Saturday, January 27, 2007

Back In The Day

These guys rocked before I was born... The Tielman Brothers

Friday, January 26, 2007

Brad Davis and Greenbroke

Great American Music.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mentoring the Masses

When I was first beginning to play guitar, there were a few standard instruction books that most people had, usually Mel Bay publications that had a collection of chord diagrams and sometimes a complete method with simple melodies like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and the like. Some of those books are classics, such as the "Orchestral" chord method. Written in 1947, it deals with the harmonic needs of the typical guitar player of the times - cutting through the horn section and staying out of the way of the piano. As tastes changed and horn sections and pianos were replaced by synthesizers or multiple distorted guitars, those voicings still work to make a guitar part fit into a dense mix. Guitar genius Richard Bennett recommended that I study that book when I asked him where he got his chord ideas from. Along with the George Van Eps Guitar Method, which covers harmonized triads in a very musical manner, you've got all you need to get the chordal thing happening.

Growing up in Mauston, Wisconsin, there were precious few guitar players, and no Rock players to take lessons from. Tim Hubert was the local Django fan, and he played great Pop guitar in the Les Paul/George Barnes manner. His wife played bass and taught guitar, but I wanted to rock. Thia Hubert, their daughter and a great singer, knew of a guy named Bob Nikrin who might be able to get me started. Bob lived in a small apartment and had a collection of Allman Brothers and Christopher Parkening records and some Cool Jazz. He showed me a few things and was very encouraging, but we never really had formal lessons. I had to find my own way by listening to records and getting a few tips from the "rock" themed Mel Bay books, which were pretty lame.

Today's instructional material is overwhelming. You can find a DVD of your favorite player showing all of his choice licks for $29.95. I've bought a few recently, as I am in another "learning" phase. This usually signals that I am bored with my playing and need an "outside agitator" to stir things up.

In a retro mood, I decided to get the Elliot Easton DVD, since his playing in The Cars was a big influence on me. We used to cover a few of their tunes in my high school band, but I never played the solos correctly at the time. Now I can watch Elliot break down each phrase at a slow tempo and finally get it right. What's the point of learning someone else's solos if you are not going to play their songs? Well, it's a great way to get an insight into how they think about soloing. Easton is always melodic, memorable, hummable and chose great tones for his parts. He definitely comes form the George Harrison school of finding a great part for the song - he is not a jammer. He can stretch out, and is shown playing a few extended bluesy pieces on the DVD, but his forte is concise, tasty leads...and that's my preference, too. I also found a used copy of "the cars live" from the MusikladenTV show that has the original band doing selections from the first two records...great stuff.

Another "parts player" who has been in the public ear lately is the understated Adam Levy from Norah Jones' Handsome Band. Levy is an obviously schooled player and he has great internal editing, only playing what's needed and finding interesting ways to do it. His DVD "Play The Right Stuff" is just that. Three hours of tutorial on chord voicings, harmonic patterns, grooves and getting the right vibe for the song. This is a rare and valuable lesson, not often taught in any generation. It's not flashy, it's not sexy. It's simply the information you need to accompany an artist on guitar, which is 90% of any guitar player's job. Long overdue and hopefully the first of many.

This blog was linked to by Instapundit and a few weeks ago due to a YouTube clip I posted of Redd Volkaert and Cindy Cashdollar taped at their weekly gig at the Continental Club in Austin, TX. I went to Redd's site and bought the combination DVD package of the entire gig, plus an instructional video entitled "Stolen Licks". Redd has spent years playing on bandstands with pedal steel players and fiddlers and he has incorporated those sounds into his own Tele playing. If you are an electric guitarist on a Country gig and are the only solo instrument, grab this DVD and learn what Redd has to offer. He describes all of the ideas as licks he has "stolen" from other sources, but what he does with them make them his own. Inspirational.

Another great - and free - learning tool is YouTube. Sure, you can watch various idiots have their jackassed moments digitally immortalized, or you can take a guitar lesson from Mike Campbell. Not sure how to play the intro/solo to 'Breakdown"? Watch this: Breakdown.

When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to see The Midnight Special, or Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, or Solid Gold or SNL just to catch a glimpse of what the guitar players were doing. Now I can watch it over and over and get the part exactly, no guessing on the fingering or phrasing.

That's what's on my "musical nutrtion" plate during these grey and cold January days. I've already got the solo to "My Best Friend's Girl" mastered, and have the "Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down" intro ingrained in my brain. Who knows where or when those two might collide and spawn a new idea...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Diversify Celebrity

People who should be more famous, and to whom you should listen to and buy their music:

Donna Beasley

Elizabeth Cook

Tim Carroll

Duke Levine

Raul Malo

Steve Conn

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Motown - Philly

Cobo Hall in Detroit is playing host to the International Auto Show. we played the black tie-for-charity opening last night. Blue-eyed Soul meets Candy Apple and Chrome.

The stage was set up in the middle of the Daimler Chrysler exhibit

Jeep had a display that was pretty effective.

The Dodge Aspen looked pretty nice.

Nissan had a concept car called the Bevel. Looked interesting...

