Saturday, March 11, 2006

Roots Music

I've been thinking about that term lately. Several discussions have come up about "first movers" in various genres of music. Players or singers that seem to have no discernable influences other than the love of music.

Django Rheinhardt is a shining example. I can't seem to find anyone doing anything remotely as well as he did it before him in the Jazz Guitar realm. Total roots music - he learned the songs, he played them as he heard them.

Hank Williams, Sr. Sure there were others before him, but nobody codified the art of Country songwriting like he did. His band lineup was top notch and set the standard for all that followed, much as Muddy Waters did to Chicago Blues.

I have studied the guitar for many years now - 30, to be exact - and I have dabbled in different styles over time. The older I get, the more I am drawn to the simplest part, the catchiest melody, the tastiest fill, the most appropriate chord voicing. I try to add subtlety to the whole instead of dominate it, as I strived to do in my younger days.

I still have some decent chops - many hours listening to Al DiMeola will get your hand coordination together. I still play scales and arpeggios every morning to keep limber. But on the record I am working on now, there is no room for pyro and I'm old enough and wise enough not to force it.

I try to play "rootsy"...something that speaks to the core emotion of the moment and the song as a whole. Not to say I don't like ripping off a few 16th note Tele licks when called upon - I do. But I find I am saying more with less, and I can listen to the parts over and over again, and because they are stripped to the essentials, they do not distract me or bore me.

I've grown enough as a player to not try to impress anyone, but to make a musical impression on their soul...flowery prose, I admit, but it's nice to hear maturity in my guitar playing that wasn't always there.

A recent steady diet of listening to masters like Bob Britt and Billy Burnette has obviously had an effect. When the self administered pressure to amaze people is gone, true music comes out.

Roots music.

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