Brad Paisley knows a thing or two about writing hooks for general music fans while still throwing in enough guitar pyrotechnics to keep his guitar-playing audience happy, if not slightly stunned.

Diary of a Player
Brad Paisley and David Wild
Howard Books

Brad Paisley knows a thing or two about writing hooks for general music fans while still throwing in enough guitar pyrotechnics to keep his guitar-playing audience happy, if not slightly stunned. He applies that same formula to Diary of a Player, a book he’s described as a “love letter to the guitar.”

Paisley is sometimes described as the wunderkind who crashed into country music with more than enough talent to spare, but that’s not the way he sees it. Sure, the passion was there, but so was the practice. Using the superhero universe as a metaphor, Paisley describes himself as Batman—a character with no particular birthright for the cause, who is also human, flawed, and actually lacks the kind of power that guarantees other superheroes of keeping their jobs.

Paisley’s history as a player would make a good Disney movie. He started with a Silvertone electric. He admired his grandfather, who was a pretty good picker, but regrets showing off in what he now realizes was the moment they both knew he was a better player. He felt the need to stop playing for an entire summer. He went from playing a church picnic to playing any gig he could find, which included nursing homes and fire-station Christmas parties. He worked hard to keep audiences interested, even resorting to playing the theme from Sesame Street or “The Hokey Pokey” if the situation called for it. He struggled with the decision of whether or not to perform his own material once he started playing bigger stages. He opened for other acts for years and once was even doused with beer while standing too close to a frustrated Vern Gosdin who was having issues with his monitors. Paisley even auditioned for a gig at Opryland and had a deer-in-the-headlights moment when they said, “Show us you can dance.” He did the moonwalk.

Paisley got G.A.S. at an early age, like the rest of us, so it’s interesting to read his recollection of gear acquisitions. After the Silvertone, he got a Gremlin acoustic before moving up to a Hondo Strat copy and then a Tokai Strat copy. He refers to his first vintage AC30 purchase, a direct order from a music store in England, as “The Great Vox Amp Crisis of 1987.” He had to make several trips to the hardware store to get it configured for US power and to replace blown fuses. Regardless, Paisley says that was the moment “I had discovered my sound. My tone.”

Paisley’s Diary of a Player lacks the addiction battles and contract scam stories that usually characterize books penned by famous guitarists. Paisley hasn’t misstepped and has no axes to grind, which leaves more room for tales about playing with John Jorgenson, hanging out with Little Jimmy Dickens, and sneaking into the recording studio at Belmont and literally playing all night.

Paisley never dwells on amp settings or Blues Driver mods, but there’s certainly enough guitar-specific insight to set this book apart from your typical rock star-penned musings. The 39-year-old country star has accomplished a lot in a short time, but he’s most proud of being a player, which is what this book explains.

Guitar Slinger is not a self-indulgent guitar-nut record, which will make sense to long-time fans drawn to Gill’s reserved style.

Vince Gill
Guitar Slinger

Vince Gill might be the best guitar player out there who gets left out of “best guitarist” conversations. This despite his turning down a gig in Dire Straits, earning five Grammys for instrumentals (out of his 20 total), and being versatile enough to play alongside guys like Chet Atkins, Eric Clapton, and Joe Bonamassa. Hell, the guy even sat in with Alice Cooper recently.

Guitar Slinger
is not a self-indulgent guitar-nut record, however, which will make sense to long-time fans drawn to Gill’s reserved style. Gill has always served the song first.

Guitar Slinger
’s 11 well-crafted songs are anchored in country, but were allowed to go musically where the lyrics directed them. The soul-searching “Threaten Me with Heaven” builds on gospel vocals and benediction-type B-3 before erupting into one of the grittiest and emotive guitar solos Gill has recorded. “Billie Paul” dishes up some classic, flanger-heavy, outlaw-era guitar. “If I Die” probes the drinkin’, cheatin’, and redeemin’ depths of traditional country that you no longer find on the radio these days. The tear-drenched steel guitar and bluegrass-tight harmonies that galvanize the song’s authenticity are also found on “Buttermilk John,” which is a tribute to Gill’s late, long-time steel player, John Hughey, and expertly played in Hughey’s style by Paul Franklin. Fans wanting more cuts in that vein will find them as bonus tracks on the album’s Deluxe Edition.

A number of songs, like “Who Wouldn’t Fall in Love with You” and “Tell Me Fool,” register within that soulful/bluesy/Adult Contemporary vibe that Bonnie Raitt perfected and Warren Haynes dipped into recently. This is not an album for splitting 5-CD shuffle time with Vai, Satch, Yngwie, and Johnson, but as a solid Vince Gill record offering even more guitar goodness than usual, Guitar Slinger lives up to its name.

