Fretboard Journal: The 20th Issue

The 20th issue of The Fretboard Journal showed up in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago.  Any time a big package shows up in the mailbox these days, the kids get excited as they wait to hear back on their applications to college.  But I’m the one who shouts for  joy when I see the package that turns out to be my favorite magazine.

I’m glad to see The Fretboard Journal make it to 20 issues, as I wasn’t sure they could sustain this model.  But the editors keep putting out the best guitar porn on the planet, with stories about both players and builders.

Readers who like North Carolina’s Avett Brothers will want to check out this issue.  As always, there are great introductions to builders and players I’ve never heard of (see the Joe Veillette article and his beautiful creations).   I enjoyed a Bobby Long piece about how Dylan’s Gibson J-200 on the front of Nashville Skyline (see photo at the top of the post) inspired a life-long passion.  Paul Mehling, founder of the Hot Club of San Francisco, talks about all things Django.

But my eyes really popped out when I saw that Bela Fleck had a feature in the Winter FJ. Bela has redefined the banjo throughout his career, and the article covers all the major elements of his work.  He talks about learning from Tony Trischka, his time with New Grass Revival, and his more recent projects.  There’s a great section on his main instrument – fondly named old Number One.

Banjo jokes aside (What do you call it when the accordion lands on top of the banjo in the dumpster?  Perfect Pitch.) Bela has shown how this instrument can rightly claim its historic place in American music in the 21st century.  The video below neatly demonstrates how bluegrass banjo has evolved.  On the Steve Martin tune, The Crow, Martin begins with a standard Earl Scruggs-style send-off.  Then at about the 1:30 mark, Trischka demonstrates the more melodic style that he and Bill Keith pioneered in the 60s.  Finally, at about 2:08, Bela jumps in and shows where he’s taken both of those styles in his own unique brand of music.   Take a read through The Fretboard Journal, take a listen to the video, and enjoy.

More to come…

DJB

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