Monday, August 27, 2012

Steve Earle and the Dukes and Dutchesses - WOW

So my friend in music Richa sent me a message via Facebook that Steve Earle was playing 3rd and Lindsley. Sometimes I will wait around to buy a ticket, you know, to see if I'm actually going to be in town or not. For this show I went ahead and pulled the trigger. It's a good thing I did because that show sold out super fast. Saturday night was the night and we got there at 5 PM. The doors opened at 6 PM so we were like 8th in line. I was chatting up people in line and then I realized that from inside the bar I could hear Steve and the band playing Copperhead Road. I made everyone stop talking to soak in the fact that it wasn't an MP3 or CD's was Steve and the band. Bad ass.

We scored a table right up front. The first thing I saw were all the guitars. Then all the cases, which was equally as impressive! No one was really there yet so I had free roam to take photos with my iPhone. I wish I would have taken a shot of the pedal boards for reference. Next time.
There was no opening act, it was pure Steve Earle for the night. 3rd and Lindsley is a great venue. Almost every seat in the house is a great seat, the waitresses kick ass and it's pretty laid back.
The first time I ever saw Steve live was his first show he did after he got out of prison. That was a killer show. Very rock and roll. Another memorable show was one he did with Bill Monroe. It was great to see Bill do his thing. He even had what looked to be his 15 year old bride in a granny dress sitting on stage. The problem was that Bill would not get off stage. I'm pretty sure Steve had to take the mic away from him. You could tell Steve didn't want to do it but hey, it was the Steve Earle show.
All that to say I was curious what to expect. I was told to expect a lot less rock and more politics. I get that politics are important and shape our lives and our kids futures but sometimes you just want to hear some music. I hoped it wouldn't put me off the show.

Steve came out in a big alt country beard, a short sleeved snapped button shirt, biker chain and round toed cowboy boots. A very Buddy Holly looking guitar slinger strode out with what I described to a friend as a red, curly haired fiddle player that looked like something create for a 3D movie. I mean that in a good way. This girl looked like a red headed angel dropped from heaven to play fiddle for us. Nashville favorite Kelly Looney looked like a short haired version of himself. I have heard his name on live albums so much (think Copperhead Road where Steve yells "KELLY LOONEY!") that every time I see him I yell, "KELLY LOONEY!" The drummer was low key and keeping the groove and of course Steve's wife Allison Moorer, looking just like she should. Have I mentioned I think Allison has the best female voice in country music? How is she not the most famous female country artist in the world? It just reaffirms my belief that talent and fame have very little to do with each other.

When Steve hit stage I saw him scan the audience from left to right in a very intense way. I mean eye contact on every near the front. It was very deliberate. I wondered, was he looking for old friends, old enemies, super fans, super crazies, label execs, all of the above? If I ever get him on the phone I'll ask. He put this head down and they launched into the show.

Steve did a great job of spanning his career song wise. I found Steve when I was 19 and Guitar Town had just come out. That was it for me. I was just about pure Steve Earl all the way up until around I hit 40. I like to say that Steve Earle was the soundtrack to most of my life. He did Guitar Town, which was great. He did Copperhead Road and told everyone that was waiting to hear that song that now they could leave and check in with their probation officer - ha! He did some songs off of Train A Coming. I taught myself the mandolin to that album. I was also amazed at how many of the songs I knew the words to... just about all of them. It was truly a great show and I think we were all pretty happy about it.

 Allison Moorer
Allison Moorer got up and did a few songs and just killed it. Kelly Looney even did a song but the two that blew me away, other than Steve, were the Mastersons. Chris Masterson has the glasses and teeth of Buddy Holley complete with neckerchief, and 50's rolled up jeans bottomed off with biker books. He was KILLING that guitar. I mean in an in your face sort of way, then in a subtle way, then back in your face. I'm a fan!! His wife, Eleanor, had it all - great voice, great guitar work, mando picker, crazy hair, pretty face and she looked to be all of 18. When I got home I immediately looked up their website.

