Acoustic Dimorphism


Filled to the rafters with the sound of guitars, Nashville is a guitar picker’s dream. The place is a mecca for all sorts of world wide talent and some of the best guitarists alive call it home. He might not be a household name, but Nashville based John Danley is nevertheless well established among a select group of listeners who follow the world of acoustic instrumental guitar recordings. A modern master of the postmodern Americana guitar sound, Danley’s repertoire combines a time honored composite of musical styles for finger style acoustic steel string guitar including folk, ragtime, jazz, blues and ambient soundtracks. Fans of fretboard greats like Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges, as well as Chet disciples like Tommy Emmanuel, will appreciate Danley’s ringing fretboard work on his 2009 CD Acoustic Dimorphism—released on his Tetrapod label. Throughout the fourteen track instrumental CD, Danley captivates his audience with just a crisp, clean solo acoustic sound, that also at times evokes the rootsy, folk music side of Jorma Kaukonen’s instrumental guitar works. Jazzier cuts here finds Danley shifting gears, multi-tracking guitars with his very cool sounding Roland VK-7 jazzy synth sound. The sound quality, mixing and mastering of the Acoustic Dimorphism CD really allows Danley’s guitar to achieve a near sonic transparency that echoes with every ringing melodic cadence and slap and tap of his guitar. Rarely has the acoustic guitar been so well recorded as it is on this CD. Although the guitar sound takes center stage, not enough can be said about the cover art painting of Lori Anne Parker featured on the cover of the Acoustic Dimorphism CD booklet. More of Parker’s incredible paintings can be found at her web site. Now with eight solo albums of instrumental acoustic guitar recordings to his name, John Danley’s music has never been more ready for discovery among fans of acoustic instrumental guitar albums. /

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Musical Background

I’ve been playing guitar since the age of 14 and composing for acoustic guitar since the age of 21 (I’m now in denial concerning my current chronological advancement in years). My mother was a concert pianist of the conservatory ilk, my father enjoyed doodling with jazz improvisation on the baby grand Steinway after a few premium bourbons, and my brother maintains a diverse background in drumming.

I began experimenting with an old plywood-composite acoustic guitar found in my father’s closet—complete with tawdry images of flamingos frolicking on the plastic pick guard. It was a dreadful instrument with action akin to the great drawbridge across the Arthur Kill in Elizabeth, N.J. Nonetheless, I began creating melodies one string at a time until I was able to play chords. My introductory experience with acoustic guitar was so dismal that I divorced myself from the experience altogether and attempted to become a percussionist. That was a mistake. I returned to the guitar, but this time it was the electric, after being introduced to the unbridled, testosterone-driven, adolescent hedonism of distortion effects. This phase lasted until I was able to appreciate the music of Kenny Burrell, Grant Green, and Stanley Jordan. Eventually I returned to the acoustic guitar for purposes of composition without accompaniment and in response to the excitement induced via the Fahey legacy.

Concerning knowledge of other instruments, I have marginal experience with keyboards and often incorporate them on albums. I am presently recording with a Roland VK-7 for B-3 organ and cello sounds.

New CD

My latest release is entitled Acoustic Dimorphism and was recorded at my home studio otherwise known as the “Roger Penrose Laboratory.” I actually stumbled into the title for the album after reading a book by the noted evolutionary geneticist Jerry Coyne. Dimorphism literally means: existing in two separate forms. The one comment I have often encountered from audience members who listen to finger style guitar music is, ‘It sounds like two guitarists at once.’ The title could also refer to the fact that the acoustic instrument used on the recording, a Taylor LE-714, consists of grafted walnut, specifically English and Claro, which are morphed into an overlapping grain pattern. Bob Taylor explains this process in the subsequent link for aspiring luthiers and wood nerds:

Acoustic Dimorphism represents my 8th independent solo release (released October 1, 2009). This album offers a hybrid of original, instrumental acoustic guitar music. Predominant forms include neo-bluegrass, bossa nova, percussive-driven harmonies, and European ballads executed with a variety of contemporary finger style guitar techniques. My intention was to synthesize tradition with modern experimentation while incorporating a sense of humor.

Cover art for the album was contributed by the visual artist Lori Anne Parker.

Favorite Guitars

My favorite electric guitars will always be pre-CBS Stratocasters. They make sense from a design perspective and are extremely versatile for a variety of musical styles.

As mentioned earlier, the guitar used on my album is a limited edition Taylor 714 with a cedar top and grafted walnut back and sides. It’s one of my favorite combinations of tone woods. The cedar adds warmth and dimensionality to the bass register while the walnut back and sides produce ample projection, “shimmering” treble, and clarity of note separation. In fact, one of the best sounding acoustic guitars I have ever played was when I was asked to perform at The Healdsburg Guitar Festival in 2007. It was there I met the now deceased Lance McCollum who introduced me to a similar instrument crafted from black walnut. Lance’s instruments remain among the best in the world and I only wish I had been fortunate enough to own one.

For the specifications fanatic, I have an Audio Electric Research amplifier and use Elixir Nanoweb light gauge strings exclusively because they are the only brand that can withstand two 45-minute sets of brutalization. I’ve reduced my effects arsenal to a Boss reverb and delay pedal for fleshing out sonic endeavors when performing live, but for the most part I am a strict “purist” in the studio. Recently, I have been enjoying a British made compressor known as the Love Squeeze. Besides the overt innuendo, it is one of the most transparent compressors on the market and can be used as a volume boost for magnetic pickups.

A few years ago I wrote a blog entitled Getting Some Air In There as an argument for the brilliant acoustic pickup design work of Gary Hull. Gary’s operation is known as Trance Audio and he engineered the Amulet Acoustic Lens system. Gary Hull is a veritable genius who now resides in Santa Cruz. The Amulet is quite simply the most authentic sounding acoustic pickup system for live performance, capturing the psychoacoustic nuances of body resonance. His link:

Musical Influences

Keith Jarrett is my favorite musician. I prefer to listen to solo piano records if I am going to listen to anything when I’m alone. The truth is that I only listen to guitar music when I am finding out what other artists are doing. This phenomenon can only be explained by a feeling of ennui after endless hours of practicing, composing, performing and recording on a stringed instrument. It is the reason why cooks never eat at their own restaurant. Nonetheless, I was bitten by the Hedges bug after the onslaught of Windham Hill in the mid-80s. David Walbert, a classical guitarist, friend and mentor could have been responsible for my love of melancholia when attempting to compose ballads.

Upcoming Plans

Due to the economic zeitgeist and various contextual circumstances, I have been forced into a provisional moratorium on touring (hopefully temporary). However, I continue composing and foresee future recording and experimentation with various projects—including the possibility of a duo with bassist Bonn Johnson.

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