6 String Nirvana

6-String Nirvana

Shawn Jones and friends shred into town for Music Week

By Chris Jay 06/05/2014 of the VC Reporter

Now in its fourth year, Ventura Music Week has taken some twists and turns since its inception. Initially a city-sponsored event created by Eric Wallner, the event seemed to be on the chopping block after he left his position at City Hall to take a job on the East Coast. Enter Kat Merrick, who took the reins and kept the event alive. Despite not having financial backing from the city, she and a group of local music lovers managed to pull it off and are back this year for another go. Notable events June 6-15 include Roadshow Revival: A Tribute to the Music of Johnny Cash and the SRO Benefit at the Museum of Ventura County. But one of the more unique live music performances will be the Global Guitar Greats at the W Gallery in the historic Erle Stanley Gardner Building. The event has a lot to live up to based on the grandiosity of its name, but with the players involved, there’s a good chance it will do that and more.
The genesis for Global Guitar Greats started appropriately enough at the epicenter of guitar enthusiast culture: the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) trade show where companies, retailers and musicians from all over the world assemble to hawk and gawk at the latest in the industry. To bring attention to their booths and products, many companies have their endorsees make appearances. One such company, Lowden Guitars, brought out three of its endorsees to perform separately at this year’s NAMM show, and despite playing in extremely different genres, the trio of guitarists had a lot in common, instantly forming a connection and friendship. They also hatched an idea for a collaboration that has now spiraled into a full-fledged tour: Global Guitar Greats.
Ventura’s own Shawn Jones, the blues-meets-Americana local guitar hero who is well known in these parts, is the driving force behind the trio’s music week performance. Joining him will be Hawaii’s Stephen Inglis, who plays a truly original take on Hawaiian slack guitar, and Thomas Leeb, an Austrian native and current California resident whose unorthodox acoustic guitar style is an original mix of percussive style and finger picking that needs to seen to be believed.
Besides being shredders in their respective genres, the three artists found that they shared something else in common: They are each the definition of a modern touring cult artist. While none is necessarily a household name, they still make their living performing and recording music, which is no easy feat in 2014.
“We realized we were all in an ironically similar place,” explains Jones. “We have roughly the same amount of fans. We’re all indie. We all have a solid viral campaign online. We’re all constantly performing and often overseas. Our careers are really similar. We see this as a chance to cross-pollinate our fan bases.”
The show will feature solo sets by each artist followed by a group performance. With all three players being experts in their respective genres, what will happen when they jam together should be nothing short of a religious experience for acoustic guitar heads.
“I’m so excited,” says Jones, who just returned from a 23-date tour of Europe. “It’s a challenge for me as a player to keep up with these guys. It takes me to another level musically. There’s no phoning it in. You’ll get to see three guitarists really working and feeding off each other in a pretty rare way. The energy should be tremendous.”
If you still need a reason to experience the Global Guitar Greats live, how about the fact this will actually be one of their first live shows? They’re embarking on a California tour before heading to Europe this fall. From there the sky’s the limit. Depending on the response, there’s already talk of making the collaboration a part-time to full-time gig for the three already hard-touring players.
As for the name, Jones sees how it could come off a little pompous, but he insists that’s not the intention.
“We wanted to go with the 3 Gs to make it memorable. We were thinking about Global Guitar Guys, Global Guitar Geeks, but that all sounded a little cheesy, so Greats it was,” he laughs.“But, honestly, as a guitar fan, Thomas and Stephen are two players that I truly feel are the definition of great. Not in an egotistical sense ’cause they’re both incredibly humble people, but they’re great at what they do. If I wasn’t part of it and heard about it happening, as a fan of the guitar and live guitar playing, I would not miss it under any circumstances.”

Global Guitar Greats, Saturday, June 7, at the W Gallery, corner of California and Main in downtown Ventura. For more information and tickets, visit For a complete Ventura Music Week schedule,



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Introducing, in alphabetical order, three guitar greats–Stephen Inglis, Shawn Jones, Thomas Leeb.

Open up their guitar cases, and it is like letting the music genie out of the bottle–wonderful sounds come pouring out, from all around the globe, Nashville to Honolulu, Ireland to West Africa and back, across America, down country roads, along city streets, through the airwaves.

Stephen Inglis, Shawn Jones, Thomas Leeb– all three of them are working musicians, with busy solo careers. They are also musician’s musicians, with great reputations for their work–their individual work.

Musically, they are very different from each other. So, what might happen if they got together?

“The three of us are endorsed by and have a mutual love for Lowden Guitars.  We met for the first time playing at Lowdenʻs booth at the 2014 NAMM show in Anaheim. From hanging that weekend, we hit it off and decided to book a tour together. We got to really know each other on the road, so the next stop was a natural–the recording studio. Flash forward, and here we are–on Common Ground.”

Flash forward, and here we are–presenting Common Ground . . .


Stephen Inglis is a versatile artist. He crosses genres, yet his music always radiates integrity. Born and raised in Honolulu, he plays Grammy-nominated Hawaiian slack key guitar. He records and tours with the most respected traditional musicians. His duet album with legend Dennis Kamakahi won Hawaii’s highest musical honor, a Hoku Hanohano Award, and the CD is on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Along with his strong respect for tradition, Stephen is a creative innovator. His album Slacking on Dylan opened up new territory for slack key, winning him a Hawaii Music Award. He has made three albums of his own singer-songwriter originals, acoustic and electric; and a new one, Learning You By Heart, is being readied for release in the Spring of 2015. Stephen lives the music life to the full: club gigs, concerts, festivals, touring, recording. He keeps expanding his musical range. Ånd he is a great collaborator, always open to finding common ground in melody and harmony.


Shawn Jones is the epitome of American Roots music: rock, R&B, jazz, and country. His father raised him on Hank Williams. He discovered the blues growing up in Southern California. Then several years in Nashville seasoned him as a session and road musician who could sing, write, and perform alongside the very best in the industry. Shawn has been on the same bill with all kinds of greats: from Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings to B.B. King to Bonnie Raitt to Leon Russell to Johnny Winter to Taj Mahal–the roll call goes on and on. Waylon Jennings was also so impressed with Shawn’s live performance that he took Jones under his wing, offering him a management deal and the grand opportunity to play on his 1996 release “Right For The Time.”  Shawn was also Waylon’s lead guitarist on Lollapalooza with Metallica, Ramones, & SoundGarden, and Willie’s 4th of July Picnic.  Shawn currently tours with country music multi-platinum artist, Deana Carter as her lead guitarist. “He plays more than two hundred dates a year, and tours internationally–fifteen years going to Europe. He has four studio albums and a live album under his belt, and his songs have been featured in Hollywood movies and on network TV.


Thomas Leeb picked up his first guitar for the same reason as every thirteen-year-old boy: to meet girls. It was the start of a lifelong love affair–with the instrument. He played his first solo concert at fifteen, and released his first acoustic album at seventeen. He developed into a pyrotechnic fingerpicker, with his fireworks always in the service of the music. He listens and learns: three years studying West African traditional music have given him a sense of timing and groove unusual in a guitarist. Thomas teaches workshops and master classes, and performs at concerts and festivals in Asia, the Americas, and Europe. He has been featured in guitar magazines all over the world, and his album Desert Pirate was voted one of the essential albums of the last twenty years by Åcoustic Guitar Magazine.


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