T-Bone is sharing guitar duties with John, the Mighty Zev Katz is on bass.

Chrysler had a sports car that was quite attractive.

Daryl and John were in excellent form, and the crowd loved the set. Many of the ladies had champagne-fueled dancin' feet, and a few got invited on stage to bop around.

After a night of partying in heels, the Belles of the Ball unwind by discussing the finer points of the improved suspension system in the Mopar muscle car reissues, and whether the new Super Bee is worth the money or if in fact the stock Charger has enough hp to drive to soccer practice. At least I think that's what they were talking about.

It's nice to see Motown in all it's heavy metal glory, and I have to say the American manufacturers held their own against Japan, Korea and Europe. I really liked the Dodge Nitro, an SUV looking car that was under $25k, loaded.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Tone Sweet Tone

Here's another gear-centric post, so those not interested, please skip down a few posts.

While on the Aerosmith tour for two short weeks, I ordered and received a Radial Engineering Bassbone pedal for bassist David Hull. The fine folks at Radial - Peter Janis and Denis Rozon - were kind enough to hand-deliver it to us at a gig. I first heard the Bassbone in the rig of Zev Katz, who played the Hall and Oates Christmas tour when regular bassist T-Bone Wolk played guitar.

I had heard and used Radial's DI boxes for years, and briefly owned a JD7 (which I sold due to getting out of the commercial studio business). A few months ago, I saw two Radial Tonebone distortion boxes for sale at Dave's Guitar Shop. He had the Classic and the Hot British for less than half their normal new price, so I bought them both. I had only a few days to play with them before I left for the Aerosmith gig. Now that I am home, I have had a chance to delve a little deeper.

This is the Classic, a tube-driven pedal that cops the California tube amp sound in spades. I have a decent collection of overdrive/distortion stompboxes and have heard and used dozens more. The Classic has a different feel than your typical pedal. It is extremely quiet even at the highest gain settings. It cleans up nicely when you turn your guitar volume down and sounds great with single coil and humbucking pickups. I brought my vintage Ibanez Fat Cat into my studio and A/B'ed it with the Classic, until I got the Classic to emulate the fat sound of the Ibanez. The Classic has enough EQ power to get the sound of a Fulltone Fulldrive, a Tube Screamer, a ProCo Rat and most any other standard stompbox favorite. Nice

The Hot British Tonebone adds a third gain stage and goes the next step in copping the sound of Voxes and Marshalls. All I can say is that this pedal turns my Deluxe Reverb into a full stack. It's not the sound I usually go for these days, but when I need a blazing Marshall Plexi sound, this is the place to get it. Scorching.

This is the Bassbone that I used with Zev and David. Great tone, flexible switching, built like a tank.

Peter and Denis promised to have an Acoustic Guitar Tonebone out his year, something that I am anxiously awaiting. Here in Nashville, every body plays acoustic and having a top-quality DI for your instrument can make or break a gig. I'm sure it will sound as amazing as the rest of the line.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

All Is Quiet...On New Year's Day

Ah, the New Year's Eve gig. I have not intentionally celebrated that particular holiday in many years, since I am usually either working or sleeping. Our good friend Elizabeth Cook was booked on New Year's Eve, opening for Dale Watson at the Hideaway BBQ in Raleigh, NC. Elizabeth invited my wife and I along - Donna to sing and me to help out with the band gear and the audio.

We took a 15-passenger van loaded with band gear, suitcases, coolers, bags of snacks and passengers: drummer Marco Giovino, his fiancee Kylie Harris, Donna, me and Elizabeth and her guitarist husband, Tim Carroll. Paul Slivka was driving himself and his bass gear up from his beach house.

The first day we (that is, Tim) drove about 8 hours to Statesville, North Carolina. We slept in and ended up in Raleigh at about 3:00 p.m. the following day.

The Hideaway is a new club run by music fans for music fans. It's clean and professional and the food is excellent. The stage was adequate and the P.A. sound good, if a little underpowered.

Elizabeth is a hard country singer, and she attracts many of the other bands that keep that tradition alive, one of whom stopped by for autographs and a picture - and to drop off a CD.

Tim does a few songs of his own, including his paen to French technology, "TGV".

Donna sang on several songs, and Kylie joined her for the bluegrassy "Rest Your Weary Mind" They all sounded great.

Tres Divas at rest.

It was a fun night, and we drove back the next day with no problems. It's been a while since I did the van tour gig, and while it can certainly beat you up physically, it's really a blast to hang out with your friends in close quarters for long as everybody has their own iPod!

Looks like I'll be doing some shows with Hall and Oates again soon, and Donna's record is nearly mixed and that whole process is coming together soon. Busy days ahead in 2007.

Thanks to Elizabeth, Tim, Kylie, Marco, Paul and my lovely wife Donna for a great trip ...Happy and Prosperous New Year's to everyone.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Redd and Cindy

Redd Volkaert lived in Nashville for a while, and I had the privilege of hearing him live. Beautiful. Both of them play wonderfully on this instrumental.


Welcome Instapundit and Lucianne readers. Take a look around if you are into music and guitars and things of that nature...