GUITAR PLAYER FAMILY VALUES
THE TEDESCHI TRUCKS BLUES UNION
10 WAYS TO GROOVE LIKE CORNELL DUPREE WHO LOVES GEAR BABY?
CONTENTS VOL. 45
JOHNNY HILAND On his chicken pickin’ skills, plus some heavy rock, Bakersfield country, and melodic pop.
DENNIS REA On incorporating Asian influences in his new venture, Metamorphic Rock.
“FREAKY PETE” MURANO On playing with Trombone Shorty.
DEREK TRUCKS & SUSAN TEDESCHI BLUES UNION The bluesiest husband-and-wife team in the world talk about putting their successful solo bands on hold to focus on their own group and new record, Revelator.
NEW SECTION! we get up close and personal with the wire, wood, hardware, and voodoo that make playing guitar the coolest thing on the planet.
BLACK KEYS/BLUE SKIES FAMILY STYLE
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“But I think bends allow you to be more free—more free in your soul... bends let me pour my soul into a solo to where it doesn’t sound so note-y. I can take my time with what I’m trying to say.”
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since then he’s seen his star rise with records, clinics, endorsements, and high-profile jams with some of the most monstrous players on the planet. It’s Hiland’s high-octane hybrid picking that gets the most attention due to its uncanny precision, impeccable time, and blazing speed. Once the dust settles from one of his rapid-fire breaks, however, Hiland reveals a deep knowledge of Western Swing, blues rock, and ungodly multi-string bends that can conjure pedal-steel, train whistles, cat meows, and more. Hiland’s amazing chops grabbed the attention of Steve Vai, who signed him and released his selftitled debut in 2004. The only super-chops blessing that could possibly mean more than Vai’s is that of Mike Varney, who knows burning guitar talent when he hears it. When Varney found out that Hiland was a free agent, he jumped at the chance to get him on Shrapnel Recor—another stellar addition to the label’s virtuosic roster that has included Yngwie, Paul Gilbert, Jason Becker, Vinnie Moore, and many more. The results are on All Fired Up, which teams Hiland with bassist Stu Hamm and drummer Jeremy Colson. The album features a heapin’ helpin’ of Hiland’s chicken pickin’ skills, plus some heavy rock, Bakersfield country, and melodic pop. Visiting with Hiland and Varney at Prairie Sun Studios,
to track. I’ve never done that before. We had fun and got to know each other as musicians. I think that really helped because we tracked all 13 songs in one day. We just went in and slammed them down.
The main melody for the title track has a really relaxed feel. Some players with huge chops and great time tend to be on top of the beat or they might even rush the groove. Yet, you’re able to sit back in the pocket. My dad was a drummer in the ’60s and I have a great love for drums. I still love to play drums and I think it really helps when it comes to your guitar playing. I know many guitar players will sit with a metronome, but being a drummer helped me to be able to understand what the groove is supposed to be. I think a lot of people expect Johnny Hiland the chicken picker to be right on top of the beat, and I’m kind of surprised I wasn’t on top of the beat because I was so happy and excited to be in the studio with
Stu and Jeremy. But if I tried to play the title track on top of the beat, it just wouldn’t sound good. It wouldn’t have the vibe that it does.
You use a lot of open strings in the melody, but
where the album was tracked, it was clear that Hiland the song is in F#. That’s a great rock and metal is one of the biggest guitar geeks on the planet—a key but not a typical country key. Tell me how guy who loves nothing more than sitting you’re employing the open strings. around talking gear, guitarists, technique, and tone for hours. He plugged in and played along with some That was accidental. I really love open string licks. of the album’s tunes and floored everyone in the room in the process. “I swear, we could have released Even as a guitar teacher and giving lessons I tell students don’t be afraid to open up and experiment the first day’s rehearsal run-through,” said Varney. with open strings because you’ll be amazed at what “That’s how good this guy is.” you can find. It’s invigorating when I find a lick that works. I started messing around one night while Talk about the recording process for watching TV and I just happened to hit the first All Fired Up. three notes of the main melodic lick. I went, “Oh man, that’s really cool!” Being in the key of F# did I’ve always done pre-production demos and even limit things in a way but there was such a cool sound played a few songs live before I went to do a record. with that dominant 7th ring. It just kind of grabbed a This time I took a different approach. I wrote charts and we did two days of rehearsals before we started hold of me and wouldn’t let go.
