Notes from the Road – Collings Shop Tour and Last night in Austin Well, its time to pack up and head back to the sunshine state. I’ve really enjoyed Austin, but it’ll be good to get home and start preparing for Gamble Rogers and other upcoming events and projects. I’ve finished a couple of new songs while I was here and will be polishing them to get them “performance ready” (i.e., get to where I remember all the words and chord changes). I went and toured the Collings Guitar shop yesterday southwest of Austin. It was pretty interesting to see where my OMH2 was made and see the whole process. Collings is particularly painstaking about building their instruments. Whereas the big boys (Martin, Taylor, Gibson, et al) will finish hundreds of guitars a day, Collings finishes just 6 per day. In their words they have only one standard – perfect. They profess not to ever send out an instrument that has any flaw in its construction whatsoever and they are very sensitive about that. As an owner I find that reassuring. A couple of interesting things. First, while terribly expensive, Collings is still producing as many Brazilian rosewood instruments as the market calls for. The wood does not come form long held stashes of the wood as I had believed (since harvesting those trees is no longer permitted). Instead, it comes from forms of reclamation of still existing wood in Brazil – stumps of trees that were previously cut, logs found in river beds, etc. Some of the graining in these woods is quite dramatic (as in my 2004 model) and, due to its natural aging, it has some of the best tonal qualities of any instruments they’ve produced. Also, Collings entered the mandolin business about 5 years ago and their models are now among the most sought after for their quality on sound. Last year Collings began making electrics, both hollow body jazz models and solid bodies. Their “niche” in the solid bodies is producing a much lighter weight electric than the other makers do. After the tour I came back to the hotel, got Judy and went downtown to see the Bats take off at dusk – Austin has the worlds largest urban bat colony in the world. Sure enough just at dusk tens of thousands of bats flowed from beneath the bridge over the river right downtown while hundreds of folks stood and watched – happens every night, pretty cool. We strolled the main music district drag down 5th and 6th streets and caught some acts here and there. Its mostly rock, a lot of punk and hip hop too, some country, etc. I was a little disappointed that there weren’t more singer / songwriter or acoustic acts, but then it was Friday night in a tourist / college town – what was I thinking? So now we’re packing up and will head to the airport in an hour or so. See you soon! Doug