Album Preview: The Pickpockets’ ‘Beyond the Hills’

We first introduced you to pro skier-turned-bluegrass guitarist Jake Doan back in 2021 on the Fretboard Journal Podcast. At the time, Jake had just released an incredible short film about his two loves (the outdoors and guitar) and told us all about his Utah-based newgrass band, the Pickpockets.

We’re happy to announce that the Pickpockets just released their debut full-length album, Beyond the Hills (Spotify link, Bandcamp link). To celebrate, we asked Jake and the band to walk us through their instruments of choice.

Jake Doan, Guitar
As a guitarist influenced by many genres and styles, I am lucky enough to be able to lean into that with this band. I played my Collings OM1 on five songs and played electric on the other six. We recorded the album at Man vs Music Studios with engineer Mike Sasich. I had a vast collection of guitars at my disposal. On “Better Weather,” I played a 1972 Telecaster…on “Thief and Sadie,” a 1958 Les Paul reissue. On the rest of the songs, I played my PRS Semi-Hollow CE. All of the electric tracks were played through a Fender 65′ Deluxe Reverb Reissue.

David Almanzar, Guitar
All of my instrumental parts were recorded using my 2022 Collings D1, which I purchased in the summer of 2022 at a local music shop. I first played a Collings guitar about a year previously, and from the first strum I knew that I had to have one.

I pride myself in being the first (and only) person to have played this particular guitar. I happened to walk into the shop the day it arrived, and after about five minutes of playing, I bought it and walked out the door. The D1 is Collings’ interpretation of a Martin D-18 – a Sitka Spruce top, Mahogany back and sides. To me, this is the ultimate acoustic sound, and delivers a balanced, but powerful sound that fits our genre perfectly (and compliments nicely with Jake’s OM-1, an orchestra model by Collings made out of the same tonewoods).

The sound you hear on the record is a combination of three mics: A small diaphragm condenser for room sound (we each recorded in our own rooms), and then a combination of a ribbon mic and a large diaphragm, tube-driven condenser mic. I was very happy with the results of this combination – we got a natural sound that sits nicely in the mix, and offers an excellent representation of the sound of the instrument.

Dante Giacobassi, Mandolin / Songwriter
The songwriting on this album spans the better course of a decade, telling a story of life, its experiences and relationships. Some of the songs were even written before the band was formed. It was really special to feel the tunes come alive with the creative ideas and thoughtful concepts of the guys. Having no fingerpicked instruments in a bluegrass band (no banjo or dobro) creates a unique pocket of sound, and allows us to explore different genres like reggae and funk…more so than your typical bluegrass band. This has become a core part of our sound, and makes the album stand out from the crowd.

Everything is recorded on my Weber Bitterroot Mandolin, handcrafted in Bend, Oregon. I also have a Weber Diamondback that was made by Bruce Weber himself, but for consistency of sound, I stayed with the Bitterroot for this album. It’s by far my favorite mandolin I have played to date – an incredible mix of rich woody tone, blended with a high end that cuts through with sheer cleanliness and beauty.

Alec Barker, Fiddle
I played a German-made Fanz Sandner violin from 1995 on Beyond the Hills. This was an instrument gifted to me by my late mother when I was a teenager. It is bright, powerful, and balanced. It is constructed of flamed maple for the neck, back, and sides, with a spruce top. I used this instrument to earn my performance degree in classical violin, but have since retrofitted it to play bluegrass. For live performances, I use an Eric Aceto bridge pickup system with a quarter-inch jack mounted in the chin rest. This bridge has been shaped to a radius flat enough to play bluegrass, but not too flat to play other genres and styles. I blend this pickup with a Bartlett Audio fiddle mic through a Grace Designs Felix 2 preamp. I use Dominant Pro strings by Tomastik Infeld for the G, D, and A strings, with a Pirastro Gold Label E string. I use a bow made of pernambuco wood I acquired from the Robertson and Sons Violin Shop of Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2014. It is heavier than most, with a smooth response and feel.

We recorded my parts on Beyond the Hills using a Neumann U67 microphone in a large room. This method allows the sound to bloom and develop in the room, while the renowned quality of the microphone keeps the sound present. Additionally, we re-amped parts on Better Weather and She Sways using a Leslie rotary speaker to get some unique, experimental, and funky sounds.

Follow the band here.