2016 - "A Year In Review" By Aron Radford

It is my humble opinion that the world of Weissenborn orientated music is in the great scheme of things very very small. So i feel it especially important to annually promote and highlight artists (and luthiers) that not only deserve recognition in their chosen fields through inclusion on the website but also deserve the honour of being presented a TWiE award for achieving the highest level of excellence. This is the 4th annual TWiE awards and looking back at 2016 I can safely say that it has been the best year yet since TWiE started in terms of dedicated Weissenborn music releases. We had no less than 5 TWiE friendly artists release new Weissenborn heavy albums this year….

Winner of 2014’s “Best YouTube Channel” John Merrill released his debut album “After The Flood”. The album was an ambitious and brave concept for a first time recording venture. To cover other popular Weissenborn artists already established instrumentals and make them sound fresh, different and pleasing on the ears was no easy task. Well John accomplished those 3 criteria with aplomb. Each song sounded familiar but also different enough to work, which to me is what doing covers is all about. John also included 3 original compositions on this cd which tells me there’s enough song writing skill in the tank to follow this excellent release up in 2017 with an all originals release.

Blues aficionado Bad Temper Joe released his new album “Double Trouble”. Joe is a German singer/songwriter with a strong penchant for old school blues and ‘Double Trouble’ was a collection of blues inspired love songs that for the most part were played on the Weissenborn. This was Joe’s 4th album in 2 years but this was the first to be Weissenborn orientated and 7 out the 10 tracks had have Weissenborn taking centre stage. Joe is a real fan of old school classic blues ala Buddy Guy, Howling’ Wolf, Elmore James, Robert Johnson, Blind Willie et all. His passion for this golden era of blues is profound and splendidly evident in everything he writes and plays and the album was very well received amongst us all. 

UK based Weissenborn artist Aron Radford released an 11 track album of original Weissenborn instrumentals called “Soundscapes & Sonatas”. Firmly based in the ambient/melodic realm his album was very well received amongst the TWiE fraternity (many thanks). The album was split in to two distinct groups, ambient soundscape style instrumentals with lots of layering and effects and the other half were more traditional classical/folk in composition and structure. Aron is already busy writing a new album ready for a 2018 release.

Knut Hem’s “Weissenborn” release was an album we had waited quietly and patiently for over 3 long years ever since hearing the heavenly “Langvatnet” on YouTube, and boy was it worth it. It was always going to be something very special within the Weissenborn community. Words that spring to mind the instant i start talking about this mans’ music are, Melodic, Beautiful, Dynamic, Romantic, Serene, Sublime! As a professional drummer back in the day he has perfect timing and perfect control of dynamics, i.e. ‘The ability to control his performance through precision touch and cadence’ . These two qualities combine to amazing effect and create overwhelming feelings of great emotion, passion and romanticism in his playing style. He also has a wonderful sense of melody. He has a natural ear for what I call the “Rise & Fall". He builds up a passage of music to a point where the natural yearning for it to resolve is almost unbearable and then he simply brings us down to earth with gentle bump and starts the process all over again. This ebb and flow technique is fundamental to what makes his music so appealing and in my words "romantic". The album was so so close to receiving “Best Weissenborn Album 2016” and only pipped to the post buy another truly outstanding Weissenborn release which narrowly beat this amazing album. Knut doesn’t go away empty handed this year though, far from it. Not only did he win this years award for “Best Weissenborn Original Instrumental 2016” for “Rimfrost” (a track taken from the album “Weissenborn”) but he was also awarded “Best Weissenborn Cover 2016” for the truly special cover of the Beatles “Here Comes The Sun” with Nane Frühstückl. So 2/3 awards isn’t a bad return for his efforts in 2016. Knut has hinted at 2017 being a very busy year music release wise for him with several projects on the go and nearing completion :-)

So the prestigious award for “Best Weissenborn Album 2016” goes to the talented Adam Bay for his sublime debut release “Pacific Blood”. Adam is Weissenborn instrumentalist that hails from Vancouver Island in Canada. This was his debut album release and represents years of playing, songwriting and performing honing his craft and his unique sound and style. The making of the album had been a long road for Adam and he was determined to make his debut album something special, and that’s exactly what it was …special! On first play i was totally captivated and the whole listening experience was sensually immersive. Simple but effective melodies gliding and soaring over lush ambient soundscapes, a release that oozed charm and expressiveness. It was a very worthy winner of the “Best Album” award for 2016 and I know it will be a popular choice amongst the Weissenborn fraternity who have patiently waited for this wonderful release over the last few years. Well done Adam you have made something very special and you are a great ambassador for the instrument, and for that I salute you Sir!

“Best Weissenborn YouTube Video 2016” goes to the amazing Dan Dubuque and his epic Youtube video “Finley Point”. When I interviewed him earlier in the year he had this to say about the video….. “It was awesome. It was like a movie shoot. Super professional and positive atmosphere. I felt like a movie star or something. The crew were fans or became fans of the music and it was a really nice day. I loved to hike, fish and camp in the missions all the time before I started taking music seriously. The crew loved the area and it was cool that they wanted to make a music video of me on the rez. I'm so grateful that opportunities are happening like this now. It makes me want to keep getting better and better.It made me feel like all the traveling and hard work paid off and that I could really make great music someday that reaches out to everyone"

“Best Weissenborn YouTube Channel 2016” goes to Mike Holland. Mike was by far the busiest Weissenborn musician out there in YouTube this year and released no less than 25 videos in short succession. Many different styles and genres of music were represented in his videos and every one of them were of an extremely high standard, both technical and composition wise. Well done Mike please keep up the great work so we can all be inspired and entertained in 2017, you should really think about recording some of these for a cd too hint hint ;-)

“Best Weissenborn Song 2016” goes Trevor Green for his “Voice Of The Wind” single taken from the album of the same name. Trevor’s music is wonderfully spiritual and hypnotic. With droning didgeridoo and chanting lyrical style you would be mistaken if you thought this artist was from the Southern Hemisphere but although the similarities to a certain Xavier Rudd are evident Trevor follows a parallel path in the Northern Hemisphere championing Native American people as opposed to Aboriginal. His music is powerful and enigmatic but personable and alluring. The song was a real highlight of the year for me and was a very worthy winner of this award.

