My Janet Reno 

My Janet Reno 

You'll be hearing a lot, good and bad, about my dear Aunt Janet in the coming weeks but please let me tell you about the person, not the public figure, that I knew and what she meant to me. 

There was no more honest, incorruptible, moral, strong, solid and fair human being that ever lived.  That is not hyperbole, just the straight fact.  There was no grey area with her.  Life, and right or wrong, was black and white.  When we learned in school how our government should work and how our representatives should behave and how the world should be I can honestly say that she more than any other person or public figure I ever met completely and utterly embodied that spirit and meant it with every fiber of her being. 

We grew very close over the last several years especially after working on the Song of America project which I'm so happy to say made her very proud and she considered it one of her finer achievements which is really saying something. 

We would often sit on the porch of the modest house her mother built pondering the peacocks that wandered the "Reno ranch" as we called it and shoot the breeze about politics, music, nature, human nature, comedy (she enjoyed the Daily Show, Mr. Colbert and Carlos Mencia) and the vagaries of life.  She was a spiritual person who believed in a higher power and the power of the human spirit.  She loved old folk songs, especially "Red River Valley" which I would sing for her over and over again.  I was fortunate enough to say my goodbyes to her last Christmas when we had become aware the twilight was coming and sing to her several songs she loved including "Little Drummer Boy" which seemed to put a twinkle in her eye. 

I learned a great deal from Aunt Janet and she had a profound effect on me, how I dealt with life and business, and I know she made me a far, far better person from the first day we met.  I think she had that effect on a lot of people witnessed by the stream of old friends, colleagues and some folks she only met or dealt with briefly who came by in the last year to tell her how much she meant to them and how she affected their lives. 

One time while promoting the Song of America together we had done a string of interviews one day and her Parkinson's was getting to her. She asked if I could cancel the last TV crew for another day. I told her that they were probably already on their way but I could call tell them and say we ran late with the last interview. The entertainment business is slippery, they'd understand. She looked at me with that trademark cold, deep, distant stare and said, "Ed, there's no slippery with the truth". Understood. She toughed it out and did the interview. 

We'd often drive her around on her time off, which was rare as she was a workaholic, and if the speed limit was 55 and I went even 56 she would turn and just look at me.  One time while she was Attorney General we went for ice cream with the FBI detail in tow about a half-hour from her apartment in Washington.  The kid behind the counter got a little flustered and when we got back home we realized none of us had paid for it. we went back to the ice cream shop.  The manager told us not to worry that it was on him but she said, "No, I got this".  As usual, it was the right thing to do. 

That's a phrase you'll hear a lot over the next few days and weeks, “the right thing to do”. She always told us, and her people at the Justice Department, to not do what was popular, not do what gets us ahead, not do what's expected of you but always, always, do what's right.  That's the main thing I, and many others who were fortunate enough to get close to her, will remember to our last breath. I have grown to carry it with me every day.  

So to those people who have criticized her in the past and I'm sure will criticize her in death I say I'm sorry for you.  I'm sorry for your misplaced anger and your lack of understanding of our system and your lack of compassion for your fellow man.  I'm sorry you needed a target to vent and I'm sorry you chose the wrong person.  But know this; she didn't hate you nor anyone and she was your Attorney General, she was your guardian and she believed in all that is good and right in this world and would fight for it for everyone despite whether they liked her or not. 

Thank you Aunt Janet, for your service, your humility, your dedication, your determination and your commitment.  The world is a better place because you were in it.  And I'll miss you very, very much.

"The Slide Area" Episode #6 Podcast-all things slide guitar  Podcast

Last episode for 2016 is a doozy...Sonny Landreth y'all!!!!
Very inspirational and informative, Sonny has a lot to teach all of us about technique, style, tone, you name it.
He embodies all that is great, wonderful, mysterious and beautiful about slide guitar.  My chat with him was very illuminating
and I hope you get as much out of it as I did.  Happy holidays!  See you in January.

Sonny's Truefire video lessons:

Slide Supernatural

Slide Supernatural Blues

Some YouTube goodness:

Pedal to the Metal

Zydeco Shuffle


"The Slide Area" Episode #5 Podcast-all things slide guitar  Podcast

This time I had the great fortune to speak with Sacred Steel legend Calvin Cooke.
This interview was so much fun I can't wait to talk with him again.  Check out his clips
on YouTube and his music here: The Slide Brothers

YouTube:Calvin Cooke at Michigan Folk Fest

More YouTube:Calvin Cooke:The Gospel of Sacred Steel

"The Slide Area" Episode #4 Podcast-all things slide guitar  Podcast

This episode we're featuring the incredible David Tronzo.  Sideman, artist, innovator, teacher...he's all that and more.  Listen to David take you for a spin in his magic jazz/experimental/free improvisation carpet.

Check out his video master class and various recordings here and if you are a student I highly recommend studying with him at Berklee:

David's Bandcamp

David's video master class

David's official web site

At Berklee

"The Slide Area" Episode #3 Podcast-all things slide guitar  Podcast

This time we feature hit country artist and songwriter Lee Roy Parnell.  Besides being a fabulous slide player and influencing so many country artists and songwriters he's a genuinely nice guy and very generous with his craft and insights to the biz.  He's even been recognized by the Gibson guitar company with his own custom model Les Paul.  I think you'll get a lot out of what Lee Roy has to say and I'm grateful for his time and spirit.

"The Slide Area" Episode #2 Podcast-all things slide guitar  Podcast

This episode features multi-instrumentalist, sideman, band leader Al Perkins.  From the Flying Burrito Brothers to Manassas, the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band and beyond Al has left an indelible mark on roots-Americana/rock n' roll from 1970 to the present. 

The Gibson guitar company called Perkins "the world's most influential dobro player" and began producing an "Al Perkins Signature" Dobro in 2001—designed and autographed by Perkins.

Al covers all parts of his style and technique in a clear-eyed, humble and thoughtful discussion with Ed Pettersen

"The Slide Area" Episode #1 Podcast-all things slide guitar  Podcast

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.

  1. "The Slide Area" Episode 1

My top 5 guitar effect pedals 

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.

Honorable Mention:

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!

Improv and Me 

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!

Last Thoughts on Record Store Day 2014 

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.