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“Minor Adjustment” has some of your killer string bends in it. You get a lot more press for your picking chops, but talk a little bit about how important bends are to what you do. They’re massively essential to me. The three main elements that make up the majority of my playing would be steel-guitar bends, double-stops, and open-string licks. But I think bends allow you to be more free— more free in your soul where you can allow a bend to stretch a little further than a double-stop for example. So bends let me pour my soul into a solo to where it doesn’t sound so note-y. I can take my time with what I’m trying to say.
dissonant sounding. When you do that, your amp will sometimes grab the harmonic and the vibrations of everything just cause massive chaos within your amp and bring out weird overtones. What I’m doing after that is adding my third finger down on the high E string, and I bounce off the 4, the 3, and the b3 to kind of bring it back to the country sound. That lick really will tweak the ear. It’s a unique and fun thing to do.
What was the signal chain that you used to create the tones on this record?
using the Bolt 2x12 combo. It’s a three-channel amp that’s just monstrous. Since I’ve had that amp I’ve been downsizing my pedalboard because I really haven’t needed as many pedals. On my pedalboard I How would you recommend players get better have a Boss TU-3 tuner, I have a Wampler Ego Comat string bends? pressor, a brand new pedal called the Red Shift that It’s a matter of practicing preciseness, so if you’re going was created by a guy named Brad Jetter—that’s what to bend a whole tone, make sure you can execute that I’m using mostly for distortion, although I cut “Forever every single time without really thinking about it. Some Love” with the new Sparkle Drive Mod from Voodoo players say that with blues you can be all over the map Lab. I have an ISP Decimator, which takes all of the exwith bends, and that’s true. Sometimes you can overcess noise out of my rig. I’m using a Boss Tremolo, an reach a bend and it sounds cool and emotional because Arion Chorus—E.W.S. re-released the old Arion Choit’s a blues tune. But for me, when it comes to chicken rus through Xotic. It has the Vibe section and that’s pickin’, you really have to be precise. I’m not going to what I use to get a rotary sound. I end the chain with lie to you, it’s a pain in the butt to sit and practice the a DigiTech Hardwire Delay and I’m using the Voodoo preciseness of a certain bend over and over and over Lab Pedal Power 2 to power everything. again. It’s not fun, but at the same time, when you’re at a gig and you execute that bend and you nail it every Is it at all strange for you to find yourself on single time, then you know that your practice is workShrapnel Records? ing. Once you have the precision down cold, you can After signing with them, no. Prior to that, yeah, I thought add all the emotion and feeling you want. it was a little interesting. But I’ve been a big fan of Mike Varney for a long time and I have a lot of ShrapCan you explain how you you’re bending at nel records in my collection. I had the Yngwie Steeler 2:19 in “Bluesberry Jam”? album. I don’t own it now because I wore the thing out. I had a lot of Vinnie Moore, some Tony MacAlpine, some That’s a really cool bend that I’ve been adding to my repertoire that uses a steel-guitar approach. I wanted early Paul Gilbert, Scott Henderson—I could go on for days. So to get the chance to even talk to Mike Varney to sound like Buddy Emmons on steroids with five about signing with him was an honor. I think it’s all about distortion pedals going. I’m in the key of C, and I’m the passion we all share for guitar. I was with Steve Vai basically fretting a G at the 12th fret of the G string before, and he has a massive passion for guitar. Mike and a Bb at the 11th fret of the B string. But then I Varney does too. The lineage of what they’ve both crebend the G up to an A, or from the 5 to the 6 while ated is amazing, and I’m proud to be a part of it. I’m still holding the flat 7—the Bb— which is real
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THEREâ€™S MORE ONLINE! Jonny throws down with Mike Daley on Elvis tunes. Jonny gets all fired up for some exclusive GP video. Visit guitarplayer.com/ november2011 for more! GP I 6
Black Keys/Blue Skies Dan Auerback and Patrick Carney tear it up at the first annual moe.down in Mohawk, New York, 2010.
Photograph by Jay Blakesburg
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FAMILY STYLE Derek Truck’s uncle Butch grooves with Jaimoe, the late Duane Allman, and Gregg Allman (Dickey Betts and the late Berry Oakley are MIA in this shot) during the Allman Brothers Band’s 1971 concert at the “Summerthing” in Boston Photograph by Peter Tarnoff/Retna Ltd.
