I’ve been studying different styles of modern reggae for the last several months. I’ve always liked reggae but never got into it. But as my older kids listen to a lot of it, it was inevitable that I’d catch the bug.
Most of my familiarity with reggae is the old school stuff from Marley and Tosh and others. But this new stuff, has taken reggae and expanded it, crossing borders between Pop, Hip-Hop and R & B. Also, while the basic rhythms are retained in the newer styles, melodies have also become very rhythm-centric. It’s pretty amazing, and some of it is extremely musically complex and sophisticated.
I’ve written reggae songs in the past, but they followed the old-school patterns, and I’ve been itching to write more modern stuff. But I was admittedly at an impasse. Well, the other day, I came up with a riff that I laid down, but couldn’t find the words. So I thought I’d practice a bit and see if I could convert an existing tune into a reggae version. For some reason, “Baby Got Back” came to mind. Here it is:
When I told my son what I was intending to do, he laughed out loud, and said, “Well Dad… it could be cool if you could pull it off.” I think I did. More importantly, I wanted to give justice to the original. It’s such a fun tune that I wanted to capture that fun in this one.
As far as equipment was concerned, here’s what I used:
I have several friends and acquaintances who, after their breakups or divorces, went on a bit of a tear on electronic dating sites and seemed to go through women – quickly. I used to tease them that they were fast becoming lotharios. But they always had a reason for not committing. So I wrote this song from their point of view. It’s called “The Lothario.”
Here’s the final mixed version. For the guitars, I added just a little high-end boost to make them stand out a bit more, but I kept their levels pretty much the same.
In any case, here’s the gear I used:
Guitar: Slash L Guitars “Katie May”
Damnation! That guitar played just slightly dirty through my little 18-Watt Plexi clone sounded absolutely incredible! Didn’t have to EQ it at all. Katie May was set to the middle position (both pickups), but in single coil mode so I could get a bit of that Strat Position 4 jangly sound with the dirt.
I was originally going to add a clean guitar track on the left side of the mix, but started noodling with my amp much more overdriven, and decided that I wanted to give the song a bit more of an edge than what it had. So I added it in plus some really simple, but thematic lead breaks over the main riff.
Amp: Aracom VRX18
This is a VERY special amp to me, and while I don’t gig with it much, this amp with its tube rectifier has a very distinctive tone and dynamics. Standard VRX’s (18 and 22) come with a solid state rectifier – that’s not bad. My 22-watter has one. It just has more attack, and I wanted the feel of bit more sag as I was playing a bit behind the beat.
But being a Plexi-style amp, cranked up, this amp has a big sound, and on the “lead” track, I had to make sure I was doing a lot of palm muting to tame the overdrive a bit. But it turned out awesome!
Bass: Ibanez G-10
Cheapo, but it totally serves my purposes.
Here are the lyrics:
I was just a regular guy
…at least I thought I was
going day to day through life
All I wanted was to pass the time
…just doing my thing
You live your life and I’ll live mine
Then I saw her and she turned me all around
Don’t know which way is up or down!
Wasn’t looking for a good time
it must’ve come from outer space
all I know is that she launches
my heart into the sky
But I know I shouldn’t get too high
too much risk of falling
so I’ll enjoy the warmth I’m feeling inside
Enjoy her till it’s time to say goodbye
Please don’t judge me too unkind
…I know how it must look
But they shouldn’t be surprised
I never mean to make them cry
…the truth just hurts
But I have to draw the line
I don’t need no one to
spend their life with me
But I don’t mind the company
I wish she wanted just a good time
and be satisfied with that
but I know that what she wants is more
than what I had in mind
So we can have ourselves some good wine
and compelling conversation
and we’ll enjoy this warmth we’re feeling inside
Enjoy it till it’s time to say goodbye.
Spent so many years in losing myself
Not about to apologize
Though I haven’t put my heart on a shelf
I’ve just had to take the time to realize…
I just want to have a good time
don’t want no one depending on me
as if I have to fill up their lives.
So if you want to have a good time
Kick off your shoes and just go with it
enjoy this warmth we’re feeling inside
Enjoy it till it’s time to say goodbye.
Before 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.
Katie May plugged directly into my 1958 Fender Champ (that’s where the noise comes from)
First off, Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers around the world!
A couple of years ago, I wrote a song for mothers called “Never Trade In Her Life,” attempting to capture the essence of the busy mother who’s constantly on the go, swamped by the life around her; half wishing she could be free and single, but knowing that the love of and for her family keeps her where she is. When I first laid down the song, it was purely acoustic with some drum and bass added – I think I even had some piano in it. But I updated the song today for Mothers Day, removing the piano, and adding electric guitars and backup vocals. Then I completely re-mixed the entire song to make the sound a bit fatter without losing dynamics. Here’s the final result:
And here are the lyrics:
NEVER TRADE IN HER LIFE
She’s living in a world full of complication
Spinning in her mind like a merry-go-round
and she feels her life could use some renovation
to see the world rushing past her vision
She finds it hard to find some motivation
Coffee and a smoke help calm her down
She reads through all her status line to prove her isolation
But then she smiles…
It’s not so bad after all…
She just wants to have some fun
go out in the sun
shoot her worries out the barrel of a gun
See them speed away into the distance
She knows there’s a place in her heart
that needs a restart, to find a new direction
but then she sighs… she’ll never trade in her life
She knows that it’s a passing agrivation
Pictures of her kids bring back her smile
She looks into her world in fascination
and then she cries
with all the love in her heart
She remembers all the times
when she was young
and she was free…
But she knows the life she’s chosen for herself
was meant to be…
You might’ve noticed that after the line in the first verse, “spinning in her mind…” there was a little, distant shriek. That was little boy who was four years old at the time who was running through the house playing with his sister. Rather than remove it from the recording I decided to keep it to subliminally add to the mental and emotional chaos the subject was feeling. 🙂
For the electric guitar parts, I kept things VERY simple. There’s a basic rhythm track where I’m comping some two-string chords underneath the verses. This was done with my Perry Riggs Slash L “Katie Mae” custom guitar plugged directly into my custom Aracom VRX18 All the dirt is coming from the amp.
The lead guitar part was played with my Fender American Deluxe Strat plugged into a Circus Freaks Tattooed Lady Overdrive, then into my 1958 Fender Champ. The Tatooed Lady is providing all the grit and grime, plus lots of sustain. I decided to go this route so I could take advantage of the great tone controls of the pedal as the Champ has no tone circuit, and tons of clean headroom. Talk about fun! 🙂
Anyway, I’d like to again wish all mothers out there a wonderful and blessed Mothers Day!
My 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! 🙂
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
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.
With that clip, I wanted to demonstrate the punch of the neck pickup, from which the guitar gets is super-lush, deep tones.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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.