In conjunction with my research for a book I've been working on the last year I conducted interviews with some of the greats of modern slide guitar. I've decided to share them with y'all in hopes you'll get as much out of it as I have so you don't have to wait for the book which will likely be finished some time in 2017. I hope you enjoy the podcast. Please post feedback and comments below. This inaugural episode features Arlen Roth, one of the most esteemed slide players/educators/innovators and sidemen in the biz. In addition to his long and distinguished CV as an artist and player he wrote the first slide guitar instructional book at age 19 and went on to found the first video instruction company with Hot Licks.
Okay, so I get asked about guitar pedals all the time because I guess I'm known as an aficionado and purveyor of all things wild and wacky in effects. Yeah, I own a lot of guitar pedals. To me they are like colors of paint. Use them too much and they kill the landscape but used properly, intelligently and sparingly they can bring life to a performance and quite possibly inspire new sounds, compositions and direction. So here are my top five all-time in no particular order (it's impossible to pick a favorite child):
1.Eventide H9 Max. An incredible piece of gear, especially with the software app that allows you ton tailor sounds to your needs and sequence them in playlists in your unit to correspond with how you use it in the studio or live performance. Brilliance incarnate. My only wish is that they get longer delay times in their delay algorithms.
2.Pigtronix Echolution 2 Deluxe. Quite possibly the most diverse, best sounding and complete delay on the market again with a wonderful, thoughtfully designed app to tailor your presets. Fantastic and great people to boot.
3.Paul Trombetta Designs Mk 1+8v, Velocitine and Rotobone. How could you pick between these three? Paul is a true genius visionary of fuzz and his circuits are unique, intuitive, responsive, unpredictable (until you get to know them) and inspiring. Sure, there's a long waiting list but it's well worth it.
4.Catalinbread Heliotrope and Adineko. The Heliotrope is a ring mod/synthy/fuzz/distortion unit that sounds unlike anything else I've ever played. I can't tell you how many times it's inspired me to create something new. The Adineko is a new addition to my arsenal but it's a unique oil can delay that has it's own special character. It can go from sort slap to multiple repeats, left-right panning, reverb, oscillation at the slight turn of a knob yet is simple and intuitive. A whole lot in a small package. Check it out.
5.Pettyjohn Electronics Iron Overdrive. Simply the best and most versatile overdrive pedal I've played. Great tone control, tasty drive, multiple clipping choices, CLEAN BLEND, and sturdy construction. I was planning on developing my own overdrive with clean blend especially for slide guitar but possibly the Iron has put paid to that journey.
Monsterpiece Fuzzes. They could easily go to up top on the list, and maybe should, because I use them on every session. Literally, in some fashion whether it's the PNP fuzz, the DZT or the Angry Dick 2000. Must haves and very affordable.
Dawner Price Boonar delay. The best Echorec delay pedal I've heard with switchable heads. Sweet.
Bearfoot Sea Blue EQ, Pink Purple Fuzz, Model G OD and Pale Green Compressor. Real working musician tools that sound fantastic and are smartly designed. I couldn't work without them. A+++
So there you go kids. Those are my faves but not at all a comprehensive list of everything I use regularly and moves me. What inspires you? Lemme' know. Cheers!
I've never openly discussed this, because I didn't think it needed be, but recently since I moved to London I've met and bonded with an incredible group of like-minded free improvisers; free in spirit, mind and most importantly expression of their craft and they have asked me a few times why someone who has had a good career in the mainstream music business would so doggedly and determinedly pursue such a small, isolated and distinct segment of music. First off I'm an endlessly curious boy and I'm always looking to learn something new and challenge myself but mostly I think it all goes back to high school. You see, my high school actually had the audacity to have an electronic music department that spurred my initial passion and set the wheels in motion. Further, I wasn't the only one in my group fascinated by the experiments of guitarist Robert Fripp and his tape loop endeavors. Add a healthy dose of prog rock and jazz and you're a goner. At least I was.