We got in at 6PM, the show started at 8 PM and I don't think we left until around 11 PM. We were on encore 2 and then folks started leaving. Richa told us, "The shows not over until the lights are on." The lights weren't on and Steve come out for encore number three. He gave us a brief talk talk about why this year's election is so important, pointed out some facts and then sang his Woody Guthrie song. We ended the night with "This Land is Our Land." and the whole crowd joined in at the end. I'm getting chills writing about it right now.
It was a helluva show. Thanks to the Steve Earle family!!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Verlon Thompson - A Guitar Pickers Guitar Picker

Jim T. and Verlon Thompson

Click above to listen to Jim T's interview with Verlon Thompson!
(right click/save this link to download the MP3)

I don't remember how I got hooked up with Verlon Thompson. I do remember when we first met. I had a pretty swanky office back then with Hatch show prints on the walls and my guitars all around. Verlon came in and we talked some business and then we just chatted. I could tell right way Verlon was good people. I had my mando hanging on the wall and he said he had just written a song about his mother and would I like to hear it? Of course, who doesn't want to hear a song about someone's mama? Well Verlon sawed one off and killed me with his song called "Darwetta's Mandolin."

Then there's the story of Greasy Bend, OK where his mama grew up. They lived on the banks of the Quachita River and right across from their house a battle was fought. He said a hog farmer got into it with a water melon farmer and it ended in a battle on the bank of the bend of the river. There were dead pigs and water melons everywhere and that is how it got the name "Greasy Bend." His mama was a mando picker and song singer. Verlon liked to say she was the Francis Scott Key of Greasy Bend.

 I always felt pretty close to Verlon and over the years we have kept in touch. One day while driving down the road my cell phone rang. It was my great Uncle on my Dad's side. He gave my Uncle Kenneth his first guitar in 1956 (I still have that guitar). He said, "Jimmie I met a friend of yours today!" The last time I saw my great Uncle was at my Dad's funeral so I wondered who the hell he might have met. "Do you know a guitar picker by the name of Verlon Thompson?" It turns out Verlon's people and my people all live around each other. That solidified to me that Verlon and I were officially related in some way or another.

I have always thought of Verlon as friend but then I heard a song he did called "The Guitar." Oh I was smitten. I was crazy over that song. I have a serious guitar problem. I also have a serious amp and effects pedal problem but I mainline guitars mostly. This song is about a fella that walks into a guitar store and see's one up on the wall and decides he should play it. After that more than a few magical things happen. I won't spoil the ending for you but what a song! My favorite line is, "He said you tell me what it's worth You're the one who wants it Turn it up, play a song And let's just see what haunts it." I realized that I had just crossed over to being a huge fan as well as a friend!

As long as I'm reeling off favorite songs Verlon has anot"er one called "Joe Walker's Mare." As Verlon says, "This song is about a horse, but it's also about loyalty, dedication and honor... and a horse."  I loved that song so much I had to learn it and at times I force people to listen to me sing it.

Rewind to the first of this summer and you would have found me at 3rd and Lindsley bar to hear Verlon and my other hero Guy Clark. Guy and Verlon have been touring together for years now. I was as for in the back as was possible in this place. I was so far back that I took it upon myself to direct folks that looked lost to the bathroom...which was only feet from where I stood. A ways into the show I heard Verlon hitting those notes to Joe Walker's Mare. Oh did I let out a Texas yell. Now there's no way Verlon could see me and he didn't know I would be there but he leaned up to the mic and said that this one was going out to his old friend Jim T.! Lordy did put another Texas yell into the air. There I was mouthin' the words, tapping the beat on my jeans and fully engulfed in what I realized was hardcore fandom. I have been a fan of someone then a friend but I think this is the first time did in reverse.

I say all that to say this - Verlon Thomspon is good people. If he couldn't pick a guitar or write a song he would be equally valuable to the human race. The fact that he happens to be a helluva a guitar picker and a piercing song writer doesn't hurt. So here's to Verlon who is out there on the road somewhere right now warming people's hearts and souls. I'm a big fan.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Amp Day!! 57 Tweed Deluxe!!

This just in...I GOT A NEW AMP! Usually my problem is guitars but due to a chain of events I have a new amp.

The NAD (New Amp Day) Timeline

1. I accidentally find a Supro Thunderbolt at Corner Music. It looks so much like the amp I played during the 90s in the band Saint Christopher that I stare at it for so long the owner comes over to see if I'm OK. I get that feeling in my gut like I just ran into an old girlfriend from college.

