Instruments and gear

Having worked as a Front of House engineer and an electronic tech for quite a while, I enjoy building and customizing my guitars and gear. Some of my more interesting project I’ll cover here.

Mule Tricone

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The vast majority of my acoustic playing is on resonators. This one is my “go to”. both live and for recording.  Built by Matt Eich of Mule Resophonic, this brass gem has the perfect balance of sparkle and warmth of tone. The neck is torrified flame Maple with an ebony fretboard and titanium truss rod.

Baritone Tele

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This started life as a MIM (made in Mexico) Nashville Telecaster.  The only thing original now is the body.  I converted it with a custom conversion neck from Warmoth Custom Guitar Parts. It has a nice, chunky profile. The neck wood is Wenge with a Bloodwood fretboard and stainless steel jumbo frets. Gotoh locking tuners and a tusq nut complete it.

I opted for an anodized aluminum pickguard and control plate from Tone Guard. The pickups are from Joe Barden Engineering (a personal favorite): Gatton Neck, S-deluxe Middle and Modern-T Bridge. They’re wired with a Strat-style 5-way switch, with a push-pull to add the bridge pickup to any combination for a total of 7.

The knobs, switch tip, bridge, saddles and neck plate were made by Armadillo Guitar of Austin, TX.  I’ve worked with Michael for several years now, always with stellar results. (I’ve also had the pleasure of having him in the audience in Austin and Memphis.)

The guitar is strung with 17-80’s and tuned Vastapol A. (A E A C# E A, low to high, the low A being the same as an open A on a bass.)  It’s got a great swampy sound and a lot of fun to play. It’s been featured on a couple of tunes, including “Bogged Down” and for the “Spaghetti Western” sound in session work.

To see and hear more, check out this video: 

“Mulecaster”

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It’s no secret: I’m a big fan of T-type guitars. While I love the original design, no one would ever mistake me for a purist.  I have no problem mod’ing a Tele to make it work for me. I also love resonator guitars. Matt Eich of Mule Resophonic Guitars has had the “Mulecaster” available for a while. Although, I’m not a fan of “relic’d” guitars,  Matt’s approach is more “Aged” than “abused”.  Things came together, so I put in the order.

It has the standard torrified flame maple neck (titanium truss rods) and Thomthumbucker mini-humbucker pickups.  My preference is for a “Nashville” pickup configuration (with a middle pickup), but unfortunately, that was not available.  I did opt for the B/G/A bender from Hipshot products.

The steel semi-hollow body gives it a unique tone.  It is not prone to feedback (at least not at the levels I play). Between the steel and the low out-put humbuckers, it’s a good base for a clean, compressed sound. A little overdrive and it snarls.  My personal favorite is to dirty it up with a Mosferatu. I expect this will become a workhorse (so to speak) for both recording and live.

“High speed, low drag pedalboard”

Traveling heavy and sound checks are luxuries of the past. Many of my gigs now are single set showcase or festival affairs and traveling light and fast setup and breakdowns are the keywords. When it comes to gear.I’ll compromise on certain things, but tone and flexibility aren’t on that list.

I put together this pedalboard-based rig to give me the tonal pallet I need, and still have the portability to move quick. Built into a flight case from Road cases, USA, the brains of the operation are in the new Mastermind PBC6x controller, by RJM Music Tecnologies. The 6x has six audio loops, full MIDI capability, fully customizable configuration and incredible support and customer service from RJM.To keep the board compact, I used the Tonal Recall delay and Brothers boost/Overdrive/fuzz, both from Chase Bliss Audio. Both can store 127 presets (which can be recalled by the 6x), eliminating the need for multiple pedals.

While I don’t use modulation and filter effects in my basic sound, they are “tools in the tool box”. To get a variety of sounds (and not take up a lot of real estate)  I use the Mobius from Strymon to create a wide variety of modulation effects, including chorus, tremolo and phasor (a key piece of the “Lowell George” sound).

To cover the dynamics, I run the Slide Rig Compact Deluxe, by Origin effects for clean, slippery, lead sounds and Keeley’s 4 knob for gain matching. For the occasional drop into envelope-triggered funkiness. The Little dipper, by Totally Wicked Audio delivers a dormant filter sound that sounds almost like a talkbox .

