Metal has just been announced as the winner of the Just Plain Folks solo guitar album for 2004, Blasting Cap was announced winner of the Just Plain Folks solo guitar song for 2004!!
Preston Reed is a guitarist of many parts - so many parts that when he brings them all into play, first time listeners often find it impossible to believe that they're hearing just the one musician, in real time.
At full tilt, Reed's fingers, thumbs, fists and hands at once suggest a drummer, keyboardist, bassist and several guitarists at work. It's a dizzying, exhilarating phenomenon. A portrait of the acoustic guitar as full-on heavy metal band.
But impressions of rock bands - and high speed trains and duelling, pulling tractors - are only one side of Reed. While acknowledging that somewhere inside him there is a screaming electric guitarist pacing like a caged lion, Reed is also a player of deep sensitivity who can compose and play a blues or a ballad with a touch reminiscent of his great jazz piano-playing hero, Bill Evans.
Reed's entry into this guitar odyssey was inauspicious enough, his path thereafter largely self-discovered. A few chords learned from his guitar playing father, a brief, very brief, flirtation with the ukulele, clandestine practice sessions of his favourite Beatles and Stones songs on Dads guitar.... and then a too-strict classical guitar teacher led to premature retirement.
At 16, however, Reed heard Jefferson Airplane's rootsy blues offshoot, Hot Tuna. His interest was rekindled big time. Acoustic guitar heroes John Fahey and Leo Kottke were studied, their styles absorbed but not imitated, and at this point things really begin to get interesting because, at 17, Reed, by now precociously proficient, played his first live gig, supporting beat poet Allen Ginsberg at the Smithsonian Institute.
Just getting on a train from his native Armonk in New York state to Washington was a cool adventure. And it was just the first of many, not least of which was the one which resulted from his signing his first deal with a major record company, MCA, through the auspices of his friend, country singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett.
Determined to make the most of this opportunity, Reed pushed himself to go beyond the standard fingerpicking styles he'd perfected. The result was the beginnings of the startlingly innovative style, with its percussive, two-handed fretboard attack, that you hear today and which as caused guitar luminaries such as Al DiMeola and the late Michael Hedges to describe Reed as "phenomenal" and "inspiring".
Reed's compositional talents extend to film soundtracks and prestigious commissions for the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, and as well as appearances alongside Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt his major performances include an historic live satellite broadcast on Turkish National Television in 1997 with renowned saz player and composer Arif Sag which reached an audience of 120 million in 17 countries, prompting a flood of international telephone calls to the station from stunned viewers.
Since 1979, he has recorded thirteen albums and three videos and charmed audiences on three continents. He continues to tour with the same hunger and relish that informs his guitar playing and he gives regular workshops where he passes on the techniques he has developed for extending the acoustic guitar's possibilities. The secret, he says, is to relax and let the guitar patterns run by themselves. Which explains how, at full tilt, he may sound like a full-on heavy metal band but he still won't have broken sweat.