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From Adam Perlmutter, Editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine:
I’ll never forget the first time I heard Lucinda Williams. It was on a weeknight sometime in the early 2000s, at Sunny’s Bar, a waterfront saloon at the remote edge of Brooklyn, New York, that had been around since the 1890s. At the time, my musical tastes leaned toward the challenging and the strident. But sitting there at Sunny’s, enjoying a bourbon and hearing Williams’ “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road,” I had a revelation. Maybe it was the singer’s rich, crackling voice and the Southern imagery of her lyrics, or her catchy flatpicked riffing on the acoustic guitar, but I suddenly sensed that in my snobbery I had been missing out on so much great music.
For this issue’s cover story, Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers connected with Williams to talk about the rootsy but idiosyncratic guitar parts she plays on “Car Wheels” and a handful of her other best-known songs, each a study in smart accompaniment. Rodgers had hoped to film his conversation with Williams, she with guitar at hand, but unfortunately the singer-songwriter suffered a stroke in November 2020 and was in the process of starting over on the instrument. We at AG certainly hope that Williams will regain her facility on the guitar before long.
Also on the Southern theme, contributing writer James Volpe Rotondi, who lives in Nashville, profiles some of the singer-songwriters and acoustic guitarists who are defining the new Music City sound—Elizabeth Cook, Lilly Hiatt, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Lillie Mae, and Jake Workman—and covers some of the great guitar shops as well. Bob Minner, the extraordinary flatpicker likewise based in the Nashville area, presents his new composition “VanWart,” a tribute to the largely unsung luthier Bruce VanWart of Collings Guitars. (It’s VanWart who personally selected the wood for your cherished Collings, and for the new CJ-45 T reviewed in this issue.)
Speaking of unsung, Frantz Casseus is considered in select circles to be the father of Haitian classical guitar, but his music and his stature are not well known in general. In his formative years, Marc Ribot—the New York–based guitarist and composer who on his 25 albums has explored everything from the music of Cuba to noise-jazz—studied classical guitar with Casseus. Ribot writes of Casseus’ transnational aesthetic in Woodshed, while analyzing Casseus’ “Dance of the Hounsies.” I highly recommend you check out Ribot’s recently reissued Marc Ribot Plays Solo Guitar Works of Frantz Casseus, as well as the composer’s original recordings.
In Great Acoustics, my esteemed colleague Blair Jackson—who happens to have written a bunch of Grateful Dead–related books, including Garcia: An American Life—shares a great story about Jerry Garcia’s 1943 Martin D-28 and its new owner. Though this golden-era dreadnought, with its replacement parts and plugged-up soundboard, might be a turn-off to purist Martin collectors, it holds a special place in popular music history, having likely been used on the Dead’s American Beauty.