May 2006 (Issue No. 161)

AG 161 May 2006 Cover
 

Issue Highlights

Blues lesson with Chris Smither. How to make your own saddle. Billy Bragg on songwriting. Five songs to play, including "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash. Profiles on singer-songwriter Toshi Reagon and Nashville-based band the Greencards. Swing rhythm guitar lesson. All about travel guitars. How to make the most of open-mic performances. Profile on Hamblin Guitars. And more!

Featured Songs

Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash

Sunny - Bobby Hebb

Look for the Silver Lining - Buddy DeSylva and Jerome Kern

Chimney Sweep Stomp - Pete Madsen

Chris Smither - Link of Chain

In This Issue

BLUES BARD
His soulful songs have been covered by Bonnie Raitt and Diana Krall, among others, but Chris Smither is also one of the most respected roots performers on the folk circuit, delivering his well-crafted compositions with a groove-oriented fingerpicking style rooted in the playing of Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin' Hopkins. Here he demonstrates some of the techniques that make his performances so dynamic. By David Hamburger.

MAKE YOUR OWN SADDLE
Even if you have absolutely no experience customizing guitars, you can dramatically improve your guitar tone by purchasing a high-quality saddle "blank," tracing your old saddle's profile on it, and shaping the blank with sandpaper. By Frank Ford.

RING SOME CHANGES
English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has a knack for both love songs and agit-pop, and he has scored two Grammy nominations for recasting Woody Guthrie's words on the Mermaid Avenue records. A songwriter of any stripe, says Bragg, needs both a hook and a sense of humor. By Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers.

ACOUSTIC CLASSIC
Folsom Prison Blues. Words and music by Johnny Cash. 

PRIVATE LESSON
Private Lesson with Peter Mulvey. The rhythmic fingerstyle songwriter gives tips on playing grooves and writing songs, and shares notes about his influences. By Andrew DuBrock.

NEW GEAR
Johnson JD-26 Dreadnought. An all-solid-wood dreadnought that delivers vintage tone and feel—without breaking the bank. By Teja Gerken.
L. Benito 234 Grand Auditorium. With rare alerce wood, intriguing cosmetics, and rich, inviting tones, this Chilean guitar has an exotic flare but also offers plenty to entice traditionalists. By Shawn Hammond.
Zoom A2 Acoustic Effects Pedal. A sturdy, amazingly affordable gadget exploding with clever features, fun diversions, and useful tools. By Alexis Harte.

IN THE STORES

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT

Songcraft
Toshi Reagon. Mixing folk, rock, funk, and gospel, the socially conscious singer-songwriter speaks truth to power by honoring nature and keeping her song structures simple. By Derk Richardson.

Roots
The Greencards. Two Aussies and a Brit give new meaning to Americana in a Nashville-based trio that pushes bluegrass boundaries by drawing from Bob Dylan and the Beatles as well as Flatt and Scruggs. By Mike Thomas.

HERE'S HOW
Learn to Read Standard Notation. Break through the limitations of tablature and open up a whole new world of musical communication. Like learning a new language, reading music requires patience and practice—but it's easier than you might think. By Scott Nygaard.

THE BASICS
Swing Rhythm Guitar. Learn to swing with just six simple, movable chords. By David Hamburger.

SHOPTALK
Travel Guitars. If you need to maintain chops, add variety to your rig, or get inspiration away from home, a vast array of travel guitars awaits—from stripped-down designs for ultimate portability to more conventional models. By Shawn Hammond.

STAGE AND STUDIO
Performance Lab. Open-mic nights can provide the perfect environment for honing your chops and improving your performance skills. To take advantage of them, just find one in your town and start playing! By Allen Lam.

Reader's Rig
Michael Petty enlists his prized Seagull dreadnought to lead his church congregation in singing praises.

LUTHIER'S WORKBENCH
Hamblin Guitars. A graduate of the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery, Kent Hamblin builds high-end fingerstyle guitars in his Telluride, Colorado, shop. By Teja Gerken.

G.A.S. STATION
Can't Quit Koa. When he had 25 guitars of various types in his collection, Russ Lewark desperately needed to curb his guitar-hoarding instincts. As a sunny compromise, he decided to collect only guitars made of Hawaiian koa. Now he has 25 of those. By Michael John Simmons.

PLAYLIST
Bob Brozman, Blues ReflexBy Ian Zack.
Rocky Votolato, Makers. By Drew Pearce.
Willie Nelson, You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker. By Kenny Berkowitz.
Hit and Run Bluegrass, Without Maps or Charts. By Sue Thompson.
Ken Hatfield, String Theory. By Ron Forbes-Roberts.
Son De La Frontera, Son De La Frontera. By Danny Carnahan.
Wayne Scott, This Weary Way. By Kenny Berkowitz.
Carlos Barbosa-Lima, Carioca. By Ron Forbes-Roberts.
Richard Thompson, RT:The Life and Music of Richard Thompson. By Derk Richardson.

WOODSHED
Fingerstyle Blues-Rag Licks. Contrast the bass patterns in your fingerstyle rags by adding single-note runs organized around open-string drones, partial chords, and barre-chord shapes. By Pete Madsen.

SONGBOOK
Sunny. Words and music by Bobby Hebb. By Ron Forbes-Roberts.

GREAT ACOUSTICS
Raymond Del Prato Archtop. A lovely archtop guitar with violin-style purfling and finish, and a Gibson replacement neck. By Tony Marcus.