NEWS: Beck, Guy, Di Meola, Green, Bonamassa for Bluesfest

The first round of artists to be announced for the 2010 Byron Bay Bluesfest has been released, and while it’s getting further and further away from what I would call blues, there sure are some kickass guitar players on the bill.

The press release is below, but how about I single out these names for ya:

Jeff Beck
Joe Bonamassa
Buddy Guy
Al Di Meola
Peter Green

Not bad, huh?

Colossal first announcement for Bluesfest 21st Celebration Event

The next Bluesfest era begins now in Tyagarah!

October 28th 2009 – The first round of artists to perform at the 21st Anniversary Bluesfest has today been announced! Australia’s most awarded and internationally renowned festival officially begins a new era (and with any luck another excellent 21 years) with the purchase and move to its permanent new home for the 2010 event – the Tyagarah Tea Tree farm just off the Pacific Highway, 10 minutes north of Byron Bay.

Bluesfest 2010 takes place over Easter from Thursday April 1 through to Monday April 5, 2010. The first artist announcement includes a massive array of the best local and international blues, roots, folk, soul, and world artists – with an emphasis on some of the best guitar players of all time.

The first Bluesfest announcement for 2010 includes:

Crowded House, Buddy Guy, Roger Hodgson from Supertramp, Gipsy Kings, Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club®, Jeff Beck, Lyle Lovett, RocKwiz, Jimmy Barnes Plays the Rhythm & the Blues, Jessica Mauboy, The Swell Season, Newton Faulkner, Dr John & the Lower 911, Bèla Fleck’s African Project Featuring Oumou Sangarè & band, Blue King Brown, Al Di Meola World Sinfonia, Gogol Bordello, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Joe Bonamassa, Peter Green & friends, The Flatlanders, Avett Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, Renee Geyer, Colin Hay Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, Lil Band o’ Gold, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, AND Robert Gordon & the Gang They Couldn’t Hang – featuring Chris Spedding (Roxy Music), Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), and Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats).

Crowded House plays Bluesfest for first time ever!
The Bluesfest team is extremely honoured to present Crowded House for the first time ever as the first announcement headliner, following knock out performances over the years from both Neil Finn and Tim Finn. One of our region’s GREATEST bands, Crowded House is responsible for unforgettable songs such as ‘Weather With You’, ‘Four Seasons In One Day’, and ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ to name but a few. Get set for a dynamic musical journey that will draw from the band’s acclaimed 2007 album, another new album due in early 2010, and their exceptionally deep catalogue of fantastic songs.

Festival director Peter Noble said, “We are so energised about the amazing artists in this first announcement – it’s easily our best ever first announcement just looking at the depth across the entire list. We promised a touch of classic rock and a guitar lover’s focus for this festival – and to see how that’s played out, you just have to look at axe shredding maestros like Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Al Di Meola, Peter Green (original Fleetwood Mac founder and hero of BB King, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page!), the Gipsy Kings who are the world’s best flamenco players, Bèla Fleck (stunning banjo virtuoso), and Joe Bonamassa a young blues guitarist who’s recently sold out London’s Royal Albert Hall.

“There’s also tonnes of local and global roots friendly artists too many to mention, Roger Hodgson the incredible singer and songwriter of all those timeless Supertramp hits, Jessica Mauboy who is such an outstanding and genuine artist verified by her recent four awards at the Deadlys and her record seven ARIA award nominations! There’s also Oumou Sangarè who joins Bèla Fleck’s new project and is one the greatest African singers you will ever hear.

“And all this is just the beginning – our second announcement is just around the corner and a stunner too! In fact, we know we have the best Bluesfest bill ever this year, which is a very satisfying way to celebrate our 21st birthday and move to our new home.

“Now at Tyagarah, we’ve got even more room to grow the vision, and give our patrons the REAL festival experience. What we stand for is keeping the counter-culture alive – and the very real notion that music can help heal the world – we’re bringing in artists from Cuba, Mali and even Gypsies all together to support this vision. Longer term, my intention is that Bluesfest will outlive me, and remain a beacon of light that continues presenting the highest quality music on the planet,” concluded Peter Noble.

More room for camping in the Heart of Bluesfest!
Bluesfest 2009 was held at Belongil Fields and accommodated 1,800 campers. Bluesfest 2010 looks forward to welcoming patrons on its own land – and will accommodate approximately 6,500 campers! The very spacious and natural environment is right next to the festival grounds and will include a general store, showers and toilets.