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THERE’S MORE ONLINE! See Moraine perform “Save the Yuppie Breeding Grounds” at NEARFest 2010. Get these links & more at guitarplayer.com GP I 11
Although he has been involved with numerous projects in recent years, Seattle-based guitarist and composer Dennis Rea is currently focused on Moraine, a quintet that showcases his multifaceted musical approach. “Moraine is flexible enough to be a vehicle for all of my many musical interests,” says Rea. “That could be jazz in one piece, fairly heavy rock in another - and we could also veer into adaptive traditional Asian music pieces for part of the set.” That eclecticism is evidenced on the band’s latest release, Metamorphic Rock:Live at NEARFest 2010 [MoonJune], produced by Steve Fisk of Nirvana and Soundgarden fame. The “adaptive traditional Asian music pieces” Rea refers to are documented on his 2010 release, Views From Chicheng Precipice, which contains remarkable arrangements of traditional music from China and other East Asian countries, where he spent several years studying, performing, and adapting a variety of instrumental techniques to guitar. “It was a very interesting exercise because I had to determine how I could suggest some of the gestures typical of that music,” says Rea. “One cliche about Asian music is that it is heavily dependent on pentatonic scales, and while it isn’t that simple, a very large portion of the music is based on those wider intervals - so rock and blues guitarists will find an obvious commonality. “I experimented with numerous instrements, but the ones that most influenced my own playing were the horizontal zithers, such as the Chinese guzheng. They have arched bridges and are played with a lot of expressive note bending achieved by pushing down on the strings - and you can simulate some of those effects with finger vibrato and by subtle use of the whammy bar. For example, rather than striking a note and pushing down on the bar, I might strike a note when the bar is already depressed and let it rise. Another consideration is pick position and angle. In traditional East Asian orchestras the stringed on’t extend into the bass register. Picking in specific ways close to the bridge will allow you to come closer to achieving those sharper sorts of sounds.” Although nearly all of the strategies Rea employedwhen emulating Asian sounds involved his hands rather than electronics, he did occasionally use a harmonizer. “Open harmonies such as perfect fourths and fifths can work remarkably well with pentatonic scales,” he says. BY BARRY CLEVELAND
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ON CONTEXT The biggest buzz band in New Orleans is Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, which runs the gamut from traditional jazz to searing rock. Leader Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews became a star via his breakthrough 2010 release Backatown. His new CD, For True, features cameos by Jeff Beck and Warren Haynes. The guitar chair in Orleans Avenue is a hot seat, and Shorty’s player of choice is “Freaky” Pete Murano. - Jimmy Leslie How does the creative process flow in Orleans Avenue? Troy writes most of the material on keyboards, and it’s my job to translate the harmonic information to the band because we don’t have an actual keyboard player. Shorty plays either trombone or trumpet and sings. The rest of the lineup is baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone, drums, percusssion, and bass. I mostly wind up working the material into one of three contexts. I apply what I call the “chank” to songs on the funky side. I generally use 9th chord voicings that land in the middle of the fretboard, and “chank” out a
percussive rhythm. Leo’s Nocentelli’s intro on the Meter’s “People Say” might be the ultimate example of chank because, well, anytime you can get an entire roomful of people dancing to the rhythm guitar figure by itself, that’s some solid rhythm playing. The second is a rock-oriented context that I call the “chunk,” where I provide power chords or riffs. On “Hurricane Season” and “Suburbia” from Backatown, I lock with the drums and bass to provide the kind of rocking groove people don’t normally associate with a horn-driven ensemble. Sometimes the horns will double my guitar riffs, and at other times I’ll run lines with the horn section, which is interesting from a phrasing perspective because they don’t adhere to fretboard patterns, and they have to leave spaces to breathe. I usually wind up in the saxophone range above the baritone and below the trumpet. What’s the third context you utilize regularly? Some songs call for extended chords in a fully realized chord progression. “Fallin’” goes Cm7, Fm7, Abmaj7, to G7, which I’ll often play as a minor II-V: D half-diminished into G (alt) and then right back into C. What gear best allows you to cover all that ground? I dig the Mesa/Boogie Lone Star. I use one channel clean, and dial in the Boogie distortion sound I love on the other. I set them both at the same volume so I can use them interchangeably as a backdrop for a soloist. For my own solos, I’ll step on a Full-tone Fat-Boost. I play a Les Paul because I can get a good chank sound with both pickups in combination, and nobody can argue with a Les Paul’s rock tone.
