Thomas Leeb

Upside Down
Publish date:
Updated on

One day soon a guitarist is going to break big with this whole slapping thing. Granted, Michael Hedges already did years ago to a certain extent, putting a face on the then-radical genre of spanked/tapped/ drummed acoustic guitar. And there is, quite refreshingly, a whole new generation of full-contact acoustic players (Kaki King, Rodney Branigan, Randy Collins, Teja Gerkin come to mind) who aren’t afraid to tackle their instruments with two hands on the fretboard or beat their guitars’ bodies with the delicate fury of an Indian tabla master. And there are electric players, such as the inimitable Ben Lacy, who smack the living harmonics out of their 6-strings. But, acoustic or electric, no one has made the mainstream with this enthralling style—there’s simply no Zakk Wylde or Tom Morello of slap. At least not yet.

What we need to do is pair an inspiring young cat like Thomas Leeb with the next Bono or Axl Rose (i.e., a compelling new singer oozing with Jumbotron appeal and major-label support) and then maybe the next supergroup—complete with guitar hero—will be born. Granted, Leeb, a Lowden Guitars endorsee, is more of a fingerstyle folker than a rocker, but he serves as a good example. As the Austrian-born guitarist proved with the massive crowds his slap-crackle-pop antics generated each time he performed on the floor of this year’s Winter NAMM convention, his appeal is universal. Upside Down delivers most but not all of the magic of a Leeb performance. (You gotta see him throw down on his guitar to get the full impact.) Weaving colorful two-handed tapped tapestries out of harp-like open tunings and stretching them out over syncopated percussion grooves, Leeb has much in common with a great beat-boxer, pulling off the seemingly impossible on many tracks by handling drum beats and melodies simultaneously. Cheers to Leeb and others like him, for they remind us that the next guitar legend is out there. The world just hasn’t discovered him/her yet. (