The festival itself will feature more space, more music, more stalls, and more areas to chill out, but is all about keeping in the Bluesfest tradition, which is about creating an environmentally sound, peaceful, relaxed and happy home for everyone. Regular shuttle buses will be included to and from the festival into Byron Bay, Mullumbimby and surrounding towns.

More awards for Bluesfest
And the Bluesfest awards keep on coming. September 2009 saw Bluesfest recognised as an international winner in The Greener Festival awards. This was for an impressive three years in a row, more than any other Australian festival – and a tribute to the event’s ongoing and long-term commitment to environmental sustainability.

Bluesfest was also the first music festival to be nominated for a prestigious Australian Events Award. Bluesfest was nominated for the Best Cultural or Arts Event alongside the Sydney Festival 2009 and Adelaide Fringe 2009. The award eventually went to the 16th Biennale of Sydney. Bluesfest was also recently nominated as the Best Overseas Festival in the UK Festival Awards!
Unlike any other Australian event, Bluesfest has twice had the honour of being nominated as Best International Music Festival by US concert bible “Pollstar” in 2005 and 2006 alongside world renowned events such as Britain’s Glastonbury and Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival. And closer to home, Bluesfest has twice won the prestigious Helpmann Award for Best Contemporary Music Festival in Australia, also in 2005 and 2006.

Tickets can be purchased by: Phoning the Bluesfest office on 02 6685 8310 
or visiting the website at

NEWS: Al Di Meola Australia/New Zealand tour

Al Di Meola is touring Australia and New Zealand in March 2010! Awesome!!!

World Sinfonia Line up
Al Di Meola – Guitar
Gumbi Ortiz – Percussion
Fausto Beccalossi – Accordion
Kevin Seddiki – Guitar
Victor Miranda – Double Bass
Peter Kaszas – Drums

Dates (March):
5th Perth Concert Hall

7th Sydney City Recital Hall Angel Place

9th Bellingen Memorial Hall

10th Byron Bay High School Auditorium

12th Sydney Enmore Theatre

13th Sydney TBA

15th Brisbane Concert Hall – QPA

16th Kuranda Amphitheatre

18th Auckland Town Hall -The Edge

19th Christchurch James Hay Theatre

22nd Wellington Opera House

24th Hobart City Hall

25th Melbourne Hamer Hall

26th Adelaide Her Majesty’s Theatre

27th Canberra Royal Theatre

29th Newcastle Civic Theatre

30th Parramatta Riverside Theatre

Here’s an excerpt from the promoter’s website:

Al Di Meola

World Sinfonia

A bona fide guitar hero, perennial poll-winner and virtuoso of the highest order, Al Di Meola has also been recognized over the past 30 years as a prolific composer and respected artist with over 20 recordings as a leader. His creative output to date is staggering, whether it’s with his current World Sinfonia band or past musical endeavors like his electric Tour de Force group with Jan Hammer, Anthony Jackson, Steve Gadd and Mingo Lewis, the internationally acclaimed Trio with fellow guitar superstars John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia, the Rite of Strings trio with Stanley Clarke and Jean-Luc Ponty or the ‘70s fusion supergroup Return To Forever with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. And while his dazzling technique on both acoustic and electric guitars has afforded him regal status among the hordes of fretboard aficionados who regularly flock to his concerts, the depth of Di Meola’s writing along with the soulfulness and his inherent lyricism of his guitaristic expression have won him legions of fans worldwide beyond the six-string set.
A pioneer of blending world music and jazz, going back to early Latin-tinged fusion outings like 1976’s Land of the Midnight Sun, 1977’s Elegant Gypsy and 1978’s Casino, the guitar great continues to reflect the rich influence of flamenco, tango, Middle Eastern, Brazilian and African musics on more recent outings like 1998’s The Infinite Desire, 2000’s The Grand Passion, 2006’s Consequence of Chaos and 2008’s La Melodia, Live in Milano.

