with Johnny Gallagher

Search form

Richard Shindell and His Guitars: A Love Story

Richard Shindell is an American folksinger, songwriter and musician who grew up in Baltimore and now lives in Buenos Aires with his wife, a university professor, and their children. 

Shindell has released more than a dozen albums, his career received a boost when Joan Baez covered 3 of his songs on her 1997 album, "Gone From Danger" and toured with him. Shindell and fellow folksingers Lucy Kaplansky and Dar Williams later collaborated as the group CryCryCry. 

He's a writer whose songs paint pictures, tell stories, juxtapose ideas and images, inhabit characters, vividly evoking entire worlds along the way and expanding our sense of just what it is a song may be. 

Shindell is performing a benefit show for KVMR 89.5 FM and the Nevada Theatre next Tuesday, Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m.  THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELED - FURTHER INFORMATION AVAILABLE MONDAY, OCTOBER 29th.

We just love how musicians describe their various instruments. So here's his take and commentary: 


By Richard Shindell

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina --It would be idiotic to single out one guitar as the best one. They all do different things. They're all individuals. But I'm going to do it anyway.

As I said to my daughter just yesterday, if the building were on fire and you could only grab one guitar (assuming considerations of personal safety allow you to grab anything at all), the 1903 Vega 84 would be the one. OK, I didn't say it exactly like that. 

What I said was more along the lines of, "Honey, I know your mother told you to immediately exit the building. But - just between us - I'm telling you to make a wee detour to pick up this here case with the red ribbon on it." I'm pretty sure we understand each other.

The upcoming tour will mark a bit of a departure from the way I've been doing things recently.

If you've been to a show in the past several years, you would have seen me juggling as many as six instruments falling into three categories: acoustic, electric, and "big mandolin". None of those categories ever hit the ground. Not once. 

The acoustics would have been either (or both) a Martin D-18 or 00-18, both from 1952. There's also Taylor 562CE 12-fret 12-string (one fret for each string!) that might have been deployed here and there.



In the "big mandolin" category, I've been using an inexpensive Romanian-made Irish bouzouki, purchased on a lark one fine day as I roved out among the concession stands of the Shrewsbury Festival (UK) in search of Veggie Marmite (because someone had, hilariously, told me it was absolutely delicious). 

Recently that instrument has disappeared from the line-up because the pickup came unstuck. It's currently in the shop here, where the pickup is being re-glued with Marmite. Animal-friendly luthiers take note: if you're looking for an alternative to hide-glue, there's always Vegemite.

The electric category is a bit more complicated. Those who know me well might detect a bit of understatement here. At any given moment over the past several years, I have been seen at large playing a Collings I-35, a Les Paul Junior, an old Fender Esquire (gone to a good home in Woodstock), an early '60s Danelectro Convertible (given to me by a lovely fan who had bought it for $5 at a yard sale), and a white strat made by my friend (and extremely talented luthier) Daniel Caceres out of chestnut he found by a turquoise river in El Bolson,  Patagonia, Argentina. 

Phew. That guitar is presently in the hands of the amazing Chihoe Hahn (Newburgh, NY), who is installing some new pickups. Apparently, Chihoe is building me another guitar. I had no idea! So you see it never ends. Finally, there's that Jerry Jones baritone that seems to do everything I ask of it even before I've asked.



But sometimes one wants to go back to a simpler time, especially these days. [What on earth is wrong with these people?] So for this upcoming tour, I'll be going all acoustic, bringing the two Martins and a Stefan Sobell mandola. Regarding the Sobell, I have no idea why it took so long for this sublime piece of work to make it out of the house. Is that smoke I smell?

All acoustic is easy. It's what I did for years. But here's the hard part, and the reason this tour will be a bit of a challenge: I'll be doing it all into one microphone, an Ear Trumpet Labs "Edwina" (I hear they have a new version called the "Dark Edwina"... Hmmmm. must investigate). 

If you were in attendance at any of the CryCryCry shows earlier in the year, this is the microphone we gathered around near the end of each set. This time I won't have my friends with me.  Since I'll be traveling alone, I'll be relying on the expertise and patience of other friends: sound technicians!

And of course this would be the perfect setting to finally take that 1903 Vega 84 for a spin. Except it's never leaving the house. Unless the house is on fire. You there... yes you. I know what you're thinking. Don't. Even.


Richard Shindell's beloved 1903 Vega 84 guitar