Something is Roots Moderne if it embodies a strong link to a popular musical lineage that goes back beyond the last 50 or 60 years, while adding elements that make it relevant to the present. Such lineage would include blues, country, jazz, African, Asian, etc. It also needs to involve reinvention of the genre.
Imagine Duane Eddy fronting the Tito Puente Orchestra and you will get a picture of what Diego Garcia’s new music is like. Or imagine Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban’s Mambo Sinuendo on steroids. Or better yet just buy Garcia’s Pachuco record; the sheer joy of rockabilly twang mixing with Latino rhythms is hard to beat.
What makes Garcia (a/k/a EL Twanguero) modern is the undercurrent of sophistication in his playing. This is a fully schooled guitarist who chose to concentrate on a particular sound and nailed it. Also, check out his looping and Frisell-style approach to Charlie Rich’s weeper, “I Feel Like Going Home.”
Discovering underappreciated talent like this is why Guitar Moderne exists.
B.B. King in Guitar Moderne? Hell yeah. He did more to modernize the sound of the blues than any other guitarist. King refined the sound of the electric guitar, finding that sweet spot where it drove the tubes and achieved the sustain of a horn, without distorting into unintelligibility. King mashed up elements of big band swing, Django Reinhardt’s gypsy fire, with some be-bop sophistication, all without ever losing the power of the genre’s simpler folk roots.
King was a student of music, working with instruction books during long trips on the road—and there were a lot of long trips on the road. It was this hidden well of sophistication that allowed him to often interject an amazing modern jazz run in the midst of the melodic call and response licks he used to tell his story.
Blues revivalists who mimic his style note for note are not his offspring. His children are players like Robben Ford, Joe Bonamassa, Mat Schofield, and Josh Smith, who start with his lessons and add modern touches of their own.
If Guitar Moderne is about moving the art of guitar forward, B.B. certainly deserves to be here. RIP Riley B King.
Slide guitar is as rootsy as it gets, but Carl Weingarten has taking the technique into realms that would astonish Elmore James and perhaps even give Ry Cooder pause. Tapping the strings both in front of and behind the slide, scraping it against the strings Weingarten creates washes of delayed and looped tones for a cinematic journey in sound. Honing his art over three decades has produced a singular voice that honors the slide’s history while pushing it into the future.
The fine folks at Premier Guitar got in early at City Winery in Nashville to interview sonic wizard Daniel Lanois and get the producer of Emmy Lou Harris, U2, Peter Gabriel, among others to reveals some of his tone secrets. Fortunately, this master class in doing the most with the least was caught on video. Lanois begins with his unique approach to pedal steel and guitar and later discusses his new live performance mixing setup. I was lucky enough to witness this epic show, and later interview him for a piece to come in Guitar Player. I can testify that the producing legend is first and foremost a player—as geeky about gear as the rest of us. His genius is in managing to modernize the sound of guitar, while retaining its historical connection to family front porch picking parties.