For Something Old, let's go back to the 1920's, to perhaps the most influential guitarist of all time. Lonnie Johnson influenced the influences. When you hear artists like B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, Robert Johnson, Robert Lockwood, Jr., and just about anybody else that ever slung a guitar over their shoulder play the blues, chances are you're hearing a riff originated by Lonnie Johnson somewhere in one of their solos.
Johnson was not years, but decades ahead of his time, the first guitarist to play single-string solos and enjoyed a highly successful and prolific career that spanned five decades. He played blues, jazz, and popular ballads with such fluidity and grace that even today's jaded listeners are still subject to goose bumps when hearing him. He recorded jazz tracks with white guitarist Eddie Lang (as Blind Willie Dunn) and Louis Armstrong, and recorded hundreds of blues tracks well into the fifties.
After a dry spell in the late 50's, he was rediscovered, working as a janitor in Philadelphia and was able to restart his career during the 60's, one of the high points being an appearance at the 1963 American Folk Blues Festival, where this video (complete with an introduction for the ages from Sonny Boy Williamson) was taken. As you watch, please note that as good as Lonnie Johnson sounds here, he was simply a force of nature nearly forty years earlier. Every blues fan needs a few Lonnie Johnson recordings in their collection. After all, they've heard most of his guitar work from his disciples already.
|Gary Clark, Jr.|
For Something New, let me just say that there's still time to get on the Gary Clark, Jr. bandwagon, but it's taking off soon. The Austin, TX guitarist has already had ample face time recently on projects like the 2007 John Sayles motion picture, Honeydripper, and on the most recent DVD of Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival, but with a new release in the works, previewed by last year's Bright Lights EP, word is getting out fast. With dynamic guitar work that brings to mind SRV and Jimi Hendrix, Clark is definitely turning heads. If he chooses to do so, Clark could redefine the blues for the next few generations, taking it to a new level. Thing is....he could easily move from the blues to other genres, so cross your fingers that he sticks with the blues and enjoy the ride.