Okay, from the outset, the encounter was with the owner, not the guitar. Nevertheless, the days where a guitar player says, “Oh, that was my ’59 Les Paul” are getting further and fewer between.
The owner in question is one Colin Cripps, husband of, and erstwhile guitar player for, Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards. Check out her website.
Kathleen was doing a whistle-stop visit to the UK to promote her new album, Asking For Flowers. I’d recognised the name from the last album, Back To Me, and recalled some of the best guitar tones I’ve heard in decades. Hmm. Wednesday night… Kathleen or Coronation Street? Er…
So, having never met Colin but been listening to his playing for a couple of years, I made the approach after they’d played, tugged the forelock and thoroughly expected a brusque “thanks, man”. Not a bit of it. Two minutes in, he’s telling me about the compression settings he used for the gorgeous tone on In State, opener to the last album… Well, I did ask. But from a Roland GP-8? Really?
“Yeah! A lot of that unit was analogue circuitry – it’s my favourite compressor!”
Consider me hooked…
Then comes the bombshell. “And what guitar was it?” I follow in my best Geeklish. “Oh that was my ’59 Les Paul,” he answers.
“FIFTY nine?” I splutter, just wondering if I might have heard him wrong.
“Yeah, I had two of ’em in the ’80s and stupidly sold them. But I bought this one at the end of the ’90s and it’s a real beauty.”
Well, it turns out that besides being that kind of guitar player who’s everything I so wanted to be [cod psychology welcome], Colin is a bit of a geek too. We talk about ’60s AC30s – he has a pair of course – Epiphone Coronets that don’t stay in tune, the fifties Junior he bought Kathleen for her birthday and a 101 other matters of gargantuan guitarry gobbledegook.
It’s funny what you turn up. I talk to hundreds of guitar players at hundreds of gigs. Some are most interested in telling you how great they are, what they’ve done, maybe hoping for a column inch or two. Others – like Colin – just want to tell you what they know. No bullshit, no ego, just all-up stellar musos who are still doing it for all the right reasons.
Sometimes this job is just a pure, pure pleasure.