Catfish Keith’s Acoustic Blues Fantasia

A fingerpicking shaman essays tunes from his 40-year career with depth, taste, and tone.

Catfish Keith

Blues at Midnight: Original Songs of Catfish Keith

Achieving lovely, burnished, rich acoustic tone is a lifelong pursuit, and Iowa-based singer and fingerstylist Catfish Keith has plucked 13 songs from his 40-year career to showcase in this collection. All are masterfully played, on instruments ranging from a 1927 Gibson Nick Lucas Special to a 1930 National Duolian to recent guitars by builders like Collings and Santa Cruz. And while exceptional instruments always tilt the deck in a player's favor, it's Keith's deft picking-hand control—producing perfectly rounded notes colored by equally well-chiseled dynamics—that makes listening so nourishing.

But this isn't just comfort food. Keith's command of acoustic blues styles is wide and impressive, from Mississippi's Delta and hill country, and the Texas flats, with influences from the West Indies, Mexico, and other lands adding depth. His voice and allusive lyrics help weave this album's distinctive spell—the work of a highly accomplished acoustic blues shaman.

Must-hear tracks: “West Indian Waltz," “Blues at Midnight," “Jumpin' Jack Rabbit"

Made in Canada, this two-voice guitar features a chambered Mahogany body, carved Swamp Ash top, 25.5” scale Mahogany neck and Rosewood Fingerboard.

Read MoreShow less

Gain is fun in all its forms, from overdrive to fuzz, but let’s talk about a great clean tone.

We’re all here for one thing. It’s the singular sound and magic of the stringed instrument called the guitar—and its various offshoots, including the bass. Okay, so maybe it’s more than one thing, but the sentiment remains. Even as I write this, my thoughts fan out and recognize how many incarnations of “guitar” there must be. It’s almost incomprehensible. Gut-string, nylon-string, steel-string, 12-string, 8-string, 10-string, flatwound, brown sound, fuzztone…. It’s almost impossible to catalog completely, so I’ll stop here and let you add your favorites. Still, there’s one thing that I keep coming back to: clean tone.

Read MoreShow less

A supreme shredder’s signature 6-string dazzles with versatility.

This immaculately built guitar sounds great and can do it all.

The more affordable price is still out of reach for many guitarists


Charvel MJ San Dimas SD24 CM


Charvel’s first Guthrie Govan signature model was released in 2014, after an arduous two-year effort to get the design just right. Since then, the guitar—now in its second edition—has become one of Charvel’s most coveted models. Unfortunately, its $3,699 price keeps the U.S.-made axe out of reach for many.

This year, though, the company released the Made-in-Japan signature MJ San Dimas SD24 CM, which sells for a slightly more manageable $2,799. Needless to say, that’s not cheap. But depending on your priorities, it’s a fair price for a very high quality, pro-level instrument.

Read MoreShow less