A Rooftop FM Antenna and a Hopping Mad Mom

By Steve Greene

What’s the worst thing in your parents’ mind that you did as a teenager?  Wrecked the family car shortly after getting your driver’s license?  Got your girlfriend pregnant?  Maybe you threw a big, noisy and messy party at their home while they were away?  Well, my teen transgression was much nerdier, but it did have the benefit of teaching me some important lessons: wires make a difference, and grounding is important.

What could I possibly have done, you ask?  Well, my parents, who rarely ever left town without us kids, decided to finally take a long weekend away from us.  They took advantage of a weekend special of dancing, dining, and lodging at a hotel about 100 miles away.  After all, they thought, I was at home from college and my sister had just turned twenty-one, so surely we could look after my twelve-year-old brother.  What could go wrong?  We were trustworthy kids.  I had recently purchased my first quality stereo component, a Pioneer QX-8000 quadraphonic receiver, which I was obsessed with. So when I came home from college I’d be sure to hang around at home with my stereo, watching my brother, and staying out of any trouble.  What they didn’t know was that I was bothered by a bit of multipath distortion on my favorite FM station: Georgetown’s WHFS, home of very popular DJs Surf and the Weasel.  I loved that station and the progressive and psychedelic rock they played!

I had started receiving and collecting both Lafayette Radio and Allied Electronics around age eleven.  I’d pour through them from cover to cover every year, numerous times, dreaming about what electronic gear might lie in my future. It was early Saturday morning, and I had a hunch that I knew what might solve my multipath distortion problem. I had recently read an article in High Fidelity Magazine about a dealer in upstate New York who had installed an FM antenna on a customer’s roof.  The article was quite detailed explaining how to safely mount a mast and antenna securely, as well as the importance of grounding the antenna. So I headed to Lafayette, with their latest catalog in hand, in order to check out their FM antennas and accessories.

My bedroom system 1975 -Pioneer QX-8000 and Alliance rotator box

I had a plan. My bedroom was on the corner of the first floor of our house, and my Dad had a nice, sturdy ladder. I was going to drill a hole through the side of the house in order to bring the twin lead to my QX-8000 in the bedroom. I knew the 6-element Finco FM-4G was $17.15, while the 10-element Lafayette FM “double driven” model (with a whopping 10–foot boom) was just $11.95.  Plus, I’d need about 50 feet of 300 ohm twin lead at $2.29, a five foot antenna mast at $1.49, heavy duty 4” wall brackets at $4.78, several wood screw insulators to hold the twin lead where it would run down the wall from the roof, a lightning arrestor, and a ground rod and ground wire for another $9. Then, the piece de resistance, I would need a plastic tube about 3/4 inch in diameter and about 13 inches long for $1.19. As I totaled up my expenditure in my head, I realized I was going to have more change left over from the $50 I had burning in my pocket (part time jobs really pay off) if I bought the bigger, but cheaper, Lafayette antenna instead of the Finco!  The total would be about $35 plus my labor (yes, I’m referencing the 1973 Lafayette catalog, that I still have, to confirm these prices!).  I paid the cashier, loaded up my goodies in my hand-me-down Corvair, and headed back home.

While the installation took me way longer than I expected (about four hours) the FM antenna was finally installed.  I had completed the job safely, only teetering on the roof once during a sudden gust of wind, but the sturdy mast saved me when I grabbed hold of it!  I also realized that I had to shove some gunk into the tube entering the house, so that it wouldn’t be a direct path for insects.  Wadded up bubblegum seemed do the trick…but I later changed that to insulating foam.  The Pioneer QX-8000 sounded great on FM, although I was surprised that the signal strength meter didn’t show much of a jump in gain.  However, since the multipath was highly reduced on WHFS, I was pleased over all.

I could hardly wait to show my parents my big accomplishment when they returned home Sunday afternoon!  I didn’t have to tell them, though.  When they pulled up in the driveway my mother instantly saw the antenna and shrieked, with hands to her face, “oh my God, Bob (sounded like “Bawb” with her New England accent), he’s ruined the looks of our house!”  No amount explaining how much better my FM reception sounded could calm my mother down.  You’d have thought I’d painted the house orange (which “Bawb” later did, although it was supposed to be “Harvest Gold”…but that’s another story).  I could tell my father was slightly amused and, I hoped, impressed enough with my newfound antenna installation skills that he could stave off the punishment my mother was demanding in exchange for her loss of curb-appeal.

