On the cover of her latest album with The Ark-Tones, Here to Tell the Tale, a smiling Lara Hope is holding a Gretsch acoustic guitar with her name in script below the bridge.
Like fellow rockabilly devotees Brian Setzer and the Reverend Horton Heat — with whom she’s toured — Hope is a dedicated Gretsch player and has been for about nine years.
“I started playing Gretsch because in my prior band, my guitar player was a luthier, and I trusted his opinion on guitars,” she recalls. “Back then I was playing an Ibanez that I got as a college graduation present. I was looking for something still affordable but a step up. He said to me, ‘I think you should go and check out the Gretsch Rancher, if you can get past the size of it’ — because it was a jumbo.”
She got a Rancher and played it for a long time before stepping up to another jumbo. In 2018, while the New York-based Hope and the Ark-Tones were on tour with the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Gretsch reps would set up a display at each show. At a stop in North Carolina, after telling the Gretsch folks her Rancher “was starting to get old and beat up,” they surprised her with a black Falcon acoustic — the very guitar on the cover of Here to Tell the Tale, released June 25 via Sower Records.
The back of the album features a logo that says “Endorsed by Gretsch guitars.” That’s there because Hope and Ark-Tones lead guitarist “Shreddie” Eddie Rion play and endorse the brand. (Jeremy Boniello just so happens to play a Gretsch drum kit; bassist Matt “The Knife” Goldpaugh, Hope’s husband, plays a custom upright bass he designed himself.)
As band manager in addition to being the band leader, Hope handles social media, and those efforts led to the Gretsch alliance. “I was constantly tagging Gretsch, posting photos of us, letting them know that we were already out there gigging a lot and using their product,” she says. “It was just a matter of time until they were like, ‘We like what you’re doing, and we appreciate that you’re out there promoting us, so let’s work together.’ ”
On the self-produced Here to Tell the Tale, Hope plays a few Gretsch guitars, among them her friend’s Electromatic on the standouts “Let’s Go!” and “Some Advice.”
“They needed a little bit more of a rockin’ sound,” she says about strapping on the Electromatic for those songs. “I’ve historically always just played an acoustic guitar, but I’m ready to play an electric guitar of some sort.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Lara Hope on tour (schedule subject to change)
Aug. 12: Clermont State Historic Site — Germantown, New York (Lara Hope Gold Hope Duo)
Aug. 14: The Park Theater — Hudson, New York (full band)
Aug. 19: Equilibrium Brewery — Middletown, New York (duo)
Aug. 22: Widow Jane Mine — Rosendale, New York (full band)
Aug. 26: Solar Boat Show on the Solaris — Kingston, New York (duo)
Aug. 28: Bearsville Theater Lawn — Woodstock, New York (duo)
Sept. 1: Mohawk Mountain House Dock — New Paltz, New York (full band)
Sept. 9: Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend — Las Vegas (full band)