Coming off of 2008’s triumphant 25-year reunion tour by Return To Forever, which produced the live two-CD set Returns and the concert DVD Live at Montreux, Di Meola began rehearsing new music with his New World Sinfonia band in preparation for a coast-to-coast tour of the States in the early part of 2009, followed by whirlwind tours of Europe and the Middle East. Di Meola calls his bandmates in the New World Sinfonia –Fausto Beccalossi on accordian, Peo Afonsi on acoustic guitar, Peter Kaszas on percussion, Gumbi Ortiz on percussion, Victor Miranda on bass — “the best group of musicians so far in my career.”

Di Meola’s ongoing fascination with complex rhythmic syncopation combined with provocative lyrical melodies and sophisticated harmony has been at the heart of his music throughout a celebrated career that has earned him critical accolades, three gold albums and more than six million in record sales worldwide. He has been particularly enamored over the past 20 years by the tango music of the late Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla, whose compositions he has interpreted over time, beginning with 1990’s Di Meola Plays Piazzolla, continuing to 1993’s Heart of the Immigrants, 2002’s Flesh on Flesh and right up to 2007’s Diabolic Inventions and Seduction for Solo Guitar. “Piazzolla had a profound effect on my development as a musician and as a person,” says Al. “We became close friends, often communicating by mail. And during the course of this friendship my admiration and desire to learn more about this great man intensified.”

NAMM 2009: New Paul Reed Smith guitars

2008 looks like a huge year for Paul Reed Smith. I’ve always liked their guitars (although they’re not quite my ‘type’ so I don’t know if I’ll ever own one), but this year they really seem to have knocked it up a notch. Here are the press releases. Hopefully I’ll be at NAMM next year so I can report on this sort of stuff in person.

First up is the Al Di Meola Prism.

The Al Di Meola Prism, world renowned Jazz guitarist Al Di Meola’s first signature model PRS guitar, will appear for the first time at NAMM during the winter trade show in Anaheim. The model, which unofficially debuted during Experience PRS 2008, features a stained top with a full spectrum of colors unlike any finish PRS has ever offered. The Prism prototype was completed just in time for Di Meola to play the new model on stage alongside legendary jazz band mates Chick Corea, Lenny White and Stanley Clark during the Return to Forever world tour in 2008.

The Al Di Meola Prism features a highly figured curly maple custom top with mahogany back, 25″ scale length, 22 fret Mexican rosewood fingerboard, custom Al Di Meola neck carve, grommet style locking tuners, standard abalone bird inlays, the new 1957/2008 pickups and a tremolo bridge.

When discussions about this new signature model began, Al and Paul Reed Smith were both adamant that the guitar maintained the highest quality and tonal integrity. Al also suggested a tie-dye like finish for the guitar to give it a truly unique look. Paul Smith and the PRS R&D team combined Al’s favorite guitar appointments and a full spectrum of colors to create a one of a kind PRS Guitar.

Al Di Meola was one of the very first artists featured on a magazine cover playing a PRS guitar and has supported PRS Guitars for more than 20 years. Not only is the Al Di Meola Prism one of the most striking guitars PRS has ever developed, it pays tribute to a legendary musician who helped lay the frame work for PRS Guitars as a company.

PRS has launched its acoustic brand, Angelus.

PRS Guitars is proud to officially announce the first in a series of acoustic guitars manufactured in its Stevensville, Maryland facility. Nearly four years of design and prototyping with acoustic artist Ricky Skaggs and luthier Steve Fischer have culminated in the Angelus Cutaway and the Tonare Grand models, which are appearing officially for the first time at Winter NAMM. Full production will commence in early 2009.

Newly designed with direct input from distinguished artists, PRS acoustic models come standard with features that are typically considered upgrades within the industry — German spruce tops, beautiful dark rosewood or curly mahogany backs and sides, rare Peruvian mahogany necks, red spruce and mahogany bracing, exotic inlays and rosettes, and thin shatter-hard all nitro finishes. Options include Celtic knot rosettes and inlays, Adirondack red spruce tops, and ebony fretboards and bridges. These instruments incorporate a proprietary hybrid bracing pattern designed to maximize volume, provide a musical balance between the bass, mid-range and warm high-end and give an articulate tonal response. Also uniquely PRS is a super high strength, high modulus graphite truss rod that enhances sonic vibration and an optional proprietary pickup system producing a natural acoustic sound that rivals vintage condenser microphones.

