Here is how producer Chris Eaton described the genesis of the forthcoming CD, The UK & Ireland Dobro Celebration.
“In November 2022 I visited Nashville to attend Reso Summit Slide Fest. This experience inspired me to try and bring together some of the best lap steel guitarists from the UK and Ireland. Each artist submitted a track, most of them recorded especially for this compilation. There’s a wide range of styles on offer, providing a snapshot of the different Dobro tones and techniques in the British Isles.”
Eaton added …
“It’s an album I’ve been producing/compiling for the last few months, featuring tracks from some of the UK’s best Dobroists. As well as being available in CD format, it’ll be available to stream on all the usual platforms.”
Of his own journey to the resophonic guitar, he continued …
“I started playing lap style Dobro approximately 10 years ago. Before that I had always played bottleneck slide since my teenage years. As I got older, I became more interested in acoustic music, and the tone of a Dobro in Jerry Douglas’ hands blew me away.”
Cherokee Shuffle – Chris Eaton
The majority of contributors are English. However, David Currie is from Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, in the west central Lowlands of Scotland; Colin Henry is from County Down, Northern Ireland; Johnny Gleeson (Carlow) and Ted Ponsonby (Donegal) are from the Republic of Ireland.
Some of the players talked to Eaton about the album, among other topics: …
Bluegrass Today spoke to Gleeson and a few others …. including Henry Senior ..
“I bought my reso about 10 years ago; it’s a Wechter Sheerhorn. I was playing pedal steel mainly at the time and wanted something a bit more practical and something I could use for smaller/acoustic gigs.
I play with Danny and the Champions of the World, but I think they’re too loud for reso so that is all pedal steel. Also play with a band called Our Man in the Field where I play both.
Mycontribution, The Effra Coffin, is a mid-tempo number with standard tuning.
It’s something I wrote to try and learn my way around the guitar. It’s named after a bit of south London folklore.
Colin Henry, part of the duo Janet and Colin Henry, has been playing the resophonic guitar since 1994. He deliberately chose a slow tune thinking that there would be plenty of fast instrumentals….
“I came to it entirely by accident in a way. I was a fairly basic five string banjo and guitar player, and I was in Belfast one day to buy banjo strings. On my way in on the car radio was this tune with a really great sounding instrument. The announcer said that was the sound of the dobro. I was completely taken with it. In the music shop I was looking through the banjo books and there was The Dobro Book by Stacy Phillips. I thought well that is the instrument on the radio, so I bought the book.
My tune Imperfection is a fairly new tune of mine which I have not recorded before. It is so called because, as my wife said, I am never satisfied with my recording or playing!”
John Gleeson, a member of the internationally known Niall Toner Band, contributed a version of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now to this project ….
“I began like most others playing regular guitar and about 10 years ago. I purchased a Dobro with no real inclination that I would fall in love with the sound of it.
My reso journey thankfully continues, and I love where it takes me. My latest efforts include a lot of ancient Celtic tunes, reels, and hornpipes, along with my love for bluegrass.”
Noël Dashwood, is part of a folk trio called Alden, Patterson and Dashwood that has toured extensively around the folk scene in the UK and Europe, and supported Show of Hands on a national theatre tour.
“I have been playing Dobro for eight years. I started out with a turned-up guitar and a piece of copper pipe, and gradually moved to a square neck resonator. I attended Sore Fingers Summer School and studied under Sally Van Meter, Rob Ickes, Billy Cardine, and Ivan Rosenberg.
I also did the Dobro pilgrimage. I went to Nashville to ResoSummit and studied under Stacey Phillips, Andy Hall, Mike Witcher, and Randy Kohrs.
Last year I put out a self-funded self-titled solo album [released October 14, 2022], available on CD from BandCamp or most streaming platforms. My track in the Dobro Celebration is from that album.”
The first single, CJ Hillman’s CJ’s Bounce, was released on Friday May 5, 2023.
Hillman has been playing resophonic guitars since 2012. He played guitar from an early age and was brought up on a mix of rock, country rock, and west coast singer/songwriters. This led him to the pedal steel and eventually to Dobro.
Rusty Young’s Dobro playing on Poco’s Just For Me And You really sparked his interest in playing the instrument. “It almost feels like a banjo quality to his picking on that song,” Hillman says of the impression that it had on him.
“I had been playing pedal steel guitar for a couple of years, and every time I played with a band I was asked if I had a Dobro as well. I picked up an Ozark Dobro for about £250 and it sounded great. I tuned it to GBDGBD and later open D. I also started tuning my Gibson lap steel the same way so I could get different tones, but didn’t have to learn multiple tunings, as I had enough going on with the pedal steel at that time too.
To this day I still play the Ozark. I keep meaning to upgrade and nearly bought an actual Dobro in Nashville a few years ago while passing through. I don’t often get to play the Dobro for more than a couple of songs, and with the addition of a Fishman pickup, this sounds great and gets a lot of compliments on its sound.”
The title CJ’s Bounce Is a nod to pedal steel guitarist Bud Isaacs’ Buds Bounce….
“The inspiration for the track came from the Jerry Byrd & Marty Robbins version of Kohala March. There are a few videos of them playing together on YouTube, and I could watch them for hours. The sound Jerry gets on the Dobro combined with Marty’s voice is superb.
All the instruments on the track are recorded by me from home. There is a mandolin in there, ’60s Eko acoustic guitar, and the ‘bass’ is an Arbiter baritone guitar.
I did think about adding pedal steel to double the melody, but I didn’t want to take away from the Dobro.”
The track listing for this June 16, 2023, release is …
- David Currie – Pig Foot Clinch (Trad)
- CJ Hillman – CJ’s Bounce
- Chris Eaton – Salt Creek/Cherokee Shuffle (Trad)
- Martin Harley – Cowboys in Hawaii
- Michael Messer & Pete Webber – Chimes (Trad)
- Noel Dashwood – Spraying Mud
- Henry Senior – The Effra Coffin
- Darren Jones – Give Me Some Reasons
- Phillip Henry – Domino Road
- Bruno Pichler with Lewis Cohen – Come Down Jehovah (Chris Wood)
- Colin Henry – Imperfection
- John Gleeson – Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchell)
- Ted Ponsonby – Snowy Breasted Pearl (Trad) Twixt Cup & Lip
All songs are original compositions, unless otherwise credited.
Produced/compiled by Chris Eaton and mastered by Red Red Paw.
The trademark ‘Dobro’ is used with permission from Gibson Guitars © 2023.
Also, it will be available streaming online at the usual platforms.
The second single, Cowboys in Hawaii, is to be released on Friday, May 19, with the last one, Salt Creek/Cherokee Shuffle, following on June 2. Both, along with CJ’s Bounce, will be available from the popular download and streaming services.