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Question of the Month: The Genre Connection

JJ Appleton guitarist

JJ Appleton

For this month’s question, picker JJ Appleton, Premier Guitar staff, and reader Gil Chiasson explore their personal bond with their favorite musical genre.

Question: What connects you to your favorite genre of music?

Guest Picker JJ Appleton

Blues legend John Hammond Jr.

Photo by Louis Ramirez

A: What I love about the blues is its deceptive simplicity, the immediacy of emotion, and the story/truth-telling. When they say, “Blues is a feeling,” it’s clear when two different people play the same three chords or the same lick. If you’re really doing it, your personality should be laid bare with every note you play and sing.

Professor Longhair, musical king of the Mardi Gras

Current obsession: Professor Longhair. I love his humorous bursts of deeply inventive rhythms. His use of extreme dynamics in one bar of music. His beautiful voice. His piano is the orchestra and there is a lot of musicality going on there. Professor Longhair has set the standard for me to try to become an “orchestrator” on the guitar and to find my own unique voice and style.

Ted Drozdowski Editorial Director

A: I’m connected to cosmic roots music via decades of exploring the nooks and crannies of the American South and its deep creative fringes. It’s defined roughly by Son House and John Lee Hooker to Pink Floyd, Sonny Sharrock, and Tom Waits—anything with an “otherness” that’s soulful and authentic. It helps keep me alive.

One of Ted’s inspirations, the late free-jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock.

Current obsession: The dang movie I’ve been working on with my band Coyote Motel for about two years. After 300 hours of editing, I can see completion. And it does have “otherness.”

Coyote Motel in thier upcoming film.

Luke Ottenhof Assistant Editor

A: I was raised on folk and classic rock, but when I was 10 years old, I got Billy Talent on CD, and covertly copied my friend’s CD of Sum 41’s Does This Look Infected? onto a cassette (I wasn’t allowed to buy it because it had a parental advisory sticker). The early 2000s were a golden era of pop-punk in Canada, and while that genre post-2006 doesn’t really rev my engine anymore, those two releases set me on a path of obsession with heavy, riffy music paired with great hooks and bright vocal harmonies.

Current obsession: I’ve gotten back into soldering after taking apart my crappy Vox Cambridge 15 to finally fix it up. I was planning to just sell it for cheap to someone who wanted to repair it, but all it needed was a new gain pot, and the fix cost me $1.50 plus an hour of labor.

Luke’s Vox, redeemed by a $1.50 part and an hour’s repair time.

Gil Chiasson Reader of the Month

A: When I think of “Surfer Girl” by the Beach Boys, for instance, it is the sum total of all its parts which makes it so amazing in how it captures the context of the song. It’s about a surfer girl, a cool breeze, water spray, and hot summer sun!

The Beach Boys, when they were crafting the California dream.

Current obsession: I am currently writing music inspired by Thelonious Monk. He had these soulful chord progressions with interesting types of time signatures. His pockets, or, grooves, were full of that gold we all love to hear and feel.

Thelonious Monk had the keys—perhaps even to the universe.