The following week my father revealed my punishment: buy them a TV antenna with Alliance U-100 rotator for the TV in the family room.   The real punishment was not, however, my financial outlay for that purchase.  The real punishment was that, despite my proven new-found skills, I was not allowed to help—but watch my father install their new antenna to a vent chimney on the roof, standing in the backyard, poised to call for help if he fell.

My mother, upon seeing the new, added structure shooting from the vent chimney was further horrified.  But, our Montgomery Wards color TV (our first color TV!) now had a fantastic picture with no ghosting on any channels.   Even she had to admit that the antenna effected a huge improvement to their television viewing.

Dad's curiously short antenna mounting - the punishment antenna

However, much to my surprise, he had only mounted the antenna about one foot above the rotator!  He could have mounted it another three feet higher!  What was up with that! Surely you want to mount an antenna up as high as possible for best reception and lack of interference.  I guess that was his one consolation to Mom; make it a teeny bit less noticeable from the front of the house.  My antenna, on the other hand, could be seen from any angle in the neighborhood!  I was so proud!  Oh, and the ¾ inch hole I drilled through the wall of the house to run the antenna wire through the plastic tube?  Well, my Mother never saw that until they sold the house and retired to Florida a few years later.  I had proudly shown that piece of work to my Dad who stated at the time, “pretty nifty…And NEVER show that to your Mother”.  It was hidden from view behind my stereo equipment thank goodness.

But folks, that’s not the end of this story.   I mentioned at the beginning that this experience taught me a bit about wires and grounding.  How so?  Well, after settling in a bit with my new antenna system for my QX-8000, I became a bit underwhelmed by the RF gain.  (I still have the QX-8000 although it’s languishing in my attic, lonely).   I decided that maybe I should have bought the more expensive, albeit shorter, Finco FM4G antenna.  So, off to Lafayette I went about six months later and bought one.  I decided that two is always better than one, so I replaced the five foot mast with a ten foot mast and mounted both antennas on the same mast, one pointed towards metro Washington DC, and the other towards Baltimore.  I added another twin lead wire to the new Finco and installed a “knife-switch”.  (Remember those?  They looked like a mini version of the switch Dr. Frankenstein used to bring his monster to life).  The knife switch allowed me to switch between the two antennas depending on which station I wanted to listen to.  The new twin lead connected to the Finco antenna had some kind of foamed insulation, so I experimented by switching the wires where they connected to the two antennas on the roof to compare the wires.  I discovered the slightly older wire actually had better signal strength.  My first realization that wires do make a difference!

I didn’t think she’d notice, but soon Mom wanted to know why there were suddenly two antennas where there was formerly only one.  She complained about this until I finally decided that the Finco FM4G was a better antenna than the Lafayette antenna—it was more selective and had better gain despite being shorter, better tuning and spacing of the elements no doubt.  “Hmmm,” I thought, “Save up a bit more money and I can take down the Lafayette and put an Alliance U-100 rotator on that mast so I can aim the Finco in any direction.  No more need for a second antenna.”  And that is what I did!  This change also eliminated the knife switch, meaning there was one less junction for the signal to pass through.  Eventually, I even tried using a coax, shielded 75-ohm cable versus an unshielded 300-ohm twin lead for less noise pick up. However, since that also means you lose a bit of signal strength, I eventually settled on the twin lead.  My multipath worries were eliminated by the use of the rotator, and I could relax without further modifications to my FM antenna set-up.  Being a big Red Sox fan, I often tried to listen to games at night on AM with the QX-8000 receiver, but the noise level was often too annoying.  I discovered that by running a ground wire from the AM antenna ground tap on the back of the receiver to the FM antenna’s ground rod outside, I could improve the AM performance pretty dramatically.  This provided a much, much lower noise level so that the signal I was seeking could emerge from the background.  A proper ground is a must in an audio system, and I can’t overemphasize how much that will take the performance of your system to an even higher level.

