New Books! “Talking Guitar” and Japanese-language “Early Blues”

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    Coming soon:

    Talking Guitar: Conversations With Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American Music

    This 320-page hardback will be published by the University of North Carolina Press on May 7, 2017. Pre-orders available from UNC Press, link below, and Amazon.

    Talking Guitar cover
    Here’s the description:

    “In this lively collection of interviews, storied music writer Jas Obrecht presents a celebration of the world’s most popular instrument as seen through the words, lives, and artistry of some of its most beloved players. Readers will read–and hear–accounts of the first guitarists on record, pioneering bluesmen, gospel greats, jazz innovators, country pickers, rocking rebels, psychedelic shape-shifters, singer-songwriters, and other movers and shakers. In their own words, these guitar players reveal how they found their inspirations, mastered their instruments, crafted classic songs, and created enduring solos. Also included is a CD of never-before-heard moments from Obrecht’s insightful interviews with these guitar greats.

    “Highlights include Nick Lucas’s recollections of waxing the first noteworthy guitar records; Ry Cooder’s exploration of prewar blues musicians; Carole Kaye and Ricky Nelson on the early years of rock and roll; Stevie Ray Vaughan on Jimi Hendrix; Gregg Allman on his brother, Duane Allman; Carlos Santana and Pops Staples on spirituality in music; Jerry Garcia, Neil Young, and Tom Petty on songwriting and creativity; and early interviews with Eddie Van Halen, Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, and Ben Harper.”




    Library Journal
    Talking Guitar: Conversations with Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American Music
    Reviewed on FEBRUARY 1, 2017  |  Arts and Humanities
    Guitar players have so often been the driving force in a broad spectrum of pop music over the last 60 years. Throughout this fine selection of interviews, Obrecht (Rollin’ and Tumblin’: The Postwar Blues Guitarists) demonstrates a penchant for performing background research and asking insightful questions that merit interesting, detailed responses. Some of the most entertaining discussions, however, seemed to transpire by simply being in the right place at the right time. This is certainly the case in his serendipitous encounter with Eddie Van Halen, an unplanned backstage tête-à-tête at a 1978 rock concert, and one of the earliest published interviews with the now-famous showman. Obrecht is a music aficionado, not just a journalist looking for a scoop, and his passion for the subject is palpable, whether inquiring about cultural influences, exploring song structures, or delving into the minutiae of vintage equipment. For those who prefer to listen, a compact disc of rare conversations is also included. VERDICT An absorbing collection of conversations with guitarists from a wide swath of the musical map, these chronicles will appeal to a broad readership, not only to those who strum.—Dan McClure, Seattle, WA


    “Over the course of his esteemed career, Jas Obrecht has amassed a unique collection of interviews with seminal guitarists pivotal to the study of popular music. Talking Guitar shows, in its subjects’ own vibrant words, how both the artists and their work fit into the big picture of American culture. A must-read for those interested in the behind-the-scenes of some of our greatest music.”
    –Holly George-Warren, author of A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton

    “Based on extensive first-person interviews and exhaustive research, Jas Obrecht’s Talking Guitar transcends guitar playing, uncovering the lives of the guitarists themselves. Obrecht once again shows that he is one of our leading contemporary music writers.”
    –Brett J. Bonner, editor of Living Blues magazine

    Talking Guitar: Conversations with Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American Music clearly shows why the guitar is the instrumental spine of blues, rock and roll, and rock music. Jas Obrecht’s brilliant interviews with musicians who crafted the guitar’s voice in these traditions are a treasure beyond words. Talking Guitar is a classic that every music lover will cherish.”
    –William Ferris, author of Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues

    “The electric guitar has become such a staple of every genre of modern music that we take it for granted–like running water, refrigerators, or, indeed, electricity itself. Jas Obrecht gives us a new appreciation for the instrument’s history and development, and even more so for the way it’s been used and taken in new directions by some of the greats, both those who are well known and others who should be. This book is a joy to read.”
    –Jim DeRogatis, cohost of Sound Opinions and author of Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America’s Greatest Rock Critic.

    “This book offers rare depth in its insights, both from the author and from his interviewees. Every piece evinces a carefully cultivated focus: Stevie Ray Vaughan on Jimi Hendrix, Barney Kessel’s take on Charlie Christian, Ry Cooder’s analysis of the techniques and styles of Blind Willie Johnson and Tampa Red. Some of the conversations (with Gatemouth Brown, Nick Lucas, and others) enrich our appreciation for the instrument’s history so much that they are simply priceless. Jas Obrecht combines a scholar’s rigorous research with a natural-born storyteller’s sense of narrative arc and understated drama. His passion for the subject matter is restrained, yet palpable on every page. No matter how many guitar history books you’ve read, you want this one.”
    –Tom Wheeler, University of Oregon

    Order here:

    * * *

    Early Blues: The First Stars of Blues Guitar

    University of Minnesota Press, November 2015

    “Like the best music documentaries, Early Blues: The First Stars of Blues Guitar interweaves musical history, quotes from celebrated musicians Early Blues cover(B. B. King, John Lee Hooker, Ry Cooder, and Johnny Shines, to name a few), and a spellbinding array of life stories to illustrate the early days of blues guitar. In these chapters, you’ll meet Sylvester Weaver, who recorded the world’s first blues guitar solos, and Paramount Records artists Papa Charlie Jackson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Blind Blake. Blind Willie McTell, the Southeast’s superlative 12-string player; Blind Willie Johnson, street-corner evangelist of sublime gospel blues; Lonnie Johnson, the era’s most influential blues guitarist; Mississippi John Hurt, with his gentle, guileless voice and syncopated fingerpicking style; and slide guitarist Tampa Red, aka “The Guitar Wizard” also get their due in these pages.

    Blues Book of the Year Award — 2016 Living Blues Critics’ Poll

    The Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) Certificate of Merit for Excellence, 2016, in the category of Best Historical Research in Recorded Blues, Gospel, Soul, or R&B.


    Jas Obrecht has long been recognized for his writing on the blues and he shows a keen grasp of both the music of these guitar masters and the life experiences that shaped their blues. No other book has been written with this particular focus, and Obrecht offers material that will be new even to readers who have been familiar with this music for many years. —Jim O’Neal, founding co-editor, Living Blues magazine

    Early Blues: The First Stars of Glues Guitar shines a light on an era of blues history that warrants historical and critical examination. Obrecht does not disappoint; he has delivered a tightly focused and meticulously researched study of the first generation of blues guitar heroes. —Living Blues Magazine

    If you have the slightest interest in blues, guitar, or traditional American music, do not hesitate and purchase this book as soon as you can. It is a textual and visual treat, something that all too seldom comes our way and Jas Obrecht, as expected, has done a brilliant job. You’ll not only be proud to have this volume on your bookshelf, you will undoubtedly wear out the pages by constantly referring to it for the endless amount of information and enjoyment that it provides. —Lawrence Cohn, producer of Grammy-winning Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings and author of Nothing But the Blues

    If you love the blues you owe yourself a journey into its primordial years. No question, Early Blues is a fine place to begin exploring this rich, complex American music. —Vintage Guitar

    Blues aficionados will find the material familiar and inspiring and it will prompt one to reference recordings perhaps long unheard. For the serious blues novice as well as long time fans.—Cadence Jazz & Blues Magazine

    Order here:


    Early Blues now available in Japanese

    The Rittor company in Tokyo has just issued the 368-page Japanese translation of Early Blues: The First Stars of Blues Guitar.

    JThe Japanese-language version of "Early Blues: The First Stars of Blues Guitar"

    For more details and to purchase a copy:

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