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Bringing back the blues

NOLAN GARRETT: We're thankful he played blues guitar instead of soccer.

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In a world where every new band claims to have invented its own genre, and synthesizers outnumber real instruments, it's easy to think tradition has gone by the wayside. Especially when it comes to blues music. Telling people you listen to blues music usually produces a somewhat judgmental look, as if you've just admitted to a socially frowned-upon habit. And there's no use explaining yourself, for the roots of today's music has been misconstrued and lost in translation. Telling people to listen to traditional blues, jazz and country music is like telling someone they should learn how to speak Latin.

Fortunately, there is still a small population of people carrying the day. People who understand - not to be cliché - you don't know where you're going until you know where you've been.

A friend told me I should listen to young blues musician Nolan Garrett. I was immediately hooked. If you're a fan of blistering guitar solos, soulful vocals and excellent songwriting, you should listen to his music.

Garrett has been playing guitar since the age of 8. Not finding much interest in sports, his mother suggested he try music. What begun as reluctantly attending guitar lessons at Ted Brown Music has become a passionate endeavor and now a promising career in music.

"My first guitar was an old, beat up, nylon string guitar that had been sitting in the closet from when my dad used to play guitar," explains Garrett.

With influences like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn and John Mayer, Garrett has forged his own style and tone of blues guitar - the while epitomizing tradition and demonstrating blues is the new black.

"Jimi Hendrix is probably my biggest influence however, and not only is he a guitar influence, but I have learned a lot by watching him in videos as far as stage presence goes," continues Garrett.

One of the first things I noticed about Garrett is that he recognizes the importance of good songwriting. The fatal flaw of many great guitar players is they use their advanced skill as a crutch.  No matter how damn good you are at playing your instrument, it's completely irrelevant if you don't have a good song to play over. Maybe I'd actually be a fan of Eddie Van Halen if he had something better than "Jamie's Crying" to play over. But unlike Van Halen - bless the band's heart - Garrett doesn't have to resort to covering The Kinks to put out a great song.

On the subject of songwriting, Garrett explains, "Songwriting is very important to me, because I don't want to be one of those guys who is only considered a good guitar player. I want to be considered a good songwriter and singer, as well."

Garrett has also proven himself a dynamic performer as he regularly performs on acoustic guitar. With his acoustic shows having a more relaxed feel, he still showcases his musicality and songwriting every bit as well as he does at electric shows.

"For me, acoustic shows are a lot more laid back and I can joke around more with the audience because they are more intimate," says Garrett.

Garrett has a number of upcoming shows, including Dec. 21 at Forza Coffee in Fircrest, Dec. 26 at Jazzbones and Jan. 20 at The Swiss. He will also be competing in the solo/duo competition Jan. 28-Feb. 3 in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge. Garrett plans to have his first album out around the beginning of summer.

You can find Garrett's music plus a complete listing of upcoming shows on Facebook.

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