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Posts Tagged ‘perry riggs’

Katie May and the Aracom VRX18

Katie May and the Aracom VRX18

I’m in a waking dream right now; caught in the solace after a night spent in the presence of pure beauty; her siren-song resonating into the deepest recesses of my soul. Closing my eyes, I see the visage of her elegant curves. I can feel the smoothness of her golden-brown skin. I can hear the dulcet tones she sings from my ministrations as I gently caress her smooth body and run my fingers up and down her neck. She is Katie May, and she is my lover.

Dirty mind… Katie May is my custom guitar made by Perry Riggs, good friend and luthier of Slash L Guitars. I have had her for a few years now, and every time I play this guitar, I’m transported to Never Land, and start waxing poetically; such is the effect she has on me. It’s visceral, sensual. I’m completely transported to another world when I hear the sounds she produces. When I play this guitar it’s the musical equivalent of making love. While there’s not an exchange of body fluids, there is certainly an exchange of energy; a connection that is too difficult to describe and would only be diminished by mere words. It’s like I’m having an affair!

To be honest, I’ve kept her at home and played her mostly in my studio because she’s so precious to me that I don’t want to even leave the possibility of her getting dinged or – God forbid – stolen at a gig. But last night, I decided to take her with me to band rehearsal. Don’t know why, but I felt she was calling to me. Felt this little voice in my head saying, “You need to play me… I want to sing…” So I packed her up in a gig bag, and went to rehearsal.

From the very first notes I played, I knew it was going to be a magical night for me. Clean or dirty, Katie May’s voice rang sweet and clear; never too deep, never too shrill. Just pure musical tones that just set my heart on fire. I had only played out with her with my old church band. But as both primary guitarist but also pianist, she didn’t get much play time. But with my new band, where I’m the lead guitarist, any guitar will get a workout, and Katie May proved her worthiness as a workhorse. So I’ve made the decision that for my new band, she will be Guitar Numero Uno.

Here’s a quick clip that – at least to me – demonstrates her incredible voice. In this song, she was plugged directly into my trusty Aracom VRX18 Plexi.

Last night, I played her though a Fender DRRI Limited Edition. Talk about a divine pairing! But truth be told, the real test for her will be this coming Saturday when the band plays a benefit concert. I’m SO looking forward to showing her off!

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km1Before I drive into the office each day, I usually start out early and do some work. But sometimes, there are exceptions; especially when I get a musical idea running around in my head. Then I drop everything and track it so I can come back to it later. Yesterday morning was like that. I was happily pounding out code for a project I’m working on then suddenly I heard this tune on an electric piano.

I went to my man-cave and quickly laid down the track. But since I was pressed for time, I just got down the piano part. So this morning I resolved to get a guitar part down. To be honest, I just wanted to jam over the piano part. I never intended my idea to be a full song. Part of it was testing myself to deal with a change from a maj-7 to a minor-dim, and the phrasing I might use.

Of course, there are many ways to skin a cat, but I thought about it for a little bit, and practiced some ways I might deal with it. In the end, I decided on keeping it simple.

Here’s the track:

It’s really nothing special as far as the music is concerned, and to be completely honest and transparent, this track is just one of several takes I took while playing around. What was incredible for me in this experience was “Katie May.” This guitar has never ceased to amaze me since I got her. She’s such a dream to play in both tone and feel that she lets me slip into an altered state where my creativity can take over. That’s the mark of a truly great instrument.

Katie May has so much natural sustain and a real purity in her tone. There’s a depth to her voice that’s indescribable. Her voicing is perfectly balanced; I haven’t ever had to EQ this guitar when I play her both in the studio and playing out. I just keep all EQ flat, and let her sing! The only thing I do is add some modulation effects to enhance what’s already there.

Perry Riggs and Slash L Guitars may not be widely known, but take it from me, if you’re in the market for a hand-built guitar, this is a builder you should consider.

Gear used:

Katie May plugged directly into my 1958 Fender Champ (that’s where the noise comes from)

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km1My new guitar, “Katie May,” custom made by Perry Riggs of Slash L Guitars just gave me a VERY pleasant surprise yesterday. While I was researching the root cause of a grounding issue I had over the weekend, I contacted Perry Riggs about the wiring scheme of the guitar and how Katie May was grounded. He sent me a very detailed email, plus a hi-res picture of the control cavity, and also explained that Katie May’s humbuckers were coil-tapped!!!

