Why is it, that when 12-string guitar is mentioned, most people associate the instrument with Lead Belly? To me, there are far more players who have more skill and vocal range than Lead Belly. I think that the key to his iconic status lies not in his 12-string playing, but in his songs that he ably accompanied by a simple tapestry of 12-string supporting guitar. Popular music has always lauded songs more than instrumentalists, and Leadbelly’s songs have transcended not only time, but culture, race and genre.
As much as I admire Lead Belly and the immense legacy he left, my main inspiration from that era is Blind Willie McTell. He was, in my opinion, a more complete player than Lead Belly and songs like Statesboro’ Blues still remain a classic in this genre. McTell, like many of the legends from that era, he never made much money from his songs during his lifetime – and that also includes Lead Belly. In fact, McTell in later years played under many names during his career such as Geogia Bill, Blind Sammie, Hot Shot Willie, Barrelhouse Sammie and Pig and Whistle Red. He died in 1959 and is buried at Jones Grove Church near Thompson, Georgia, USA, under his birth name of Willie Samuel McTier.
I’ve been featuring a mix of classic blues pieces in juxtaposition with my own orchestral style of instrumental playing over quite a few issues and this month’s offering features a highly technical tune that will get your fingers dancing. ‘The Altar And The Crown’, one of my own compositions for solo 12-string is not a beginner’s piece, but it does have a value in pushing forward a few boundaries in 12-string playing. I will be publishing a new tab book on playing blues on a 12-string guitar in a few months with an accompanying CD as an insert. You could perform all the tracks as a live set after familiarising yourself with the songs, should you wish – more news on this soon…
Download the tablature: The Altar And The Crown Music & Tab.