In 1959, Alaska as well as Hawaii became the 49th as well as 50th states in the U.S. However guitar followers understand ’59 as an epic year for both Les Pauls and Telecasters– 2 preferred tastes among meat-and-potatoes 6-string connoisseurs. On the Fender side of the food selection, that’s the year the Telecaster and Esquire Custom models debuted, at the NAMM program in June.Honestly, there had not been much that was different about the 1960 Tele, exemplified by this month’s
instrument. The greatest adjustment was a change from all-maple necks to slab rosewood fretboards installed on maple. This was likewise provided for Stratocasters and various other versions at the time.With its choice location, top bout, as well as back put on, this guitar has actually been used difficult– which is typically a sign that it’s a great-sounding and playing instrument.The 1960 Tele Custom likewise has what the 1960 Fender catalog rather undoubtedly called a” customized treatment of the body. “What exactly does that suggest? The catalog notes that” an attractive very refined sunburst coating is used, and also the bottom as well as top edges of the strong body are trimmed with contrasting white binding.” Fender originally had problem keeping that binding glued in position and also had to seek advice from the Martin Guitar business to learn the appropriate technique. Our well-worn 1960 Telecaster Custom appears to be ended up in a 2-color sunburst (as made use of on Strats from 1954 to 1958). After removing the pickguard, the original unfaded red from a 3-color sunburst can be seen. A.R. Duchossoir, in his book The Fender Telecaster, prices estimate Fender designer Bill Carson regarding this red pigment:” We needed to look as well as
so we splashed several blocks of alder and also put them on the top of the structure to see which ones would fade as well as which ones would not. The red just merely got gobbled up in this chemical interaction.” Probably this guitar belonged to that colorful experiment? For the record, Fender did take care of to locate a consistent red by 1961. This guitar, and all other Tele Customs from 1960, have an alder body with a 3-ply pickguard. Criterion, non-custom-color Teles kept a single-ply white pickguard for a pair much more years. The control set is the common T-style 3-way pick-up selector with quantity as well as tone dials. In 1972, the Fender Telecaster Custom first showed up with a Seth Lover-designed humbucker in the neck port, which’s the arrangement made well-known by Keith Richards– maybe the most notable Telecaster Custom player.With its selecting location, upper spell, and back wear, this guitar has been used hard– which is typically an indication that it’s a great-sounding as well as playing instrument. This version’s original list price was $239.50. The current worth for one in this condition is$ 20,000.
Behind the Tele is a Fender Pro-Amp from April 1960. From its introduction in 1946 as The Professional, this amp utilized a 15″ speaker. It evolved from the ’40s “woodie” version to numerous tweed looks, consisting of a television front, a vast panel, as well as a narrow panel. In 1960, the Pro et cetera of the line transitioned to brown Tolex covering. The 1960 Pro pictured has two 6L6 power tubes pressing 40 watts with a Jensen P15N. The typical network has treble, bass, as well as volume controls, while the vibrato channel has volume, treble, bass, rate, strength, as well as existence controls. The original rate was $289.50. The current worth is $2,500.
Resources for this article include The Fender Telecaster: The Detailed Story of America’s Senior Solid Body Electric Guitar by A.R. Duchossoir as well as Fender Amps: The First Fifty Years by John Teagle and also John Sprung.
=” False” id=” rebelltitem7″ readability=” 6″ > Severe belt breakout shows this 1960 Tele Custom has actually seen a considerable amount of playing time.
It would be easy for a company of Martin’s stature to coast every now and again. Maintaining brand mystique is exhausting in an age when hype rules the day. Keeping quality and substance intact—and maintaining commitment from the folks on the shop floor that deliver it—is even harder. But year in and year out, Martin continues to make instruments that simultaneously dwell in the realms of the practical, the musical, and the exquisite.
At nearly $3,600—a full $1K more than a standard 000-18—it’s a good thing the Martin 000-18 Modern Deluxe looks and feels as luxurious as it does. But while details like a pearl-inlay, 1930s-style script logo, EVO gold frets, and flawless lutherie and woodwork at every turn will make even the most cynical function-before-form grump pause, it’s the functional facets of the 000-18 Modern Deluxe that impress the most.
Building on Perfection
The 000 body (which shares dimensions, more or less, with the OM) is a cornerstone of the Martin line. Mating it to the “18” tonewood formula, which combines mahogany back and sides, adds up to a guitar that, to many ears, is the essence of balance and sweetness. So how does one refine something that’s so near perfect to begin with? Well, even in the case of an architectural masterpiece there’s always room for a little tasteful landscaping, and Martin has done a fair bit of that here. The 1930s-style logo is inlaid in pearl, while the body binding is East Indian rosewood—a very subtle but rich contrast to the mahogany and beautiful wheat-colored torrefied Sitka spruce top. The bookmatched, 2-piece top has a beautiful grain pattern with medullary rays that add a sense of almost watery depth and a classy, not-overbearing hint of flame out at the edges. I’d imagine our review guitar will be a joy to watch age. The gold, open-gear Waverly butterbean-style tuners may be the most overtly “deluxe” appointment on the guitar. But they are a stylistically cohesive element and feel super smooth and precise.
