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The Norman Blake Signature Editions Enhancing Tradition With Common Sense Innovation

Release Date: 01/15/04
Source: Sounding Board Newsletter Vol 16 - Jan. 2004
000-28B Norman Blake
000-28 Norman Blake

In the world of traditional, old-time music, Norman Blake stands as one of the most talented, tasteful and humble musicians to ever pick a guitar. Equally brilliant as a solo flatpicker, ensemble player and songwriter, he has taken American music to new places even as he has preserved its history. Simply stated, he is a national treasure.

Norman Blake has been playing music professionally for nearly 50 years, having quit school to join a band at age 16. After backing the Carter Family and June Carter in the early 1960s, he met Johnny Cash and became a member of his touring band. He recorded with Bob Dylan on the ?ashville Skyline?album, was a member of Kris Kristofferson? first road band, recorded and toured with Joan Baez, served as guitarist on John Hartford? famed Aeroplane Band and participated in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band? legendary album, ?ill the Circle be Unbroken.?In 1972 he recorded his first solo album, ?ome in Sulphur Springs,?and in 1976 released his jaw-dropping flatpicking masterpiece, ?hiskey Before Breakfast.?Both albums included examples of his fine songwriting, a few of which have gone on to become bluegrass standards.

Since 1974, Blake has recorded old-time music frequently with his wife Nancy, and five of their albums have earned Grammy nominations in the Best Traditional/Folk category. His 1998 solo recording, ?hattanooga Sugar Babe,?also received a Grammy nomination. His contributions to the ?h Brother, Where Art Thou??soundtrack earned him both a Grammy and a CMA Award. At last count, Blake has recorded 27 albums, and his graceful flatpicked guitar ?and occasional mandolin, Dobro and fiddle ?continues to captivate old fans and garner new ones.

In his years of exploring traditional music, Blake has played his share of Martin guitars, including an early 1930s D-28 and a 1928 00-45. So it came as a surprise when he proposed a truly unique, non-traditional design as his signature guitar. Highlighting a bevy of fresh ideas, the Martin 000-28 and 000-28B Norman Blake Signature Models move the concept of the flatpicking guitar into new territory, one distinguished by distinctive tone and uncommon playing comfort.

The Norman Blake Signature Models combine Martin? 14-fret 000 body style and 24.9?scale length with a 12-fret (to the body) neck. This unique combination allows the top braces to be shifted ?orward?to cross just below the soundhole and places the bridge lower on the top for greater soundboard vibration. A 00 size soundhole (1/8" smaller than 000) and 1/4" width scalloped braces enhance both bass response and dynamic range.

The 000-28 and 000-28B Norman Blake Signature Models are handcrafted from premium solid tonewoods. The top and top braces are fashioned from Adirondack red spruce, highly prized for brilliant timbre. The neck is carved from genuine mahogany. Where the 000-28 and 000-28B differ is in the wood utilized for the back, sides and headplate: standard East Indian rosewood for the 000-28, and rare C.I.T.E.S.-certified Brazilian rosewood for the 000-28B.

Both guitars feature traditional Martin Style 28 body appointments, including a Golden Era Style 28 rosette of black/white wood and ivoroid, fine-pattern herringbone around the top, black/white back purfling around the back, ivoroid top and back binding, a traditional zigzag back strip and an old-style tortoise colored 000 pickguard, elongated and slightly squared in the vintage style, per Norman? request.

:The satin finished neck is a substantial 1 13/16?width at the nut. Carved with a pointed heel but without the traditional diamond volute, it has a special ?orman Blake?modified-V contour for player comfort. The square, tapered headstock with square slots is equipped with Waverly-Sloane tuners featuring engraved bronze mounting plates and ivoroid buttons. The polished headplate displays the familiar old style ?. F. Martin & Co.?decal, while the back of the headstock bears the antique ?.F. Martin & Co.?pressure stamp.

Custom tall, wide frets on the black African ebony fingerboard provide a similar feel to the bar frets that Norman Blake prefers. The unusual modified snowflake abalone fingerboard inlay pattern comes from a unique 00-42 produced by Martin for the Wurlitzer Company in 1922: a Maltese cross at the 3rd fret, two diamonds at the 5th fret, a square at the 7th fret, two diamonds at the 9th fret, a square with cat? eyes at the 12th fret and a cat? eye at the 15th fret. In keeping with Norman Blake? request for design purity, no inlaid signature appears on the fingerboard.

The black African ebony bridge is equipped with fossilized ivory bridge pins with large pearl dots, elements matched by the end pin. Both the nut and long drop-in saddle are crafted from genuine bone. The guitar body receives a polished gloss f inish, with aging toner on the top to accentuate this signature model? vintage style. Left-hand instruments may be ordered without additional cost; factory-installed electronics are available on these models for an additional fee.

Presented in a Geib?style vintage case, each 000-28 and 000-28B Norman Blake Signature Model guitar will bear an internal label personally signed by Norman Blake and Martin Chairman and CEO C.F. Martin IV. In addition, the labels will be numbered in sequence for the specific model. The 000-28B Brazilian rosewood model will be limited to just 100 special instruments, while the the 000-28 Norman Blake Special Edition Signature Model will have an unspecified ordering period. After initial orders are tallied for these models, the names of participating dealers will be posted on the Martin web site.

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