RICHARD VAREY finds genuine musical gems amongst the trash in opshops, and even tracks down the obscure artist behind one such discovery.
Sandwiched between hundreds of dusty Kamahl and Nana Mouskouri CDs in opshops and second-hand stores around New Zealand there are genuine forgotten treasures to be found. It takes some dedicated foraging, but just occasionally, a real gem is revealed, and my latest such find is the turn-of-the-century release 4ONLYU by NZ-based guitarist Shane Cammell.
What attracted me was the unusual cover and title, the photographs of the guitars being played, the artwork on the disc, and the quite eclectic selection of pieces recorded. Artists interpreted included Joe Satriani, Tommy Emmanuel, and a range of classical and folk composers. The performances are spectacular, and the sound quality is superb. A little known fact is that many simply-recorded local albums sound better than their commercial international counterparts, presumably because they’ve avoided the compression of the corporate mastering overlords.
But Shane Cammell? I’d never heard of him before. This called for an immersion in his website, which eventuated in a chat with the man himself. It was no surprise to find that he was an accomplished solo guitarist with nearly four decades’ experience, much of that time as a teacher.
“I love seeing the light come on in students’ eyes when they ‘get’ it”, he told me.
Shane was born and raised in Auckland. Originally trained as a classical guitarist by Val Hungerford, he taught at high schools around Auckland in the ‘90s. From 2000 onwards, he traveled the world working as a solo guitarist onboard cruise ships, taught English and performed as a solo guitarist in Japan, and performed in a blues bar outside Nashville, USA. He also completed a Master of Music Therapy degree at the New Zealand School of Music (in Wellington), then moved to California at the request of Bethany University, located in Scotts Valley (Santa Cruz County) to head up their guitar department. After three years, home called again and he moved back to New Zealand in 2013, where he now resides with his wife and four sons just outside Nelson.
Nowadays, Shane teaches guitar lessons remotely via webcam on Skype and Facetime, and works privately with students remotely in New Zealand and the USA (both private and charter school). He’s previously taught students located in Australia, China, India, South Africa, and the UK. He’s currently expanding his YouTube channel, working towards more professionally created performance videos, as well as recording several series of tutorial videos aimed at beginners and intermediate players.
As a performance artist, his style ranges from classical (his training) to finger style (imagine a pianist’s approach of playing right hand melody and left hand chordal accompaniment transposed to guitar where the guitar ‘sings’ each song he plays, complete with bass line and rhythm). His eclectic repertoire includes Spanish, rock/pop (Beatles, Sting, Jack Johnson), to jazz standards (‘Summertime’, ‘Blue Moon’), and old favorites (‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’, ‘Amazing Grace’). Shane has performed on cruise ships, in concerts, festivals, weddings, parties, fundraisers, markets, cafes and restaurants. He currently commutes around New Zealand playing corporate gigs and weddings. Grabaseat is his best friend!
Shane has released four albums so far. 4ONLYU (2000) was his first album, after which he made a couple of demo collections during his cruise days – A Work In Progress (2001) and The Song Goes On (2004). His most recent is an EP of original compositions entitled Subtle (2013). He continues to compose original works and arrange popular music, and is preparing to record a new album soon. Currently, 4ONLYU and Subtle are available for download from his website, by single tracks or as a complete album.
I asked him about my fabulous opshop discovery. “4ONLYU was quite an eclectic album when I recorded it. I’d just finished teaching at schools around Auckland for most of the ‘90s, and between students’ requests, my classical roots, and some church numbers, it was a quite a mix. After it was released, I worked as a solo artist on cruise ships around the world, and consequently expanded my repertoire and influences exponentially. I still have fond memories of the material and still play some of them regularly.
“The artwork was a laugh to create. My original graphic designer pulled out of the job mid-way, so I taught myself Photoshop and blundered through, using some pre-prepared photos, and in one case a collage of all of the faces of the kids in the youth group I was helping lead at the time.
And the title? “That was my number plate when I lived in Auckland. I’d bought it for an ex-girlfriend one afternoon, and she’d dumped me that night, so I kept it and put it on my trusty [Honda] CRX.
“4ONLYU was recorded at Tai Poutini Polytech in Auckland. My recording engineer – a really great guy – was Sam Airy. He’s now an entrepreneur and volunteer teacher. The original pressing was 2000 discs. They’re all sold now, though it’s still available on my website.
“4ONLYU was recorded on my old guitar, a K Yairi classical/electric CY127 CE. It was my faithful companion for about 15 years, until 2013 when I upgraded to my current guitar, a Jose Ramirez 4NCWE. I also own a Washburn N2 (Nuno Bettencourt) and a Ibanez chrome boy (Joe Satriani), though they’re hardly played, so would be keen on selling them.
“Right now, I’m working on a bunch of crazy, difficult arrangements for a new album inspired in part by Martin Taylor and Tommy Emmanuel.”