I know what you’re thinking: How did I NOT know that the ‘buckers weren’t coil-tapped. The reason is that even though Katie May is a custom-built guitar, I didn’t specify anything in the build. However, as I shared with Perry, when I reviewed her, I very well could have specified the guitar because to me at least, it was perfect – almost as if I had specified everything, even the neck dimensions! Talk about a kismet moment!

In any case, I’ve been playing her for the last month or so completely ignorant of the coil taps. And upon finding out about it, of course, I immediately set out to try her out.

Now Perry had said to me in an earlier conversation that the Lollar Imperials didn’t sound too good coil-tapped, so I assumed he didn’t do it. Well, he must’ve worked some magic with the voicing because the single-coil mode tone is fantastic! Here’s a clip I recorded this morning before work. It’s a fingerstyle ditty with the guitar set to the neck pickup:

This was recorded directly plugged into my 1958 Fender Champ with a custom-made tweed cabinet with a 10″ speaker. Sorry for the little hum and crackling in the background, but the amp is showing its age. 🙂

I actually have a funky clip that I recorded with the guitar in middle pickup as well, but I forgot to upload it from my recording workstation. In any case, in single-coil mode, the maple of the through-neck really shows its contribution to the tone, which has a distinct top-end sparkle. When picked, the sound is “snappy,” which is perfect for clean, funky, comping.

So here’s yet another tonal dimension that Katie May offers. I just love surprises!

You gotta check out Slash L Guitars. Perry is just a stellar guy, and people who’ve worked with him just rave about his skills as a luthier. He’s not really well-known, and quite frankly, he’s not in it for the money. He just wants to build great guitars, and as a proud owner of one of them, I can attest to their greatness. Katie May is such a great guitar, I haven’t even touched my Les Pauls since I got her. I know, blasphemy! But at least for right now, she’s got everything I need! 🙂

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5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!

Slash L Guitars
Summary: Yet another custom beauty from Perry Riggs, owner and luthier of Slash L Guitars. This amazing through-neck guitar is not only aesthetically gorgeous, it’s capable of some incredible tones!Pros: Lightweight (Perry lists at 8 lbs, but it feels even lighter). There’s a lot to be said about the through neck design. Tone comes from the neck and this laminated mahogany and maple neck creates both a jangly and lush tone, with sustain that’s on par with a Les Paul. I’m in heaven!Cons: None. Absolutely none.Price: Call

Features:

  • Body: Quilted Soft Maple over Ribbon Sapele Mahogany
  • Neck: Grain-matched Flamed Hard Maple and Mahogany / Wide, Shallow “C” profile
  • Fretboard: Bound Honduran Rosewood / 24 frets – very nice
  • Nut: 1 11/16″ Bleached Bone Nut
  • Gotoh 510 hardware (my favorite – a wraparound bridge, and super-accurate tuners)
  • Lollar Imperial Pickups
  • Master Volume, Master Tone
  • 3-way pickup selector

Tone Bone Rating: Wow! Starting off the year with two 5.0 reviews! What can I say? I got pretty lucky! 🙂 Perry Riggs is a guy who loves building guitars, and the workmanship and tone of his excellent instruments never cease to amaze me!

What comes out of Texas? Great barbeque beef (especially brisket), a fantastic music scene in Austin, and Slash L Guitars out of Richmond. Perry Riggs discovered my blog a couple of years ago, and asked if I’d like to review one of his guitars. He was a luthier whom I had never heard of, and after having a nice phone conversation, I agreed to review “Lana.” If I was impressed by Lana, I am even more impressed with Katie May. It’s clear that in the couple of years since I reviewed Lana, Perry has honed his craft even more. Katie May is an incredibly expressive and sophisticated-sounding guitar, and I’ll just say it now: If I had the money on hand, I’d keep this guitar, and make it my numero uno! That’s how good this guitar is!

Fit and Finish

When you purchase a custom guitar, you’re not purchasing something that you’ll resell. After all, a custom guitar is a pretty personal thing. Perry usually builds on commission, but then he occasionally builds some for inventory, like Lana and Katie May. I have to say that Katie May feels as if she was made just for me. 🙂 The neck is absolutely perfect, and dynamics and feel are EXACTLY how I like them.

