"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.

The Skin Game 

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:


Year end list 

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)
Top 22
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
Lambchop-Mr. M.
Fire-In the Mouth, A Hand
Aaron Novik-Secret of Secrets
Patti Smith-Banga
Scorch Trio-Live in Norway LP
Kalabalik-self titled
Wadada Leo Smith-Ten Freedom Summers
Shawn Colvin-All Fall Down
John Murry-Graceless Age
Ryan Truesdell-Centennial
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

The rest:

OnoKimThurston-Self titled
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
Dave Leibman-Surreality
Pretty Monsters-Self titled
Ron Miles-Quiver
Sharon Van Etten-Tramp

*(A lot of these records I bought on LP. Those marked LP came out only as LP releases)