My Finco FM4G and Alliance U-100 on Mom - Dad's roof circa 1975
This is why I was so excited to work with Nordost’s QRT Power Products. Our QRT QBASE distribution bar helps establish a common ground in your system and eliminates ground loops. I had thought the QBASE was the end-all-be-all in grounding, until we released our QKORE products last summer.  The QKORE dramatically reduces the noise level in a system by creating a clean, artificial earth, which has a dramatic and positive effect on the sound—bass becomes tighter, extends lower, and becomes more powerful.  The overall image moves further out into the room and extends beyond the boundaries of the speakers.  It’s really quite dramatic, and has to be heard to be believed! For my mother’s sake, I wish I had those products when I was a teen, I could have hid them much better than a rooftop antenna!

Oh, and speaking of my old FM antenna set-up at the old family house—out of curiosity, I drove by that house on a business trip… and lo and behold, the FM antenna and mast were still mounted on the roof!  Strangely enough though, no twin lead-connecting cable could be seen.  I guess there are no audiophiles living there anymore!

SoundStage Australia Reviews BC Sort Kones

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This month, Soundstageaustralia.com featured a great review on our Sort Kone resonance control devices. In his article, Edgar Kramer explored the differences that BC Kones made on his sound system. The benefits that he experienced were anything but subtle. Sort Kones even got a stamp of approval from Edgar’s wife when she called him into the sound room, immediately having noticed a mysterious improvement in the ‘realness’ of the music!

“What I thought was going to be an exercise in punishingly strained listening usually resulting in ultra-subtle differences at best, ended up being deceptively the opposite. How wrong and surprised was I.”

Edgar’s Sort Kone review is now available to read on SoundStageAustralia.com here: Nordost Sort Kone BC Resonance Control System

You can find this review and more great Nordost reviews on our Reviews Page.

Nordost Playlist – February 2018


Nordost is lucky to have a wonderful team of representatives and product trainers who travel around the world educating and demonstrating the effects of Nordost’s products. As part of these demonstrations, it is our job to find an interesting and diverse selection of music to showcase our cables, power devices, sort system and accessories. Whether at shows, visiting our dealers and distributors or even in our own listening room in our headquarters in Holliston, we are constantly getting asked what music we are playing (or if our audience is not so bold to ask, we can see their Shazams working overtime). So we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to share our favorite songs of the moment. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your taste, but one thing is for sure …it’s all great music.

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this February.


You can now listen to our monthly playlist here:  TIDAL  |  SPOTIFY


  1. 99—Elliot Moss—Boomerang
  2. Surprise Yourself—Jack Garratt—Phase (Deluxe)
  3. I’ll Close My Eyes—Dinah Washington—Blue Gardenia
  4. Evergreen—YEBBA—Evergreen
  5. Powa—Tune-Yards—WHOKILL
  6. Mystery of Love—Sufjan Stevens—Call Me by Your Name (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  7. Luna—Kuzo—Luna
  8. L’attesa—Petra Magoni, Ferruccio Spinetti—Anestesia totale
  9. Close But Not Quite—Everything is Recorded—Close But Not Quite
  10. Living In The City—Hurray For The Riff Raff—The Navigator

 

Pictures from Nordost Nation! January 2018

Nordost is lucky to have such incredibly loyal and enthusiastic customers! One great way that our fans let us know that they are happy with the work that we do is by sending us pictures of their Nordost products in action. Here are a few photos that have been shared with us recently. Feel free to send us pictures of Nordost in your system, via Facebook, info@nordost.com, or #nordostcables on Instagram, so that we can continue to share them with the whole Nordost family!


 

@seantmanley is all set for a nice listening session with Nordost Blue Heaven!

@seantmanley is all set for a nice listening session with Nordost Blue Heaven!

Hifi Studio System Reference has their Accuphase E-650 outfitted with a great sampling of Nordost cables.

Hifi Studio System Reference has their Accuphase E-650 outfitted with a great sampling of Nordost cables.