So though I've been immersed in the "commercial" music biz for these last 25 years and I'm extremely happy with my path there was something missing. So back in 2010 while I was waiting for the book proofs of "I Curse the River of Time" which ended up taking almost 9 months I decided to fill my days with reconnecting with the passions of my youth. They were calling me (and had been for some time actually). You can hear snatches of it if you listen closely enough in my coupla' records from that time. So I started chasing that dream as they say and had the crazy determination to start cold calling some truly wonderful and accomplished jazz, avant-garde, free jazz and free improvisers and threw myself in. It was quite easy actually. Almost everybody said yes (only one didn't) and I've made true friends for life in Cooper Moore, Thollem McDonas, Tracy Silverman, the great Giuseppi Logan, Jeff Lederer, Frode Gjerstad, Jessica Lurie and many others. It has been the most fulfilling time of my life and there's no going back.
I don't want to play the same thing anymore. Hell, I don't even ever want to play the same thing twice. Why? What's the purpose of repeating yourself except for someone else's gratification or consumption? I want to explore new horizons with each new sound, touch, tone, space, time...I want to be surprised every time I touch an instrument, electronic device or a piece of wood.
I know even some of my Nashville friends think I'm nuts but I'm the happiest I've ever been since moving to London and the scene here is second to none. Really strong and vital. Besides, I have 5 singer-songwriter/band albums in the can. They will come out in good time so I'm not completely abandoning anything but now it's time for me and my soul. It will make me a better person and musician. I hope some of you will enjoy the process and come along for the ride. Cheers!
Yeah, I stood in line. Again. I missed last year because I was in Norway but scored some of my choices via some wonderful, goofy, committed friends who stood in line for me but this year I got up at 5am to get over to Grimey’s New and Pre-loved Records to gamble on getting what I wanted. The line was around the corner already, some camping out since the night before, but when it condensed around 8am I realized I was approximately number 45 in line. Not bad but in 2012 I was #36 in line at the Great Escape here in Nashville and a good deal of what I wanted was gone (or they didn’t get it which I’ll touch on later).
The first thing that struck me while waiting is that it was pretty cool that folks are still willing to get up that early (or sleep out) to buy limited edition vinyl releases. However, in 2011 and 2012 the line was much longer that early. This year the line didn’t start to get long until about 9:30, a half hour before they opened their doors. Were people getting burned out on RSD? Were they simply over waiting in line? Did they think enough would be there for them when they got in the store?
As for being burnt out I think the answer is a bit yes. However, though stores seem better equipped for demand now (including Great Escape) some choice titles were gone soon after I got in the door (indeed, I scored the only copy of School of Seven Bells’ “Put Your Sad Down” EP in Nashville apparently, or at least the only one Grimey’s got) so waiting in line is nonetheless important.
The second thing that struck me while I was in line is the complete lack of community. I wasn’t expecting to be chatty but several people around me had their ear buds in and weren’t interested one bit in engaging at all, even looking you in the eye (what is this, New York?), or discussing what records we were interested in. Are we too cool now? I did make a new friend with my buddy Jose who was just behind me in line and had recently retired from the military. Jose knew his stuff having seen a lot of live shows at festivals while stationed in Europe and he epitomized for me the reason we are all doing this. A music nerd just like me and proud of it but luckily not in the industry and not too cool to hang.
It took us roughly 40-45 minutes once the doors opened for us to get in ourselves and yes a few things were gone already like the Phil and Dave Alvin record. Grimey’s was one of four stores outside of Third Man Records to get the new Neil Young (which I was privy to from the night before since I stumbled on a blog that reported it was out already on Third Man’s web site) but Grimey’s did not receive one copy of the Live at Newport 1963 album I wanted. Luck of the draw.
