Every so often, a wunderkind guitarist comes along in Tauranga.
You know the type – early teens, prodigiously talented, better than anyone else at school by leaps and bounds.
Of course it's not always guitarists. If you think keyboards the mind immediately goes to Grant Winterburn, now playing and teaching in Auckland, who used to astound people with his prowess as a 15-year-old and won a pile of trophies at the Youth Jazz Competition.
Or think of Oscar Laven, who was tapped at a tender age for the NZ Youth Orchestra and had a remarkable facility and interest in reed instruments, particularly bass ones.
He's now down in Wellington and, despite his main gigs being jazz and classical, returned briefly to Tauranga a couple of weekends back to play for the Entertainers Club with Frank Burkitt's band of folkies. He now plays pretty much anything you can blow, and more besides.
But since more people play guitars than other instruments, this phenomenon of young prodigies occurs more frequently.
Digging into the musical graveyard of my memory, my earliest thought would be of Kevin Coleman, who as a 17-year-old (I think) was Ritchie Pickett's full-time guitarist in the Inlaws, touring overseas and recording dazzling harmony lines on Ritchie's Gone For Water album along with Dave Maybee.
And I think of the bands Graham Clark assembled in the years prior to Brilleaux, often featuring fresh young virtuosos. One of those was Terry Varhalamas – a brilliant young guitarist who went on to play and record with John Michaelz and Bruce Rolands in The Stone Babies (and now Bruce is playing in Brilleaux with Graham – it's a bit of a musical roundabout here in the Bay!).
Another teen guitarist became prominent playing alongside Grant Winterburn and the legendary John Terry in Hit & Run. He was Delaney McVay, who once chainsawed a guitar to pieces on the stage of the Saint Amand Hotel.
I heard a story about Delaney from his school music teacher. He said Delaney was struggling a bit with some complicated guitar parts for the school band so he asked him what the trouble was.
It turned out that the family couldn't afford a guitar at home so Delaney did all his practice on the strings of a tennis racket.
He was a monster player.
More recently there's been Josh Durning, with his love for early American blues and jazz, incredibly dexterous guitar chops and remarkable ability to absorb old music.
And somewhere in between was Joel Shadbolt. I first became aware of Joel when he was about 13 or so and already playing with a maturity well beyond his years.
Throughout his teens he dazzled everybody, studying in Auckland, visiting the States, expanding from blues to country and jazz and now pretty much anything.
But Joel, mid-20s now, is no longer a child prodigy and many of those who burn so brightly early give it all up early too.
Not Joel, and I'm chuffed to report that the first really major project he's been involved in is being launched today (November 24) – the debut self-titled album by L.A.B., the band he's played with for the past couple of years.
Available now digitally and on limited edition double LP, this is the latest project from Brad & Stu Kora, along with Ara Adams-Tamatea (Katchafire) and Joel. So far I've only heard the three songs pre-released on Spotify, which are muscular and reggae-leaning with a spicing of electronica, blues and funk. They are hard-driving yet accessible, tough yet commercial.
The album was recorded at Wellington's Surgery Studios with Dr Lee Prebble (The Black Seeds, Fly My Pretties) and, along with the band who seem able to marry musical discipline with inspired playing, it seems destined for great things.
I'll keep in touch with Joel and report back on what happens next with L.A.B.
I suggest you get online and check out the band immediately – they are going to be B.I.G.