c w stoneking

Our eclectic staff mourns and celebrates a year of unsurpassed heaviness with a look back at its music highlights—and forward to the healing tunes of 2017.

For months now—in retrospect, perhaps since the untimely passing of the inimitable David Bowie in early January—much has been made of 2016 being the most tragic and heartbreaking in recent memory. We’ve lost more than the usual number of entertainers who helped mold and bring light to our lives—musicians, actors, and artists of all sorts who came to define movements and eras … and others who felt like they had, at least in our own little worlds. We saw Prince, Scotty Moore, Merle Haggard, Sir George Martin, Glenn Frey, and Lonnie Mack fall during the first six months alone.

And yet, 2016 was still a year of musical magic. From the bittersweet triumph of Bowie’s critically acclaimed and presciently morbid final masterpiece to shining gems buried in the rubble of the year’s avalanche of obituaries.

So as we bring the year to a close and look forward with high hopes to a better 2017, the staff of Premier Guitar has come together to celebrate 2016’s treasures. If you’re new to PG, then you’ll see that the music heralded by our eclectic bunch covers a lot of territory, whereas faithful fans are likely here precisely because of this.

Whichever it is, welcome, friends. May your New Year be bright, safe, and full of amazing music.

Oh—and don’t forget to share your own favorites in the comments section!

John Bohlinger—Nashville Correspondent

Sturgill Simpson
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth

Psychedelic pedal steel, trippy arrangements, Memphis-like horns, and unexplained noises all await like sonic Easter eggs hiding throughout Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Most country songwriters try to express relatable thoughts of the average working-class stiff. Simpson expresses the thoughts we keep to ourselves. And check out Simpson’s cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom”—it’s spacey, creepy, inscrutable. Cobain would probably love it … or hate it.

David Bowie

Bowie released his 25th album quietly, with no fanfare, on January 8th—his 69th birthday. Two days later, Bowie pulled the biggest shock of is 50-year career by privately dying of liver cancer. Blackstar was his final gift to the universe. Recording an album is a lot of work, even when everything is going right. One has to imagine that spending his final days working on an album while losing a battle to cancer had to have been incredibly difficult. You can hear the tension, fear, and beauty in all of the tracks, but the title cut is absolutely scary. Listen to it, and you’ll feel trapped in or locked out.

Most-anticipated 2017 releases: Word has it Chris Stapleton is working on another with producer Dave Cobb, and I can’t wait to see what these two come up with.

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A few pedals, a pair of classic guitars, and a faithful recreation of a Princeton are all this Australian 6-stringer needs for his unique style of Delta blues.

Aussie blues guitarist C.W. Stoneking met with PG’s John Bohlinger between gigs to play some guitar and talk about his minimal approach to gear while tracking and touring.


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Stoneking rigs his Jazzmaster with heavy strings to help reduce sustain and give the instrument a responsiveness that’s closer to his resonator. Meanwhile, he uses the vibrato arm to imitate the slurring sound of the horns on his previous recordings. Photo by Kane Hibberd

After pairing his backwoods vocal drawl with a National Duolian for 20 years, the Australian 6-stringer switches to a Jazzmaster and primitive tube combos to project his haunting, primal, and fantastically unique take on American Delta blues.

Drop a needle on a dusty old jazz or blues 78 from the ’40s, and you’ll get an inkling of how it feels to hear C.W. Stoneking for the first time. Fever visions of sweaty juke joints, late-night rent parties, and uptown nightclubs packed with lindy hoppers rise up from the black shellac grooves like heat from a Mississippi highway, invoking all the promises of mystery, romance, redemption, and revenge that have drawn blues players to the guitar for more than a century.

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