“After years of development, we have created a guitar with a truly unique voice. It is an honor to have these guitars so well-received by such gifted musicians,” said Steve Fischer, Senior Acoustic Guitar Luthier.

Endorser Tony McManus, nominated as “Musician of the Year” by the BBC Folk Awards and the Scottish Traditional Music Awards, will be demonstrating these remarkable instruments in a live setting that simulates a studio environment where recorded tones can be experienced. Tony McManus has also been called “the finest guitarist Scotland has ever produced” by the BBC.

The Paul Reed Smith Guitars Mira Maple Top is making its NAMM debut in Anaheim this January. First unveiled during the Experience PRS 2008 event in Maryland last fall, the instrument combines the retro vibe of the PRS Mira with the figured maple tops that PRS customers have come to expect. This new model is an evolutionary instrument stemming from the increasingly popular Mira. The maple top provides the guitar with both a distinctive visual and tonal identity.

New colors and optional gold hardware are also part of this new model’s offerings. The new finishes are all wrap-around and include Tri-Color Sunburst, Dark Cherry Sunburst, Whale Blue/Black Burst, Violin Amber Burst and Vintage Natural.

Like all PRS guitars, the Mira Maple Top is comprised of the finest woods and materials available. In addition to the mahogany and maple top body, the mahogany neck and East Indian rosewood fingerboard come with either moon inlays or optional bird inlays. This instrument is a 24-fret, 10″ radius, 25″ scale length guitar with either regular or wide-thin neck carve. Locking tuning pegs, Mira treble and bass pickups, volume, tone, 3-way blade, and a mini toggle coil tap round out the features.

PRS Guitars’ National Sales and Marketing Manager Larry Urie said, “It is a smoking guitar that appeals to a lot of players.”

PRS continues to expand its guitar concepts with the introduction of the Mira X, the first 22-fret, 24-1/2″ scale-length guitar in the Mira series of PRS guitar models. Appearing for the first time at this year’s Winter NAMM in Anaheim, the Mira X’s retro inspired design and appointments compliment others in the Mira series, but the flatter, streamlined Mira X top and lighter weight body gives new options to players in search of instruments with PRS craftsmanship, but with subtle and understated style.

The unique X wood palette includes a solid African basswood body, a Sipo mahogany neck and a Pau Ferro fretboard that contribute to the light-weight understated look and feel of this guitar, as do the dot inlays, vintage style tuning pegs and nickel hardware. Mira X Treble and Bass pickups, volume and tone controls and a three-way pick up selector on a black pickguard round out the electronics package. Color packages are Vintage Cherry, Black and Sepia Burst.

“It’s simple. It’s light. It’s classic, and it’s powerful. We’re happy that after many years of discussing concepts like this, we are finally able to bring them to market and give people new options,” said Joe Knaggs, Director of Research and Development. “It’s definitely a ‘less is more’ statement, but quality is still the most important feature of this guitar.”

Paul Reed Smith Guitars’ Modern Eagle II officially debuts at Winter NAMM 2008 after making its initial appearance during Experience PRS 2008. The newly updated Modern Eagle II builds on the tradition of the original Modern Eagle with premium grade wood, classic Modern Eagle frets and a Modern Eagle wide fat neck carve and adds to that an all new exclusive pickup system, updated finishing techniques, new colors and a Modern Eagle case.

The 1957/2008 pickups offered standard on the Modern Eagle II allow players to achieve both vintage and modern sounds. PRS obtained exclusive rights to the original pickup wire used in the most revered pickups in the 50’s. PRS obtained an exclusive to the wire in 2008, and 1957 was the year the humbucker was first commercially available, giving rise to the 1957/2008 name. “We’ve found a new kind of black rosewood that we’re using for the necks and fretboards,” said Paul Smith. “We’ve come up with a way of finishing the neck and fingerboard where it goes down into the grain, and you actually buff out the wood.” This buffed out neck finish is achieved using a finishing process developed by PRS and only available currently on the Modern Eagle II.

Curly Modern Eagle grade maple tops with premium mahogany backs and select Dalbergia wide fat necks are standard on all Modern Eagle II guitars. Other features include 22 frets, 25″ scale length, custom Modern Eagle II birds with select green abalone bird outlines and iridescent Paua heart filled centers, tremolo or stoptail bridge and a special paisley case with a maroon crushed velvet interior. The high gloss nitro finish is available in four special high-contrast colors: Faded Blue Jean, Charcoal, Red Tiger and Yellow Tiger.

