Monday, April 6, 2015

Matt Isbell – Once There Was a Cigar Box | DVD Review

Matt Isbell – Once There Was a Cigar Box |DVD Review

Self Release

23 minutes, 4 seconds

Not many DVDs make their way in here for review, and there has never been one in my mailbox quite like Once There Was a Cigar Box, a short film by Alexander Conrads from Germany. It is about the Memphis Cigar Box guitars that are handmade by Matt Isbell, the frontman for the Ghost Town Blues Band. It is a short film (ten minutes for the main event), but they manage to condense the construction of a guitar into a few minutes, and then take that same instrument to Beale Street for a gig at Rum Boogie’s Blues Hall, where it sounds amazing in Isbell’s capable hands.

The construction process is fascinating, both with creativity in the materials chosen, and with the use of power tools in ways that they were probably not intended for in the first place. His shop is a glorious collection of boxes and parts, and as he assembles the guitar it is apparent that he has built a lot of these – he has it dialed in!

Matt narrates the disc, and he talks about his background, as well as a bit about how he runs his business with the help of his wife, Lisa. Of course there is no talk about money, but I imagine his self-run luthier shop is a bit more lucrative than gigging, even though his band is amazing and scored a second place at last year’s IBC in Memphis. By the way, a review of their new album, Hard Road to Hoe, is forthcoming.

The video is clear and steady, and Conrads has a good eye for composition and lighting. The editing is top-notch, so I have nothing to complain about here, except that I wish it could have been longer!

As an added bonus, there are three song videos on the disc too, and they are all really fun tunes that feature Matt and a couple of friends jamming out.

This short film is quite good, and it premiered at film festivals in more than a half-dozen countries last year. Head over to to get a copy of your own, or better yet see about picking up one of Matt’s creations for yourself. These are super-cool instruments, and there is a real satisfaction in playing a cigar box guitar. I should really be picking one up too…

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