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Managing Editor Mark Smith's Blog (13)

Essential Recordings: Two Decades of Great Music

Here at Acoustic Guitar, the editors have been ramping up for the February 2010 issue, which happens to mark our 20th year as a publication (where has the time gone?). As part of our planning for this milestone, one thought crossed our minds—just think about all the great acoustic music that has been released since our very first issue! That thought has led to some very lively discussions, and it has also reminded us of just how vibrant the acoustic music scene has remained over the past… Continue

Added by Managing Editor Mark Smith on September 15, 2009 at 5:06pm — 5 Comments

Sarah Jarosz, Son Volt, and Mr. Leonard Cohen

If you’re a frequent reader of Acoustic Guitar, you’ll no doubt be familiar with our Player Spotlight department, which features a mix of up-and-coming and established artists. While thumbing through our most recent issue (September 2009), I stopped to read about Sarah Jarosz once again, despite having read the article a dozen times before it hit the newsstands. In the interview with frequent Acoustic Guitar author Kenny Berkowitz, the 18-year-old native of Wimberley,… Continue

Added by Managing Editor Mark Smith on July 22, 2009 at 11:42am — No Comments

My Latest Playlist

It’s been a busy time for my MP3 player, which just absorbed four discs of Richard Thompson music, courtesy of Walking on a Wire: Richard Thompson (1968-2009). Up until recently, I had (at best) a cursory knowledge of Thompson’s work, but now, after many “what in the heck did he just play there?” moments, I’m sold. . . Meanwhile, I’ve been digging the quietly beautiful acoustic melodies of Wooden Birds (Andrew Kenny of American Analog Set), and more Southwest Americana from… Continue

Added by Managing Editor Mark Smith on May 27, 2009 at 10:46am — No Comments

Laying Down Tracks

Recording music has always been a bit of a mystery to me—like many musicians, I have some experience with TASCAM four-tracks, but I never warmed to the process of bouncing tracks and such. Eventually my four-track found its way into the bottom of my hall closet, a move that had unfortunate results. Not having even the simplest means of recording guitar riffs and snippets of vocal melodies meant that ideas that sounded great on a Saturday afternoon were usually forgotten by Thursday. That… Continue

Added by Managing Editor Mark Smith on April 29, 2009 at 4:30pm — 2 Comments

Spring Listening

Spring has hit Northern California in full force, which makes for perfect acoustic-music listening (and playing, of course). I’ve had the good fortune of finding a host of new records to upload to my iPod, so I’ve been trying to get outside as much as possible for some good hiking and listening. Top of my list has been Paleface’s The Show Is on the Road, a gritty and at times raucous anti-folk record by an artist whom Beck once cited as a big influence . . . and the Great Lake… Continue

Added by Managing Editor Mark Smith on April 1, 2009 at 1:10pm — No Comments

Memories of Doug Sahm

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Doug Sahm, he was the Texas-born guitarist--multi-instrumentalist, really--who fronted the Sir Douglas Quintet ("She's About a Mover") and was part of the Texas Tornados. My first exposure to this Tex-Mex legend was through his guest performance on Uncle Tupelo's Anodyne record in the early '90s, so I had to work my way backward to discover the full extent of his greatness. Soon I became a fan, which was cemented when he strolled into the… Continue

Added by Managing Editor Mark Smith on March 2, 2009 at 4:30pm — No Comments

Justin Townes Earle and Neko Case

At this time of year, it’s not uncommon to see music journalists go through the time-honored ritual of compiling “best of the year” lists. I’m a big fan of that most years, but I’m more excited about a couple of records that are due to drop in early 2009: Justin Townes Earle’s Midnight at the Movies and Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone. Both showed up in my mailbox during the holiday season, and so they’ve provided the soundtrack to sessions of present-wrapping and long drives to visit… Continue

Added by Managing Editor Mark Smith on December 31, 2008 at 4:22pm — 1 Comment

Subterranean Dylanologist Blues

There’s something a little disturbing about Dylan fanatics, and by fanatics I mean lonely men who listen to Blonde on Blonde six times a day and obsessively collect bootlegs from the Neverending Tour. Okay, so I’m sure Clinton Heylin, author of Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades and Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions, is not at all lonely. But his obsession cannot be doubted, for his latest opus about the Cryptic Bard from Hibbing is a two-volume affair that dissects… Continue

Added by Managing Editor Mark Smith on December 1, 2008 at 5:30pm — 1 Comment

Blast from the Past

I’ve been a Neil Young fan since I was a wee lad, back when I used to wear out my pop’s record collection (I think he’s yet to forgive me for breaking that 45 of the theme from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly). So it was a joy to get my hands on a copy of Young’s Sugar Mountain Live (out on December 2), a heretofore unreleased 2-track recording that captures an intimate solo acoustic performance not long after Shakey split from the Buffalo Springfield. Chock full of his… Continue

Added by Managing Editor Mark Smith on November 6, 2008 at 5:00pm — 1 Comment

Calexico, Carried to Dust

Over the years I’ve seen the name Calexico dropped in various magazines (see our June 2006 issue) and on music fan sites, but for some reason this band always fell into the “I should really check them out one day” category, which can be a little like “I should write the Great American Novel” or “I need to visit Tuscany one day.” That said, my introduction to Calexico’s cinematic sound—which incorporates everything from mariachi horns to spaghetti Western strings and snaking guitar… Continue

Added by Managing Editor Mark Smith on October 24, 2008 at 2:25pm — No Comments

Together Again

Nope, I’m not talking about the timeless Buck Owens’ song. There was a time in the mid-‘90s when a pair of records by the classic band the Jayhawks kept me steady company at the small-town record store I worked at (there actually wasn’t much work to be had there, so mainly I listened to records, drank coffee, and stared at the college kids playing hacky sack outside). My constant spinning of Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass probably drove my coworkers… Continue

Added by Managing Editor Mark Smith on October 9, 2008 at 5:16pm — No Comments

Dylan the Younger

All cheeky allusions to ancient Roman thinkers aside, I find myself returning more and more to Jakob Dylan’s latest album, Seeing Things, a spare and delicate acoustic record that finds the son of a famous songwriter we all know well getting hushed and intimate. Gone is the sheen of adult contemporary pop with alt-country touches, which had led Dylan into a creative cul-de-sac—some would say torpor. Produced by Rick Rubin (see my previous blog about Rubin’s upcoming work with the Avett… Continue

Added by Managing Editor Mark Smith on October 2, 2008 at 12:13pm — No Comments

I Can't Get That Song Out Of My Head

As the managing editor of Acoustic Guitar, I’m lucky to get the opportunity to wade through hundreds of new CDs every month. Some of those albums find their way into our Playlist section, others are reviewed in the AG Notes: Reviews and Players Edition e-mail newsletter (if you haven’t signed up for it, go to Like any true music junkie, I am happiest when I get to geek out with other music fans. So here’s what I’ve been spinning recently (and what I’m looking… Continue

Added by Managing Editor Mark Smith on September 25, 2008 at 1:30pm — No Comments

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