Joe Bonamassa Fuzz Face Mini

Dunlop and Joe Bonamassa have recently teamed up to create a new, smaller version of Bonamassa’s signature fuzz face, called appropriately enough the Joe Bonamassa Fuzz Face mini:

The FFM4 Joe Bonamassa Fuzz Face Mini Distortion delivers the same thick, creamy fuzz tones as its big brother but in a much smaller housing with several upgrades for modern convenience. Equipped with NOS Russian military germanium transistors, the FFM4 sports replica top hat knobs and a rich gloss black finish. A bright status LED, an AC power jack, and a battery door bring modern convenience to a classic sound, and like all Fuzz Face pedals, the FFM4 features true bypass switching.

I’ve heard good things about the full-size Bonamassa signature fuzz as well as the fuzz face minis that came out a little while ago, and I’m glad to see them create a smaller version of Bonamassa’s signature fuzz for those of us with pedal board space issues. I’m definitely interested in checking one of these out at some point.

jb-fuzzfacemini

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Gibson Memphis ES-390 with P90s

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Photo credit: Wildwood Guitars

Last year Gibson introduced the ES-390 model, which a smaller-bodied version of its fully hollow ES-330 guitar. The ES-390 shares the same body size as the ES-339, which is a smaller-bodied version of the ES-335 model. I own a ES-339 and find it much more comfortable than the larger body size of the ES-335 and the ES-330. At roughly the same size as a Les Paul, it’s a very comfortable guitar. It’s actually much more comfortable than my Les Paul.

When the ES-390 was introduced, it included Gibson mini-humbuckers rather than the P90s found in the ES-330. I can’t really attest to how the mini-humbuckers sound, but I was disappointed that it didn’t have P90s like the ES-330 that it’s based on.

Other people must have agreed because this year Gibson introduced a version of the ES-390 with P90s. I’m really curious to hear how the combination of the fully hollow smaller body and the P90s sound in person.  Here’s Greg Koch demoing the guitar at this past Winter NAMM show:

I’ve been interested in P90-equipped guitars lately, and if I were in the market to buy another guitar, this one would definitely be on the list to check out.

Posted in: Guitars

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The Song or the Gear?

I have a confession to make. When I hear a song I like on the radio or online, I oftentimes become more interested in the gear being used than the song itself. As a gear hound, it’s almost instinctive. I’m not proud of this.

In some ways, learning about the gear can be inspiring. It may open up new possibilities in your mind about gear you already own or help you find the sound you hear in your head.

But, all too often, I find that it’s a distraction rather than an inspiration. I get caught up in acquiring the gear of a song I like rather than trying to apply the techniques that make the song appealing to my own playing. I may spend hours watching demo videos, looking up information, and trying to find the best price for a piece of gear when I could have spent that time playing and improving myself.

Moreover, it is my contention that “normal” people, i.e. non-musicians, don’t listen to a song for its tonal characteristics. They simply want to hear good music, whatever that means to them. A good song played on mediocre gear is going to go farther than a bad song played on the best gear.

I love gear, and I love pursuing the tones I hear in my head, but I’m trying to make a conscious effort not to let the pursuit of gear get in the way of making music. And isn’t making music the reason why we picked up the guitar in the first place?

Posted in: General

Carter Vintage Guitars

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Carter Vintage Guitars here in Nashville. The shop was opened last year by Walter and Christie Carter, both longtime employees of Gruhn Guitars, so they bring a vast amount of experience with vintage instruments to Carter Vintage Guitars.

The shop is a welcoming place with some incredible guitars hanging on the walls and on stands around the building. Near just about every guitar in the building is a seat just inviting you to grab something off the wall and play for a while.

I’ve been in other shops where you weren’t really allowed to touch anything without having an employee first take the guitar from the wall and put plastic on it. I can understand this position, as you don’t want a customer damaging a high-priced instrument. However, it’s frustrating, and a bit jarring, if you don’t know the rules and you touch something only to have an employee chide you for touching an instrument.