In addition to the Neil Young I did score both Wes Montgomey 10” records, the amazing Donnie Hathaway live double album, the Rough Guide to African Blues, Gil Scott-Heron, Hank Williams’ 10” Garden Spot Program 1950, the aforementioned School of Seven Bells, about ten singles (7 of which were for my buddy in Norway) and the truly horrendous Bruce Springsteen EP, “American Beauty”. Bruce has really jumped the shark for me I’m afraid. His new album is crap, I mean, really crap (and it ain’t Tom Morello’s fault) and this RSD release is an obvious and insulting money grab from an artist I used to respect. But hey, it’s my fault really. Why did I expect an EP of outtakes from a garbage album to be any good? But I digress…the score of the day for me was the beautifully executed Jason Molina/Songs: Ohia box which I had seen online at eBay the night before for $160. (!) and as a huge Molina fan was terrified I couldn’t afford. Ended up being $67. Which is another problem with RSD: shills and hacks. Supposedly mom and pop independent stores are supposed to be getting these releases exclusively and that may be true but obviously some without any scruples are listing them ahead of time (and after RSD) on sites like eBay at inflated prices. Paul Weller himself bristled at this practice and it will eventually, along with apathy and big labels co-opting it, ruin RSD.
I did head over to Great Escape to see if I could find a few things I didn’t get at Grimey’s and I was surprised to find the Gram Parsons (#82 out of 2000!!), Steve Earle, Jaco Pastorius (plus poster which Grimey’s was out of when I got in), a few more singles for my buddy but not the Harry Dean Stanton which neither Great Escape nor Grimey’s received AT ALL. However, I found out later in the afternoon that venerable Ernest Tubb on lower Broadway had ONE COPY left out of 9 they receieved. I’ll be right there!! My buddy was thrilled when I emailed him. Part of the issue with getting releases is that some stores deal with middle men and some get their stash directly from their distributors who are active in RSD. To their credit though Great Escape sells only used records and CD’s they were better prepared for demand this year so I imagine it’s getting a bit easier for stores to get the RSD exclusives.
All tolled I spent over $400. and spent it gladly. This RSD to me had the most fertile crop of releases, at least for my taste, since the emergence of RSD and I’m not buying these records to collect. They are to listen to and I spent the next few days listening gleefully. Every release was a winner except the Springsteen which I suppose I can melt into a popcorn tray or something. Sheesh.
I am afraid however we need to be vigilant so that RSD doesn’t get overexposed, if it hasn’t already, and doesn’t get ruined by eBay hawkers (there was someone on line in front of us at Grimey’s who had three other people at other stores in line themselves and they were coordinating via phone and discussing how much they could get once they list on eBay, etc.) and remains truly special as far as releases. If it’s exclusive to special releases, found recordings, long out of print rare recordings, special art pieces, unique collaborations and the like that’s a good start. The Songs: Ohia box is a perfect example of everything RSD should be; a beautiful art piece with extra touches like 45rpm single spindle and deluxe booklet along with 9 45’s of rare recordings. Also, let’s not let the big boys take it over like they do everything else and if they do let’s do something else. After all, isn’t that what hipsters and snobs do best? <g> But most of all let’s keep it a community of exciting discovery and enthusiasm which is how we all got started in this game and not be so cool that we can’t bother to take our ear buds out of our cheap electronic devices and share. Now, I’m gonna’ go back to my pile of vinyl and refurbished Dual 704 turntable I bought on RSD from Richard at Vintage Hi Fi and spin baby, spin.
Friends, colleagues and associates-
The Skin Game
For musicians, there is nothing more important than our creativity and our ideas. It is our lifeblood. Even if the wider audience never embraces us, we know “I did this,” and can point to our accomplishments with pride. Take away anything and everything you like from me in this business and in this world (save my amazing wonderful wife), but not my songs, my ideas. My songs are part of me. My creativity is the one thing that is uniquely mine that I can hold on to through all the ups and downs.
