Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Johnny Hiland

Johnny Hiland is a guitarist originally from Woodland, Maine, and was born with a medical condition that left him legally blind. He joined his family's band, the Three Js and toured New England under the auspices of the Down East Country Music Association. At ten, Johnny won the Talent America contest, entitling him to a performance in New York City. He expanded his musical interests beyond bluegrass to the guitar rock of players like Joe Satriani and Eddie Van Halen. After high school, he attended the University of Southern Maine as a history major, but ultimately dropped out to become a professional musician.

Johnny eventually moved to Nashville where he worked as a guitarist for artists such as Toby Keith, Ricky Skaggs, Janie Fricke, and Hank Williams III. He has with Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label as a solo artist and to date has released two studio albums, the self-titled Johnny Hiland and Loud and Proud.

The Johnny Hiland Band has headlined concerts and clubs in the US and internationally in Italy, Japan, Canada, England, Italy and Germany. In addition to all of that, he also teaches Master Classes at vschools ranging from Berkley School of Music in Boston to Musicians Institute in California and the Academy of Contemporary Music in England.

Johnny has also released instructional DVDs which highlight his bluegrass and “chickin’ pickin’ style. If you play guitar, you probably know what that is.

Johnny career has really taken off the last few years, as evident by the fact that he has a signature guitar on the market. He played Fender Telecasters for years, then “shocked” the guitar world by switching to Paul Reed Smith guitars, eventually having a signature model named for him. (A few guitar forums went nuts about this!) He just joined the Ernie Ball/Music Man company as an endorsee, using a Music Man Silhouette guitar.

"I think Johnny Hiland is the most versatile guitar player I've ever heard. From Bill Monroe to Eddie Van Halen, he can play it all."

Ricky Skaggs

"I've jammed with the best the world has produced -- Johnny stands spirit to spirit with them all."

Ted Nugent
A few videos to enjoy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

John Denner - Guitarist

John Denner puts to rest the notion that a physical handicap can keep you from becoming a great guitarist.

I am very impressed by John's music.

Anything is possible if you have the determination to succeed. I bet there were plenty of people who told him when he was just starting out that "you could never play the guitar."  Guess he showed them a thing or two.

From his website:
"If you've heard anything about John Denner, you probably know he was born without a right hand.
And if you've had the privilege of hearing him play, you also know he's one of the most phenomenal guitar players in rock today.
These two facts alone are enough to amp up the guilt in your "I can't because . . ." file.

But you can't feel bad around him. There's something about John that makes you want to celebrate ... to marvel ... to wonder what it is about his playing that moves you so deeply."

I can agree with that.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Brent Mason

I am just getting into the guitar wizardry of Brent Mason. I have heard about him for years, and am now just checking him out.

Brent Mason is one of the most recorded guitarists in history, performing on sessions with George Strait, Brooks and Dunn, Alan Jackson, Wade Hayes, Toby Keith, Randy Travis, Neil Diamond, and many others.

And you can add a large percentage of all the songs on top 40 country music stations today, top 40 pop stations, as well as many TV commercials.

He was in demand through much of the '90s, playing on albums by Alan Jackson, David Gates, Brooks Dunn, George Strait, Neil Diamond and Shania Twain, among many others.

Brent was signed to Mercury Records in 1997, and released an instrumental album entitled "Hot Wired" later that year. This was his only major-label album. He broke his contract with Mercury records  to remain in Nashville and work in the recording studio as an A-List session guitarist rather than spend most of his time on the road touring and away from his family. He and his brother Randy released a second album, entitled "Smokin' Section," in 2006.

Brent is also well-known in the guitar world for the wiring of his Telecaster. In his younger days, he could not afford three guitars. So he added a mini humbucking pickup to the neck and  added a stacked humbucker pickup in the middle with its own volume control, enabling him to blend that midde pickup in with the others. This beefed up the sound of the guitar, but still retained the Telecaster twang. Valley Arts guitar now has a signature guitar named for Brent which duplicates his original. 

I have just added a minihumbucker to my Telecaster and am interested in doing this mod to it later, or maybe just building a new Tele with this mod.

Check out Brent Mason if you can. I plan to. I love discovering new guitarists.  Even if they have been around forever, they are still new to me.