I got my first guitar as a gift to myself for my 15th birthday – I’d saved up some money with enough left over to take the bus to Sam Ash in Times Square, which is now closed and replaced with, I don’t know, probably a bank. I didn’t look it up, but if something from my youth in New York City has closed, then it’s most likely probably now a bank.
Anyway, this was thick in the throws of a simultaneous obsession with Grateful Dead‘s American Beauty and Radiohead‘s the Bends, two different guitar point of views, and neither of which I’d be able to accomplish on the brand new bottom-of-the-line Ibanez I bought that came in a “gig pack” box that was shaped sort of like a trapezoid, that included a strap and a chord book. I remember it was somewhere around $125 dollars, but I bought handful of picks, so the total was a little more. The checkout clerk had asked what thickness I wanted and I remember saying, “I don’t know, what do you think?” I ended up buying whichever ones were marbled. I carried it all home on the cross-town bus and when I got to my room I printed out the tablature for “Ripple” only to realize one hour later after I struggled to match the immature finger patterns I knew to the strings that I was looking at the mandolin parts.
I still have that guitar, and, for reasons I don’t know, it sounds better than guitars four-times the price.
There’s a different sort of guitar than I could ever play that laces through All Them Witches‘ Lightning At the Door. In the deep of songs like “The Marriage of Coyote Woman” are riffs and spirals that talk back and seduce – moments of unbridled wail, of crunchy finger-walks, of plucks that dot the song like essential punctuation. And, of course, full-on electric, psychedelic shred. The Nashville band isn’t a guitar band so much so that Rush is a drum band, but you’re sure as hell certain that this is a quartet that doesn’t take instrumentation and historically-informed experimentation lightly. In that spirit, we had All Them Witches’ Ben McLeod trace us through his Top 5 Coolest Nashville Guitar Players. Catch ATW next at Third & Lindsley November 30.
And I’m pretty sure they all have nicer gear than an $125 acoustic Ibanez – but then again, they could probably make it sound just as sweet.
Nashville Five /// Ben McLeod from All Them Witches.
I want to share my top 5 coolest Nashville guitar players. Although guys like Kenny Vaughan, Jim Oblon and Jack Pearson are great, the five guitarists on this list really get me going. If you have not seen them before, please check em out.
1. Anthony Ford (Holy Mountain Top Removers) ::: Anthony is the loudest guitarist I have ever heard…in a good way. He blends surf guitar and middle eastern scales, drenched in reverb. He uses old tape machines and a spring reverb unit during shows. Sick.
2. Andy Ferro (Ranch Ghost) ::: Another surf guitarist. Andy is pretty well known around town, and is also an excellent skateboarder. He cranks an old Fender Silverface Twin Reverb, and is very selective with his licks. Uses very minimal effects too.
3. Laur Joamets (Sturgill Simpson) ::: My favorite guitarist right now. I am pretty late on the Sturgill Simpson train. The first time I heard his new record, the guitar stood out to me. Laur Joamets is the best slide guitarist I have ever seen. Holy shit. I saw him play with Sturgill a few months ago and immediately went on ebay and bought a 70s Silverface Fender Champ, the amp he was using.
4. Ben Thompson (Katie Armiger) ::: Ben is an awesome dude. We have become friends over the past year from playing the same country gig. His ear is freaky good. He charts songs without a guitar, 1 time through. He is from Australia, and said he trained his ear by transcribing saxophone solos. Phenomenal jazz guitarist. Can play anything.
5. Jason Staebler (Good Buddy) ::: Jason is a badass. He makes really cool recordings using loop stations and analog drum machines. Then, does really cool fingerpicking guitar overtop, while singing. Jason is an amazing songwriter and guitarist. It is his way or the highway though. But thats why he is great. I love playing guitar with Jason.