In the past I’ve been very impatient with musicians who threaten to quit the music business because they were too sensitive for it--they were delicate flowers, and demanded an outpouring of support to stay. They were lucky to be making music! But recently, I’ve seen another side of this. An experience in the last few months in this sphere was the most crushing in my life and precipitated a crisis in my sobriety and my will to continue on.
One of the very first songs I ever wrote was cut by celebrated blues artist Bettye LaVette on her Grammy-nominated comeback record in 2007. It was a dream come true. I was invited to the record release party in New York City, and when she sang my song and graciously had the spotlight turned on me in the audience to announce me as the songwriter, I had tears in my eyes.
The song was one that I wrote very early in my career and recorded for my first album. I left it off the album at the last minute because I wasn’t quite happy with it, but I still have an early master of the album with the song on it. The version that Bettye ended up recording is a co-write with another Nashville songwriter, but much of the original content is intact from when I first wrote it. I had ended up working with my co-writer when I was looking to get my foot in the door in the Nashville publishing world. A publisher whom I knew casually suggested I write with one his writers because, in his words, “she was in a rut” and he thought we’d make a good team. I like to think that I give credit where credit is due, and when Bettye came to Nashville I invited my co-writer to the show and introduced her to Bettye and Bettye’s husband as the co-writer on our song.
Fast forward five years later, when Bettye’s biography is published. A fantastic account of Bettye’s amazing journey to survive and finally thrive in the cutthroat music industry, it deservedly hit the New York Times' bestseller list and earned rave reviews. However, when I read my copy and got to page 224, I was shocked to find this: “After weeks or deliberating it came down to ten songs [for her 2007 The Scene of the Crime album] including…'I Guess We Shouldn’t Talk About That Now' co-written by the brilliant Kim McLean.” I had been made to disappear.
I was heartbroken when I read that. Bettye knew full well I wrote the song, I was the one who personally brought her the song in the first place and she had singled me out at its release! I talked it out with Bettye and it became obvious that my co-writer had been courting Bettye and her husband. It seems my co-writer had snowed them with her past credits and maybe even talked about her contributions to our song to the point that it prompted Bettye and her husband to ask this question: “Sometimes a co-write is a co-write if someone is just in the room with you, how was it with you and Ed?” And according to Bettye, Kim’s answer was a shrug and a “Well, you know how it is.” Anyone who reads that book may not believe me when I say that was my song. And that was the crushing blow that finally broke me.
I’ve done some incredibly stupid things in my time and I’m extremely sorry to anyone I may have hurt or offended or caused to worry. But one thing my friends attest to is that I have heart, loyalty, and integrity. These are the things my parents didn’t fail to instill in me. They are traits that were the most important to them. I know, that’s asking a lot from the entertainment business.
As musicians and people we need to be better than this. In my mind what’s wrong with the music business is not illegal downloading, though that certainly and positively sucks. It’s that we have been given this beautiful and magical grace of God in our lives, the rhythm of life and language everyone on this planet can feel and understand regardless of background, and we’ve turned it into a skin game. Taken it for granted, made it disposable and maybe gotten lazy. We’re not used-car salesmen. We all need to cherish the creation a lot more and respect it with all our hearts and souls. It’s not something to be taken lightly.
Next time you hear a great idea or hear a wonderful tune, please give credit. Have a kind word, congratulate folks, be happy for them. Share the love, for we are not here forever--no one gets out of here alive, and I dare think we all got into this business because music makes our lives a little bit better. This applies equally to the musicians and to those of us who just love music. I believe music makes our lives a lot better. Richer. Let’s not let music, or its creators, slip away from us so easily.
Thanks for listening. I wish you love and peace. Support your local musicians!