Here's a setup shot of F1 Audio readying their system with Heimdall 2

Here’s a setup shot of F1 Audio readying their system with Heimdall 2

"The Guarneri Evolutions got some new friends to play with today. Ref 75 and Ref 75 SE are my favorite Audio Research amps, I prefer them to Audio Researchs bigger and more expensive poweramps." -  @watchingwater

“The Guarneri Evolutions got some new friends to play with today. Ref 75 and Ref 75 SE are my favorite Audio Research amps, I prefer them to Audio Researchs bigger and more expensive poweramps.” -
@watchingwater

"KILLER" - @cultoffonza spinning Alice Cooper

“KILLER” – @cultoffonza spinning Alice Cooper

 

VPI held an amazing event using "Nordost Cables, KEF Blades, IsoAcoustics, Ortofon A-95, McIntosh Laboratory Inc. electronics, and Stillpoints.us room treatment. Source is the VPI Avenger Plus and VPI Voyager Phono."

VPI held an amazing event using “Nordost Cables, KEF Blades, IsoAcoustics, Ortofon A-95, McIntosh Laboratory Inc. electronics, and Stillpoints.us room treatment. Source is the VPI Avenger Plus and VPI Voyager Phono.”

Gabby (@gsoundquest) is showing of his 2 Flat Speaker Cables, terminated with Nordost's new Quick Connectors.

Gabby (@gsoundquest) is showing of his 2 Flat Speaker Cables, terminated with Nordost’s new Quick Connectors.

And here's the QKORE 6 Gabby is using to ground his system.

And here’s the QKORE 6 Gabby is using to ground his system.

"A stereo of the amazing battle! At Home with a brilliant happy customer feeds the music out in the room from components powered by Burmester Audiosysteme GmbH, Ayre and IsoTek Systems-bound together by cables from Nordost Cables." - Oslo Hi-Fi Center

“A stereo of the amazing battle! At Home with a brilliant happy customer feeds the music out in the room from components powered by Burmester Audiosysteme GmbH, Ayre and IsoTek Systems-bound together by cables from Nordost Cables.” – Oslo Hi-Fi Center

"Unboxing New Nordost Heimdall 2 High Performance Speaker Cables!" - @jimmy_hifi

“Unboxing New Nordost Heimdall 2 High Performance Speaker Cables!” – @jimmy_hifi

Nordost Day at Audiotorium Pederson!

Nordost Day at Audiotorium Pederson!

@phillipwangusa is making good use of our Heimdall 2 Headphone Cable

@phillipwangusa is making good use of our Heimdall 2 Headphone Cable

@utantowibowo relaxing at a friend's home with Wilson Audio and Nordost

@utantowibowo relaxing at a friend’s home with Wilson Audio and Nordost

Sander Andersen (@sound4pro) is showing off some vingtage SuperFlatline speaker cable

Sander Andersen (@sound4pro) is showing off some vingtage SuperFlatline speaker cable!

 

Questions From The Show Floor

 

By Michael Taylor

Going to trade shows and dealer events are great chances for me to get out there and meet both current and future Nordost customers. You might have seen me during one of these shows, either performing cable demonstrations or manning the sales booth in the market place. One thing I always encourage is for attendees to take the opportunity to ask questions during these events. Now I would like to share two of our most-asked questions with you!

 

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Question 1: It’s easy to position round speaker cables in a system, but what do you do when they’re flat?  What is the best way to position Nordost speaker cables

Well, I can tell you what not to do: lay them flat on the floor! (Unless, of course, they are rear channel speaker cables that need to be hidden under the rug.) Let me explain… our speaker cables have a flat construction in order to keep conductors apart—allowing for both low capacitance and inductance. The secondary benefit of this construction method is that the separation of conductors makes it possible for them to resonate naturally, enhancing the performance of the cables. Since we mechanically tune most of our premium cables, we can get even more performance benefits from these resonances. Laying cables flat on the floor will dampen them, not to mention that the more surface area is in contact with the floor, the faster buildup of static charges occur. All cable dielectrics hold electrical charges, which can impede or alter the signal passing underneath them. We suggest laying the cables in a vertical position, where only one conductor touches the floor (or using Sort Lifts where nothing touches!).  Additionally, if you have any excess cables, don’t coil them. Simply run them in a serpentine pattern.

 

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Question 2: Why aren’t Nordost 75 Ohm Digital Interconnects terminated with RCA connectors?

