This week's Monday morning started off like any other until my phone buzzed signalling the arrival of this message over Instagram.
Some 24 hours later I had successfully made my way to Ladbroke Grove and walked in the sunshine round the corner to the Vicente Cañada Blanch Spanish School. It was a glorious day and I was looking forward to meeting a musician who I had heard a lot about. When one of the world's finest guitar makers Michael Greenfield describes someone as "one of the good guys" then you pay attention.
Here's Pipo with his new Greenfield G3 fan fret guitar. It is an extraordinary instrument. Massively responsive, huge dynamic range and let's face it, it looks amazing.
The concert itself was a joy for two reasons. The first was that Pipo played completely unamplified which allowed the audience a rare experience of hearing the true voice of a guitar of this quality in the hands of a world class musician. The second reason was that due to the intimate nature of the venue I was sitting about four feet away from the sonic epicentre. I closed my eyes and listened.
I have to be honest here. With the incredible wealth of repertoire that Spanish music has gifted the guitar since its birth it has always struck me as surprising that there hasn't been much direct influence on the steel string instrument. I've seen various players widdling manfully through "Friday Night in San Francisco" style chord changes (worst case scenario over a looped Am, G, F and E...) in a Phrygian phrenzy, but with the exception of Pierre Bensusan's masterful "The Spanish Hour" on "Intuite" (seriously, one of the most important guitar albums of all time. Get it.) there has been a distinct lack of anything extending beyond pastiche.
Thankfully that is now in the past.
Pipo Romero plays a steel string guitar, in altered tunings, with a thumbpick with real duende. He blends influences from all over the world, Bensusan, De Lucia, Emmanuel, into something new that is uniquely his. In the music of Pipo Romero we now have a strong, authentic Spanish identity in the steel string fingerstyle world. It was a joyful experience and I am very grateful for the invitation.
Check Pipo Romero out below in the beautiful surroundings of the Gran Teatro de Córdoba.
Pipo will also be in Berlin for the Holy Grail Guitar Show and I'm looking forward to hearing more of his music. It's going to be a hell of a weekend!