One of the more unique features of the board is that the amplifier is mounted on the board. The TGA-1 180d was developed by James Demeter of Demeter Amplication for Sonny Landreth. It uses an all tube preamp (and effects send) and steroidal transformer for warm tone and a 180 Watt Class D power amp section. It fits right on the board and weighs in at under 10 pounds. This rig let’s me show up with this, a speaker cabinet and my instrument, plug into power, connect the spear and guitar and I’m ready to go. The 6x allows me to switch between preset sounds with the tap of a single foot switch, not a tap dance.Featured as rig of the day Rig of the day, June 5th, 2019 by RJM Technologies.

Joe Bob Hogg Signature Telecaster

This versatile T-type came out of the need for a working guitar that could cover the musical spectrum from Old School Country to Rock and Roll. It’s built around a knotty pine body with a Danish oil finish. The pine is very light and has great tone.The neck is a Warmoth Maple on Maple with double action truss rod. It’s boatneck profile with a 16″ radius, which I prefer for slide. The nut is Tusq and it has Gotoh locking tuners.The pickups are Joe Barden Engineering’s Nashville set, which is the Gatton set with an S-deluxe middle. It’s wired in standard Strat style 5-way switch. Pots are 250k, tone is no-load, with a 47 cap.The pickguard is aluminum diamond plate. Tbe Tailpiece is a Hipshot B/G bender with a 6th string toggle. Since this guitar is always in Vastapol D tuning (DADF#AD), the toggle doesn’t do anything useful. (I open the stop up so it drops to a low A.) The hip lever bends the 2nd string up a whole step. The palm lever bends the third string up a half step.The bridge is also from Hipshot but I replaced the saddles with Graph Tech for better tuning stability with the bender. The knobs are from Armadillo Guitars of Austin, TX. They have MBTA subway tokens inset.

The Firecaster

This unique Thinline Esquire takes inspiration a variety of sources. I wanted the clean, clear lap steel sound of a “Coodercaster”, a lighter body and a unique, fire service theme.The body is birdseye maple on swamp ash. It was built as a chambered Tele by Warmoth, and the fire helmet sound hole was cut by Jon Mouradian. The finish is 6 coats of Reranch Heritage Cherry lacquer, topped with 4 coats of clear lacquer. Bridge is by Marc Rutters. The knobs are by Armadillo Guitars with New Hampshire Tunpike Tokens inset.The pickup is a reproduction of a Supro Lapsteel pickup, by Jason Lollar. It is a hum cancelling design with each coil only covering three strings (similar to a P-bass). It had very strong output, but linear in response, like a single coil. The switch gives options for tone caps, or to bypass the tone circuit all together.The neck is also from Warmoth. Maple on Maple, 16″ radius, with a Tusq Nut and Gotoh locking tuners.

P-90 Nash-squire

This is a partscaster mutant of the highest order. The body is a cheap Paulownea body from Guitar Fettish. Super light, great tone. I routed it for a middle pickup and covered the beck pickup cavity with pickguard. I almost never use a neck pickup and I love the tones of a middle and bridge combined. I wanted a guitar with P-90’s, had a bunch of parts, but not much budget.I’m not sure I know what the bridge is. The pickups are Fralin P-90’s. The neck is a 24 fret Warmoth Maple on Maple with double action truss rod.

M1 Carbine

Walnut body (Warmoth), wenge/blood wood neck. Stellar tone, but HEAVY. This guitar I set up for ultimate slide versatility. It features Curt Novak hum-cancelling gold foil pickups with coil-splitting. It’s wired with a mini toggle for the coil splitting and has a 4-way blade switch for series and parallel combinations. Additionally, the volume pot has a push pull switch for the on board Demeter fat boost.The most prominent feature is the Hipshot Double shot tailpiece. It allows switching things just by throwing a lever. (In my case, switching fr i’ll m Spanish A to Vastapol D.) To help with tuning stability, I refitted the Armadillo Bridge with Graph Tech saddles. The Nut is an LSP roller, backed with Gotoh Tuners.