By Greg Olwell
For this session, guitarist and singer Todd Albright played three songs on his retro-style baritone 12-string guitars, while swinging down the West Coast on a tour supporting his album Detroit Twelve String Blues & Rags.
For his session, Albright played three tunes, Blind Willie McTell’s “Kill It, Kid” and “Savannah Mama” followed by Lead Belly’s “Sweet Mary Blues.”
Albright tours with two guitars, one tuned in standard and one tuned to Vestapol, or open D. Like many of 12-string players that he summons with his playing, Albright tunes his guitar down considerably lower than standard tuning. Both guitars are tuned down a fifth to A, with one in standard tuning (aA dD gG cC ee aa) and the other in Vestapol, which is open D, but down to A (aA eE aA c#C# ee aa). Albright uses a custom set of phosphor-bronze strings from John Pearse that “are on the heavy side,” according to Albright.
Albright plays two guitars made by Wisconsin builder Todd Cambio under the Fraulini Guitar Company name. Both guitars are ladder-braced and very light for being large 26-1/2-inch scale-length 12-string guitars. The guitar with the elaborate purfling and binding is a Fraulini Francesca, modeled on a Tonk Brothers 12-string owned by Cambio. It’s inspired by one of the most famous images of Blind Willie McTell and has a spruce top, birch back and sides, and poplar neck with stained maple fingerboard. The other guitar is Fraulini Fenezia, with elements inspired by the work of the Acosta family of San Antonio, that made 12-string guitars used by Lydia Mendoza and Lonnie Johnson. This guitar features a spruce top with walnut back and sides.