We learned about Ron upon reviewing his Overhead travel guitar product registration. When we read that he played “tavern music” professionally, we were very intrigued – so we Googled him. Turns out that Ron has one of the coolest jobs we’ve heard of and is one of those people who are doing what they really enjoy! After reading this article in the Buffalo News, we had to get his 2 cents on the Journey Overhead travel guitar, and help him with whatever PR we could! We’ve laid out his bio and the Overhead review below, and we truly encourage anyone planning to visit the Niagara County area in NY to visit the Old Fort Niagara for a a rare jewel in the live music scene! (Scroll down to read his bio)
RON’S REVIEW OF THE
JOURNEY OVERHEAD SITKA-ROSEWOOD MODEL
A number of years ago when out-of-town friends and grandchildren started asking, “Where’s your guitar? We wanted you to sing for us.”, I knew it was time to start traveling with a guitar and my music.
The music was easy enough to pack, first as a traditional three-ring binder, and then currently on an iPad using OnSong software.
So now what to do about my instrument? I went to the internet and researched traveling with a guitar by plane. I knew right away I didn’t want to buy an expensive flight case or deal with the possibility of extra baggage fees by having a guitar riding in what could amount to multiple cargo holds per trip. I wanted my instrument with me in the terminal and a few feet from me in the cabin overhead storage.
Thus began the search for the “perfect” travel guitar. I auditioned every one available at my local guitar stores, read every review and listened to every audio demo online of those I couldn’t actually play. Finally, the purchasing began. Eventually, I owned, sold, traded, or returned every wooden travel guitar that seemed to have potential. (Tried carbon fiber, but wasn’t keen on the timbre.) Some I kept for a while, but they all came up short in two respects: 1. they took up too much space in the overheads (two of which ended up being subjected to an unwanted gate-check – one survived the cargo hold, the other was destroyed) and 2. the smaller-sized body (with resulting shorter scale neck) had not only sometimes intonation problems, but always just not enough volume and projection.
As I traveled with these various “Well, this will have to do” guitars, I wondered if any company would eventually come up with a travel guitar that would be designed to easily fit in the overhead bin AND not compromise the sound. A certain manufacturer did develop a guitar with a hinged neck and claimed it was designed for airplane voyages, but having owned it I can say it did not meet the 22x14x9 dimensions and that was the one that was a tight fit height-wise through the opening of many bins and was unwantingly gate-checked and destroyed on the conveyor belt.
So when I saw on the internet the publicity about a new company that had designed an instrument that addressed head-on my two major concerns with travel guitars, I was immediately interested. I again read every description, watched every video, listened to every audio demo, and searched every guitar forum I could find online. The currently owned travel guitar accompanied me to France last year and Cozumel a few weeks ago where, as usual, it was fine for just me playing for myself, but was wholly inadequate for entertaining a larger group as I can easily overpower it with my singing. With a trip to Florida and DisneyWorld with the grandkids in the planning, I decided to order a Sitka-Rosewood Overhead from LA Guitar Sales, one of the only Journey Instruments distributors that actually had the guitars in stock and ready to sell. I figured if it turned out to be another disappointment, I had 72 hours to return it.
Finally, this one’s the keeper. Not only is it perfectly designed with the detachable neck (no neck hinge joint sticking up from the case) to fit into the required 22x14x9 overhead size limitation (and don’t get me started on the baggage hogs who somehow walk on to the plane with clearly oversized luggage or more than two carry-ons), but the wood, the bracing, and that Manzer wedge shape make the little body have the volume, balance, and projection of a full-sized guitar – and yes, I will say darn close to some brand-named jumbos and even a cheaper dreadnaught or two.
You really have to have one in your hands, listening with your own ears to appreciate just how good this instrument sounds. I immediately compared it against my other two steel-stringed acoustics, a 000 and a jumbo, both of which cost twice as much as the Journey. Was it as loud? No, but looking at its size, it seemed to have no business being as close as it was. Was it as warm and/or bright? No, but looking at its size, again it should have sounded much weaker or thinner or muted. But besides the volume, what else continually blows me away is the bass response. This is what has been sorely lacking in most smaller body travel guitars, and in many cheaper parlors. I’m a fingerstylist who plays with nails and hardly ever touches a flat pick. The moment I started a some Travis picking, I couldn’t believe what was coming from those three lower strings, and the whole six proved to be balanced very well to one another. The neck width is what I want for my style, but the kicker was when I took the low E string down to C and the A string down to G for a little, “Never Going Back Again.” No matter where I put the capo, there wasn’t a bit of string buzz and this is using light gauge strings, and that low E, even dropped down the third, still projected without sounding muddy.
Then on to the capo test. Intonation held steady all the way up the neck. No retuning, hooray!
Next up was amplification. Another plus with all the Journeys is the standard, not optional, built-in pickup. I skipped a DI box and plugged straight into the amp. A little adjusting bass, mid, and high was needed, to get the unamplified and the amplified tone the same, but not much, and the pick-up is “hot” enough to skip the DI box.
Build quality is excellent, not a mark or fingerprint on the instrument. No flaws outside (the rosewood back is beautiful) and no glue drippings inside. Action requires no set-up for my taste. Neck thickness is just fine and the tuners work well. Case is as well-designed as the YouTube video demo shows. Everything associated with playing can go in one bag.
So, in my opinion, Journey Instruments did their research and got everything right about a guitar designed for air travel that doesn’t compromise size with sound. My only recommendation is for the eventual development of a hard-shell case, still 22x14x9, for the unexpected “gate-nazi” who insists that nothing bigger than a briefcase, purse, or camera case will be going into the overheads, even though there’s plenty of room. (See my post under “fortsinger” on the Acoustic Guitar forum for a bit of the story about that issue.)
In conclusion, I obviously love this new instrument. (Uh-oh. My 000 is has got that, “Please don’t sell me look” about her.)
“18th Century Tavern Music of the Niagara Frontier”
Ron Cary, Deputy Niagara County Historian
Ron Cary is currently one of two Deputy Niagara County Historians employed at the Niagara County Historian’s Office in Lockport, NY.
An accomplished singer and guitarist, Ron holds degrees in Music Education from Syracuse University and the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Before becoming Deputy Historian, he was employed for forty years as a Chorus and General Music teacher by the North Tonawanda City School District.
Involved in reenacting at Old Fort Niagara for the past eleven years, Ron has researched and developed the persona of an 18th century itinerant tavern singer, and may be found at the Fort in that role on such occasions as the French & Indian War Encampment, Castle by Candlelight, the Twelfth Night Ball, Tavern Night, and various Sundays throughout the warmer months. His repertoire currently includes over seventy songs covering such subjects as love, the battle of the sexes, lullabies, sad songs of home, melancholy and nostalgia, the simple county life, soldiers and war, sailors and the sea, outlaws and rascals, drinking songs, and bawdy ballads.
As an outreach program of the Niagara County Historian’s Office, where one of his responsibilities is the correct interpretation of the past, his presentation includes: 18th century period songs along with their meanings and past and present versions, a clothing and fashion demonstration, and the musical performance practices of the 18th century.
Niagara County Historian’s Office
139 Niagara Street
Lockport, NY 14094