The luthier’s craft can seem one from another age, the archaic title passed down despite evolving instruments and musical styles. In today’s music industry, Reuben Cox is one of the most respected makers of stringed instruments – in his case, guitars for the likes of The National’s Aaron Dessner, Jackson Browne, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Phoebe Bridgers, and Carrie Brownstein. Really Good Rejects puts Cox and his craft front and centre, with the artists who cherish his instruments describing and demonstrating the music their Cox-created guitars make possible. Their joy is infectious as they break into riffs, interrupting themselves to talk through the creative process. 

Cox himself is the quietest of the talking heads, seemingly content to let his quest for the perfect materials and shapes speak for itself. Director Alice Gu skilfully works his insights into the more extroverted performers’ segments, deepening both sides of the musical analysis. 

This loving documentary assumes much audience prior knowledge, both of the music industry as a structural whole and of the individual singers and songwriters who discuss Cox’s craftsmanship on screen. This, however, never feels like a hurdle; these testimonies make the specifics feel unimportant (it is okay not to recognise those particular opening bars) yet always significant, almost transcendent (the earnest, almost ecstatic enjoyment with which they are played to camera is universal). Recognising Taylor Swift’s ‘Invisible Strings’, co-written by Dessner, is remarkably fun; it is equally engaging to seek out a new tune as a result of the on-screen passion. 

A must for music lovers, regardless of genre, Really Good Rejects conveys the power of the humble guitar with boundless enthusiasm and conviction. It is hard to walk away without a melody in the air and a belief that a wooden box with six strings can truly create magic. 




SYNOPSIS: A loving look at luthier Reuben Cox, whose pursuit of guitar materials and innovative constructions have created instruments played by today’s most recognisable artists.