Underground guitar hero Shawn Persinger and mandolinist David Miller, both remarkable instrumentalists and engaging singers.

Prester John
Rise O' Fainthearted Girls
Quixotic Music


Prester John is a duo comprising underground guitar hero Shawn Persinger and mandolinist David Miller, both remarkable instrumentalists and engaging singers. Persinger is the songwriter, penning some wildly entertaining, funny, clever-but-never-cheesy, smart and snarky songs. The melodies are strong, catchy and unique, with a current of pop sensibility running under the clear influences of everything from Dawg music to heavy metal to the Beatles to gypsy jazz to bluegrass, with the occasional neo-classical flight of fancy thrown in for good measure.

The original Prester John was a character in the Dark Ages who wrote letters describing a mythical, golden kingdom where he was surrounded by “infidels and barbarians,” and was requesting the assistance of the Christian armies to deliver his kingdom. The kingdom was never found. It is tempting to wax philosophic about Shawn Persinger’s choice of Prester John as some kind of icon, but with tongue firmly in cheek, Persinger’s website says the reason is “marketing.” And that actually explains it really well, even as it explains nothing at all. Which is clearly the point. Ahem.

Persinger’s slightly warped sense of humor is always front and center, even in the poignant “Six Hour Bus,” but the virtuosity never takes a back seat. Persinger is a powerful player, capable of driving a groove hard, playing tender fingerstyle, or flinging a flurry of lightning fast, dead accurate riffs, and don’t you forget it. Miller’s mandolin runs nearly the same gamut, and the combination is wonderfully complementary, especially on the drill-team precise “Best Intentions,” or counterpointing gorgeously on “Peerless,” or just playfully throwing lines back and forth. These two are razor sharp rhythmically no matter what they’re playing. “Dear Martha” has one of the coolest grooves on the record— the guitar and mando harmonize, counterpoint and drive each other relentlessly. The fact that these two keep the energy and the drive high without speeding up the tempo speaks volumes about their musicianship. Altogether enjoyable!

Must-hear track: “First Date”

A faithful recreation of the Germanium Mosrite Fuzzrite with a modern twist.

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With such a flashy flame top, the Silvertone 1445 was built to catch the eyes of department store shoppers.

I don’t know what’s going on lately, but I’m breaking down all over and my shoulder is the latest to crumble. When I was a kid I would practice guitar in my bedroom near a radiator with an ungrounded amp plug and I’d get a zap right through my guitar and into my hands. Well, my shoulder pain is like that now, only without the cool story of rock ’n’ roll survival. I simply woke up one day like this. After a few weeks of discomfort, I figured I’d try out a new pillow, since mine are flattened like a wafer. I ventured out to the mall and, much to my sadness, saw the local Sears store shuttered, with weeds growing up from the sidewalks and concrete barriers blocking the large glass doors. I know I don’t get out much, but, man, was I sad to see the Sears store I’d known since childhood closed-up like that. My wife was laughing at me because apparently it had been closed for some time. But since I seem to exist on a separate timeline than most folks, it was all news to me.

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It doesn’t have to be all cowboy boots and yee-haws!

Intermediate

Beginner

• Learn how to comp using hybrid picking.
• Add nuance to your playing by combining pick and finger string attacks.
• Add speed and fluidity to your lead playing.

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The first thing most guitarists think of when they hear the phrase “hybrid picking” is undoubtedly twangy Telecasters. While that may be the most common use of hybrid picking, it is far from the only application. Diving into hybrid picking opens a whole new world of control, timbre possibilities, ideas, speed, and more.

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