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SUSAN TEDESCHI DEREK TRUCKS’ “We’ve got a lot of skin in this game,” says Derek Trucks about going all in with his wife Susan Tedeschi to form the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Both have dismantled successful solo projects to focus on the 11 piece powerhouse. It’s fronted by Tedeschi’s impassioned voice, rooted in swampy rhythm guitar, and complimented by Trucks’ melodic slide licks that often function more like a harmony vocal than traditional lead guitar. Trucks is perhaps the most revered roots guitarist of his generation, which is a bit paradoxical, because he’s not a typical guitar star. He has truckloads of technique – and his pristineto-growling tone is highly coveted – but Trucks doesn’t putz around practicing scales, plucking patterns, or tweaking gizmos. The epitome of a natural-born player, Trucks simply does instinctually what most other players could not do with three lifetimes of practice. “He never practices,” quips Tedeschi, “unless he’s working on a musical idea. He has such a tremendous ear that his listening is like most people’s shedding.” A dozen years back, Trucks met his match in Tedeschi – a woman whose emotive vocals range from a peep to an atomic explosion, and who can also deliver blues licks that scream “Mama’s got something to say!” She cuts a greasy, wah-drenched solo on “Love Has Something Else to Say” on the TTB’s debut recording, Revelator, but Trucks takes the rest of the leads. Diehard fans of Tedeschi’s swing-for-the-fences Tele work may feel a bit left out in the cold, but the warmth coming from the two playing in tandem compensates for her lack of solos.
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The couple has had to work their schedules around the Allman Brothers Band. Trucks has co-piloted the historic dual-lead guitar vessel alongside a stalwart Warren Haynes for more than a decade, but the ABB is finally slowing way down, due to the inevitable health and stamina issues that comewith advancing age. (Gregg Allman and Warre n Haynes launched solo projects this year.) The Tedeschi Trucks Band is an amalgamation that includes ABB bassist
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Oteil Burbridge, as well as DTB keyboardist/ flutist Kofi Burbridge, and Mike Mattison on harmony vocals and harp J.J. Johnson (Jon Mayer, Doyal Bramhall II) and Tedeschi band alum Tyler Greenwell share drumming duties. A few years ago, Trucks and Tedeschi decided to build a professional studio behind their Florida home to facili tate more time with their tow children. The first fruit from Swamp Raga studios was Trucks’ Grammy Awardwinning Already Free,
which beat out Tedeschi’s Back to the River for best Contemporary Blues Album in 2010. It reflected Trucks’ focus on serving the song, and a more collective approach to songcraft. Revelator is even more about the tunes, and it was crafted by an even larger pool of talents that includes fellow Clapton band cohort Doyle Bramhall II and Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno. While Revelator showcases Trucks and Tedeschi in a much more intimate light than ever before, that doesnt mean there aren’t
any gratifying guitar breaks throughout, or that Trucks has forsaken his searing bottleneck. In fact, the album’s intimacy allows the intricacies of Trucks’ singular virtuosity to really shine through. ‘The Allman Brothers Band is not going to last forever,” Trucks stated at the end of his June 2009 GP feature. “A time will come in the very near future when I abandon all that stuff and dig in firmly with my thing, or the band with my wife. I welcome the transition.”That time has clearly arrived.
Why did you decide to form the TTB? Trucks: After 16 years of doing a solo project, it was time for a change. There were some difficult conversations. I walked some serious miles with the Derek Trucks Band, but everybody understood the reasoning. I don’t think it’s the end of the road for playing with the guys from the DTB individually, but it probably is for that exact lineup or that exact thing. How did playing cover songs previously as Soul Stew Revival factor in?
Tedeschi: We did Soul Stew for some summer fun. We were still actively doing our own records and touring with our own bands. The real transition was from our solo bands into this project. Trucks: We tested the waters of working together with Soul Stew Revival. Co-leading a band is a little different because each distinct vision is on the line. I feel it makes this band much more honest because now there are no safety nets. There are posts online
about the TTB such as “I came to hear Derwail, and his girl is up there singing the whole time.” And vice versa. What’s your response? Trucks: I don’t worry about it. When you start a blues band, and then play a Qawwali tune, people think you’ve lost your mind. You can go to an Allman Brothers show right now and hear people shout, “Where’s Duane? How come there’s only one Allman onstage?” or “Where’s Dickey Betts?” I get that
stuff all the time. You just have to a little stubborn and hard-headed about what works. Keeping time-honored tunes such as “Whipping Post” fresh must be a challenge. Are you an ABB his torian to the degree that you can draw on numerous live versions, and quote parts from them during your solos? Trucks: I can’t recite Duane Allman’s playing on all the live versions of “Whipping Post,” but
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if somebody hands me a bootleg, I’ll usually listen to it and incorporate some stuff. Keeping tunes fresh is easy when you have an unbelievable rhythm section. Oteil Burbridge has a way of shifting the tonal center that feels like the earth is moving underneath you. I approach those tunes like a jazz musician would approach a standard. There’s the head and the form, and then when it’s time for my solo, I’ll consider the time and key signature and it’s off to the races. We might play ”Whipping Post” on tour once every three or four nights, and when the band is only doing one or two-dozen shows a year, that’s not many takes on it. You start thinking it might be the last definitive version of that song ever played. There’s a certain weight and historical significance to each and every time the band plays now because no one knows how many gigs are left. You air it out. definitive version of that song ever played. There’s a certain weight and historical significance to each and every time the band plays now because no one knows how many gigs are left. You air it out. Derek, can you shed some light on the move you make where your right hand is practically perpendicular to the fretboard, with your fingers dangling, that allows you to render superfast passages?
