It’s not often that aspiring musicians can find a living legend to tutor them in the ways of becoming a guitar master. Steve Miller found Chet Atkins. Kenny Wayne Shepherd, as the story goes, had Stevie Ray Vaughan. But one of the greatest living country blues guitarists found not one, but two legends to tutor him in the ways of the six string: legendary musicians Joe Louis Walker and Taj Mahal. The man is Alvin Youngblood Hart, who will be bringing his country blues act to the Asheville Music Zone on February 7.
The six-foot-six, 38-year-old Hart has had a guitar in his hands since the age of nine, been knowledgeably playing since 15, and since his debut album, Big Mama’s Door, he’s been touring the country and impressing critics and music audiences with his picking talents. Two albums (1998’s Territory and 2000’s Start With the Soul) later, he’s still going strong, supporting acts like Mickey Hart (no relation) and touring with the Further Festival.
Hart is by no means a pop star. His musical stylings are closer to the bluegrass and country blues found on local radio stations than they are to anything you’ll hear on the modern charts. But the talent and passion that he brings to the music is what makes it vital and entertaining. If the quality of the CD music weren’t so good, or if the guy weren’t standing in front of you, you’d almost swear that he was one of the old bluesters like Jimmy Reed coming through in mono sound.
Hart perfected his southern country feel guitar playing and voice growing up near his grandmother in Mississippi, and his familiarity with the heritage and culture shows through on traditional songs like “Mama Don’t Allow,” and “Sallie, Queen of the Pines.”
If you’re going to buy an album by Hart, check out Territory as it seems to be the most solid piece that he’s created so far, and because it’s a testament to how the music of yesteryear can still touch us today. (And if you’re going to buy a Steve Earle album, forget the one I told you about last week because it doesn’t exist. The actual name of that album was Copperhead Road. My bad, Steven.) Hart’s music is chock-full of finger picking, slide-guitar, traditional rhythms and bluegrass back-up music.
Alvin Youngblood Hart is playing the Asheville Music Zone on Wednesday, February 7. Tickets will be available in the ticket office, at the Music Zone, the night of the show.