“Best Weissenborn EP 2016” this year goes to Shamal for his EP “Au Zénith”. Shamal is a wonderful up and coming French singer/songwriter who plays great guitar led folk, rock & blues infused original music. He relies heavily on his beloved Weissenborn for accompaniment and on “Au Zénith” he used it on no less than 4/5 tracks. Catchy, upbeat, rhythmic songs that transcend language (this EP being sung in French) his music had humble rustic charm that the universal and unique sound of an acoustic Weissenborn weaves through each composition effortlessly. Ben Harper is a huge inspiration on Shamal and it’s not hard to hear in his playing. His songs have great presence and the passion for the Weissenborn really shines through, lots of syncopated rhythms and chord arpeggios pull each track along with contagious enthusiasm and verve. Congratulations Shamal we shall follow your career with great enthusiasm.

“Outstanding Contribution Award 2016” Luthier Bill Hardin of Bear Creek Guitars for 3 decades of Weissenborn building that has produced some of THE worlds most beautiful instruments ever made. His instruments are owned, played and marvelled at by some of the best players in the world and are a constant source of inspiration to both players and builders alike. After two career threatening hand injuries his passion for the instrument is still burning bright and he is consistently producing world class works of hollowneck art. Thank you Bill for your services to the Weissenborn down the years and long may it continue. 

“Outstanding Contribution Award 2016” Historian & Author- Tom Noe. Tom has literally written the book on Hermann Weissenborn and co authored the book “History And Development Of The Hawaiian Steel Guitar”. His passion and level of determination and depth of research to document the man and his company’s history is unparalleled. Thank you Tom your work is truly amazing and invaluable.  

In other 2016 news…..

Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals “Call It What It Is” album was a nice timely reminder that the Weissenborn definitely has a place in main stream popular music still and the exposure that Ben gives the instrument is still the single most important aid in getting the instrument ‘out there’ to the masses, nice work Ben you are still “King Of The Weissenborn” of that there is no doubt.

We are very much anticipating the release of Thomas Oliver’s new album in 2017. Sadly it won’t be Weissenborn top heavy but we are promised a few choice tracks that will of course feature the Weissenborn as lead instrument.

Last years winner of “Best Original Weissenborn Instrumental 2015” Young Danish talent Jacob Rågård has given the world a few more glimpses into his sliding genius with the YouTube release of 'Hotel California’ but he tells me he has no current plans to release an album anytime soon as he is concentrating on building a business selling vintage lap steel guitars.

Last years winner of “Best Weissenborn Album” Martin Harley is back in 2017 with another new record and UK tour with double bass supremo Daniel Kimbro called “Static In The Wire” and is a direct and comparable follow up to the duo’s spellbinding and TWiE award winning release “Live At Southern Ground” from 2015.

2016 was another year that went by without out Ed Gerhard recording or releasing a Weissenborn record but I’m sure he’s due at least one Weissenborn instrumental very soon, after all it has been 4 years of since he last Weissenborn track and for someone so massively connected with the instrument that’s a very long time for the faithful army of fans to wait, come on Ed please :-)

Coming up next year on TWiE we shall have the long overdue interview with Anderwood Guitars master luthier Tom Buchanan all about the exciting new “Authentic Original” range of premium Weissenborns Anderwood have been making for the past 12 months. 

Two big artist interviews that are next in line are of course with two of 2016's TWiE biggest winning award artists. First up will be a full length interview Knut Hem and then closely followed by Adam Bay talking about his “Best Weissenborn Album 2016” ‘Pacific Blood’. I am also hoping to pin down master luthier Bill Hardin of Bear Creek Guitars too for full expose of his Weissenborn building career.

It just leaves me to say a big thank you for everyone’s support again this year. TWiE is all about sharing and informing and I have received so many nice emails with words of encouragement and praise that are always a constant source of inspiration to keep the site moving forward. Happy 2017 everyone and happy slidin’ :-)

2016 TWiE awards summary;

“Best Weissenborn Cover 2016” Knut Hem & Nane Frühstückl “Here Comes The Sun”

“Best Weissenborn Original Instrumental 2016” Knut Hem “Rimfrost”

“Best Weissenborn Album 2016” Adam Bay “Pacific Blood”

“Best Weissenborn EP 2016” Shamal “Au Zénith”

“Best Weissenborn YouTube Video 2016” Dan Dubuque “Finley Point”

“Best Weissenborn YouTube Channel 2016” Mike Holland

“Best Weissenborn Song 2016” Trevor Green “Voice Of The Wind”

“Outstanding Contribution Award 2016” Luthier Bill Hardin - Bear Creek Guitars 

“Outstanding Contribution Award 2016” Historian & Author - Tom Noe