Tuesday, May 2, 2017

"Don't mind dyin' but I hate to see my children cry"

My first introduction to the jam band scene was through Col Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit. I think I had it on cassette, which was a review copy sent to my student paper.

I think.

Later I tried Phish and Blues Traveler and such, but I am sure it started with ARU. Certainly some great players came up through them, including Oteil Burbridge and Jimmy Herring.
Jam scene patriarch Col. Bruce Hampton died on stage during the final moments of a benefit concert honoring his 70th birthday at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on Monday night. Hampton passed out with nearly the entire all-star lineup for Hampton 70: A Celebration Of Col. Bruce Hampton surrounding him as the “Turn On Your Lovelight” finale was nearing a conclusion. 
 I'm saddened, of course, but, as Alex Scolnick tweeted, what a way to go.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The One Album

From Premier Guitar:
Most of us have a crystal-clear picture imprinted in our psyches—a stark moment of when our younger, more impressionable selves first heard a recording that blew our minds, and from that point forward, everything would be different. In those moments of discovery, turned obsession, worship, and deep learning, a bold appreciation and respect emerges for someone else’s expression. It’s the personal joy of experiencing art that moves you. In a human existence riddled with many uncertainties, inspiration is something to hold onto. The possibilities are endless with music, and the journey never ends. We hope you enjoy going down memory lane.
Made me think. Reading the article, I'm left thinking "Luther is right about Sacred Steel. Reeves Gabriels is right about Rock n Roll Animal. Warren Haynes is right about At Fillmore East. Bill Janovitz is right about Remain in Light. John Jorgenson is right (and surprising, knowing is other work) about Fragile. Rick Nielsen is right about Are You Experienced? Alex Skolnick is right about Van Halen I. I don't see how Robbie Basho leads to Savages, but I'm willing to trust and follow."

So, I'm thinking.

And I'm thinking Who's Next.

My connection to Robert Randolph, to Eddie Van Halen, to Jimi Hendrix, to Angus and Malcolm Young, to Steve Howe and Chris Squire, to Dickey Betts and Duane Allman, to Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner (the dual-guitar attack behind Aerosmith's "Train Kept A-Rollin'", as well as Lou Reed), and dozens if not hundreds of others: it all came after I learned to play guitar.

But back in my early teens, I heard a lot of music, but it was the Who that made me think "Hey, I could do it." Unlike Eddie Van Halen (who I knew mostly through "Beat It" at that time), and the guitar heroes of the 60s and 70s, it seemed approachable, that guitar and music, while not easy, were doable.

I think, considering what I was listening to, it was "Goin' Mobile", more than any of the other great tracks on what I think of as their best album, that made me want to pick up the instrument.

Monday, September 12, 2016

After Action Report: Church Slide

First things first: I've seen suggestions that you drink coffee right before you take a nap, so when naptime is over and your body has metabolized the caffeine, you're energized and ready to go. So, as I sat awake at 1:30 am, knowing that call time was 7:30 am, I started thinking I should've had that cup of coffee right before I crashed, or not at all, instead of at 6 pm.


Starting at practice. Signal chain is Guitar > Wireless > Pedalboard > D/I Box > Hidden Amp > Mic > PA.

Song list starts with slide guitar. I'm not Sonny Landreth, but the song didn't need that, but it needed someone who could do it. Made me happy.

Normally, I bring my pedalboard because I know all the pedals, but I was asked to use their pedalboard, which includes a volume pedal, 2 "dirt" pedals, a compressor that I can't discern, a Line 6 DL4 delay and a Strymon Blue Sky reverb. I was hit with the following issues:

  • My Number One is not optimized for slide playing. The action is high enough, but I go with Ernie Ball Extra Slinky .008-.038 which makes it hard to not accidently fret and such. 
  • My Number One is a Telecaster with standard single-coils, which were not powerful enough to drive the dirt pedals to have discernable dirt, which gave me a plinky clean sound when I wanted a dirty rhythm sound, which caused me to not play the way I wanted on some of the other songs. There was enough to get enough hair on it for the slide stuff, though.
  • Something caused all the hum to hum all the possible hum. 
I didn't really debug the hum at first, but eventually I learned that the hum was between the wireless (turned off the pack; hum still there) and the volume pedal (heel down; hum gone). So, most of the practice was a struggle to not just sound like a beehive. 