The answer is simple: they simply aren’t good enough.  RCA connectors are, and should be used for, analog interconnects. But when it comes to digital signals, performance is dependent on keeping impedance exactly where it needs to be. The more you deviate from 75 ohms, the worse the performance—and we won’t accept that.  RCA connectors allow too much variance, which is why we won’t use them.  For 75 Ohm matching to occur, you have to use a connector which is specifically designed for that purpose: a BNC connector.  We terminate all S/PDIF cables with BNC connectors, and include a BNC to RCA adapter in the package in case your gear requires an RCA termination.  Even though an adapter may be used, it is still far better than terminating the cable with an RCA and having the impedance swing in all directions.

Al Griffin reviews Purple Flare for SoundStage!Access

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We love it when cable skeptics review our products. Al Griffin was wary to concentrate on cabling when first tasked by Soundstage! to review our Purple Flare Interconnects and Speaker Cables. However, after taking the time to study the impact that Nordost cables brought to his sound system, he admittedly “crossed a threshold”. The tonal separation between vocals and individual instruments, the increased clarity, and the three-dimensional quality that Purple Flare brought to the performance was undeniable.

“I heard differences almost from the get-go, and those differences were improvements: better resolution of low-level details, and better spatial definition.” 

Al’s Purple Flare review is now available to read on the Nordost website here:  Nordost’s Leif Purple Flare Speaker Cables and Interconnects 

You can find more great Nordost reviews on our Reviews Page.

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Analog vs Digital — The Great Audio Debate   

One of the most hotly contested debates in modern-day hifi is one of source and substance: analog or digital. The preferential rift isn’t as clear-cut as one would think. Thanks to the recent resurgence of vinyl (and even reel–to-reel, which is increasingly seen at hifi shows), one’s inclination towards LPs or CDs, tapes or WAV files, can’t be determined by the decade one was born in.  There are benefits and deficiencies to both formats to be sure, and that is exactly what we are exploring here…

 

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Argument for Analog

Aside from the obvious nostalgia, there are several reasons why discerning music lovers would opt for analog over digital sources. To many, vinyl recordings have a more authentic, natural quality than their digital counterparts (which critics often describe as cold and uninviting). Some may argue that analog bandwidth is superior, especially when compared to the dumbed-down results of compressed recordings (although those recordings are getting better with time, thanks to modernized digital files). Bandwidth aside, the REAL allure of analog is its raw charm, which has the power to elicit an emotional response from listeners. The term that is typically associated with this emotional response is “analog warmth”. It is interesting to note that this distinctive warmth is in fact a side-effect of technical imperfections in the analog recording process. Whether it is speed-stability issues of magnetic recording tape, or harmonic distortions created by transformers, each of these flaws leads to an enhancement of the mood, character, and enjoyment that comes with analog reproduction. And that enjoyment is only amplified when you add the ceremonial aspects to LP listening. No skipping around tracks—just you, the music, and the liner notes and artwork provided on your canvas-like cover.

 

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Digital Defense

Where analog may sweep with the nostalgia and feel-good factors, digital sources win out in terms of precision and convenience. We have advocated for “analog warmth”. However, let’s not forget that a lot of that warmth is the direct result of distortion—and some of that distortion is not so welcome. In general, digital recordings have a greater SNR (signal to noise ratio), and in many cases, that leads to a more enjoyable listening experience. Of course there are some wonderful pressings of vinyl available, but those LPs come with a high price tag. Unfortunately, the majority of affordable records are noisy, warped and distorted. Furthermore, while the ritual of getting out an album and listening to it play out in full may stand the test of time, the album (or tape) itself does not. The grooves and tapes of analog recordings can only withstand so much play time—digital files, on the other hand, can be listened to ad infinitum without any negative repercussions to their sonic integrity. Even at “first play”, you may be better off going with digital, since even standard CDs have significant dynamic advantages over vinyl. Lastly, consider the convenience of digital storage and the variety of digital streaming. Thanks to new technology and ever-improving files, audiophiles can keep their entire music catalog at their fingertips and explore artists and genres that they never would have been exposed to otherwise, with the click of a button.

 

The debate of analog vs digital could go on and on without a concrete, impartial conclusion. For the most part, the correct answer is highly individualized and preferential. It is a testament to our industry that we have so many great options on which to experience high fidelity recordings. But a debate is a debate, so we ask you: How do you like to have your music delivered to you?

Questions and Answers (November 2017)

Our product specialists receive questions on a daily basis about Nordost products, their application, and hifi in general.  We thought that we would take a minute to share some of our most recent and frequently asked questions here so that everyone can get the answers they are looking for!


Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 2.14.38 PMQ: I am in the process of upgrading my audio cables, but the way that my system is set up, I need to make sure that whatever I get is flexible. Can your speaker wire be bent to form around corners?

A: Yes, because Nordost cables are made with extruded FEP, they can be bent and folded without delaminating or damaging the insulation. Our Lief cables have virtually zero restrictions in flexibility. However, due to the solid core, high gauge conductors used in some of our Reference ranges, they do become a little less flexible, but can still be bent to at least a 90° angle.


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Q: Can I use Sort Füt under turntables? Are you aware of others doing this with turntables and/or do you advise against it for any reason?

A: You can use the Sort Füt with any component that allows for threaded inserts. We have had a lot of positive feedback from people who have installed our Sort Füt under their turntables. Not only does it help in terms of draining unwanted vibrations, but it is a great way to level your turntable as well. In fact, we use the Sort Füt under our VPI Classic Turntable in our own sound room.


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Q: I have Nordost speaker cables, and I see that there are arrows on them. What do the arrows signify? Do they make an impact on how I install them into my system?

A: The arrows that you see on your speaker cables indicate the direction of signal flow once it is set up in the system.  Since the signal goes from the amp to the speaker, you want to make sure that the arrow is pointing to the speaker.


Q: I just ordered 2 pcs of your QV2 AC line harmonizers. Can I leave these devices plugged into the wall AC outlet all the time, or do I need to unplug them when my audio system is not in use? Will leaving them hooked up to a wall outlet decrease their lifespan? 

A: Unless you experience power surges or things of that nature, you can leave them plugged in at all times.  Having them on all the time won’t hurt the lifespan, unless they are subject to surges or electrical spikes.

Nelson Brill On New Audiophile Quality Recordings From Troubadours Spinning Tales From Americana

Real music lovers can find the melody in everything. From the park to the concert hall, our friend Nelson Brill is always on the hunt for great sound. In this blog, Brill focuses his attention on three wonderful folk acts — Charlie Parr, John McEuen, and Sherman Holmes.  


 

NEW AUDIOPHILE QUALITY RECORDINGS FROM TROUBADOURS SPINNING TALES FROM AMERICANA

By Nelson Brill

NOVEMBER 3, 2017

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First up, a recent movie tip: the 2016 biopic, Maudie [Screen Door Productions/Sony Pictures Classics] is a stellar film that portrays the life of Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis [1903-1970] who overcame many obstacles, including being orphaned at a young age; suffering a lifetime of disease and abuse from her husband and society at large, to blossom as an artist. In this moving film, the actress Sally Hawkins plays Lewis and captures all of her fragility, sense of humor and resilience with passion and quiet dignity. Ethan Hawke is also superb as Lewis’ abusive and reclusive spouse.

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Lewis’ paintings capture her love of the landscape of her native Nova Scotia, (dancing flowers, bleak wintry scenes, birds in flight, workers in the fields), and is a testament to the power of folk art grounded in a particular place and time.

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Folk art, in the musical context, can also work a mesmerizing hold on the human need to tell stories of a certain place and time, accompanied by an irresistible back beat. One such master of this musical form is Minnesota native Charlie Parr, (www.charlieparr.com) who performed an intimate solo concert within the warm pine-paneled walls of the Atwoods Tavern in Cambridge, MA. (www.atwoodstavern.com) on October 2nd. Parr’s inventive yarns glowed with the glory and heartbreak of people living within his landscape of rural Minnesota and beyond, sung in a voice that rose in spiky, maverick expression.

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Parr’s show at the Atwood, (resembling a house concert with the capacity young crowd swaying to Parr’s fleet guitar and thunderous foot-stomping) was ignited by Parr singing a number of originals from his 2015 audiophile gem, Stumpjumper [Red House Records; www.redhouserecords.com).

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Highlights included a lilting “Remember Me If I Forget” (with swirling slide guitar accents quick and agile) and the contemplative “Over The Red Cedar”, a revolving beauty that tells the tale of a neighborhood kid growing into a man and realizing the passage of time. Parr also took a raucous detour into “Falcon”, (another highlight from Stumpjumper), that rocked furiously on a spinning tale of a wisecracking “north of the Red River” character surviving as best he can. On “Falcon,” Parr’s pumping acoustic guitar and heavy foot stomps sounded like baseball cards flipping in bicycle spokes: revolving in crisp colors with great vocal bravado, string heat and fleet guitar propulsion.

