From Willie Nelson to the bassist in a Sixth Street house band, most guitarists have strong feelings about their primary tool, and some are downright passionate about their axes. When photographer and writer Chuck Holley set out to document guitar players talking about their most prized instruments, he thought he was fairly well-versed in professional guitarists. The playlist he has put together for this blog is all about the lesser-known artists he discovered over the eight years he photographed guitarists with their favorite instruments and listened to their stories. A Perfectly Good Guitar is a beautifully illustrated book presenting these stories in revelatory photographs, featuring Rosanne Cash, Guy Clark, JD Souther, Jorma Kaukonen, Kelly Willis, and more.
Enjoy the selection on Spotify here.
Discovering Good Music
By Chuck Holley
In the Fall of 2007 I began a project interviewing and photographing guitarists. I asked each professional to single out one guitar in their arsenal and explain why it was important to them. The result of that eight-year effort is the book, A Perfectly Good Guitar.
I’m an unabashed music fan and, when I began this project, I considered myself well-versed about music from different genres. I knew about the good stuff—or at least I thought I did.
It didn’t take long to realize how many great working musicians are out there I didn’t know about. Reality set in; it became painfully obvious how much I had to learn.
Finally, there were the artists who were new to me. They weren’t new to the scene, but I wasn’t familiar with their work. Toronzo Cannon, Johnny Nicholas and Jamie Lin Wilson are three such artists.
I enjoy turning my friends on to good music. I’ve told them about some of the terrific musicians and songwriters I’ve discovered. They listen politely until their eyes glaze over. My friends are creatures of habit, but aren’t we all?
I subscribe to the Duke Ellington school of thought: “There are two kinds of music. Good music and the other kind.” If I like it, I’ll listen to music regardless of labels. At the same time, it’s difficult to write about this without resorting to categorization. The artists profiled in A Perfectly Good Guitar represent a variety of genres.
I’ve never understood the guy who claims to just like only country music or classical or jazz. In my opinion, that’s like saying you only like the color blue.
This blog features ten artists from A Perfectly Good Guitar. These ten artists represent personal discovery. Their genres don’t matter. They’re just labels, but do they mean anything?
Dave Alvin spent his youth sneaking into blues bars with his older brother, Phil, to see and learn from masters like Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker, and Lightning Hopkins. In 1979 he and Phil formed the seminal roots rock band, the Blasters. They released four influential albums before Dave left to join the band, X, and later embark on a solo career that produced several critically acclaimed albums, including the Grammy Award-winning Public Domain. He and Phil reunited in 2014 to record Common Ground, their tribute album to Big Bill Broonzy, and later a blues album, Lost Time.
Dave recalls how he purchased a 1934 National resonator guitar. He used that guitar on the Broonzy song “All By Myself,” the first track on Common Ground.