The finish and workmanship that went into this guitar make it look like piece of furniture! Everything about this guitar just screams organic. There’s a certain understated quality to this guitar that’s hard to describe, but it just looks “natural,” as if everything that should be on the guitar is on the guitar. There’s nothing  extra, and there’s nothing missing. Check out some pictures:

The pictures don’t do the guitar justice. I wish I had more time to do a photo shoot of the guitar, but unfortunately, the demands of work precluded me from doing so. The quilted maple top is absolutely insane. I love how Perry used a simple stain then glossed it over with lacquer. I know, I’m really a burst kind of guy, but I’d use this on stage any day!

How It Sounds

The Lollar Imperials are absolutely incredible. They’re the perfect set for this guitar. Even though they’re just standard wound, they have a gain range that super-wide, and when dimed, they produce an absolutely velvety-smooth overdrive tone. When I gigged with the guitar over the weekend, when it came to leads,  I just closed my eyes and soaked up the wonderful tone of this guitar! Here are some clips (all recorded with an Aracom VRX18 in the drive channel cranked. The Lollars clean up fantastically!):

  • Middle-clean / Dead or Alive (Bon Jovi)

With this clip, I wanted to capture that simultaneous lushness and jangle that the guitar can produce. It’s best when in the middle position. When I gigged this weekend, I used the neck pickup with delay and spring reverb for a haunting, finger-style tone.

  • Neck-dirty

With that clip, I wanted to demonstrate the punch of the neck pickup, from which the guitar gets is super-lush, deep tones.

  • Bridge-dirty

This clip was all about “fun.” I used that song to demonstrate the “spank” of the neck pickup. It can create some searing lead tones, but with the volume backed off, will provide lots of snap.

  • Bridge clean and dirty

Remember I mentioned the spank of the bridge pickup? That’s most evident when playing a funky, clean riff. Combine that with an incredibly smooth and refined lead tone, and you’ve got a guitar that can create all sorts of tones!

By the way, my total rig for these demo clips was the guitar plugged directly into the Aracom VRX18 into an Aracom PRX150-Pro then out to my custom Aracom 1 X 12 cabinet with a Jensen Jet Falcon 12″ speaker. Amazingly enough, all clips were recorded at normal conversation levels. The PRX150 never ceases to amaze me! In any case, I mic’d the cabinet with a Sennheiser e609 instrument mic fed into a Presonus TUBEPre and into my audio interface. Everything was recorded using Logic on my Mac with no EQ or effects added, so what you hear is the raw guitar sound. I didn’t want to muddy the waters by running it through any effects.

Playability

Normally, it takes me awhile to get used to a guitar; especially a custom guitar. But Katie May was playable right out of the box. For me, the neck is absolutely perfect. It’s super-fast and the medium-jumbo frets just do not get in the way. They’re deep enough to provide some room for vibrato, but they’re low enough where they allow you to move around very easily. In fact, when I record the lead for the last clip, I actually had to take several takes because I kept on going too fast! That’s saying a lot for me because I’m not really a fast player.

Overall Impression

The rating says it all. Great looks? Check. Great sound? Check. Great playability? Check. This is a guitar that I would add to my collection any day, and I’m going to be jealous of the person who ends up with her. Kudos to Perry Riggs for creating such a masterpiece of a guitar! And by the way Perry, if you’re reading this, I now hate you for torturing me with this guitar. I’m a horse, and Katie May is the carrot that’s dangled in front of me. 🙂

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As I’ve said in the past, there’s always room for people who are good. I said it about Barron Wesley Guitars, and I’m saying it for Slash L guitars made by Perry Riggs. Look at the guitar to the left. Notice anything familiar? It’s patterned after a ’59 Les Paul with a mahogany body and neck, but with a neck-through construction. I have to tell you, Perry’s neck-through design works really well. As I mentioned in a previous article about “Lana”, his guitars sustain for days owing to the that neck-through design. Not only that, if this guitar is similar to Lana, it’ll be less than 8 lbs. (Lana weighed 6.5 lbs).

But as to the overall design of this guitar, it’s gorgeous! Of course, being a Les Paul guy, I love that shape, and that spalted maple top and the translucent tea burst finish is killer! The guitar comes equipped with Lollar Imperials (coil tapped), and has a rosewood neck. Love those trapezoidal fret inlays!