P.S.-I guess I already wrote and recorded a song with my Norwegian band The Black Country that's perfect for this situation:
Best of 2012
Number 1:Beck-Song Reader (I know it's a book but check out the Portland Cello Project's version of the album. It's incredible and the whole idea is brilliant)
Mark Lanegan Band-Blues Funeral
Rufus Wainwright-Out of the Game
Mark Eitzel-Don’t Be a Stranger
Scott Walker-Bish Bosch
Hobart Bros. and Lil' Sis'-At Least We Have Each Other
Fire-In the Mouth, A Hand
Aaron Novik-Secret of Secrets
Scorch Trio-Live in Norway LP
Wadada Leo Smith-Ten Freedom Summers
Shawn Colvin-All Fall Down
John Murry-Graceless Age
Graham Parker-Three Chords Good
Martin Kuchen-Hellstorm LP
Donald Fagen-Sunken Condos
Stian Westerhus-Matriarch and the Wrong Kind of Flowers LP
Jason Isbell-Live in Alabama
God Speed You! Black Emperor-Allelujah Don’t Bend Ascend
JD McPherson-Signs and Signifiers
Glacial-On Jones Beach LP
Velvet Underground-The Scepter Sessions LP
Joe Strummer-Live Fireman’s Benefit LP
African Guitar Box Set LP’s
Oran Ambarchi and Robin Fox-Connected
Tim Berne-Snake Oil
Garbage-Not Your Kind of People
Ravi Shankar-The Living Room Sessions
David Ware-Planetary Unknown Live
Charlie Haden/Hank Jones-Come Sunday
Matraca Berg-Love’s Truck Stop
Diana Krall-Glad Rag Doll
Leonard Cohen-Old Ideas
Neil Young and Crazy Horse-Americana and Psychedelic Pill
Ry Cooder-Election Special
Mary Chapin Carpenter-Ashes and Roses
Pretty Monsters-Self titled
Sharon Van Etten-Tramp
*(A lot of these records I bought on LP. Those marked LP came out only as LP releases)
This project is near and dear to my heart and very important. I hate when they only talk about music legends after they die. Here's a chance to help one out while he's still around and get some great music in return as a bonus. Please lend a hand:http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/710927283/the-giuseppi-logan-project-a-free-jazz-album
Same journalist as last year asked me for my best of list so
even though I hate lists here's what I dug in 2011:
1.Matraca Berg-The Dreaming Fields
2.The Black Keys-El Camino
3.Ryan Adams-Ashes and Fire
4.Eddie Vedder-Ukulele Songs
5.Nels Cline, Tim Berne and Jim Black-Veil
8.Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
9.Lou Reed and Metallica-Lulu
10.Anthony Braxton-Trillium E
11.Miles Davis-Live in Europe 1967
13.PJ Harvey-Let England Shake
14.St. Vincent-Strange Mercy
15.Tom Waits-Bad as Me
16.James Vincent McMorrow-Early in the Morning
17.Grey Reverend-Of the Days
18.The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams
19.Richard Buckner-Our Blood
20.Foster and Lloyd-It's Already Tomorrow
21.JD Souther-Natural History
22.Ry Cooder-Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down
23.The Beach Boys-Smile (would have been higher but I was slightly disappointed)
24.Amos Lee-Mission Bell
25.Suzy Bogguss-American Folk Songbook
Six more I forgot:
27.The Who-Quadrophenia Director's Cut reissue
28.Lindsey Buckingham-Seeds We Sow
29.Glen Campbell-Ghost on the Canvas
31.Jessica Pavone-Army of Strangers
Shortly following the Nashville flood, FEMA did a wonderful job of getting articles in the paper about all the many different types of assistance available to flood victims, from grants to repair houses, grants to replace personal belongings, and personal loans from the small business administration. Donations flowed in from around the country and many benefits events were held to raise money. The outpouring of concern and the helping hands that showed up spontaneously in several neighborhoods was heartwarming.
