Saturday, October 16, 2010

Luthier Jimmy Edmonds - Galax., VA and More Crooked Road

Along The Crooked Road are a series of Wayside Exhibits detailing the particular area where they're placed and discussing The Crooked Road more generally. An interesting feature of these Wayside Exhibits is the low frequency FM transmissions adding details and some music form well-known local musicians.  These presentations, lasting perhaps five minutes, add to the travelers understanding of the great cultural wealth of the region.

Downtown Galax, VA
Jimmy Edmonds - Luthier
401 S. Main Street
Galax, VA

Jimmy Edmonds

If you look at the 2010 Galax Fiddler's Convention T-shirt, you'll see a picture of twelve year old fiddler Jimmy Edmonds on one side and his grandfather on the other.  The Edmonds family has been deeply embedded in the traditional music culture of Grayson County along The Crooked Road for generations.  That's why there was little surprise when Jimmy returned home to open Leaf and String: Edmonds Custom Made Instruments,  a luthier's shop and outdoor store in his home town and begin producing a range of guitars, fiddles, mandolins, and dulcimers that have become highly valued and eagerly sought out in the world of hand made acoustic instruments. Edmonds' Guitar Shop can be found at the back of Leaf & String.

The Workshop

Custom luthier's shops feature highly skilled craftsmen working with hand tools to build custom instruments one step at a time.  Jimmy Edmonds is noted a fine fiddler who left his native Grayson County for many years to perform in one of the theaters at Myrtle Beach.  When he returned to Galax he left the road, but not the music.  He continues to add solos and ensemble work to many recordings, using modern technology to send his contributions from his home.  Meanwhile, his reputation as a builder of fine instruments has continued to grow.  He is making a line of Martin-style D18's and D28's for Gruhn Guitar in Nashville while also accepting commissions for guitars, mandolins, and fiddles bought directly from his shop.  He is currently working on guitar #150 as well as a couple of F-style mandolins.  He is also much in demand for repair work on damaged or elderly instruments.  Currently, there is a waiting list of about five years for one of his instruments.  The list of people who own Edmonds guitars includes: Zach Brown, John Bowman, Chris West, Tim Shelton, Johnny Williams, Jody King, and many more.

Shaping X-bracing for D28 Guitar

Back and Front of New Instrument

Apprentice Jody King Gluing Top on New Guitar
Jody also plays banjo for Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time

Brazilian Rosewood Back for New Guitar

Cutting Mother of Pearl for Inlay
Early Stages of New F-Style Mandolin

Much of the technology and formation of the guitars built in today's luthier shops represents an effort to reproduce the fine sounds and looks of Martin guitars and Gibson mandolins from the pre-war golden era of acoustic instrument production.  By using old wood, hide glue, and traditional techniques, the boutique luthiers making fine instruments around the country bring their special skills to bear on hand crafted instruments.  Each top and bottom is continually tapped and listened to for special sound qualities as the braces are shaped, the pieces assembled, and, finally, the finish applied.  

Irene Holding Edmonds #100

Jody Removes New Guitar from Press

The Showroom

An Edmonds OM Model

Bill Anderson & Maggie Anderson
While we were in Jimmy's shop, our old friend Bill Anderson wandered in for one of his regular lunches with Jimmy.  We had first met Bill and his wife Maggie at Pickin' in the Pasture in Lodi, NY several years ago. Bill is now retired from his position at Cornell University in Ithaca.  He and Maggie have purchased some property and built their Little Cabin (Systems Built) Home on the Hill near Fancy Gap looking out over one of the most beautiful mountain meadows we've ever seen. On our way back to our campground, we stopped there for a visit.  Bill and Maggie perform as a duo singing traditional music and gospel along with a solid selection of Gibson Brothers covers.  Bill is also a certified Martin repair technician and builds guitars and basses.  Their new gospel album is available from their web site.

Bill's Shop
Testing the Sound of a New Guitar
Bill and Maggie on Their Front Porch

Heading Home on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Puckett Cabin