Blue’s Angel Music: Not All Works of Art Belong on the Wall
“What am I even looking for?” It is a question with which guitarists are painfully familiar when walking into a music shop. After days – sometimes weeks – of looking forward to their trip, the overwhelming selection of brands, styles, and functionalities often prove far too daunting to make a definitive choice. Though it can be argued – and rightfully – that any stop at a music store is time well spent, many trips end the same: an hour or so noodling on too many instruments, with no real purchases made. While it may prove impossible to answer such a personal question, Blues Angel Music – a Pensacola icon for over twenty years – has taken note, and offers many common – and some uncommon – answers for coastal musicians.
In response to which pieces best represent the diversity of Blues Angel Music, marketing director, Dan Fugate, states that it is like “asking about our favorite child, or which Beatle was best,” but agreed that the shop does offer many unique options. For example, guitarists focused more on tight, acoustic tones, might find the warmth of an Eastman acoustic particularly enticing. The guitar, featuring a hand-varnished body – the culmination of “old-world techniques from making violins” – provides an “heirloom quality” perfect for the singer-songwriter type. Similarly, the Taylor 714CE acoustic/electric delivers “crisp highs and a sweet mid-range” that grants guitarists even greater flexibility in style and genre. According to Fugate, the V-class bracing found on the 714CE provides cleaner tones and a harmonic agreement that make it “good for praise and worship, but can be taken down the street, later on, to rock out.”
Rounding out the acoustic/electrics – and of special note to coastal musicians playing outdoor gigs – is the RainSong Black Ice Orchestra. As stated by repair shop manager Mike Clark and master luthier Taylor Wilton, “if you’re playing outside in our area, this is the perfect acoustic,” as graphite allows high notes to ring longer, and – in climates like those along the Gulf Coast – can withstand moisture the way their wooden counterparts just cannot. In a place where humidity reigns eight months out of the year, the Black Ice “meets other acoustic guitar (brand) giants, and leaves them behind when the weather gets bad.”
Upon entering Blues Angel Music, players of a jazzier persuasion, however, may find themselves drawn to models such as the Eastman El Rey ER4 Classic. This gorgeous instrument – detailed in its ebony-cut fingerboard and bone nut – provides a “heavy mid-range with just enough highs to balance out.” According to Fugate, something of similar quality and design would cost “more than double from other makers,” while providing the same quality tones. Other choices, such as the Paul Reed Smith SE – a double cutaway with mortise and tenon joints perfect for both novice and seasoned players, and the Fender Stratocaster (perhaps the most versatile electric on the planet) give players guitars that can excel in almost any genre. Lastly, and of particular beauty, is the D’Angelico Excel EXL-1, a chic design that features “all the appointments of a fine jazz archtop.” Perhaps the most elegant of the bunch, the EXL-1 comes together in a breathtaking mix of spruce, maple, and ebony, and – as per Fugate – “commands all the attention it receives… and is just hard not to look at.”
With so many unique, beautiful pieces for purchase – coupled with its easygoing and knowledgeable staff – it is easy to understand why Blues Angel Music is still a community icon nearly two decades later. True to its roots of customer and community service, Blues Angel Music has grown from a one-room shop on Navy Boulevard to a multi-location business across two states. But what about that age-old question – “What am I even looking for?” Whether it is the warmth of a hand-crafted Eastman acoustic or the sharp electric tones of a Strat, Blues Angel Music is here to help.