Harp Guitar Blues

Still lamenting the severe drop in sales of physical CDs (no, that’s not the “blues” I’m speaking of in the title), it was thus surprising to get multiple orders out of the blue for Tom Shinness’ CD “Translucent Harp” (a must-have, by the way).

This typically means that “something is up” (sales were from New Jersey) and then I remembered hearing that Tom got a gig with bluesman Keb’ Mo’ recently.

mo,shinness-lewis_tezak-s Sure enough, Mo’s “temp trio” played there a week ago, and Tom has been doing several shows with the popular guitarist/singer.

I’ve found multiple reviews and most make special mention of Tom’s harp guitar.   He apparently used his amplified Gibson for some shows and a Holloway for others.

Looks like a great gig, Tom – and nice to see the harp guitar exposed to these new audiences!


I asked Tom to shed some more light on this unique experience, and he replied:

“In the summer of 2013 I was hired to provide background music for the Southern Living grand opening on the grounds of the Fontanel Mansion in Whites Creek TN, just outside of Nashville.

I brought the usual arsenal of instruments that I typically use in my solo shows, including my 1913 Gibson harp-guitar, classical guitar, cello, double-neck mandolin/mandola and ukulele. In attendance were a wealth of music industry shakers and celebrities, including three time Grammy winner Keb’ Mo’.

Keb’ and I were introduced by a mutual friend, and I was asked on the spot if I would join him for his upcoming spring tour, which at that point was already being billed as an acoustic solo tour. Keb’ especially liked the way that I sometimes play the cello like a guitar, incorporating my fingerstyle guitar technique on the instrument.

We began rehearsals in January, with myself switching between electric bass, cello, mandolin & harp-guitar. My harp-guitar of choice at that point was the amazing sounding Holloway. The Holloway was used during the first part of the tour. I chose to take my newly refretted Gibson with me just before a five week run because the Holloway was in need of repairs.

Casey Wasner, Keb’s longtime guitar tech was asked to sit in on drums, and the three of us came up with a format that’s sort of a cross between Keb’s solo show and a three piece band sound, which makes for a very diverse evening and turned out to be a quite a hit with Keb’s longtime fans, many of them saying it was their favorite line up.

Keb’, being the thoughtful and generous man that he is, invited me to bring one of my CD titles to sell after the shows. I chose Translucent Harp. At some point during the run, Keb’ invited me to take 90 seconds to demonstrate what the harp-guitar sounds like as a solo instrument, to satisfy the curiosity of the demanding audiences. I have since played a condensed version of the piece “Don’t Give Into Sorrow About Tomorrow”, a cut from the CD, at every show. This has of course boosted my CD sales, resulting in a welcome case of writers cramp, just trying to sign them all at the end of the night.

The spring tour runs from late January and ends after the first week in June. At the time of this writing, it still remains to be seen just exactly what my role, if any, will be with Keb’ following the spring tour.

Prior to playing with Keb’ I thought I knew a lot about music, yet I have learned so much from him and I know that it will change me for the better. Keb’ is an amazing singer-songwriter and guitar stylist. He is also an extremely kind, intelligent and downright hilarious individual. It’s no wonder that he has collaborated with an impressive, lengthy list of very famous household name musicians.”  –  Tom Shinness

  1. Michael Schreiner Says:

    I don’t know Mr. Mo but I would love to see them perform together. Tom slides though your head with waves of
    multi-instrumental artistry and silken vocals. If Keb is similarly gifted, I am sure they are putting on quite a show. Maybe there will be a youtube sample soon.


  2. Thomas Nielsen Says:

    Keb Mo is indeed a tremendous live performer. This constellation is almost unbelievable and definitely one I’d love to watch.

  3. Gregg Says:

    I had asked Tom to tell me more about the dream gig, and just now added his reply to the above blog.

  4. sb Says:

    That’s great Tom! Congratulations on some well deserved exposure! I had heard that this was coming up for you a while back but had forgotten about it. Glad it went well!


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