2. I'm at the BlueBird and Danny Flowers shows up with a 60th Anniversary Woody Pro Junior. Danny could play a barn door and make it sing but the all wood aspect gets me to thinking.

3. I'm watching Heartworn Highways (find it, buy it, live it) for the 100th time and notice Charlie Daniels amps. They are in natural wood cabs with burlap feed sacks for grill cloth. I search the web for info and come up with nothing. My lust only grows thicker. I take a screen shot.

4. I realize that on my Mustang III amp (get one now) I only play the tweed tones. This makes me realize I really need is a tweed amp.

5. I price Fender's 57 Tweed Deluxe and see the price - I look for other options.

6. I realize they make kits and I'm pretty good with a soldering gun. I spend the next few weeks pricing out wood cabs and speakers.

7. I comment to the owner of Union Jack Amps that the amp he built for himself is exactly how a 57 Tweed Deluxe should look.

8. I sell my digital gear and build up a nice amp pile of money. At this exact moment the owner of Union Jack Amps emails me and says he wants to sell his 57 Tweed....for the exact amount of money I have. Fate!?! YES AND YES!!

9. 5 Days later I'm in Tweed bliss. 

The Long and Short
All hand wired 57 Tweed - 5E3 - amp, 15 watts. Mercury Magnetics iron, Sozo blue vintage caps, Tung Sol tubes, hand made pine dovetail cab and a killer Jenson Jet Lightening speaker that keeps the bottom tight. 

Crazy Interesting Stuff
So the circuit is super simple but the way the controls work is very complicated. The tone knob is like a TBX - it either expands or cuts the treble  and boosts the bass. Each volume affects the other. You can actually dial in distortion or clean up the tone by adjusting the other volume knob. I'm running an A/B switch to channel 1 and 2. Channel one I can keep pretty clean. Channel 2 I can get a little dirty. Hit A and B and you get volume increase and some big fat greasy blues. PERFECT!

It also reacts really reacts different with each of my guitars. My Strat with Texas Specials is amazingly clean and complex - very seductive and beautiful. My 335 copy roars like a damn dragster through this thing! ZZ Top all the damn way. My Tele is very punchy and my 3 P90 Les Paul can just about do all of the things listed above.

I'm not even going to pretend I have a good working knowledge of this amp yet but I am in awe. How often does something sound as good as you think it will? And how often does it go beyond that?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Jim T's Caddy - The Jimmy Davis Episode

Click above to listen to Jim T's interview with Jimmy Davis!
(right click/save this link to download the MP3)

The "Memphis sound" has always escaped a simple definition. Diversity and individuality characterize the musical tradition of the city that gave the world Beale Street, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, the Blues, Sun Studio, B.B. King, Rock ‘n’ Roll and W.C. Handy.

Jimmy Davis is no exception to this rule. This versatile singer-songwriter, named "Premier Male Vocalist" five times by the Memphis Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, knows no boundaries when it comes to musical styles. Influences range from The Beatles to the Eagles, Johnny Cash and Gram Parsons to Jackson Browne. His songs have been recorded by Martina McBride, Restless Heart, Joy White, Johnny Rivers, as well as many other independent artists. Davis has appeared as a backing vocalist on numerous recordings by artists such as Johnny Lang, former Eagle Bernie Leadon, Danny Tate, Eric Gales, William Lee Golden, Mark Collie, Keith Sykes, Iris DeMent, Cory Branan, Susan Marshall, John Eddie, and the late Toy Caldwell. But it’s Jimmy’s charisma, warmth and talent as a performer that make him stand out among his well known peers.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lightnin' Hopkins - "Life Ain't Nuthin' but the Blues"

When I lived in Waco, Texas I discovered Lightnin' Hopkins. Getting tracks of his songs wasn't very easy as I recall. In fact I have no idea how I got them. But the minute I heard him I knew I loved it. I remember one day my brother walked in, stopped, listened to Lightnin' and said, "what the hell is this shit?" (those were his exact words) I looked at him and realized he didn't get it. He didn't get just a little, he didn't get Lightnin' at all. Then that made me wonder about myself. What is different in me that makes me love the music Lightnin' was making, when the guy I grew up with on a ranch in Texas thought his music was shit? This of course is pre internet, pre google, pre external knowledge of others that might think and like the same things you do. It was just me, my cassette tape of Lightnin' and my appreciation. I just had to accept that I was different and loved that music...period.

