My New Guitar

If you've been to a show in the past 3 months you've seen me playing Lady Butterscotch, the brown-sunburst HJ-45 built by Seattle's own Dave Haxton that I fell in love with late last year. This is unusual. In a lifetime of dropping by guitar stores to play expensive instruments without having to buy them I have never fallen for a guitar like this. I literally had to acknowledge to myself that I was in love and must do whatever it took to make the beloved my own.

Week in and week out I would take it down from the consignment wall at Dusty Strings and play it. Sales people listened and said nothing. They knew. I finally did what I had to do (and Dave, to his great credit, did everything in his power to make it happen, too).

So what's the big deal? First, it sits in my hands perfectly. The medium-guage strings it requires, usually a real discomfort to me, feel totally right on the short-scale neck with its slightly wider fingerboard. I'm a big guy with big hands and have always avoided short-scale necks but this neck's roominess and ease of fingering are a joy.

Second, the sound is beautifully subtle. I've been playing Dreadnoughts for more than 30 years, because I liked the way their forward, bluegrass-y sound focuses the interior voices of my fingerpicking. What this new instrument offers is the chance to play quietly without any loss of character, so now my picking, which has always had a hard, percussive attack, has a wide dynamic range, too, with a corresponding expressiveness that just makes me happy.

And it looks good, too. The only problem is that I walk into Dusty Strings three times a week now and can no longer play my favorite guitar. I have to go home.

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