Roots Moderne

In the Jack White post I introduced the idea of a Roots Moderne section for Guitar Moderne. The response was quite positive so I am going to give it a go.

I want to be as clear as possible as to what I consider to be Roots Moderne. For the purposes of Guitar Moderne, something is Roots Moderne if it is guitar based and 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 some reinvention of the genre. You could say it started with Little Axe (who, with their blues/dub/hip-hop hybrid rate their own post); Jack White certainly embodies the concept, as does Dan Auerbach’s use of the momentary pitch shifting in this Black Keys tune.

To help flesh out the concept I offer some other examples that work for me.

R.L. Burnside Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down

(October 24, 2000) Label: Fat Possum Records

This is the epitome of Roots Moderne. It doesn’t get anymore rooted than North Mississippi Hill Country singer/guitarist Burnside. Having recorded some classic records with him, Fat Possum decided to team him up with producers who managed to couch his music in samples and synths, without losing the dark mystery at the core of his sound. Guitarists Smokey Hormel and Rick Holmstrom are deeply rooted in the blues but versatile enough to be comfortable playing with tracks based on loops. Holmstrom later released a great record of his own, Hydraulic Groove, which also employed hip-hop production techniques.

Chris Thomas King’s CD Dirty South Hip-Hop Blues also added modern production and hip-hop attitude to the classic American art form. Here he is taking it live.

Holmstrom also tried using loops live for a couple of tours. Unfortunately the blues crowd ultimately failed to encourage these efforts. All three continued to make great music but in more traditional  veins.

Lafayette guitarist C.C. Adcock cut his teeth in the zydeco bands of the Louisiana swamps. His eponymous 1994 debut stuck close to a rootsy sound save for some production touches that invoked a sense of humidity and visions of hanging kudzu. A decade later he again teamed up with the late producer Tarka Cordell for his second record, Lafayette Marquis, which updated the sound with drum loops and ear candy. Since then he has been strictly roots with the swamp pop supergroup Li’l Band O’ Gold and production work. If he sticks to his once a decade schedule, we should see another record this year.

Stay tuned for more Roots Moderne examples.

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5 thoughts on “Roots Moderne

  1. I think this enhances an already groovy site. May I suggest features on Chuck Prophet, Jim White and Calexico?

  2. I like your site for all the diverse and interesting guitarists you bring to our attention and I personally don’t care if they are “modern” or “experimental” or “roots” or anything. If you think there is something interesting going on, that is good enough for me.

  3. I applaud this move! An excellent crossover. This website keeps getting better!

    Going back to an earlier point:

    Any further thoughts on bringing in some social media so we can keep an eye on things via Facebook et al?

    You could even set up a Guitar Moderne Soundcloud to repost some of the amazing music out there from so many wonderful musicians hitherto unknown.

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