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Trucks: I picked that up from watching Victor Wooten and Oteil Burbridge doing their superhu man stuff while we were on the road together, and I worked on it throughout the tour. At first, I was incorporating my thumb, but then I realized I could go faster using only my index finger. I don’t plan that stuff out ahead of time. An opportunity will present itself in the context of a song, and I’ll roll with it. Derek, what’s the biggest difference about having Susan as your guitar foil rather than Warren Haynes? Trucks: It is different, but Susan has a thing – especially on straight blues – where she can wipe the floor with anybody. Tedeschi: Well, that’s nice of him to say. He can play blues all day long, but that is my strength as a guitar player. My style is much more raw than Derek’s. His is so lucid, beautiful, and smooth. Trucks: It’s not about technique. She has an innate ability to cut through the crap an get right to the point. We do a Bobby Bland blues called “That Did It” a good ways into the set. She hasn’t really soloed all night until then, and when she finally unleashes there’s no rea son to play after it, I love Warren and Jimmy Herring to death, but I’ll play after those fools [laughs]. With Sue, I’m not going to friggin’ touch it. She keeps you on the edge of your
seat because you don’t know if she’s going to make it through. It’s tightrope walking, but without fail, she gets there. Amazing. Tedeschi: I can definitely take you to that edge where you think you’re go ing to fall off the cliff. It never feels like Derek is going to fall off the cliff. Tedeschi: Everybody knows it’s going to be fine. There’s no threat of danger. But with me there’s danger [laughs]! But I don’t to get that thrill in there. Trucks: I truly believe that she’s as good as anybody in this generation. There are a lot of technicians out there, but if you heard Sue play one of those tightrope-walking solos, you wouldn’t want to hear any of the new “it” guys afterwards. Susan, how have you adjusted to your playing to accommodate Derek? Tedeschi: I try to support him on guitar to the best ofmy ability, which has been lacking in all the other situations except for Clapton’s band. When Derek solos, a lot of people just stop playing, or they don’t really get behind him and help him grow the solo. Oteil does an amazing job of that, so I look to Oteil and Kofi for an indication of when to start playing, when to start building, when to hang on one chord, and when to start changing. Who are some of your favorite guitarists in terms of being supportive? Tedeschi: I like to play
funky rhythm guitar with a wah, and Freddie Stone is the master, so I’ve been listening to Sly & the Family Stone and learning from him. And Willie Nelson doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his guitar playing. Willie plays nice melodic lines when he does solo, but a lot of the time he’s supporting the song in a very understated, beautiful fashion. Your level of command is not demonstrated by a lot of women. Do you feel a certain duty to represent? Tedeschi: I feel a sense of duty to the music and to young women, because I didn’t have many female role models growing up. It took people like Sue Foley and my old guitar player Adrienne Hayes to show me that women could rock – not just sing and play rhythm, but actually rip leads and improvise with anybody at the drop of a hat. I give a lot of credit to B.B. King and Buddy Guy for taking me under theirwings and helping me break out of Can you school us on some female players from the classic blues era who really tore it up on guitar? Tedeschi: Sister Rosetta Tharpe played ripping leads and killer rhythms while directing a choir and singing her ass off. Memphis Minnie would go up against Big Bill Broonzy and win blues contests with her solos. There weren’t many
female blues rippers, but those are two good examples. Have you seen any promising young girls? Tedeschi: A ten-year-old girl whose name I canâ€™t recall gave me a DVD. She was playing leads on AC/ DC and Neil Young tunes. I was so proud of her. I know there are young girls coming up that are going to start surfacing. Lots of little girls come up to me and say that I inspired them to pick up the guitar.
