Though he had previously played acoustic guitar, when a friend presented him with a 1930s National Duolian steel-bodied model, Richard Leo Johnson took an immediate shine to its surprising playability and fascinating colors. Particularly intriguing was the name “Vernon McAlister,” crudely etched into the steel body. It fired Johnson’s imagination, and he spun a tale of a Tennessee man who teaches himself to play a strange, sweet, unruly music that none of his friends and family understand. The album is Johnson’s musical document of the legend, and it’s a stunner.
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