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Byron Shire
March 27, 2023

Picking a winter winner

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The Stillsons’ Justin Bernasconi has put together a beautiful new album titled Winter Pick that features his dexterous guitar playing.

Tell me about the concept for Winter Pick.

Winter Pick is an acoustic guitar finger-picking album. It was recorded over the winter of 2012. The songs on the album were inspired by listening to a lot of a great guitarists including John Fahey, Richard Thompson and Doc Watson.

My partner Cat Canteri (The Stillsons’ other songwriter) had been carping on about wanting to do a solo album for years. Once she actually started one I thought, well, I’ll be blinded if I’m not going to do one too!

How did you go about choosing the players who would contribute?

The players on this album had to be versatile in folk, roots and blues. I had known Ben Franz, Cat, Corey Romeo (The Stillsons), Pete Filder, Alex Burkoy (Tinpan Orange), and Sam Boon (Saskwatch) for years. I knew they would understand the aesthetics I was going for.

I didn’t know Jeff Lang when I approached him to produce the album. Once I explained that I wanted to make an acoustic guitar album of tunes that were inspired by the likes of John Fahey and Richard Thompson, he was really interested, and asked me come around to play him some of the material. 

Justin-BernasconiIn selecting just 12 tunes, what were you looking for in putting the album together?

I was looking to create an album that would make the listener feel that they were experiencing winter turning into spring. The biggest consideration after recording, mixing, and mastering the album was the song order.

The album is very eclectic, with tunes being mixed up with folk, blues and bluegrass influences. The album is half instrumentals, half songs.

I needed each track to flow like one piece of music; this was critical, and so it took a month to decide on the right order.

What do you think is the essence of not just good, but authentic and unique, guitar playing?

Tricky… and a somewhat loaded question! I particularly like singer/songwriter guitarists such as Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, David Rawlings: great melodies, passion, finesse. The tune is always the king, guitar showboating second.

Have you ever gone too far in a guitar solo and thought, hell, I can only forge on from here?

Yep, generally when I’m playing bluegrass. Because I’m relatively new to the style, it’s easy for me to get all muddled up, then I think, oh dear, what is this rubbish you’re playing? Stop!

What should we expect for your local show when you present the album at Treehouse in Belongil?

This will be my first time at Belongil Treehouse Cafe, and Ben Franz will be performing double bass along with me, so there will be heaps of goodtime blues, country vibes.

I’ll also be performing some of my darker songs, and solo pieces from Winter Pick… there may be a few surprises – who knows?!

At the Treehouse in Byron on Thursday and the Sheoak Shack on Saturday in Fingal Head.


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