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You both gather your heroes’ autographs on your guitars. Can you name three you have in common? Trucks: John Lee Hooker, B.B. King and Willie Nelson. Our common heroes are pretty much across the board. That’s what drew me to Susan in the first place. I mean, how many women can you hang with that revere Buddy Guy and Magic Sam? That’s one our biggest connections. Tedeschi: Muddy Waters made me want to play. Hearing Magic Sam made go out and get a guitar. Trucks: In a way, we share a beautiful disease. It’s nice to have your partner and your band mate get off on the same stuff, and there’s a lot of it. We’ve been incredibly fortu nate to do more than meet our he
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roes. Together we’ve recorded with Dave Brubeck – he’s in his 90s – and Herbie Hancock. I’m not talking about just sitting in, but having real musical mo ments with people like Les Paul, and John Lee Hooker. Tedeschi: “The day you stop learning is the day you’re in the grave,” JohnLee Hooker said to me. He was in his 70s at the time, and it was great advice because as soon as you get comfortable and start cruising, your music loses excitement. What guitar player made the biggest impact on both of you? Trucks: It’s probably B.B., just because he’s the guy historically. Actually, it’s all three Kings – Freddie,
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B.B., and Albert – and I’d say Eric Clapton is also in that conversation. Susan grew up a massive Eric fan, and the Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs record was huge for me. Whose playing do you keep a close eye on? Trucks: I love Jack Pearson. He’s an unsung hero. Jack is a Nashville session player who actually had the slide chair in the Allman Brothers between Warren and me for about a year. He’s comfortable playing everything from old Piedmont blues on acoustic – he knows it up and down – to straight-ahead jazz. Eric Krasno and Jimmy Herring are close friends, but also players I respect because of where they’re coming from, and because they’re constantly pushing themselves to get better. What’s at the heart of the Krasno connection? Trucks: He’s truly about making songs great. He’s got the mindset of a composer and a producer. The same thing that connected me with Doyle connected me with Krasno. It’s a lot more than guitarslinger BS. The vision is a lot wider. Kraz is comfortable in a lot of different genres, where most guitar players would be fish out of water. Tedeschi: Derek isn’t focused on guitar riffs or licks – he’s not a shredder like some of those guys I played with on the Experience Hendrix tour. Shredders are not song-oriented in the pure sense, and a lot of them won’t do a song unless they’ve had time to figure it all out, which is fine. Classical musicians are the same way. I studied clarinet and piano, but once I started playing guitar, the theory went out the window. Now I’m more about improvising melodies in the rhythm of the moment. What guitars are you rendering your visions on these days? Tedeschi: I play a teal 1993 Fender American Standard Telecaster with a rose-wood neck. The front pickup is wired to give me the crisp, crystalline for, but without being too bright or harsh. Do you use a certain kind of pick or strings to keep the brightness in check? Tedeschi: I either use my fingers, or a heavy Jim Dunlop pick, and I usually use a standard pack of D’Addario 11s. If the strings are too thin, I tend to over-bend. Trucks: My main road guitar is a 2000 Gibson ’61 SG reissue with a stoptail bridge in place of the vibrato arm. Its loaded with ’57 Classic humbuckers and strung with DR nickel-plated strings gauged .011, .014, .017, .026, .036, and .046. I tune it to open E [E, B, E, G#, B, E, low to high], and my tech, Bobby Tis,
installed different tone caps and volume tapers. [According to Tis, George Alessandro of Alessandro High-End Products makes the custom volume pots and .022uF old-fashioned wax tone capacitors. Tis also confirmed that the Derek Trucks Signature SG should debut in 2011 as a part of Gibson’s 50th Anniversary Series of SGs. Trucks has been waiting until Gibson can exactly match the guitar to the specifications of his own instrument.] Do you own a vintage ’61? Trucks: I do, and it has that vintage magic, but I don’t take it or my other vintage guitars on the road. I think of those as the kids’ college funds. Are you using your mid-‘60s Super Reverbs on theroad with TTB? Trucks: Yes. I have three or four blackface Supers, and lately I’ve been playing the one that works. Overseas touring has done a number on them. We load a chassis into one of a few different 4x10 cabinets. Sometime we use two Webers up top and two Tone Tubbys on the bottom. Sometimes we use Pyle Drivers. We use whatever combination sounds best in the room that night. It’s been changing so much because I’ve been blowing an amp a night for whatever reason. What rig are you using with the Allman Brothers these days? Trucks: I’ve been using a ’63 Fender Tube Reverb unit in front of a custom 100-watt Paul Reed Smith amp that’s kind of modeled on Duane’s 50-watt Marshall – the Fillmore Marshall. It’s got a lot of headroom, but it always keeps that growl and at tack. It runs pretty hot. I don’t like playing at such high volumes, but its one of the few amps that really feels like my Fender feels on a good night. I have complete control. I can get it to sing, or breathe, or bark. [Tis adds that when the fabled amp Duane Allman used to record The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East “surfaced,” they took pictures of the electronics and sent them to Paul Reed Smith, who noticed it was wired like a bass amp with Ampeg SVT-style tubes, as well as a few other idiosyncrasies. Smith did his best to reverse engineer it.] Whats your main stage amp, Susan? Tedeschi: I use a black Fender Super Reverb Reissue, but the reverb doesn’t always work, so I have to kick it – crappy Super Reverb Reissue [laughs]. I used to use old ones until all my ex-boyfriends took all my amps I use an additional 80-watt Victoira 4x10 cabinet that Buddy Guy gave me back in ’98, when we were on tour together. It looks like a tweed Bassman.
