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La Conner Guitar Festival Review

 

As you can imagine going to guitar shows is not hard work and one of the bigger perks of the job, but put said guitar show in the middle of a quaint and very beautiful fishing village just an hours drive from Seattle, jam-packed with incredible established, new and upcoming luthier talent, then the show fast becomes a TNAG favourite.

"Charming and picturesque, La Conner, is a unique and vibrant historic waterfront town with a long established history in the arts.  La Conner has an almost magical quality, it brings visitors back again and again with its many wonderful Hotels and Inns, B&B’s, Spas and vacation home rentals.  It is known as the most romantic getaway in Washington State.  It’s also known for friendly people and cultural attractions including three museums & outdoor sculpture exhibits, locally owned unique boutiques & galleries, and in an environment of mountains, farms, rivers, islands and the North Puget Sound.  Tourist season begins in March with the Daffodil Festival and April with the Tulip Festival and continues thru autumn..."

The La Conner Guitar Festival was started 3 years again by a dear friend of ours and the first luthier on the TNAG books Brent McElroy, he and his wife had been thinking about launching a show in their home town of La Conner for some time and when they finally stumbled across the beautiful 'Maple Hall' could not resist giving it a go! And thank the lord they did because it is one of the most wonderful shows I have attended this year. With a very similar feel to our other favourite East Coast show 'The Woodstock Invitational Luthier Showcase', Brent and his team have really managed to capture the sense of community and support our wonderful part of the guitar industry has for each other. The show runs for three days (Friday to Sunday) and is filled with concerts, talks, playing rooms and of course wall to wall beautifully displayed guitars. 

We manage to grab some time with dear friends Chris & Jeremy Jenkins of Lame Horse Guitars, who have been having a knock out year with orders flowing like cattle from a Texas ranch. We got to check out their beautiful Saddle Pal in Brazilian Rosewood that took my breath away as well as their new model the LH-OM. We have been representing Lame Horse Guitars for over 7 years now and it just fills us with pride to see them getting so much recognition for their gorgeous guitars, no guitar on their stand was not in someone's hands from start to finish. 

Somogyi apprentice and guitar master Leo Buendia was also in attendance and exhibiting what can only be described as one of the finest Modified Dreadnoughts I have seen and played before.  Built in a truly sensational set of Premium Master Grade Tree Mahogany and Swiss Spruce for the top, this guitar was a sonic powerhouse, delivering a rich and full voice with power in the lows and sweet sweet shimmer in the highs. It had his utterly gorgeous Hand Carved Rosette with matching End Graft, as well as a beautiful hand carved insert into the already outstanding headstock. 

Leo has shot to the top with becoming one of the most requested luthiers on our roster, already selling out to 2021. Look out for some very exciting build threads coming over the next few months...

When we say La Conner had the best exhibitors at the show we really mean La Conner had the best exhibitors at the show! And this incredible man was one of them...master Archtop luthier Cristian Mirabella! Cris's exhibition was packed from start to finish with clients at his table trying to get their hands on his world famous 17" Crossfire. Honestly seeing luthiers like Cris Mirabella in such high demand fills us with pride that he chose to be represented by The North American Guitar as his exclusive European Dealer. 

Cris and I talked at length about the two beautiful Black Crossfires we have in build at the moment that will be heading to our London showroom in a few weeks time, an exciting time for us all!

For those of you who don't know Cristian's work, Mirabella Guitars at the core are based on the New York Tradition and style of archtop building from which Cristian was raised. He incorporates his own innovative ideas and designs which add to both the visual and sonic signature of his guitars. 

 

A new addition to the TNAG acoustic roster this year was the one and only Mike Baranik, who again like so many others of the weekend had a phenomenal response to his guitars on exhibition. Mike is a truly stunning craftsman, who, for me encapsulates what the contemporary guitar market is all about, fusing traditional body styles with modern ergonomic designs. His much-loved parlours are without a doubt some of the best in the world producing quick and snappy attack, plenty of overtones and fullness in the low end, something that is very hard to achieve.

