it has a history of being played by many people I felt it has versatility imprinted into it, which may not have the case at the start of its life, i.e. there are many ghosts within the machine. Perhaps it therefore feels more like a machine than an instrument, built for utility rather than belonging to and existing alongside one person for life.

By contrast I feel my guitars have my imprint on them from bangs and bashes to fret wear and somehow the dialectical transference of sound from instrument to brain, to fingers and back round again seems to make them sound like mine, given my particular way of playing. But this guitar seems a bit lost and without a home, or it could just be a very social guitar, happy to be picked up by anyone!

I don’t think I’d want to get attached to it, but already I have enjoyed bashing out Aint No Grave – the new gospel/bluesy song I am currently learning as that is fresh and new and this guitar being, I believe, built in a jazz style lends itself to being played loud and with a pick.

One thing which really struck me was how the vibrations travelled right through its body and into mine. It felt, not exactly flimsy, but open and available making it easy to establish contact with the instrument- and so begin the process of it becoming part of the specific music I am playing and part of me. The relationship has begun …

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