Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jack Rose's 1997 Island Koa Slide Guitar

Amplify’d from
American Primitive - Blues - Flamenco

Jack Rose's 1997 Island Koa Slide Guitar

by Buck Curran
photo by Buck Curran
This summer Shanti and I visited Glenn Jones and took photos of Jack's guitars in Glenn's back yard. It was quite surreal looking at those instruments in the afternoon sun and thinking never again would Jack conjure music out of those bodies of wood and steel. The most curious thing I noticed when looking at all the guitars; underneath the strings on the top between the soundhole and bridge, a patch of white residue that looks like violin bow rosin. I hadn't noticed this before, but I guess most of the time hanging out with Jack was in room lighting. Glenn informed me that for the longest time he didn't know what it was either, but after sometime realized it was the residue from Jack's white thumb picks. I had to laugh when I thought about Jack shredding his thumbpick as he fingerpicked, but it holds testament to Jack's attack on the strings and the strength of his hands. Of course, not so hard to understand when watching him perform or when listening to his records. His right hand was a beautiful thing of power and precision. 
photo by Buck Curran
Jack's guitars include two Taylor dreadnoughts, but the significant guitar of the batch is a unique handmade slide guitar. A Weissenborn style lap guitar made of very lightly figured Hawaiian Koa and featuring a metal saddle and nut. The instrument, serial number 97099 Island Koa Instruments was made in 1997 by English luthier Pete Howlett. This guitar can be heard on Jack's best recordings, and the piece Now That I'm a Man Full Grown II from the 2005 release Kensington Blues is a perfect example of the dynamics and power he could summon with this instrument. There is also some great footage of Jack playing this guitar on the highly recommended DVD The Things We Used to Do released by Strange Attractors Audio House this year. 
One thing is for certain...Jack really loved and cared for his guitars. Looking at his Island Koa (though the finish is worn) and both Taylor guitars, I noticed they are structurally in great shape. He may have played hard, but it was the strings that took the blissful punishment. Jack and I exchanged quite a few emails over the years, talking about guitars a lot of the time I really got to know what his preferences were when it came to acoustic guitars. I was building a guitar for him when he passed. I really felt like I could've built him the perfect guitar and it's sad to think we'll never be able to finish that collaboration. It's very clear when thinking about Jack himself and when listening to his music...the World is a much better place for the Life that Jack put in it while he was here. He will be missed always!

~Buck Curran 8 December 2010

Buck and Shanti Curran are the Indie folk dou Arborea 
and are working on a new release.

No comments: