Rick's Picks

I have built several instruments over the years for Sam Irwin and his family. He is a customer and a good friend. Also, if you have followed my website over the years, you will remember that Sam is the one who has written several Christmas stories exclusively for the readers of my website. Well Sam has gone to work for the Louisiana Crawfish Association, and has written a book on the subject. Even the folks who have never been to Louisiana love this aspect of our state culture. And everybody remembers the words from that Hank Williams song, "Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, and File Gumbo." Everybody knows that we love crawfish every way that it can be prepared. In this book, Sam gives a lot of fun facts and history about crawfish and our state. And there are also a generous number of crawfish recipes included in this book. If you are a cook or know somebody who would cook you up some crawfish, here is a book you need. You can catch up with Sam at www.LaNote.org or at 225-620-8698.

Over the years, Iíve had lots of folks send me recordings of their music -- sometimes itís original tunes, sometimes itís remakes. Some of these independent projects have become favorites of mine. This is a section that has absolutely nothing to do with business. Itís all about my pleasure. No one under this section is asking me for an endorsement or for advertisement, and I can never allow this to turn into an endorsement section. It needs to always remain about what I like. Iím not saying that youíll like what I like. I donít even know if everybody who has sent me these CDís are looking to sell them. All Iím saying is that they sent me something they did, and I like it.

If you look on my dulcimer section, youíll see lots of pictures of Graham and his daughter. I built more dulcimers for Graham than for any other one person. I guess heís the best dulcimer person I know, especially since Rich Mullins is not in the world anymore. Over the years, I have turned into the family luthier. Iíve also gotten to build Grahamís wife, Rosalind, a guitar and a mandolin. Music seems to be a big thing in their family, and he has sent me a couple of recordings.

This newest one, Songs for a Downturn, turned out to be just a fun little CD. Itís short, only having 5 songs on it. And my mind is kind of slow. It took me awhile to realize that there was an overall theme behind what they did. On the front, they are looking all somber and serious like. Then when you open the CD cover, they are all smiley. And the 5 songs are No Depression, Careless Love, The Wayward Wind, Loveís Gonna Live Here, and Blue Christmas. And finally, the truth come Ďround to me. The title of the CD speaks about our current economic downturn, and the songs are all fun songs that are bound to make a body feel good.

Well here it is. To date, this is the best independent release I have ever heard. And truth be told, itís better than some of the big name label releases Iíve heard. These folks are based in California. And I gotta tell yaí, itís just so masterfully done. Every musician proves that they know what theyíre doing, the singers are incredible, and this whole CD just comes together seamlessly.

A lot of folks send me music, and most of it is good. Ever once in awhile, somebody does something thatís real good. William and Jimmy play 30ís and 40ís jazz. If you like jazz from that time period, this would not disappoint. I put it in my CD player in my shop, and I have yet to take it out. I never tell a person to buy something, but hereís my word as a gentleman. Should you buy this CD and not like it, itís not possible to loose. I would buy it from you. You can catch up with these guys at teleguitarman@peoplepc.com.

I have both this CD and a video from Mitch Turbinson. Mitch is from Gilbert, Arizona. Iíd like to say heís great considering the fact that heís a teenager and still in high school as of 2007. The truth is, heís great even when grouped together with classical guitar players of any age. I love what he does. It gets me mellow. Iím not a smoker, drinker, or drug user. When I like to unwind and get easy, I want music to do it for me. I have two instrumental CDís. One wonít make it to this section, because it is a big name recording that is already signed to a label. At present, Mitch is unsigned. But I know if he doesnít get distracted, then his name will be a name that most of us hear. His mom has gotten me to build several instruments for her, and thatís how I found out about Mitch. jturbenson@yahoo.com

Hereís a man from Texas. Heís the most diverse person I guess I have ever heard. First of all, heís bilingual. He has actually sent me a half dozen of his CDís. The man plays every instrument known to man. There are no bum songs on any of his CDís, and every one is like a wild roller coaster ride. Most singers fit nicely into a certain category. Iím not sure how it can be in one person to go in so many different directions. He does it, though, and Iím always convinced that he means it. It doesnít sound like heís straining to fit into all these different styles of music. Years ago, he got me to build him a solid body electric dulcimer that is held like a guitar. That dulcimer even made it to the cover of one of his CDís.

I have lots of CDís with hymns and contemporary Christian music -- some are O.K., some are very forgettable. Iím not sure what Lucas Allen does, or how he manages to fly so far below the radar. This is the most incredible remake of hymns that I have ever heard. And then thereíre a couple of songs on there that I think must be his. Itís all good. Itís one smooth ride, and the beginning and the end fit together. I canít hardly play this CD one time. When it ends, I need to hear it again. www.mostlyhymns.com and www.lucasallen.net

This is probably one of the lowest production CDís I have ever gotten. Debi Kerner does all of her recording at home. In fact, sheís the one who finally made me understand that my preacher and I could put our CD together without having to float a loan. When I hear this CD, though, I am convinced and I know she means every bit of it. To my knowledge, every song on this CD was written by her. Sometimes Sherry and I write a letter to someone if we think they need encouragement. We might have them over for supper, or pick up a nice gift for them. Debi writes a song for a person in need, and then she goes to that person and sings it to them face-to-face. Now thatís for real. dobroz@windstream.net

I have loved to hear Andrew Osenga even back before I knew who he was. He used to be with a band called The Normals. Truth is, I think he was The Normals. He had some other guys in the band, but I think he wrote all the songs, he sure did mast of the singing, and I believe he was the best musician. He is now with Caedmonís Call. I wish I could say that he used one of my instruments on this release, but he didnít. He has two other independent releases -- Souvenirs and Postcards and The Morning -- where he uses lots of my instrument. Still the truth remains that this is my favorite. And itís not just my favorite out of his three independent releases. To me, itís just full of great stuff.

They say two things are certain Ė death and taxes. And hereís a bit of truth. We try to avoid both. We donít like talking about death, but sooner or later, it pertains to all of us. Hereís the best book Iíve ever read on the subject. I talked with the little old lady who wrote this book about the dying of her husband. I asked her when she wrote this book. She said she wrote it while he was dying. The Almighty has not enabled me to understand much while I am going through something. I always have to come out the other side of whatever is going on, and then think about it awhile. The perspective she has while he is dying is just amazing. Every person on this planet needs to read this book. You can catch up with her at 318-334-7600. Her name is Carol Volentine.

Thereís a gentleman in Virginia who has gotten me to build several instruments for him. In the work I do, I have been blessed to get to know a lot of good musicians. Iím not sure if Mr. Luke knows it or not, but he is a definite genius. He has published at least three books. Since I am left-handed, I have the chord book for left-handed folks. He also has one for those who are right-handed. And I guess one of the most ingenious things I have ever seen is the way he treated these public domain hymns. Each song comes in 5 different keys. If a person knows how to effectively use a capo, then with those 5 keys, a person can play in all 12 keys. You can catch up with him at Stephen Luke, 1532 Wild Duck Crossing, Chesapeake, Virginia, 23321-1241. His phone number is 757-478-2786.

My son and I have enjoyed reading Allenís short stories over the years. In this book, Beerman and Sodaman, he effectively weaves all these stories together. The stories are short enough that itís hard to read one and just put it down. allantracy@sbcglobal.net