The Aroostook guitar is part Hendrix, part country twang and all County eclipse

3 weeks ago

HOULTON, Maine – When local musician Bertrand Laurence envisioned designing an Aroostook County 2024 eclipse guitar, he thought about the sound of the County.  

“People really love country music here, straight up country music,” he said. “I knew that it should have a sweet twang.”

Laurence tells the story of the famed Maine country singer Dick Curless and his chart-topping  “Tombstone Every Mile.” The hand-pedaled 1960s record that tells the story of the County’s long-haul potato truckers, is the sound Laurence says is part of the region. 

His idea was to create a guitar in the shape of Aroostook County that had a combination of unique traits and sounds. And with the help of two other County artisans, The Aroostook Axe was born. 

“There’s nothing that warms my heart more than to let your imagination run wild and work really hard to make those visions happen,” Laurence said. “Whether it’s a piece of music or a guitar like that It was really a gift to me that two people were crazy enough to say yes to it.”

Most guitars have the traditional almost figure eight shape, but offbeat inventions have included guitars in the shape of demons, wings, smiles and celtic symbols. Or legendary bluesman Eric Clapton’s, The Fool, a psychedelically painted Gibson that he eventually gave to George Harrison of the Beatles. And in the 1980s Gibson luthiers created a guitar in the shape of the United States. 

The axe, a slang term commonly used by guitar players, is an inventive creation, designed by Laurence, built by guitar maker Kevin Carpenter and illustrated by tattoo artist Gabriel Grimm. 

“I have always been more fascinated by the creative process than by the end result,” the French musician said. “It’s so much fun and it is so humbling. Sometimes the best project is a leap of faith and trust.”

HOULTON, Maine — March 25, 2024 — Nashville musician Dennis Casey, who now lives in Houlton, was the first to play the Aroostook Axe eclipse guitar on Saturday. Guitar designer Bertrand Laurence plays here with Casey. (Credit: Bertrand Laurance)

After the last airbrushed coat of paint dried last weekend, Nashville guitar player and County native Dennis Casey tested the axe. The first to play the guitar, Casey said it was good picking.  

“I am just crazy about his playing. Dennis is to me classic Nashville royalty. He played with Tanya Tucker, Moe Bandy and so many more and we are so lucky to have him move back to the county,” Laurence said. 

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The project is sponsored by Vital Pathways, a Houlton charitable non profit. The Great Aroostook Axe Raffle will take place on the day of the April 8 eclipse at noon. 

Raffle tickets are $5 and the winner will get music lessons, two music books and the guitar. The proceeds will benefit music making in the County.