By the way, Perry doesn’t have a site, but he’s got a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/perry5610). Friend him. He’s uploading pictures of his build process. Very cool stuff.

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When I get any guitar, one of the very first things I do is to test it out clean. I know, I already did a clip of the guitar dirty, but that was just a spur of the moment thing, and I literally only spent 15 minutes with her when I recorded the first clip. But tonight, I wanted to really take some time to dig in, so to say, and run Lana through her paces.

So I hooked her up to my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe because it just has killer cleans. Came up with a simple chord progression in D, recorded it, then laid down the lead. The “rhythm” part of this clip is with the neck pickup coil-tapped. The lead is with the guitar in the middle position, no coil-tapping. Give it a listen:

One of the first things that struck me was the super-organic, acoustic quality of the rhythm track. The inherent sustain creates lots of resonance, so it acts like the resonance chamber of an acoustic guitar. That’s really amazing. The guitar is probably about an inch and a half thick where the neck meets the body (no joint as this is a neck-through guitar), then tapers out to less than an inch around the body. At first glance, you wouldn’t expect this guitar to have so much sustain and resonance, but Perry’s design somehow creates tons and tons of sustain. Excellent!

When I played the lead, the humbuckers were simply thick and juicy, but without even a hint of boominess, even through my Hot Rod Deluxe, which can get pretty fat in the bottom end. Though I ultimately recorded the lead in a single take, I recorded it after about an hour of looping through the chord progression, just playing lead lines.

To me, that’s the mark of a truly great instrument. I lose all track of time when I’ve got a great instrument in hand. I’ll play for hours on end, and not stop. That’s how good Lana is. She can absolutely sing! I’d put her up against a Les Paul any day; and that’s saying a lot! Can’t wait to hook her up to my Plexi-style amps!

As to the recording, the guitar was recorded completely raw. I didn’t add any compression or EQ or do any mastering. The guitar was plugged straight into my Hot Rod, and I just set the Reverb on 3 to give it just a little grease. But that’s it. What you hear in the recording is just that.

By the way, even before I do the formal review of Lana, she’s going to get 5 Tone Bones. I know, I’m letting the cat out of the bag, but this is such a damn great guitar that I’d be lying if I gave her anything less than a 5!

If  you’re looking for a great custom guitar, Perry is the man to talk to. I don’t have his contact info in front of me, so I’m not providing it just now. Perry, if you’re reading this, please let the folks here know how to reach you.

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Okay… hmm… what to say… How about OH MY F-IN GAWD!!! I recently wrote about Perry Riggs last week, and true to his word, he sent me out the guitar. It arrived this afternoon via FedEx. Funny aside, my wife called me up as soon as it arrived, and asked me, “Did you buy another guitar?”

I replied, “No honey, I didn’t. Why?”

She said, “Because a Gibson box just arrived from the FedEx guy. You bought another Les Paul didn’t you?!!!”

“Really honey, I didn’t. I promise!” I exclaimed, “It must be the guitar that I’m reviewing.”

“Well,” she said, “As soon as it arrived, I said, ‘He got another guitar!’ but the FedEx guy said, ‘You can never have too many guitars!'”

Gotta love it!!!

Anyway, as soon as I got home, I didn’t wait. I opened up the box, took the guitar out to my studio/garage, plugged her into my trusty Fender Hot Rod, and started playing. Didn’t do an inspection, didn’t make any measurements. “Lana” as she’s called is one of the most beautiful guitars I’ve ever seen in my life! She weighs something like six pounds, and her neck is perfect – really similar to a 60’s Les Paul neck, so I felt right at home, right away!

Well, I just had to share how she sounds, so here’s a clip (sorry for my little “clams,” I did this quickly in one take before I have to leave for tonight’s Sharks game at the Tank):

I played the first part of the clip in the bridge pickup, then in the second part of the clip, I switched to the neck and activated the coil tap to get that spanky, single coil tone. But unlike a single coil, the notes continue to sustain. Man, I love this guitar!

You have to be here to appreciate it fully, but Lana sustains for days! I can’t believe the natural sustain this guitar has! It’s as much as any Les Paul I’ve ever played, and she’s an absolute dream to play! Notes even bloom like a Les Paul, which is amazing.

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