I can control the feedback off the 339 better
than any guitar I’ve ever had. It’s great with my
Reverends. I use two little Reverend combos
with a 12 in them—a Hellhound 40/60 and a
Kingsnake 20/60. They’re little monsters, man.
They just rip. They’re a perfect combination
with that guitar.
through another Durham box called the Sex
Drive. For my sound, it’s really a combination
of the Sex Drive and the next thing in my
chain, a Demeter Tube Direct Box. That’s what
makes the guitar able to sustain all that crunch
yet, when you pick and arpeggiate, it keeps
this beautiful clarity and piano-like quality.
humbuckers. I’m really happy with
this setup now.
Some of your SGs have P-94s in them.
How’d you come upon that configuration?
Take me through your signal chain.
I go through one of those old DOD A/B boxes
to pick my amp, but the chain starts with a
Boss TU- 2. Then I go through a Durham Zia
Drive if I want distortion and a little kick. I use
it more like a boost, really. Then I go through
a Boss digital reverb, the RV- 5, then I go
Charlie Sexton [the pedal’s namesake who
worked with Alan Durham on its devel-opment] told me that it took a year and
hundreds of bench hours to get that pedal
It’s a beautiful box. It’s essential now for me
to have that box. It works wonderfully with
Gordie Johnson is an amazing guitar player
in Canada who has a killer rock/dub reggae
hybrid band called Big Sugar. He has a signature model in a rare ebony finish with P-94s
that Gibson makes for the Canadian market.
It’s like a ’ 61 reissue. We were doing one of
those Sunday night gigs and when I saw it I
was shocked. It was funny—I wasn’t quite sure
how to articulate it to him, but that was the
kind of guitar I had been looking for. I had
been looking for a lighter guitar with the same
kind of tone, or close to it, that I had gotten
with my Les Paul custom. That guitar had
become too heavy for me. He gave me that
SG right on the spot. He said, “It’s yours.”
It’s amazing how I just fell in love with it. I’ve
since dropped P-94s into another SG, a reddish one that I have.
Rock bands have blended strings with their
music forever, often in ballads. You do that
too, but let the strings elevate and distort
along with the rest of the band when some
of your songs ramp up to another level. It’s
an amazing thing to witness live. How did
you develop that kind of sound and the
ensemble that could pull it off?
I played with the American version of Slim
Chance when Ronny Lane lived here in
Austin, so I learned how to play along with
mandolins, dobros, tenor guitars, and all that
kind of stuff. Later, I knew I wanted another
version of that, I just didn’t know how I
wanted to get it together. It took a long time.
I knew I wanted strings and I wanted them
to be as aggressive as the electric guitars. I
didn’t want them in the background like an
afterthought; I wanted them to be right in the
center of the hurricane. The most important
part of it was finding the right players. That
was really the thing, because you can find
a lot of string players who are attached to
sheet music but we don’t write things out. I
like to improvise a lot. I like to go on feel and
emotion, and I hate things played the same
way twice. I looked and looked and eventually found the perfect players with Susan Voelz
(violin) and Brian Standefer (cello).
Escovedo with his Gibson Southern Jumbo at the Birchmere in Alexandria, WA. The round-shouldered Southern Jumbo shape
combines elements of Gibson’s Jumbo and HG Hawaiian. Photo by Carl Hutzler.
You picked up some serious hardware at the
Austin Music Awards this year. Musician of