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What wah do you use? Tedeschi: I use a Vox wah because the timing – the length of the wah- is weird on other ones. Its got to sing. But I really haven’t found the perfect wah yet. I got to paly one of Hen drix’s Vox wahs – as well as his white Woodstock Strat – when I did the Experience Hendrix tour. My tech was carrying it around all excited. Actually, it had been hot-rodded. That wah had the sound I’m looking for but can never find. It had more dynamic range. Push it all the way forward and its real bright, rock it back and its all washed out and warm. I was excited just to see and touch it. Dunlop introduced the Derek Trucks Signature slide this year. What insights can you provide, and what took you so long to do it? Trucks: It’s essentially the same large Dunlop Pyrex slide that I’ve used
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for ten years, but they are slightly different in size. I tried to tried to get mine a little more uniform. I’m naturally apprehensive about doing a signature anything. I finally agreed to the slide because I didn’t have to change anything – it’s exactly what I use. It is designed to match the circumference of your ring finger? Trucks: No. I used their standard large slide for so long, I just adapted to that. Your finger grew to fit? Trucks: I think so [laughs]. I’ve been playing it since I was a kid, so once my finger filled the slide it stopped growing. Have you made any major modifications to your studio since recording Already Free? Trucks: We asked Jim Scott to produce Revelator, and he ended up co-producing it with me because it turns out my studio is very similar to his we even use the same board – a mid ‘70s Neve. Our main inadequacy was the vocal booth. “Where’s Susan going to sing live with a view of everybody?” he said. I immediately realized wed found Susan’s champion. She hasn’t really had that on her past few records. She’s a chick singer – everybody knows better than the
chick singer. Bobby Tis and I immediately got to work. I don’t know how building a room inside a room makes both sides feel bigger, but it suddenly felt like a living, breathing studio a lot of the live vocals made the record, and Susan could also take live guitar solos. Cutting takes all together pushed everyone to play better. feel bigger, but it suddenly felt like a living, breathing studio a lot of the live vocals made the Did you change your approach to recording guitar in any significant way? Trucks: Yes. I realized that a cranked Super Reverb is great onstage, but you can actually get bigger guitar sounds by playing quieter in the studio. We would usually set up two or three amps – maybe a couple of Fender Deluxe Reverbs and a Pro Reverb, or some other combination of old blackface amps. [Tis says a pair of ’63 Deluxe Reverbs or ’64 Vibroluxes were the primary rhythm tracking amps, and that late- ‘60s Princetons were used for dirty tones. A 1963 Fender Reverb unit was used in front of all the non-reverb amps.] If I used the Super at all, it was very little. I usually runmy amp volume around 7 or 8 live, but that sounded small when I listened back in the control room. If I turned the gain up in the control room and the amp down
to 3 or 4, there was jus enough gain to make it sing, without sounding overly compressed. If you let the sound breathe – like a good singer – it sounds bigger. That was a major revelation for us both.
few guitar solos. The pressure built on Susan and me because some tracks sounded so good without the finished vocal and the guitar solo. You start thinking that you’d better make a very musical statement.