However, as time goes on and flood victims realize that they do not fit a very specific loss profile, frustration is mounting over the lack of information of real assistance available. If you sustained between $1,000 and $29,000 in damage to your house, FEMA may have come and cut a check already. On the other hand, if you sustained more than $29,000 to your house or you lost significant personal belongings that were stored outside of your home, there is very little concrete information about what assistance if any will be available to you and when. Since it takes considerable time to go through the multiple inspections, SBA loan process, and additional grant process, it would help to at least have an inkling of whether assistance would be available in what circumstances. Otherwise many of us might be better moving on and just making do or rebuilding when and where we can without getting tangled in bureaucratic paperwork.
In addition to getting better information on government aid, more transparency is needed when an organization such as Hands on Nashville steps in and says “direct all the money to us” and “do all volunteer work through us”. In the weeks following the flood, Hands on Nashville did not actually have any avenue in place for an individual to request assistance with flood clean up, nor were they able to answer their phones. And their website concentrated on recruiting volunteers while sadly offering no useful information on how to request assistance with clean up. And I know we are not the only ones wondering what happened to the millions in donations. On June 21st WSMV reported that they received large quantities of emails questioning how flood donations were being spent. The story that WSMV ran gave some good information on the aid offered by the Red Cross but ended with “The Community Foundation has raised more than $3.9 million, but only $459,000 of that figure has been given to local charities so far”.
And for those officials who are writing editorials about how important it is to apply for an SBA loan, personal or business, let us inform you of why people are turning away from the process. After spending hours in the hot sun moving heavy moldy belongings to the curb, one has to spend hours figuring out the paperwork necessary to apply for aid. Then after your application sits somewhere for weeks, one day an SBA agent decides they have to close out your loan application immediately (are they paid by the piece like garment workers?). They called us about twenty times in two days and when we could not produce one more paper they needed, they declined to hold our application for even 24 hours because “they needed to get it off their desk”. Two days later you fax them the paper they need to re-open the application and they tell you they will send it over to be re-opened right away. A week goes by and you call around and find out that they “forgot” to do anything with your paperwork but will get on it “right away”.
Now the Nashville city government has announced that they too are offering assistance via the We Are Home initiative which will focus on a loan process once they have figured out how to proceed. While I completely understand the need for serious screening for any assistance lest it be misused and abused by people trying to cheat the system there must be a better way to handle this for so many who have legitimately suffered so hard. It just shouldn’t take so long. As I watch the HBO series “Treme” and see the scenes from the aftermath of Katrina it breaks my heart a second time and hits too close to home. While the government may have been “on the ground” faster this time around, the fact that our legislators let the National Flood Insurance program lapse three times this year is inexcusable. The great irony of the Nashville flood is that even if you wanted to obtain flood insurance this year it was extremely difficult if not impossible. Unfortunately, I can’t laugh about it since my wife had pointed out two weeks prior to the flood that we really should have flood insurance because if the aging dams in Tennessee failed, all of the major cities in Tennessee would be underwater.
What can be done is to come up with a comprehensive plan should something like this ever occur again. They say it was a 500-year or 1000-year flood. I don’t believe that. We had three days of rain and 18 inches yet the waters rose twenty-five feet to surround our house. Most curiously on Sunday the rain stopped and all twenty five feet of that water completely drained away and we were high and dry for 8 hours. Then on Sunday night when we thought we were safe the waters started to rise again all twenty-five feet to within inches of our doorstep and so we were more or less submerged for three days. Someone, somewhere must have controlled that but as we called the emergency response center no one could tell us anything other than to tell us “there were no reports from our area” whereupon we replied “please take a report!” Both the Army Corps of Engineers and the city need to hold the hearings that have finally been called for. The city of Nashville also needs a plan in case this ever happens again. We are a city on a river. However, until those of us who were directly affected by the flood have settled with FEMA, the SBA and any other organizations and are rebuilt or bought out and back on our feet it is too soon and somewhat unfair to hold hearings. I’m sure there are many folks like myself who would like to be there to describe what actually happened in our neighborhoods and waterways. Help us rebuild in a timely, professional and caring manner. Help us heal then hear our story.