Josh Smith

It’s time to jazz up that blues says BIMM’s Ro­nan Mc­Cul­lagh as he takes a look at the in­cen­di­ary play­ing of Josh Smith.

Guitar Techniques - - LESSON | BLUES -

Josh Smith was just three years old when he was given his first guitar. At six he started tak­ing les­sons and quickly be­came ob­sessed with the blues, lis­ten­ing to Muddy Waters, BB King and T-Bone Walker ev­ery avail­able minute of the day. Be­ing ex­posed to these lush sounds along­side reg­u­lar les­sons shaped the young Smith, by all ac­counts, into an un­stop­pable guitar-play­ing force. Growing up he was al­ways striv­ing to play with se­ri­ous and like-minded mu­si­cians, but at 12 years old this was pretty dif­fi­cult, as you can imag­ine.

Once Josh had grad­u­ated from high school in 1997 the tour­ing be­gan, hit­ting the road with his own power trio, Josh Smith and The Frost. This is when he started to work on his vo­cal and band-lead­ing prow­ess, gain­ing skills that would see him through to the highly suc­cess­ful ca­reer he has to­day.

A great mo­ment for Josh came when he was spot­ted by BB King him­self, who gave Josh the chance to open for him dur­ing sev­eral theatre shows in 1998. With this boast and with a few well-pol­ished records on the shelves Josh con­tin­ued to tour his own mu­sic un­til 2002, when he moved to LA and dived into the side­man world as he was now pro­vid­ing for a fam­ily. His main ses­sion gig would be with Vir­gin record­ing artist Ricky Fante, with whom Josh would re­main for the next two years tour­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally.

When you hear Smith em­body Ste­vie Ray Vaughan or Al­bert King it’s clear that he has checked out all the greats. Yet he never sounds like a copy­cat, al­ways do­ing the mu­sic jus­tice with his own su­perb take on things. His abil­ity to blend tra­di­tional sounds with the jazz­ier styles of John Scofield, Larry Carl­ton, and Robben Ford is what’s re­ally great about Josh’s play­ing, and is very much the fo­cus on this month’s ar­ti­cle.

Mu­si­cal in­flu­ences are vi­tal, but it’s what you do with them next that’s im­por­tant. It’s for ex­actly this reason why Josh is such a great player to study; he’s a fan­tas­tic ex­am­ple of what you can do with all this mu­si­cal lan­guage. The way he links all these in­flu­ences together and then stirs it up with his own cre­ative in­put, leaves us with the hip and pow­er­ful player we see to­day.

So if you like your blues or­ganic, but with rock at­ti­tude and jazzy so­phis­ti­ca­tion thrown in, then Josh Smith is truly one to watch.

NEXT MONTH Ro­nan looks at an­other top player of mod­ern times, the great Gary Clark Jr

I’ve spent 30 years play­ing the guitar , but no mat­ter what I do , it ’ s go­ing to be based in the bl ues Josh Smith

Josh Smith: adds chro­matic jazz ideas and rock at­ti­tude to his blues so­los

His Chapin T-style guitar is Josh’s main axe but you can also find him sport­ing a Strat, Les Paul or 335. He’s fond of over­drive, fuzz and oc­tave ped­als, and gets great Les­lie sounds from his Even­tide H9. Amp-wise he prefers ‘black­face’ style Fend­ers with a Vox along­side (or Mor­gan’s take on these clas­sics). Go for a vin­tage valve amp sound with Tube Screamer-style over­drive and any of the wob­ble-type ef­fects you may have. Don’t overdo the gain but get the power from dig­ging in.

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