Guitar Moderne occasionally features what we call Roots Moderne players: guitarists who have pushed a genre’s envelope. Seth Lee Jones was pitched to me as a blues guitarist, but when I checked him out on YouTube he was using multiple string-benders, picking behind the nut, and generally bringing the blues forward. Oh, did I mention he builds guitars?
This interview is a little different for Guitar Moderne. While I have featured, what I call, Roots Moderne records in the past, this is my first interview with a Roots Moderne player. Peter Parcek approaches the blues with the idea of making it his own, rather than presenting a retro reproduction of the genre. His record Mississippi Suitcase demonstrates a deep understanding of the blues coupled with an ear for modern sounds and production. When I learned that we both lived in London, albeit a couple of years apart, in the 60s, I thought it would also be fun to discuss some of the musicians we saw in that time and place, who were themselves pushing the blues envelope.
Someone recently asked me to define roots moderne. Bursting Blue Bone Bark, the Berlin-based project of Knox Chandler and Eric Mingus, epitomizes the answer. Chandler’s combination of National steel guitar and iPad apps, joins Mingus’ guttural blues shouting and vocal noises for music as primal as the Aborigines and modern as tomorrow.
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.
You may know Ted Drozdowski’s name if you were a fan of the late, lamented Musician magazine, or read his articles in Premier Guitar magazine and his posts on the Gibson website. A respected music journalist, Drozdowski has also studied Mississipi Hill Country Blues with masters like R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. With his band, The Scissormen, he keeps the flame of this elemental blues style alive, while adding a modern psychedelic aspect that only adds to the music’s mystery.