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Parr also plunged with scrappy heat into several numbers taken from his new recording, Dog [Red House Records] where his lyrics shone like little powerful firecrackers, bursting with life. He sang meditatively about a tale of sons following in the footsteps of their fathers (“Hobo”); about our comic rituals surrounding death (“I Ain’t Dead Yet”) (with Parr’s slide working its greased magic) and finishing with a blistering version of the classic murder tale, “Stagger Lee,” belting his vocals and tumultuous guitar strums to the height of expressive power. Parr also paid tribute to his friend and fellow traveler, the incomparable Spider John Koerner, playing a version of one of Koerner’s comic tales (that features Buffalo Bill and Koerner’s contemplation of Free Will) in an effervescent tumble of Parr’s sharp guitar lines and playful majesty. Parr left the stage to the raucous ovations of the audience who hung on every one of his craggy lyrics and the crackling sound of his spinning, incisive guitar licks.

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Returning from Parr’s intimate and soulful performance, I was reminded of a new recording by another superb folk art master who also takes his inspiration from the likes of Spider John Koerner, Jerry Jeff Walker, Johnny Cash and Warren Zevon to create his own stew of rollicking folk music joy. Roots Music Made in Brooklyn [Chesky Records; www.chesky.com] is a new recording by singer, songwriter and string master John McEuen. For this recording, McEuen assembled a sterling group of musicians at the Hirsch Center in Brooklyn, New York for an informal jam session that delivers a bountiful feast of acoustic gifts. The audio quality of this Chesky “binaural recording” (utilizing their “3D and Applied Acoustics” recording technics) is superb in its tactile and dynamic presence; its natural tones and colors and, (as always with the Chesky label), a beautiful capturing of instruments and voices illuminating the natural space and air of the particular recording venue.  [For another vivid dose of the Chesky label’s new sonic gifts, listen to the amazing 2016 Chesky recording Stripped that ensnares the craggy vocals of Macy Gray (with her stellar band) in a performance that shimmers and soars in airy delights].

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On McEuen’s disc, instrumental compositions “Acoustic Traveler”, “Brooklyn Crossing” and “Miner’s Night Out” are all shining, carefree explorations of Americana melodies with garlands of beautiful solos from this swanking ensemble.

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These include sweet clarinet solos from Andy Goessling; sparkling fiddle from Jay Ungar; deft guitar solos from David Bromberg and McEuen and pumping acoustic bass from Skip Ward. McEuen’s canvas encompasses the swanking gospel of “I Rose Up” (with layered background vocalists rising and falling around banjo pricks and fiddle sways), to the rough and tumble sounds of  New Orleans in “Travelin Mood,” (with David Bromberg firing up his acoustic guitar flowing into David Amram’s soaring penny whistle solo).

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The crisp interplay between these spirited musicians also propels McEuen’s free-flowing versions of Warren Zevon’s comic, sardonic treats: “Excitable Boy” (with Bromberg’s vocals taking a turn next to swaying mandolin, fiddle and chorus) and “My Dirty Life And Times,” taken at a bluesy pace (led by Steve Martin’s scrappy banjo) with mandolin, dobro and fiddle accents swirling around McEuen’s vocals. Delectable blue-grass is also here on “Blue Ridge Cabin Home” and “The Mountain Whippoorwill,” where McEuen’s solo fiddle and spoken words pay tribute to another folk hero, Vasser Clements. McEuen’s words and instrumental radiance reverberate off the walls of the recording space in spare elegance on this twisting tale.

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The crowning glory to this recording is McEuen and his band’s version of Jerry Jeff Walker’s folk classic, “Mr. Bojangles.” This swaying beauty brews on the expressive vocals of David Bromberg, John Cowan and others, reveling in this expressive tale all curled up with acoustic accompaniments plied and strummed with quiet passion.

