Honorary nephew B. has taken up the guitar but he had never seen a lap steel. Once I dug up the smaller Jerry Byrd tonebar, in lieu of the jumbo glass Boyette, he took to bouncing and sliding on my Fouke Indy Rail. I plugged it into the computer and let him find his way to a scary effects package. And then I turned the input down so we didn’t frighten–too much–a houseful of relatives.
The three month old Fouke Industrial Rail 6 string steel is handmade out of aluminum by the friendly ‘metal’ luthier Chris Fouke, was sold to me via eBay, and held its Open E tuning through the short trip to my sun room cum NoGuts NoGlory Studio. The 6 string “Rails” cost in the $500 range so they–seem to me–to stand as the best bang-for-the-buck handmade lap steels in the mid-range.
I stewed over the eBay crapshoot for months because so many olden lap guitars fetch unpredictable prices. Yet, you get electronics and mechanics, (well, tuners,) which harken back to the heyday of the Hawaiian guitar forty+ years ago. Fenders and Gibsons and Supros can cost anywhere from $400-thousands. Playable, well-maintained old lap steels of course are stunning instruments and are quite collectible.
Alternately, one can opt for an entry level Chinese knock-off (on the order of an antique Harmony beginner model,) for $75-150. Yet I didn’t find the adjustable bridges and cheapo pick-ups and lack of heft enticing. Whereas, the high end, including the Harmos I’d like to get someday and outfit with a Trilogy to change into exotic tunings, will set you back big bucks. Not an option for someone who hasn’t played in many many years, never played lap steel, and wasn’t ever much of a dobro or pedal steel player way back when.
The Indy Rail is simply an immensely solid piece of engineering, built for sustain, rugged, with Grover Rotos and Kent Armstrong dual tap pick-ups. And, it’s beautiful. Of course, rushing in with few chops hasn’t stopped me from using the Rail to augment the keyboard as a nifty input device into Absynth and other shamanic sound warping effect chains. The Rail and Boyette bar is a good combo too; ringing and looong sustain.
Kamelmauz‘s next recording will certainly be titled Slidemare and you can count on hearing some terrifying sketches posted at the nogutsnoglory studios blog sooner rather than later.