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Club to feature cigarbox guitar concert

July 25, 2013
By MARK J. MILLER - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

TORONTO - The ghost of bluesman Robert Johnson will surely be smiling down on the Handmade Music Extravaganza II as several performers and bands carry on the tradition of cigarbox guitars from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Aug. 2 at the Toronto Fraternal Order of the Eagles, 112 N. Fifth St.

The free concert will include several renowned local and national artists playing cigarbox guitars, which were first popularized in the Misssissippi Delta among African-American musicians from as early as the 1850s. The guitars usually were made of materials which were readily available to African-American musicians, including cigar boxes, which made for a surprisingly resonant chamber. Later on, as the history of the blue s and guitars became more urbanized, players began adding pickups to the guitars to amplify them in order to be heard over the din of the nightclubs.

Cigarbox guitars were forgotten for years but have since made a resurgence among younger players introduced to slide guitar and primitive electric blues. Many of these players are extending the boundaries of what was thought possible with the instrument, as they use processors and pedals. The guitars themselves are still made the old-fashioned way - with "found" objects, wires and ornamentals such as license plates.

The show begins with Secret Devil Tuning at 6 p.m.; the Lo-Fi Project takes the stage at 6:30 p.m.; Reed Turchi performs at 7 p.m. followed by a charity guitar drawing with proceeds going to the Team Mojo Foundation's free music lessons for kids program; Justin Johnson performs at 8 p.m.; and Reed Turchi closing the show beginning at 10 p.m.

"On behalf of our board of directors, volunteers and everyone involved with Team Mojo Foundation, I'd like to express my thanks for the generosity of Saner Cigar Box Guitars for the drawing donation (during the show)," said Bill Crawford, founder and executive director of the Team Mojo Foundation. "All proceeds will be used to help fund our free music lessons project, which provides free music instruction to underprivileged youth in the upper Ohio Valley Tri-State Area. This program is just one of many services we are able to provide to deserving school-age children who may not otherwise be able to participate in such activities without our help."

Hailed by Guitar World as a must-see act and dubbed "the Wizard" for his mastery of stringed instruments, Johnson has earned many accolades, including a first-place finish in the Slidestock International Slide Guitar Competition. His virtuosic playing style has earned him endorsements from guitar builders around the world and Mojobone Works custom guitar slides.

Johnson is one of a select few guitarists who have been hand-picked to perform for the Woodstock International Luthiers' Showcase, highlighting the work of many of the finest acoustic guitar builders in the world.

As one of the premier cigar box guitar performers playing today, Johnson highlights the traditional American roots instrument in a way that honors the history of the instrument while innovating new approaches by incorporating modern technology.

Johnson expertly builds layers of music to create a full-band show as a soloist, incorporating up to a dozen stringed instruments including one-string diddley bows, acoustic and electric six-string guitars, 12-string guitar, cigar box guitars, resonators, mandolin, percussion and even an antique ironing board lap steel.

Turchi specializes in kudzu boogie, at the crossroads of American roots music, a blend between slide-guitar fuzz and rhythmic trances of the deep South, the remnants of a trainwreck between Mississippi Fred McDowell, Randy Newman, Jimi Hendrix and R.L. Burnside.

The band's debut album "Road Ends in Water" - released March 2012 on Devil Down Records - featuring guest appearances by Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars, Black Crowes) was compared to the early work of the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan in terms of songwriting, vocals, energy, and spirit, as well as with the White Stripes, Drive-By Truckers and Black Keys.

Thirty-three states, eight months and 50,000 miles later, Turchi released the band's second album, "Live in Lafayette," recorded in November 2012 in Lafayette, La., with featured guests John Troutman of the Mendoza Line/Little Band of Gold on pedal steel and Brian Martin on harmonica. Mixed at Ardent Studios, where bands such as Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Bob Dylan and the North Mississippi Allstars also have recorded, the album captures kudzu boogie in its finest form, and serves as a bridge between "Road Ends in Water" and the band's upcoming EP, "Any Other Way."

Local bands Secret Devil Tuning and the Lo-Fi Project also will appear as part of the show.

For information, call the Main Street Gallery, at (740) 537-3451 or visit

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