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A final, glorious dip into new musical folk art recordings takes us to Christchurch, Virginia into the deep blues, gospel and tumultuous rock flowing in the blood of Sherman Holmes, bassist and vocalist for the venerable Holmes Brothers Band. Since the death of his two brothers, Holmes has soldiered on to now produce a glowing new recording with his Sherman Holmes Project, The Richmond Sessions [M.C. Records; www.mc-records.com] in which his voice, bass and keyboard presides in a gathering of musicians and gospel singers who make these folk, gospel and rock tunes shimmer and shake.

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The recording quality is superb. This is no surprise because Mark Carpentieri’s M.C. Records is well known for producing recordings with great presence, dynamic energy and natural, life-like image dimensionality. (Take a listen to M.C. Records’ 1999 recording of Odetta, in her Blues Everywhere I Go for a reference blues recording of knockout beauty and passion).

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A crackling presence of pumping guitars, propulsive bass and vivid vocals sears this new M.C. Records recording of the Sherman Holmes Project from start to finish. Holmes and his swanking band glow in their gospel righteousness on such gut-thumping traditionals as “Wide River”, “I Want Jesus” and “Rock of Ages.” All of these tunes are laced with the deep spirited vocals of Homes and the surging power of his background vocal group, “The Ingramettes,” three female vocalists who bring supremely assured vocal prowess and soaring power to the mix.

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The band extends their gospel and soul roots into exuberant, rocking versions of Ben Harper’s “Homeless Child”, John Fogerty’s “Green River”; Holland, Dozier’s “Don’t Do It” (made famous by The Band’s rollicking version) and a roguish “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home”.  In each of these volcanic gems, the musicianship is superb, with sparkling solos from Rob Ickes’ spindly and inventive dobro and David Van Deventer’s crafty fiddle.  Jim Lauderdale’s “Lonesome Pines” brings us home, with its slow cyclical expressive vocals, spinning banjo and ebullient hits from Ickes’ dobro. Here is power and soul; instrumental glitter and intoxicating singing that all take the Sherman Holmes Project’s folk portrait to a foot-stomping earthy place within the rich and diverse soil of Americana.

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If you would like to read more reviews like this one, visit Nelson’s blog at www.bostonconcertreviews.com.


Trade Shows — November 2017


INDONESIAN HIGH END SHOW (IHEAC)

Come and see Nordost at the Indonesian High End Show, where we will be supporting our awesome Indonesian distributor, MDI! Visit us at the Peninsula Hotel in room 904, November 17-19th. You will not want to miss MDI’s room, which is featuring FOCAL speakers, Naim/Moon Amplifiers, and of course, a full loom of Nordost’s Odin 2 cables. This is a great opportunity to hear a world class system, and experience live product demonstrations and cable comparisons.

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Peninsula Hotel

Jalan Letjen S. Parman No.78,

Slipi, Palmerah,

Jakarta Barat 11410

Indonesia

www.piheac.com


AUDIO VIDEO SHOW

Join Nordost at the Audio Video Show, November 17-19th at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Warsaw, Poland. Nordost will be supporting our wonderful Polish distributor, Audio Klan, in TV Studio 1 in the PGE National Stadium. Throughout the weekend, the Audio Video Show attendees will have the opportunity to stop in and see Nordost’s truly unique cable comparisons and product demonstrations, presented live, by Nordost sales representatives. We hope to see you there!

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November 17-19th

Stadion PGE Narodowy Al. Ks. J. Poniatowskiego 1  Warsaw

Radisson Blu Sobieski Hotel Plac Artura Zawiszy 1 Warsaw

Golden Tulip Hotel Towarowa 2 Warsaw

www.audioshow.pl


HXOS EIKONA SHOW 2017

Come and join Nordost at HXOS EIKONA this November 25th and 26th at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Athens. Product specialist and trainer, Dennis Bonotto, will be performing demonstrations and answering questions in The Orpheus Audio room. Demonstrations will feature several Nordost products, including the new QKORE Ground Unit, which has garnered enormous success since its launch at Munich High End this past spring. The QKORE is the most effective, comprehensive grounding solution in the industry. It provides an artificial, “clean” earth using both electrical and mechanical approaches to eliminate stray high frequency noise and voltage-generated magnetic fields from your sound system, leaving a clean reference behind. Take advantage of this opportunity to hear, first-hand, what proper grounding can do to a top-shelf sound system!

November 25-26th

Athens, Greece 

www.highend.show