A wizard on cigar box guitar

THEY call him ``The Wizard'' of stringed instruments.

American cigar box guitar virtuoso Justin Johnson was yesterday mustering crowds at Deloraine's waterfront as raw blues spilled out across the Meander River.

Johnson travelled to the state to perform at this weekend's Deloraine StringFest Tasmania - the launch pad for his  Smoke and Mirrors  world tour.

``It's my personal goal to get everyone hooked on cigar box guitars in Tasmania,'' Johnson said yesterday.

``I've been playing them for just over two years now. 

``I picked up a cigar box guitar at a gig, the venue owner had one and wanted me to play it, I came up with my own tuning and loved it.''

Johnson's drive to master the intriguing guitars has seen him travel through the passages of time, reliving, recording and re-playing some of America's earliest examples of the jugband-era instrument.

``We went to `the crossroads' to record, where Robert Johnson was supposed to have made a deal with the devil,'' he said.

``There were 20-year-old instructions about how to get there, that had been handed down through the years.

``It was in the middle of nowhere, all dirt roads - there's an old slave cemetery next to it, you can still see the headstones.''

After hearing his signature ceramic guitar slide sing along the strings of the Tasmanian-made Devil Guitars cigar box, it's not hard to fathom the idea of a contract being signed that night.

``We did joke about it, but when you get out there it's too scary - I still want my soul,'' Johnson laughed.

He will perform 7pm tomorrow, 3pm Saturday and 2pm and 9pm on Sunday at Deloraine's Little Theatre. 

For more information about Deloraine StringFest Tasmania go to www.stringfesttas.com.

FACT FILE

WHAT: Deloraine StringFest Tasmania.

WHERE: Various venues in Deloraine.

WHEN: From 2pm tomorrow to Sunday, March 23.

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