Memphis and the Mississippi Hills meet in gospel-blues heaven.

Rev. John Wilkins


Electric country gospel-blues might seem an esoteric genre, but every note on Rev. John Wilkins’ second album has raw appeal. Although his musical roots are in the driving, droning sound of North Mississippi, and in his blood—his father was gospel-bluesman Robert Wilkins, whose “Prodigal Son” was cut by the Stones—the Reverend recorded with local A-teamers at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios in Memphis and is backed on vocals by his three daughters. That, along with his strong-boned, spare, sometimes tremolo-ringing guitar, invites comparisons to the Staple Singers’ ascendant and funky music. But the relentless energy of cuts like “Trouble,” driven by Wilkins’ grinding and slashing, captures the mesmeric stomp born in Magnolia State juke joints and churches. Fans of the Kimbrough and Burnside families will feel the connection. Lyrically, this is praise music, but appeals to anyone who believes in the power of spare 6-string perfection and unfiltered performances delivered straight from the heart.

Must-hear tracks: “Trouble” and “Walk With Me”

This 1964 Vibrolux Reverb arrived in all-original condition, right down to a two-prong power cord and a death cap wired to the ground switch. The author’s well-worn Strat is the perfect companion.

How our columnist’s risky purchase turned out to be a dusty pre-CBS jewel.

This month, I’d like to share the story of my 1964 Fender Vibrolux Reverb. It was a really risky purchase that had some big surprises.

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Fat tones from a sweet niche where Les Paul, Gretsch, and Telecaster share the limelight.

Copious, unexpected tones. Cool, useful bass contour control. Very nice build quality. Excellent value.



Reverend Flatroc Bigsby


If you only pay casual attention to Reverend guitars, it’s easy to overlook how different their instruments can be. Some of that may be due to the way Reverends look. There are longstanding styling themes and strong family likenesses among models that can make differentiation a challenge for uninitiated guitar spotters. For instance, the Flatroc reviewed here has more or less the same body as the Charger, Buckshot, and Double Agent OG (which has an entirely different body than the more Jazzmaster-like Double Agent W). If you don’t have an experienced Reverend enthusiast at your side, it can all be a bit mind bending.

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