 A few times a week I will get my Les Paul I built out and an amp and play along to blues tracks on my front porch. Sometimes I play louder than I should. I grew up on an acoustic but the most fun for me is the blues on an electric guitar. Last Sunday night I put on a blues Pandora station and my wife said, "If you ever become a blues player I'm sorry to say I'll never come to see you play. I just don't have a shred of love in me for the blues." So there it is, even my life long partner, my mate, the mother of my heathens doesn't even get the blues. Life is funny but like I told my 9 year old at Costco, "life ain't nuthin' but the blues." He didn't really get it either. 

I'm happy to say years later I found other people love Lighnin' Hopkins as much and maybe more than me. Currently I'm all crazy over the music being made by Ray Wylie Hubbard. I went to a show and he talked about how he loved Lightnin'. So it's great to know the artists I like like the artists I like too.

No go enjoy some Lightnin' Hopkins on me:

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Ultimate Amp - A Tone Quest

During the Malibu fires it was me and my Caddy. Here you see what I decided to save.
Note the Supro amp, two guitars and other less important stuff.

The Supro Thunderbolt

My first real amp was a Supro Thunderbolt. I paid $250 for it and gigged with it in my early band days. I hauled that thing all over LA. There have been a lot of amps between then and now. The interesting part is that I have been hunting that Supro sound ever since. 

Music Man 212HD - Heavy and Loud!
                                                                                      I went from the Supro to a MusicMan 130 watt 212HD. Some people have bad things to say about this work horse but I notice lately the prices are going up and people are raving about them. It's a heavy bastard but I still really like it. I also have a Kustom Coupe 36 sitting here and I like it. Nice cleans, pretty cool grind. I have a friends Blues Jr and I think everyone should own this amp. I have a modded 5 watt Valve Junior. Super cheap and super easy to mod. I built an attenuator for it and it will wail at low levels. I have various amps I picked up along the way that are more decoration than anything else now.
SIDE NOTE - That is an actual Dwight Yoakam boot sitting on the MusicMan!

I know this is blasphemy but I like to see what is happening on the electronic side of things so I own a Mustang III modeling amp. This thing is 100 non tube amps and has a 12 inch Eminence speaker. The price is $299 and I love it. Sure it doesn't sound exactly like all the amps it models but it's pretty damn close and for computer recording I think it's fine. It's also fun. It's light and I have some tones I have programmed from my Mac on there that just kick ass. If this is where modeling is going then I'm on board. I'm still waiting to see these modeling amps move past the classics and show me tones that don't exist yet. That will be fun. 

All that brings me to this - the Supro would start out clean until I was into song 3 and then it would just get fuzzy, wooly and grind like a dirt pedal. At the time this frustrated me but now it's exactly what I want. A few months ago I ran into a Supro just like the one I owned at Corner Music. It stopped me in my tracks. You could hear my boots skidding. I looked at it and looked at it. I wondered if it was the amp I let go years go. A funny feeling came over me. The kind of feeling that you get when you run into your ex girlfriend from college. I just couldn't walk away. I sold my Supro back the original owner for exactly what I paid him for it - $250. The price tag on the one in front of me? It was was $1,100. That ain't right. I walked away from the Supro but a seed was planted. 

So after lots of pondering I'm on the road of building an amp. I sold off some gear that I never use and now I have the money together. I have the tone in my head and I also know the tones I'm always trying to dial in. The MusicMan does the clean Fender thing in spade so clean is not what I want. I want that ZZ Top wooly sound. Let me quote a guy from Harmony Central, "It has the thickest, creamiest, fattest, most amazingly soul-satisfying, melt-in-your-mouth-but-not-in-your-hands, deliciously raw and juicy, yet intensely rich and sweet, harmonically-loaded, overdrive drenched, orchestral vintage Tone that deserves a capital T, and you get it even at bedroom volume levels. " THAT IS THE SOUND I WANT!

