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One Guitar: Great Music for a Great Cause

One Guitar is a double CD recording of over two dozen Long Island singer-songwriters, each playing an original song on a 1961 Gibson J45 acoustic guitar, with all proceeds benefiting the Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach program. The recordings span the continuum—bare bones rock ’n’ roll, country, Americana, pop, indie, jazz, blues, Celtic and more. Featured artists on this one-of-a-kind album include Robert Bruey, Rorie Kelly, Julia King, Eddie Ayala, Fred Raimondo, Marty Attridge and Rob Europe.

Don Bracken is the milk in this cereal bowl of Cheerios. Called the “Cheerios effect” (look it up—it’s real), the milk creates surface tension, which causes all the wonderful floating Cheerios to group together. Living in Southold for over 20 years, Bracken is a singer, songwriter, musician, house builder—and the “milk in the cereal bowl” that has made the One Guitar project a reality.

Don Bracken and a 1961 Gibson J45 acoustic guitar
Don Bracken holding the one guitar, a 1961 Gibson J45 acoustic guitar. Photo credit: Bryan Downey
Bracken came up with the One Guitar idea in the spring of 2013 while at the monthly songwriting workshop he runs. There were few musicians in attendance.  After playing a couple of songs each, Bracken suggested everyone play one more, but with his 1961 Gibson J45 acoustic guitar.  The idea of recording a CD of original songs with that one guitar was born. “It is amazing that it has all come together. Everyone jumped on board to help. The production is naked. This is about the song, the performer—and the guitar,” says Bracken who has owned the guitar since the mid-’70s. “Because of its age and the wood that was used to make it, the Gibson J45 has a special sound quality.”
“The musicians and the guitar are phenomenal,” says musician/songwriter Chuck Finch. “When listening to the album, some people are going to park the guitar and listen to the song. Others are going to focus on the tone of the guitar and how it was played differently by each artist,” continued Finch.

I had the pleasure of attending the recording event. Musicians like Eddie Ayala picked up the guitar and the instrument immediately became the vital organ needed for his body and mind to move and breathe in joy and emotion. Other musicians like Steven Skoldberg embraced the guitar like an old, well-loved friend, playing the instrument with a soothing familiarity and deep admiration. “The album is one to be enjoyed over and over based on different perspectives,” says Finch.

The recording space also makes the One Guitar album special. The entire album was recorded in one day at the Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Aquebogue and each musician only had a 20-minute slot to record two possible songs for the album. “This album was created with the old school way of recording,” says Mick Hargreaves, recording engineer and owner of Lantern Sound Recording Rig. “I set up the recording rig right in the center of the sanctuary of the church. The center of the sanctuary is the reverb sweet spot.” Hargreaves went on to explain that reverb adds depth and fullness to sound. It is created when sound is reflected off multiple surfaces. “The surrounding becomes part of the recording, essentially another instrument. Digital reverb is what everyone uses nowadays. This album uses natural reverb.”

Having the One Guitar project benefit the Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach program seemed like the perfect fit. Maureen’s Haven partners with houses of worship throughout the East End to ensure that homeless guests are sheltered during the coldest months of the year. This volunteer program has saved and enhanced hundreds of lives.

“We are honored to be embraced by this huge pool of talent. The relationship between artists and Maureen’s Haven has been strong and intertwined for years,” said Tracey Lutz, Executive Director of Maureen’s Haven. Lutz went on to mention myriad examples where musicians have volunteered their time to help the homeless, including the local musicians who play during the dinner hour for the weekly sheltering program at the Southold Presbyterian Church. The One Guitar project is the newest example of that strong relationship. “We are so appreciative of everything these musicians have done for us and for the community as a whole. This project increases the awareness of the work we do,” concludes Lutz.

One Guitar ($20) went on sale this week through Amazon, CD Baby, Spotify, Google Play, iTunes, by the musicians featured on the album, Maureen’s Haven and at local stores including Coffee Pot Cellars in Cutchogue and Innersleeve Records in Amagansett.

To follow One Guitar’s progress, check out the One Guitar Facebook Page at facebook.com/1OneGuitar.

Laura Klahre is owner of Blossom Meadow LLC. She is a full-time beekeeper and a lifelong conservationist. You can visit her at her store on the North Fork in Cutchogue (31855 Main Road, just east of King Kullen), shared with Coffee Pot Cellars, coffeepotcellars.com.

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