So, when it came time to play for real, I brought my Squier HH Tele. I love it; it's easily the lightest electric guitar I own, and I don't think I've put on new strings yet, so it didn't have the eights and the string tension was high enough for me do better with slide. The humbuckers were enough to drive the pedals to get the better distortion from the pedals, which meant that I could get enough of a rhythm crunch for the points I wanted it.

Also, I was plugged directly to the pedalboard, so no hum!

First pedal on my board is an always-on EHX LPB-1 to get my clean volume about the same level as my dirty volume. I dial my gain to the point where I'm well in the grinVd on my dirt pedals. I'm thinking 1) adding at least the capability of more output for the guitar is a good thing, and 2) perhaps I go for too much crunch on those pedals. My "lead" distortion is a Washburn Soloist, which was inexpensive and I think is beginning to show signs of failing, and I'm considering a replacement. 

The Strymon is a very ambient-safe reverb, with a shimmer set on the Favorite pedal, but I was able to make it work for the slide, and I'm thinking I need to get something, maybe more like an EHX Holy Grail to go at the end of my chain. It's really good, but not me.

  • Consider heavier strings
  • Consider higher output pickups for the Number One
  • Practice with less distortion to get better and braver
  • Price a reverb pedal
  • Price a lead-tone distortion pedal

Monday, August 1, 2016

After Action Report:

This was a few weekends ago, where I ably backed Greg Jones. I'm the one on the right, hiding behind my hat. You can tell it's me by the murdered-out #1.

This was after one rehearsal, and I was really uncomfortable with a lot of the material, so I spent more time looking at my feet, my chord sheets and pedalboard than is good. I'm sure most pics of me that day would look identical to this, with me not looking out at the audience. I need to work on stage presence.

Greg plays Americana, and I felt one song really worked with a slap-back guitar, along the lines of Luther Perkins. I can play a rockabilly boogie-woogie in Perkins' strange kind of way, but when it came to playing a lead, I just kinda doubled down on the rhythm. The slapback boxed me in, in a way that the dotted-eighths of the Edge and so on never really did.

But, I enjoyed the songs, playing, playing in front of people, and playing with another drummer. And yes, to get the right sound, we used a suitcase as the kick drum.

Monday, May 23, 2016

What The Sam Hunt is going on?

I don't listen to radio. If I hear new music, it's largely EDM-based or indie rock from Spotify. So, it's a rare thing where the hot new thing on radio hits my ears.

This is Sam Hunt.

What do I think about it?

I'm not a great fan.

But, I'm okay with it.

Time was, "country" was the barely-changed-from-Scotland-and-Ireland music of Appalachia. That's a big chunk of the Carter Family songbook, but it isn't all. Plenty of their songs end with "Blues" and fit the format. They might not be Blues quite the way that Memphis Minnie might've done it, but they were Blues: 12-bar with AAB rhyme scheme.

And if the Carter Family weren't bluesy enough for you, "T For Texas" by Jimmie Rodgers should be, and both were there in Bristol, Tennessee, at the beginning of Country music. Making black popular music palatable for rural white audiences is a part of what Country has been about since the beginning.

Western Swing, like Bob Wills and his "Faded Love" and "Big Ball's in Cow Town", is an attempt to make Swing music palatable for rural white audiences.

Honky-Tonk, like Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin'", is an attempt to make black string-band Blues palatable for white rural audiences.

Rockabilly, like "Blue Suede Shoes" by Carl Perkins, is an attempt to make Jump Blues palatable for white rural audiences.

That isn't the only tendency in country, but I believe I have shown that this is a core one.

The above track, Sam Hunt's "Make You Miss Me", is an attempt at a Slow Jam. Is it good? I don't know. When I want a slow jam, I go to Tyrese. But it certainly fits the genre. Which means, while I might not like the song (or maybe I do), it fits in tendency of Country music to take on aspects of Black music.

And it's an alternative to current country basically being 80s hair metal with a banjo in the mix.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Fishman Makes Tele Pickups

Greg Koch is the funniest man in music these days, and here he's showing off the new Fluence pickups from Fishman. I couldn't make them sound as good as he does, but he certainly makes a case for them here.

I might want a PowerBridge up in there, too.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

After-Warranty Report: Kliq TinyTune

I didn't just complain on my blog yesterday.

I made an Amazon review. A three-star Amazon review.

I also got the order ID, registered the Kliq pedal, and submitted a report of faulty gear.

They took my address and shipped me a new pedal. In fact, I know it's in town already.

We'll see how long the new one lasts, but I have to say their customer service is right on. After a few times playing out, I might revise and extend that Amazon review.