A new instrument introduced
on a satisfying afternoon in Oakleigh
15.11.22 – It was at lunchtime on
Saturday I realised I was completely deaf. Ordinarily I’m pretty
deaf anyway, with severe damage to my right ear sustained more than
a decade ago and just the normal attrition for my age in my left ear
– these days I’ve got some reasonably effective hearing
aids, but right now they weren’t helping at all. At my last ear
check-up I was told that I had considerable wax build-up in both ears
and so I’d been squirting a commercial wax softening liquid in
my ears for a couple of weeks, when suddenly everything went quiet.
I hastily booked a doctor’s appointment for noon on Sunday (gig
day), a little nervous in case the syringe didn’t clear up the
problem, but in the event the wax softening had done the trick and two
substantial wax trapdoors were flushed out successfully – and
I could hear again!
There was something else to be excited about though. I’d been
lent an Eastman arch-top electric guitar by Doc White to see if this
might be the guitar for playing my ‘solo’ gigs with George
Butrumlis and his piano-accordion. My solid-body electrics and nylon-string
guitar just don’t cut it, but when I heard Doc bluesily picking
on his Eastman arch-top at Smiths Beach a couple of weeks ago, I thought
I heard the solution to my dilemma.
A few days later I mentioned this to Doc, whereupon he very kindly offered
to lend me his cherry-red (set-up-for-slide) Eastman (he’s got
two) to experiment with in a live context – i.e. George
and me at the Carnegie Room at the Oakleigh RSL on Sunday arvo. I’d
had a couple of days of fiddling with the guitar in the studio after
Doc delivered it to Mt E and was really enjoying playing it, so the
gig would be just the thing to sort it all out.
The Carnegie Room at the Oakleigh-Carnegie RSL, (better known as the
Caravan Music Club by most of our vintage), is actually the RSL dining-room
by another name, to be discovered immediately on your right as you enter
the main doors. George was in the midst of cheerfully setting up his
vocal PA against the far back wall when Maria and I arrived –
a little late, but nothing to be anxious about. (I’d left my guitar
stand behind and we had to turn back to retrieve it – then I discovered
that I’d brought the wrong glasses, but there was no turning back
I’d brought along my brutish Fender Hot Rod amp that I use for
Spectrum gigs, so I was definitely not going to be short of power for
my first live adventure with Doc White’s guitar – the trick
was to contain that power and let the guitar speak for itself. Maria
said she was going to video a few songs during the afternoon and I was
looking forward to hearing them back after the gig in case I didn’t
know what to think.
We arrived to an empty room, apart from cheerful George and a famished
refugee family devouring their lunch, but it was early yet, so hopefully
more bodies would arrive before we started at 3.30. Indeed, as we were
running through a couple of numbers for our sound check, some familiar
faces started arriving, albeit some of them choosing to wear masks,
presumably to retain their intrinsic mystery.
As had happened at the Smiths Beach gig a couple of weeks earlier, I
had to drop a couple of numbers at the end of the first set, but even
so, we managed to pass the sixty-minute mark. All the songs went very
well and the guitar was sounding good, but my delinquent Ditto looper
played up in Superbody, forcing me to give it a good talking
to, much to the mirth of the audience. After finally regaining control
of the looper I brought out my trusty recorder and George, who had positioned
himself by the mixer for just this eventuality, managed to make the
recorder solo sound a bit gorgeous by adding some reverb and
delay – well, quite a lot of reverb and delay..
After catching up with various friends, including, to our astonishment,
Sarah, our next-door neighbour here in Mt Evelyn, we began the second
set and took it up to the Last Post before calling it a day. The Ditto
behaved for the second set and the audience, who had given our music
their utmost attention all day, responded to everything with very warm
applause. Steve Georgiou, (Madder Lake and Spectrum’s agent for
The Double Bill shows), who’d booked the gig for George and me,
said that having now seen and heard us he understood where we were coming
from - and he even sold a couple of Spectrum CDs by way of celebration!
So, the verdict on the Eastman AR-372-CE arch-top electric guitar. It’s
been many years since I got excited about a new guitar, but the Eastman
turns out to be indeed the answer to my prayers, especially for my solo
gigs. I imagine it might have more applications, perhaps even with the
full band, (although with almost a full-scale jazz-type body it would
be susceptible to feeding back at volume). Certainly it would be ideal
for recording – the range of tones that I can elicit from it with
my crummy finger-picking is astonishing. I couldn’t be more impressed.
It’s a beautifully made and well finished guitar. I read that
the makers emphasise it’s made in Beijing, rather than just China,
perhaps too fine a distinction for us colonials, but I’m also
hearing from other Eastman guitar owners that they’re
very well made and perform well – not to mention that they’re
very well priced. Apparently the 372 is modelled on the Gibson 175,
but sells for half the price of the Gibson.
I’ve not tried the Gibson, but Doc has made the playability comparison
between the two and, as price is a major factor in my case, I’ll
take Doc’s word for it. My issue now is that this model of Eastman
guitar is difficult to find in Melbourne at the moment, and I suspect
the price will go up when stock does eventually arrive in the country
– but, that’s a technicality. I’ve found my guitar!
Onwards and upwards.