London’s 12-string dignitary reinterprets a piano composition by Brian Eno’s brother, Roger.

Every once in a while you hear a guitarist who sounds like they were born with six fingers on their fretting hand. London-born multi-instrumentalist James Blackshaw is one of them. His otherworldly understanding of the instrument has garnered comparisons to such masters as Jack Rose, Bert Jansch, Robbie Basho, Leo Kottke, and of course, John Fahey. But it would be a shortcut to describe Blackshaw’s music as folk or new age. Even though there are audible influences you could trace back to the dexterous discipline of Fahey’s Takoma Records, Blackshaw has the power to take the 12-string into previously uncharted territories.

His contribution to All Saints Records’ Greater Lengths compilation is a great example of this. Blackshaw reimagines Roger Eno’s 1988 composition “Between Tides.” Originally an instrumental piano piece, Blackshaw’s reinterpretation uses an electric 12-string, organ, and drums to create nearly tangible topographies of lush, sonic landscapes.

It opens with desolate, sparse beauty, sounding a bit like an electric take on Bruce Langhorne’s acoustic score for Peter Fonda’s 1971 directorial debut, The Hired Hand. As analog keyboard lines slowly seep into the mix, it’s easy to be reminded of early ’70s recordings by Bo Hansson—though Blackshaw foregoes progressive arrangements in favor of simple melodies. It’s the softly skittering drums that add the final dimension, lifting the song off the ground with a comforting, airy mantra.

A chambered body and enhanced switching make this affordable Revstar light and loaded with tones.

Scads of cool tone combinations. Articulate pickups. Relatively light. Balanced and comfortable. Well built.

Some P-90 players might miss the extra grit the Revstar trades for articulation.

Yamaha Revstar Standard RSS02T


While the Yamaha name is famous in circles beyond the guitar world, they’ve made first-class guitars since the 1960s. And while they don’t unleash new releases with the frequency of some larger guitar brands, every now and then they come down the mountain with a new axe that reminds us of their capacity to build great electric 6-strings. In 2015, Yamaha introduced the first generation Revstar. With a handsome aesthetic inspired by the company’s motorcycle racing heritage, the Revstar combined sweet playability and vintage style touchstones. This year, Yamaha gave the Revstar an overhaul—including body chambering, updated pickups, and new switching. What’s impressive is how these alterations enhance the already impressive playability and versatility of the original.

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See a sampling of picks used by famous guitarists over the years.

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Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein unveils a new line of strings, collaborating with Josh Vittek of Sheptone.

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