Must-hear track: “Buttermilk John”

Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz addresses the media in Nashville. 

Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz addresses the media in Nashville.  Photo by Andy Ellis

Nashville, TN (August 25, 2011) — Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz addressed the media in a rare press conference today, commenting on recent federal raids at facilities in Nashville and Memphis.

“We’re not in the wrong,” Juszkiewicz said to reporters on the steps of the company’s Gibson USA facility on Massman Drive in Nashville. “We haven’t actually been charged with any wrongdoing.” The company simultaneously issued a press release stating that it will fight aggressively to prove its innocence.

The company is involved in two investigations concerning the Lacey Act. At issue is the legality of some of the wood the company uses to make guitars. Ebony from the Republic of Madagascar was seized in a 2009 raid, and Indian rosewood was seized yesterday.

“The Lacey Act is very recent,” Juszkiewicz said. “That law was passed two years ago. So it’s not like that law has been around for a long, long time. But according to this law, if you bought a guitar from us and we sell it, you are criminally liable. You, not us. Everyone who touches the product, the store owner who sells that guitar, is criminally liable.”

The Lacey Act was originally signed into law in 1900. It serves to protect plants and wildlife through a series of penalties for buying, trafficking, and possessing certain species. It’s assumed that Juszkiewicz was referring to a recent amendment to the law, enacted via the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, that has many luthiers crying foul. Some interpretations suggest that it is poorly written and would even prohibit most guitarists from traveling overseas with their existing guitars if taken seriously.

According to Juszkiewicz, Gibson has sworn statements and paperwork from the Republic of Madagascar on file in federal court declaring that the ebony seized in 2009 was legally obtained. Juszkiewicz added that the rosewood seized in yesterday’s raids is in compliance with standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council, which is a non-government organization dedicated to promoting environmentally conscious forest management practices.

“The Justice Department’s position is that any guitar that we ship out of this facility is potentially [an] obstruction of justice and to be followed with criminal charges because we bought product from India,” Juszkiewicz said. However, Gibson employees returned to work today—a move he said he is personally responsible for.

“I’ve instructed our staff to continue building the product,” he said in response to a reporter’s question about Gibson’s compliance with the government following yesterday’s raids. “I’ve taken personal responsibility for that action,” he said.

Juszkiewicz’s frustration was apparent. “We feel totally abused,” he said. “We believe the arrogance of federal power is impacting me personally, our company personally, and the employees in Tennessee—and it’s just plain wrong."

Currently, a government lawsuit against the company has put the items seized in the 2009 raid in legal limbo while raising question of whether serious charges could be brought against Gibson, Juszkiewicz, and others in the company. The government claims the materials are contraband, but Gibson disagrees and wants them back. In a trial that resumes Monday, the government is weighing whether or not separate criminal charges should be filed. The judge has been asked to temporarily suspend the forfeiture trial until a decision is made.

Premier Guitar will bring you more on this story as it develops.

Gear author Tony Bacon’s latest book explores the history of these provocative instruments and explains how they’ve impacted nearly every nontraditional solidbody shape that has come along since.

Flying V, Explorer, Firebird
Tony Bacon
Backbeat Books

If the Flying V, Explorer, and Firebird are perhaps a bit too edgy for your style or current gig now, just imagine what you would have thought when those birds were launched in 1958 (Flying V, Explorer) and 1963 (Firebird). “Radical” would’ve been an understatement. Gear author Tony Bacon’s latest book explores the history of these provocative instruments and explains how they’ve impacted nearly every nontraditional solidbody shape that has come along since.

Bacon does a great job connecting the historical dots and trapezoids of this story, which actually begins fairly soon after Fender’s introduction of the Esquire in 1950 and Gibson’s rollout of the Les Paul in 1952. Although on a much smaller scale, the gear scene back then was very much like it is today, with builders keeping a close eye on each other’s stuff, borrowing ideas, and advancing concepts in the name of innovation and commerce. The secrecy element was alive back then too, with Gibson continuing to use the PAF label after being awarded a patent for Seth Lover’s humbucking pickups, and even putting the wrong patent number on them for a few years. The thinking was that competitors equipped with the proper patent filing would be able to learn too much about humbucker design.

The book contains hundreds of photographs, patent drawings, and vintage ads that are alone worth the $25 price tag. Though lacking the historical perspective on the nuclear aesthetic of the time that helped mold these guitars’ shapes as much as anything else, as well as any new information on the mysterious Moderne (that was patented and meant to be the third frame of the new Gibson triptych), this book is deep when it comes to the official history and the reverberations of the guitars in its title. Definitely “must-read” stuff for Gibson fans.