Louise plays Froggy Bottom guitars

Louise Taylor speaks glowingly of her custom Froggy Bottom guitars, built in her hometown in southern Vermont by her close friend and ex-husband Michael Millard. Her No. 1 guitar features a J-100Ėtype shape with a shallower body (maximum four inches deep), koa back and sides, and a top made from a piece of German spruce that dates from the 1880s. Millard based the instrument in part on the sound and feel of Taylorís early í50s Martin D-18, which was stolen during one of her hitchhiking trips and was, according to Millard, "a guitar to die for." Her No. 2 guitar, which Millard designed to be an airier complement to No. 1, is a koa/Engelmann spruce jumbo with a slightly deeper body and a Florentine cutaway. She also has a one-of-a-kind 12-string (a 12-fret koa and German spruce model) and a small-body slot-head guitar built with Brazilian rosewood, Adirondack spruce, and 45-style decoration.

Taylor had been playing a factory-made guitar when she got her first Froggy Bottom, and she was so bowled over by the contrast that she eventually gave her old guitar away. "Itís like the difference between a grand piano and an upright piano," she says. "Handmade guitars have so much more to offer tonewise."

For the stage, her two main guitars are equipped with Fishman Matrix pickups, which she uses along with external microphones. She tried blending in an internal mic but prefers the plug-and-play simplicity of her current rig. For band gigs, she brings a Daedalus amp.

On all her guitars, Taylor uses various brands of medium-gauge strings, and she capos up with a Shubb. When she started playing fingerstyle, she used a Dunlop thumbpick, but at Ray Bonnevilleís urging, she eventually went completely bare fingered. "There are some places where [the thumbpick] is nice and clean and itís a better sound," she says, "but for the bluesier stuff that I am trying to learn, the bare thumb has better tone, you are more in there on your guitar, you can pop the strings, you can do a lot more. You build a callus up on your thumb, I am told, but it hasnít arrived yet! Itís a little bit of a different angle, so it takes an adjustment." ĖĖ Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers

Louise uses D'Addario Strings exclusively.

D'Addario web site