Underscoring the notion that quality guitars need not be prohibitively costly PRS adds to its highly successful SE series with the introduction of the SE Custom 24 electric guitar.

Featuring mahogany body, maple top and neck, plain maple veneer, three-piece wide-thin neck, rosewood fretboard and moon inlays, the SE Custom 24 provides utility and quality at a reasonable price.

Incorporating PRS designed HFS Treble & Vintage Bass pickups, the SE Custom 24 produces a wide range of tonal possibilities enhanced by a variety of switching options including master volume, master tone, and 3-way toggle pickup selector. The SE Custom 24 is only available with a tremolo bridge.

“The SE line continues to provide players worldwide with an affordable guitar of excellent quality,” said Doug Shive, SE Line Business Manager. “The SE Custom 24 is yet another great value guitar in a wide range of the PRS SE series instruments.”

The SE Custom 24 is available in Black Cherry, Grey Black and Whale Blue.

Incorporating the highly acclaimed 1957/2008 pickups and finished in never before offered PRS proprietary nitro-cellulose burst colors, the Sunburst 22, Sunburst 245 and Smokeburst McCarty make their debut at NAMM 2009. The guitars feature custom grade curly maple tops, wide/fat mahogany necks, mahogany backs, 22-fret East Indian Rosewood fretboards and abalone bird inlays.

The Sunburst 22 is a 25″ scale-length double-cutaway model with PRS Tremolo bridge and phase II low mass locking tuners. The Sunburst 245 features a 24-1/2″ scale length with single-cutaway body, stoptail bridge and vintage style tuners. The Smokeburst™ McCarty incorporates a 25″ scale-length with double-cutaway body, stoptail bridge and vintage style tuners. The Sunburst 22 and Smokeburst™ McCarty each have a 3-way toggle pickup selector, volume knob and push/pull coil splitting tone control; while the Sunburst 245 utilizes a re-configured volume and tone control per pickup and three-way pickup selector. “The PRS team wanted to make a guitar using 1957/2008 pickups but with a totally new PRS style sunburst,” said Paul Smith. “The finish team developed new burst colors that really bring the curly tops to life and the nitro-cellulose gives a new look, sound and feel to PRS.”

For more information, visit

NEWS: New Paul Reed Smiths

Paul Reed Smith has launched a bunch of new guitars at their Experience PRS 2008 open house event, and one new design in particular, the Starla, seems to be inspired by the success of the Mira, which was introduced at Experience PRS 2007.

In a press release, PRS Director of R&D and Private Stock Joe Knaggs said “Some of those crazy old vintage guitars are really cool but imagine if you had one that was also really well-built.” The Starla looks slightly Gretschy to my eyes, with a Bigsby B5 tailpiece and double-screw pickups. The body is solid mahogany with a 24″ scale rosewood fretboard on a solid mahogany neck. PRS is offering dot inlays as standard, or bird inlays as an optional extra. The Starla Treble and Starla Bass pickups are unique to this model, and they’re built around Alnico magnets. Color options include Vintage Cherry, Vintage Mahogany, Vintage Orange and Black.

PRS also unveiled the highly anticipated Al Di Meola Prism model. This one was previewed in Guitar Player magazine recently. It features a unique stained top with a full spectrum of colors over a curly maple custom ‘9’ top with a mahogany back. The scale length is 25″, and the 22 fret, custom-shaped neck features a Mexican rosewood fretboard. The pickups are the new 1957/2008 set, and Al has been playing the prototype of this guitar on recent Return to Forever reunion shows. PRS says the 1957/2008 pickups were designed after the company obtained exclusive rights to the original pickup wire used in “the most revered pickups in the 50’s.” No prizes for guessing what they’re referring to. The name was arrived at because PRS obtained the rights to the wire in 2008, and 1957 was the year the humbucker was first commercially available.

Finally there’s the Modern Eagle II. This updated version has the same premium grade wood, frets and wide fat neck carve of the original Modern Eagle, but adds a new pickup system based around the 1957/2008 set, updated finishing techniques, new colours and a Modern Eagle case. The high gloss nitro finish is available in four colors: Faded Blue Jean, Charcoal, Red Tiger, and Yellow Tiger.