What are the curveball guitars and tunings on Revelator? Trucks: I used a ’65 Gibson Firebird on “Learn How to Love” and “Don’t Let Me Slide,” live, I stay in E and alter the way I play it – but I break out a detuned guitar for “Learn How to Love.” It sounds great with less tension on the strings. Actually, “Come See About Me” is also in open D. I played my old National, which is probably from the mid ‘30s. It’s pretty funky looking with somewhat of a sunburst finish painted on it. Tedeschi: Derek and I tracked the acoustic guitars on “Midnight in Harlem” together. We sat on two stools facing each other with a big microphone in the middle. Derek played a Martin and I played my Tacoma that Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon [of Stevie Ray Vaughan &Double Trouble] gave me when we were on tour together.
“Until You Remember” is a tune in 6/8 with gospel and R&B flavors that builds slowly, and then climaxes with a slide solo. There’s something about the way you work your melodies in F minor blues over the C#maj7 harmonic context that achieves a certain depth and tension. Can you shed some light on that? Trucks: It starts off feeling like an Otis Redding tune, and then the chorus is a total theme change. That’s one of my favorite chordal moves we’ve recorded to date. I don’t know why that C#maj7 feels so powerful there, but it does stand out. I put the solo off until last because I wanted to hear it first. Over the course of a week, I constructed that solo in my head. I’m kind of bouncing between playing through the chord changes and playing blues in F while trying to think like a gospel singer. You’re in and out – that’s the tension – laying out those blue notes. It was the most daunting solo on the record. You have a way of ripping into phrases, starting below and sliding up to the note. How do you decide where to start, and how do you hit the
How did the majority of the tracking go down? Trucks: We tracked the band, including rhythm guitars, in about three weeks, and then went the extra mile to craft some of the final vocals and a
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destination note so accurately? Trucks: I do it naturally – like winding up for a punch. I didn’t even realize what I was doing until somebodypointed it out to me. I was surprised when I listened me. I was surprised when I listened back to a live tape. I actually tried to stop doing it afterwards, but it wasn’t comfortable because I was thinking too much. Some of the ripping sound comes from scraping over the strings with the thumb of my plucking hand while I’m muting. “Ball and Chain” has an unusual harmonic struc ture. It has a very dominate 7th tonality on the intro/break, a creepy minor verse aesthetic, and a major vibe in the chorus. How did that chord progression come together? Tedeschi: Oliver Wood [King Johnson, the Wood Brothers] came down and was kicking the “Ball and Chain” melody and chorus. I had been messing with the verse melody for a week or so before he got there, so it was a collision of two different ideas – a Frankenstein. The trick was finding the pre-chorus – a way to get from one idea to the other – because it doesn’t work if you just slap the verse and the chorus together. Trucks: I love playing over the changes on “Ball and Chain.” I tried maybe ten different approaches for the solo. At
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the end of day, it came down to the feeling and the meaning of the tune. I’d think about the lyrics, and try to make the guitar solo represent that. Have you been listening to George Harrison lately? Your lyrical slide playing on “Don’t Let Me Slide” and “Ball an Chain” brings him to mind. Trucks: Not a ton, but I do believe playing Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity” with Clapton at Crossroads rubbed off on me a bit. I had to learn one of Harrison’s slide lines, and it finally struck me how lyrical his playing was and how much vibe he had. “Don’t Let Me Slide” is another nice play on
Susan and me get our thing together without even knowing it. The songwriting process made us solidify what this project was going to be.
words. Tedeschi: I had a big hand in that one, and Derek helped too. Wherever you see our names in the songwriting credits, Derek was involved in writing the lyrics, which most people don’t realize. He can sing too. He has very good pitch. I think thats why his intonation is so good on guitar. We bounce melody and lyrical ideas off each other all the time. The other songwriter on that track was Gary Louris. Trucks: When everybody in the room is operating at a certain level, it makes everybody else step up—or leave. The learning curve was huge at all times, and it made
What are your thoughts now, having done a record and significant touring? Trucks: Playing in the Allman Brothers, my group, and the Clapton band – the bar is high. But I feel like this is the first time I’ve been in a band where it’s all happening now. You wear your influences on your sleeve, but you make music about what happened to you, not a life you didn’t lead. Its important to be honest and see through your own lens. I honestly feel like it’s the first time I’ve been in a band that I wouldn’t want to play after on a consistent basis. It doesn’t matter how good the musicians are or how good the chemistry is – a band takes time. You’ve got to feel it out, and you’ve got to gig. We’ve been road dogging it for the past six months, and the band has taken a quantum leap forward. It’s exciting to get offstage at a highly regarded venue such as the Warfield Theatre exciting to get offstage at a highly regarded venue such as the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco and see that look in the promoter’s eyes – something’s happening. It’s what we hoped for, and it’s fun to see it actually come to pass.
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