Mike and I are extremely excited about the incoming Parlour and OO we have on order that will arrive in a few weeks time. And for those of you who do not know, Mike is now branching off into the Electric world creating and developing a sensation new electric line, here is Mike chatting with me about his Electrics at this years NAMM show...

We also managed to grab some time with another new member of the TNAG Acoustic Roster the very brilliant Eric Weigeshoff of Sky Top Guitars. Eric is building some absolutely outrageous instruments that are really pushing the boundaries of contemporary design and sonic masterpieces. Driven by instruments that are not only sonically viable, but interesting and unique aesthetically, Sky Top are definitely left of centre with their non-traditional look but have absolutely hit the bulls eye when it comes to playability and sounds. The foregoing of the traditional soundhole with Eric's side-soundport mean the guitar projects the sound up towards the player, rather than away from the player. The result is an experience unlike no other guitar we have played. Yet somehow Erics bracing and design means no loss of volume for the audience...you have to play it to experience it, but we are hooked!

Eric and I chatted at great length about our exciting new Skytop "The Full Moon" Grand Concert Acoustic Guitar in Pale Moon Ebony & Swiss Alpine Moon that is current in build which we cannot wait to get our hand on..

We also managed to grab some time with the wonderful Michel Pellerin of Pellerin Guitars of Québec. Inspired by his mentor and dear friend Mario Beauregard, Michel is building some truly incredible guitars and is now seen as one of the worlds finest luthiers. We talked at great length about an exciting collaboration which will be revealed very soon. So watch this space...

Ben Wilborn of Wilborn Guitars was exhibiting two sensational instruments at the show, his powerhouse dreadnought the 'WarHorse' and Parlour Guitar The Lion! Although the 'Lion' falls into the Parlor Guitar category, it really is a monster of an instrument with a huge voice. The second smallest of the Ben's guitars and was original inspired by the1935 Gibson L-00.

Playability wise the 'Lion' is an absolute dream to play and incredibly light and comfortable. This smaller bodied instrument has a thoroughly modern approach to bracing, a carefully graduated to resonance creates a guitar that is entirely surprising in its rich and voluminous tone.

The 'WarHorse' on the other hand was a real showstopper and I have to say probably one of my favourite guitars of the entire la Conner show. Being a dreadnought fan, this guitar did it all, articulation, power, sustain but with a full rich and smooth voice. Something that would sit perfectly with the singer-songwriter or band environment. This stunning dreadnought was a modified version of the iconic Dreadnought, with a tighter shoulder and a more shapely lower bout. 

Last but by no means least was the sensational talent of Sam Guidry of Guidry Guitars. Sam was exhibiting beautiful SG-2 Model in Birdseye Maple and Engelmann Spruce, which absolutely blew my mind. 

For those of your who do not know Sam began his career by attending the Galloup School of Luthiery in 1999, subsequently earning an apprenticeship under renowned guitar builder and repairman Bryan Galloup.  This apprenticeship led to a full-time position at the Galloup shop as a builder and repairman where after 4 years he honed his skills as a luthier and later as a teacher at the Galloup School of Guitar Building and Repair. We are incredibly excited to announce we will be adding Sam and his beautiful guitars to our Acoustic Roster in the next few months...

All in all, it was an absolutely fantastic show which I highly recommend anyone, the room was filled with great people, awesome players and of course a community of guitar builders and lovers that is shriving...makes us very proud to be apart of it all! And it was great to see some friends...

For any more information on any of the luthiers, The North American Guitar represents featured at the La Conner Show or in this blog please do not hesitate to get in touch on hello@thenorthamericanguitar.com or call +44 (0) 207 835 5597.

Have a wonderful weekend...I am off to run a half marathon!

Ben

Comments

Ben Montague

Excellent article, thanks Ben

Ben Montague

Thanks for yor review and photographs. I am really enjoying the TNAG Youtube channel and this blog.

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