“Fishin’ Blues” by Taj Mahal. Been playing that one for years but I probably don’t do it justice compared to the great Taj. Super fun to play though with some worldly wisdom that is obvious but complex too.
“Many fish bite if you got the right bait!” Yup. Words to live by, folks!
I recently discovered a positively wonderful tune by John Prine, “Fish and Whistle.” God, I love John Prine’s music. Oh so deceptively easy from a musical perspective but oh so deeply layered and occasionally hilarious lyric-wise.
I’ve come to believe that the two living masters of the Americana/singer-songwriter genre are John Prine and Steve Earle. Sometimes I have to warn students about what they will hear from those guys if they are unfamiliar with them. Neither has a voice that’s immediately easy on the ears and occasionally I’ll have a student who just can’t get past that. With those folks I’ll encourage them to listen to other artists covering their material, like Bonnie Raitt’s classic cover of Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery.” Quite a few of the legendary Texas singer-songwriters are like that too, people like the late, great Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. But most of my students – the adults, anyway – learn how to listen to those artists because there is so, so much more to their music from a poetic standpoint.
All of the musicians I just mentioned employ basic chords and strum or finger patterns so their music is do-able by the vast majority of guitarists, even those barely past the beginner stage. Sure, it’s fun and challenging and ultimately beautiful and gratifying to delve into the guitar styles of “better” guitar players (whatever that really means…) like James Taylor, Paul Simon, and the myriad younger players who employ open tunings. I am attracted to those complexities most of the time but I came to realize that the guitar stylings of writers like Prine and Earle are really just frames on their lyrical paintings. The same could be said for Dylan.
So what makes the lyricism of John Prine and Steve Earle so compelling? I think that’s easy to answer: life experience. Both of those writers have seen more than most of us ever will and have the ability to convey what they’ve lived. John Prine has had more than the average amount of heartbreak, from what I’ve read, and he survived a serious bout of cancer, which is why he tilts his head when he sings. Steve Earle survived serious drug addiction and spent time in jail, which he credits for being the reason he’s still with us today. Steve has also loved and lost. Read up on his relationship with the fabulous country singer-songwriter Alison Moorer. Plenty of fodder there for plenty of songs by both those guys, songs that come from real experience and not some contrived down-home persona that I see these days from some of the young bearded, flannel shirt wearing, floor gazing exponents of retro country and Americana. I’m talking to you, Shakey Graves and Father John Misty!
And now, a shift of gears.
As I mentioned in a recent post, my gear quests over the last couple of years have shifted more and more toward finding the BEST sounding amplifier designed specifically for acoustic guitar. After trying and becoming quickly dissatisfied with a bunch of expensive and generally well-regarded amps of this type (Schertler, AER, Henriksen, others….) I bought an ACUS Oneforstrings 8 and it may be “the one.” I’ve been using it every week at my regular gig at the Daily Brew Café in Cataumet, MA for the last two months and I couldn’t be happier. The sound is pure and sweet, it has plenty of power, is relatively light weight but solidly constructed, and has all the features I want with three independent channels for guitar and/or vocals. Plus its wood casing is beautiful and an eye-catcher. Just yesterday a woman musician I used to play with came in the Brew and she remarked at how wonderful it sounded, clear and lush and natural without being overbearing. This Italian-made amp is not easy to find; they only have a few dealers in this country but I’m so glad I took the recommendation to buy one from a member of one of the guitar forums I visit regularly. Quite pricey, yes, but if you’re looking for the best, purest acoustic sound I highly, highly recommend this amp. I do still have a Bose S1 Pro that I like primarily because of its built in battery and overall good sound but it can’t hold a candle to my ACUS. I’ll keep the Bose for those outdoor gigs I get like beach weddings where power is not available.
My relaunch of my web store is progressing. I still have some important details to attend to regarding platforms and shopping carts, plus getting good detailed images to use but I’m hopeful it will be up and running in the near future. I’m very psyched to be able to offer a less known but fantastic guitar line and cool and useful accessories that you won’t find at your local guitar super store or via the mega music sites. Stay tuned.
Peace & good music,