This is not the case at Carter Vintage Guitars. I was looking at some of the guitars, and one of the owners stopped by and told me to play anything I wanted in the store.

And, to be clear, this is not a shop where there are a bunch of sub-$1,000 guitars hanging around and a few “good” ones. At Carter, they’re all good ones. I only recall seeing a couple of instruments that were less than $1,000. The rest were more, and in some cases much more. For example, they had a pre-war Martin 000-45 that had a price tag of $125,000 and a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom priced at $60,000.

As you might expect, the Martin was stored in a case, but the Les Paul Custom was hanging on the wall and could be played by anyone, including me:

Les Paul

These are just a few examples of the types of vintage instruments that Carter keeps in stock. There were many other Gibsons and Martins, as well as Fenders, Gretschs, and Guilds, among many other brands.

If you find yourself in the Nashville area, I highly recommend checking out Carter Vintage Guitars. Be prepared to spend some time in there, though, because you won’t want to leave.

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The Gibson Les Paul: The Illustrated History of the Guitar that Changed Rock

Gibson Les Paul Book Cover

Voyageur Press has recently released a new book about the Les Paul by Dave Hunter, titled The Gibson Les Paul: The Illustrated History of the Guitar that Changed Rock:

Starting with the Les Paul’s history and origins, the book traces the history and evolution of the guitar, from its 1952 introduction to the present day. In addition to the Standards and Customs that guitarists admire so much, author Hunter provides ample coverage of variations like Juniors, Specials, and SGs. The full history is presented in depth—with rare photos of guitars, gear and players—getting into the design and manufacturing from the early years to today. The evolution of the neck, pickups, and body are also explored, for the various models.

Included are profiles and great photos of players who famously played Les Pauls, in addition to the greats listed above. These include Joe Perry, Peter Frampton, Paul Kossoff, Keith Richards, Hubert Sumlin, Mike Bloomfield, and many others. The profiles contain details on the player’s favorite Les Pauls, recorded output and more.

There’s more than 400 images including studio shots of the guitars, rare blueprints and sketches, candid and performance photography of the musicians and a large collection of relevant memorabilia.

I received this book a few days ago, and I’ve been thumbing through it ever since. There are tons of great photographs, and a fairly detailed history of the Les Paul, from the introduction and collaboration between Ted McCarty and Les Paul to the changes made to the instrument throughout the years. The artist profiles, while necessarily brief, include some great photographs and details about the artist’s use of the Les Paul.

If you’re interested at all in the Les Paul or its history, I think you’ll enjoy this book. The history portions are interwoven throughout the book among the artist profiles, so you can consume it in bite-sized chunks if you want or, like me, you might get so engrossed in it that you just keep reading.

You can purchase the book from Amazon or from your favorite bookseller.

Posted in: Reviews

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Anthony Stauffer Demos the Wampler Velvet Fuzz

My Internet pal Anthony Stauffer of Texas Blues Alley posted a video demo of the Wampler Velvet Fuzz pedal earlier this week. I first heard and saw the Velvet Fuzz pedal at last year’s Summer NAMM show, and it’s been on my radar ever since. It seems like a really versatile fuzz pedal that can also get fairly smooth.

Check out Anthony’s demo below. I think he does a good job of showing off what the pedal can do.

Posted in: Effects, Videos

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One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band

one-way-out

One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band by Alan Paul is described as an oral history of the Allman Brothers Band and features interviews with current members of the band as well as former members, roadies, producers, and collaborators.

Tracking the band’s career from their 1969 formation to today, One Way Out is filled with musical and cultural insights, riveting tales of sometimes violent personality conflicts and betrayals, drug and alcohol use, murder allegations and exoneration, tragic early deaths, road stories, and much more, including the most in-depth look at the acrimonious 2000 parting with founding guitarist Dickey Betts and behind-the-scenes information on the recording of At Fillmore East, Layla, Eat A Peach, Brothers and Sisters, and other classic albums.

