BLUES STATESMAN TALKS MUSIC AND GEAR
What happened to blues albums?
One- the industry is changing; people are
downloading records. Two- people are not
making records that drive people to the
stores to buy them. For me, to have some
acoustic music on there gives it a different
flavor and appeals to a broader audience.
It’s easy to strap on a Stratocaster and try
to out-Stevie Ray the umpteenth guys who
are trying to out-Stevie Ray each other. To
me, its like- is there a song with a melody?
Is there a song a woman would enjoy?
That’s important. For a long time the blues
have ignored 50% of their audience by
catering to just guys.
This album really makes me stop and
think about its production values. There
are so many things going on. For example, the lead track’s Zeppelin-eque sonic
quality hits you right in the chest.
Did you get it right?
I really like the way it turned out. I wanted
to make an album you could listen to all
the way through and have it make sense at
the end. Unfortunately, people cherry-pick
songs and download them today, missing
the feel that albums are designed with.
If you took Thick as a Brick [Jethro Tull]
and listened to those songs out of order it
would be total chaos as a piece of art and
that’s kind of the thinking I was going with
– let’s try to make this thing so that it flows
from start to finish.
Let’s talk gear. You mostly used a ’ 59
Historic Les Paul for the electric-driven
cuts on this album. Can you take me
through that rig?
Sure. I have four Historic ‘59s of varying
degrees of flame toppage but I use one in
Your D- 28 sounds amazing. How’d you
We used a Neumann 87- the studio had
a newer one. We used it through a 1083
Neve and basically an 1176 UREI compressor. We were going for that early Crosby,
Stills & Nash tone. Moderns have a tendency to get a little scooped out in the
mids so you don’t really hear all the notes
but that particular D- 28 doesn’t have a ton
of bottom and it doesn’t have a ton of top,
which of course bluegrass guys would pick
it up and say, ‘Oh, this is a crappy one,’ but
for a recording guitar it’s very direct. I think
it’s a ’ 57 or a ’ 58.
Pick up anything new lately?
Yeah, I’ve got a Gibson Custom Shop pro-
totype- it’s called a Skylark. It’s based on
I can’t take credit for that. That’s [engineer]
Kevin Shirley. Kevin’s such a brilliant pro-
ducer and such a great musical mind. He
comes from a different background. He was
predominantly doing more heavy records,
you know – Zeppelin remixes, Black Crows,
Iron Maiden – so he came to the table with
a very different perspective. He was coming
up with stuff I would never think of in a mil-
lion years. Like the song, “Sloe Gin;” I never
would have thought of that, even if I had
heard it before I would have never thought,
‘Let’s see what you can do to make it not
only viable but the title track, too.’
I think people are getting back to that
mentality of ‘Let me work on my playing
first’ and then finding gear to augment
that and make it easier.
There are so many great, different flavors
on this album. How did you approach that
in the studio?
We did two separate sessions for the
album. In January we did a full-on, all
acoustic thing – all the acoustic tracks and
“Ball Peen Hammer.” Then we came back
and did all the electric tracks. And we
didn’t really know how it would work – if we
should do a side A/side B thing or if going
back and forth would make it disjointed.
We went through several sequences and
even had to burn about 25,000 [CD] jackets
when we made the last change. [laughs]
particular a little more. . . That main one I
use is a 2003. And it has original Bumble
Bee caps. To be honest with you, I’m not
really a fan of people tearing up Melody
Makers from the ‘50s to rip 500k pots and
Bumble Bee caps out of ‘em, but someone
had already done this to what was an unus-
able guitar that my dad bought. So, we put
a legitimate set of ’ 59 pots and Bumble
Bee caps in this Les Paul and I put in a set
of PF humbuckers from 1953. It just opened
up the guitar, giving it that very 800 Hz to
900 Hz very human quality to it. For me the
moment of truth on any Les Paul is when
you go to the G string, B string and high E
string – does the bottom end stay tight and
bright. This one does and I use it for that
a late ‘50s – early ‘60s Korina lap steel. It’s
shaped like a Les Paul and it has the old
Flying V logo on it, but the Skylark headstock and the ’ 59 profile neck. The cool
thing is, all the frets are numbered which is
really wild. I think people are getting back
to that mentality of ‘Let me work on my
playing first’ and then finding gear to augment that and make it easier.
You’ve seen a lot of changes in the guitar
industry over the years, plus you know a
lot with your dad owning a music store
and all – what excites you right now?
You know, to me what’s exciting is seeing
guys like Jeff Beck plugging straight into
a JCM2000 with pretty much a stock Strat
he’ll just make you cry, you know. I just saw
Johnny Winter; we just did a show with
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