I have cruised ebay, all the guitar/amp forums and I landed on one guy - Jim Nickelson of Li'l Dawg Amps. He takes the old tweed amps and adds his magic at a decent price. I'm still battling between a Champster and a Mutt. The Mutt is a cross between a 5e3 (Tweed Deluxe) and a Champ. That sounds like what I want. I'm going to drop this into a hand made wood cab and to top it off I'm going to use a vintage flower sack ala Charlie Daniels from the 1970s as a speaker cloth. I will keep you updated and when I'm all finished we will see if I got the tone I was shooting for. Here is a link to some of Jim's sound clips. Listen to the "Lil Dawg 5F1 Champster - Clip 1" to hear what I'm shooting for.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Where the Hell is Walt Wilkins?

Where the Hell is Walt Wilkins?

Guys like Walt Wilkins are always criss crossing the country. The biggest drag is when they come to your town and you don't know about it. Or worse, you find a day late. So I'm here to help my alt country brethren! I bring you the Walt and the Mystiqueros show page direct from their website. Put your finger on there, scan the dates, find a town nearby and be there! Bring your friends and be sure to send a Martini up to Walt, he appreciates it!

Pick Like Jeff Tweedy

Jeff Tweedy Signature SG

I had the first Uncle Tupolo album. Ron Byrd gave it to me a long time ago on an Austin trip. He said, "I think you will like this." I remember late night forced listening sessions where I made friends listen to the ablum - "You have to listen to this! It's the future!" Sometimes that went well and sometimes not so well. To that point I was a pretty hard core acoustic player. Jeff Tweedy's electric guitar playing always grabbed me when not a lot of other pickers did back. I'm still putting amps together looking for that tone. Now all of us can have the guitar part of that equation. Gibson has released an SG Tweedy signature guitar. Nice.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Steve Earle is Alive!


I discovered Steve Earle when I was 19 years old. That was about it for me and rock and roll. It was Steve Earle all the time. Once at a party in Waco, Texas I declared that I knew the words to every Steve Earle song there was...and I almost did. A lot of water has gone under the Steve Earle bridge but he is making great music, married to Allison Moorer (who I consider to be the best female voice in country, bar none), and has a new baby. Steve is kicking all the ass! I say all that to say this:


The Muddy Roots Festival is Coming!!

Let me say this first, the Muddy Roots black shirt is cool all by itself. Go get one.
In the meantime check out the first Muddy Roots festival. If you're anything like me, and let's hope you're not, you will realize that such a grouping of alt/roots/ performers have never been seen before. Don't take it from me, take it from them!

Muddy Roots isn’t just a festival my friends. No. It’s an act of solidarity. It is a force of the collective Will of real roots fans united from disparate backgrounds, coming together to say “We are here, and things can work differently.” It is proof that music can be true to it’s roots, while still innovating and moving forward. It is an example how success can be measured not simply by money and numbers, but by the amount of memories made, the amount of friendships forged, and the strengthening of community through a focus of sustainability. The Muddy Roots Festival isn’t just a big party, it is principles and philosophies in action; it just happens to be one hell of a good time as well.

In 2012, the Muddy Roots Festival will take place August 31st-September 2nd, at the June Bug Ranch in Cookeville, TN, where it was held the previous two years.

Americana Music Festival 2012

Americana Music Festival 2012
September 12th - 15th
Nashville, TN

The 2012 Daily Schedule will be posted soon!
Each year, the Americana Music Festival & Conference brings together legendary artists, the next generation of rising stars and industry professionals for four days of music and education. Our event will take place September 12-15, 2012, gathering thousands of artists, fans and industry professionals from all over the world in Nashville, TN.
Read more here...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Music City Roots - The Real Grand ALT Opry

My Grandpa started me young on roots music. I was 5 to be exact. I don't live in Nashville on accident and this is a great place to hear all kinds of music. Every Wed. night in the back of the  Loveless Cafe is a show called Music City Roots. It's a great venue with great music. You owe it to yourself to head down that way, grab a Pabst Blue Ribbon and biscuit, while enjoy multiple bands with like minded people of all ages. I'll be the guy in the black Caddy.