I recently finished reading this book, and I learned quite a bit about the band I hadn’t read anywhere else. The format of the book is a little different, and it was a little jarring at first. The book presents a topic and then includes a series of quotes from people who were involved or had knowledge of the topic being discussed. In this manner, you get all of the different perspectives of the topic rather than Paul’s own interpretation of the event. For example, it’s clear that Dickey and the band have different takes on his ouster from the band, and this book presents each of the perspectives in their own right.

If you’re a fan of the Allman Brothers Band, I would recommend checking out One Way Out.

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Oz Noy – Twisted Blues Vol. 2

oz-noy-twisted-blues-2

Guitarist Oz Noy has released Twisted Blues Vol. 2, which is, as the name implies, a follow up to his last album, Twisted Blues Vol. 1. Like that album, Vol. 2 features Noy’s unique blend of jazz, blues, funk, and rock with the help of a few special guests.

If you’re into instrumental guitar music, I think you’ll like this album. Laying the foundation for the album is Noy’s excellent groove and tasteful playing. While he’s a great guitarist, he never lets the song be overridden by superfluous guitar playing. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t tons of great guitar work on this album. There is, not only from Noy, but from guests Eric Johnson and Warren Haynes as well.

Additional guests include Allen Toussaint, John Medeski, Chick Corea, Greg Leisz, Dave Weckl, and Gregroire Maret. Bassists Will Lee and Roscoe Beck and drummers Keith Carlock and Chris Layton also appear on the album.

Here’s Noy talking about the album:

Posted in: Artist News, Videos

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5 Reasons Why I Love the Stratocaster

I got my first Stratocaster almost 20 years ago, and it has been my favorite guitar ever since. Here are 5 reasons why I love the Stratocaster:

1) The second time’s a charm - Many people claim Leo got it right the first time with the Telecaster, but I think the Strat is his most significant achievement. He tweaked his Telecaster design after receiving feedback from players and the result was the Stratocaster, a guitar that added to, rather than took away, from the Telecaster.

2) Versatility – Three pickups and a five-way switch lead to almost infinite tonal options. The Strat can give you a sparkling clean sound, a raunchy funk sound, a bluesy sound, a rock and roll sound, and much more. If you want a metal sound, slap a humbucker in the bridge and you’re ready to go. It can do just about anything.

3) Comfort - With both front and back contours, the Stratocaster is an extremely comfortable guitar to play. The guitar seems to sit perfectly when sitting down, and the contours make it very comfortable to play standing up, too.

4) Innovation – If you compare guitars before the Stratocaster and guitars after the Stratocaster, it’s clear that Leo’s design was not only innovative but highly influential. The design of the electric guitar was forever changed when Leo introduced his Stratocaster design to the world.

5) Inspiration – The comfort and playability of the Stratocaster inspires me to play more, and that’s the most important thing about any guitar, in my opinion. If a guitar inspires you to play, then it’s a good guitar.

The Stratocaster isn’t the perfect guitar for everyone, but it’s the guitar that seems to fit me the best. I own and play other types of guitars as well (I’m especially enjoying my ES-339 right now), but the Strat will always be a mainstay in my collection.

Posted in: Guitars

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The Story Behind Fender’s “You Won’t Part with Yours Either” 1965 Ad Campaign

This is an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the making of Fender’s 1965 “You Won’t Part with Yours Either” ad campaign featuring the Fender Jaguar:

Jon Martin and Randy Nauert discuss shooting the iconic Fender Jaguar ad in 1965-
“Newport, June 1965. Fender Guitars was launching their famous, ‘You wouldn’t part with yours, either!’ campaign and hired me to get this shot… I paid [Jon Martin] a little money, had him sign a waiver. He slung the Jaguar over his shoulder, paddled out on his board, turned around, and took off on the first good wave. He stood up, whipped the guitar around in front, I snapped the photo, and he finished ridding the wave into shore. We got it, one wave, first take. There wasn’t a drop of water on that guitar when he came in, either. We packed it back up, and it went back to the factory and got shipped.” -Bob Perine

(via @fbjournal)

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