Uncle John Sawbriar

Uncle John Sawbriar


Unconventional fingerstyle acoustic guitar instrumentalist. Employs various open and alternative tunings, bare-handed picking and several percussive techniques to produce a uniquely captivating style which is unclassifyable by typical genre.


Uncle John Sawbriar is often told "I've never seen anyone play the guitar like that... I didn't know you could do that with a guitar!" That, or statements like it are typical--possibly because not many people play the acoustic guitar in such a manner, or have any idea of how to create that type of soundscape using a single instrument.

Beginning to study guitar at the age of fifteen on a borrowed cheap acoustic guitar, John soon became engrossed in the music of classic rock guitarists such as Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Pete Townsend, Steve Howe, Duane Allman, Carlos Santana, David Gilmour, and Jeff Beck--but never managed to get a band together for very long. Although having been in several garage bands through those early years, he rarely ever had any public appearances with any of them. It was in the '70s that he discovered the music of Chet Atkins, John Fahey, Leo Kottke and Peter Lang. This was a benchmark in beginning to embark upon a wholly different style.

After several years in the armed forces, having had little time to practice with other musicians, John concentrated primarily on solo fingerstyle guitar, and on developing his own unique style. Upon returning to the private sector in 2002, he again endeavored to perform publicly and to record his original guitar compositions.

Although influenced by numerous artists over the years, the foundation of his style was built upon the picking styles and alternative tuning methods of John Fahey and Leo Kottke. In the last few years having a deep impression made upon him by such innovative solo guitarists as the late Michael Hedges, Don Ross, Preston Reed, Al Petteway, Kaki King, Adrian Legg, and the late British folk singer Nick Drake, Uncle John's solo compositions have evolved into something uniquely different from most anything else in today's music--and have in the last couple of years begun to create a fervor of great interest within his audiences in the Mid-Atlantic region's coffeehouses and local music venues.

Some very notable performers have had these things to say about the music of Uncle John Sawbriar:

"Infectious grooves!" - Al Petteway, Grammy-winning acoustic guitar soloist and recording artist. Winner of over 20 WAMMIES (Washington Area Music Awards).

"...very beautiful." - Liz Berlin, singer-songwriter, guitarist, and percussionist with Mercury recording artists Rusted Root.

"I went to see him play at a bar in North Baltimore, and there were only eight people there. But he didn't care; he played his heart out just the same. He reminded me of Leo Kottke with a little Michael Hedges on top." - Dave Eske, singer-songwriter and technical director of The Gordon Center for Performing Arts, Owings Mills, Maryland.


Steel Reinforced Neck, ©2004. A collection of single-take tracks recorded in one afternoon in a home studio near Inyokern, California--out in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Largely mellow rootsy tunes, with a ragtime, blues, and upbeat folk sort of sound.

Sawbriar: Soli for Six-String Guitar, ©2005. More single-take tracks recorded over a three-month period in a home studio in Towson, Maryland. More progressive than 2004's CD, this one has pieces that range from a progressive jazz sound, to new age dreamscapes.

Witcraft Manner Rough Cuts, ©2006. Several live and studio tracks recorded by Witcraft Productions, Baltimore, Maryland. Truly alternative sounds (such as the uniquely percussive "Wacka-Wacka"), with more of a rock and contemporary influence. Live versions of the crowd pleasers "Rollin'", "Quiet Reflection", and "Dream Out Loud" with percussion accompaniment.

Steel Reinforced Sawbriar, ©2006. A compilation of all tracks from the first two collections. Very well-received by all who've heard or bought it. Due to careful track arrangement, this one is often referred to as being "like one large work comprised of several movements". This record can be downloaded in its entirety--or by track--at: www.soundclick.com/unclejohnsawbriar

Set List

Set list is comprised largely of instrumental material (both original and cover) along with a few favorite songs, if artistic license is what the venue allows or desires.

Otherwise, the list may be comprised of songs from a variety of artists from various periods over the last 60 years, with some folk songs reaching back as far as 200 or 300 years.

A typical set of covers may include some of these songs:

Can't Change Me - Chris Cornell
Whiskey Johnny - A 200+ year-old sea shanty
Oh, Lonely Me - Neil Young
Reach - Collective Soul
Ventura Highway - America
Blackbird - The Beatles
My Favorite Things (instrumental) - Rogers and Hammerstein
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes - Jerome Kern
I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry - Hank Williams
The Last Steam Engine Train (instrumental) - John Fahey
Blue Ridge - Kyler England
If I Laugh - Cat Stevens
I'm in the Jailhouse Now - Jimmie Rodgers
Uncle John's Band - The Grateful Dead
Gulf of Mexico - Shawn Mullins
Little Martha (instrumental)