The additions to the 000-18 that put the “modern” in this very deluxe model include enhancements that appeal to tone scientists that work at the microscopic level: Liquidmetal bridge pins and a carbon composite bridgeplate—components said to improve sustain and volume. Such benefits can be very hard to qualify without a raft of test equipment at your side. But I did sense a more immediate, sometimes explosive, response, which also seemed to expand the guitar’s already considerably dynamic range. If you’ve ever checked out a 000-18 and been at all disappointed with its capacity for fast response, this version could alter your perception. Other non-traditional elements have more tangible effects, like the asymmetric neck, which puts a little extra mass on the bass side and shifts the apex of the neck in that direction as well. The effect is subtle, especially given that the neck is a bit slim. But with its ability to offer more support for the thumb when barre chording or fretting bass notes, I felt less fatigue—and I was testing this instrument at a time when my hands were feeling like a mess. However subtle the effect, I was grateful.
Song from a Siren
There’s another reason that the 000-18 Modern Deluxe feels easy on the hands: The guitar is incredibly even in touch responsiveness and output along the whole length of the fretboard. You’re never squeezing a bit extra here or there to get a note to ring true or free of buzz. Making the connection between thought, instinct, and execution of a note or chord feels like a more fluid and effortless sequence of actions. This quality can have a real upside as you formulate or play melodic sequences, as can the OM-style 1 3/4″ nut width (most 000 guitars have a slimmer 1 5/8″ spacing).
The dynamic response is also superb. Softly plucked notes have substance, body, and complexity. And even a gentle touch with flesh on string gives individual notes blooming, ringing resonance. Approach the 000-18 Modern Deluxe with a more forceful touch and it surprises with big-time headroom and fast reactivity—the kind you more readily associate with rosewood-backed 000s and OMs and bigger bodied D-series dreadnoughts.
Though I tried, I didn’t hear many, if any, weaknesses in the 000-18 Modern Deluxe’s tone makeup—which is what you should expect for (gulp) $3,599. I suppose you could make a case for a sort of new-guitar antiseptic edge in some harder-plucked notes—the kind a torrefied top should help avoid. But I heard nothing that sounded like it wouldn’t mellow over time. And the dynamism of the instrument makes it easy to work around any trace elements of harsh overtones, which are very, very few. Playing a flattop that you feel at one with—ergonomically, tonally, and responsively—is a treat. The 000-18 Modern Deluxe makes it extraordinarily easy to tap into that well of sweetness.
After two-and-a-half years of Covid-created mayhem, who doesn’t want to celebrate? And what better way to celebrate survival and better times to come than with a new rig? The bucket list of guitars you’ve wanted for months or even years is long, but this is no time to start at the bottom. Whether it’s a guitar, that otherworldly octave mandolin, or an amp or boutique pedal, it’s time for a reward that only you can deliver. The top item on your list is finally available, you’re ready to buy, but suddenly you notice the price: What the …? Are they kidding? You check other sources but it’s not a misprint, and certainly not a joke. The price of your reward to yourself for sticking it out and staying safe has gone up, and not by just a few bucks. You’ve been eyeing this gear for quite a while and the price hadn’t changed much—until now. What’s going on?
Welcome to inflation, the killjoy that punishes you for not having purchased something months earlier, perhaps before you could afford it. In retrospect, a few months of additional interest on your credit card would have been a bargain compared to the price increase you’re looking at now. Unless you’ve been living in a cave in the wilderness, you’ve heard about inflation, of course, and noticed it at the grocery store, and you’ve certainly felt it if you’re putting gas in your car. But when inflation hits your music budget, it feels personal, more insulting, and unfair.
The shock a price hike delivers depends more upon your age than you might think. For geezers like this writer, the recent price increases of guitars don’t seem that horrible. But those who started buying guitar gear less than 30 years ago usually began their shopping in a very different pricing landscape, so some time-machine data crunching might help ease the pain. Rather than wade into the Wall Street weeds of charts and graphs tracking inflation over the last several decades, we’ll use the cost of Martin’s venerable D-28 acoustic, partly because it’s so well-known but also because the model was essentially unchanged for so many years.
When inflation hits your music budget, it feels personal, more insulting, and unfair.
C. F. Martin had been forced to raise prices every year in the late ’60s, as labor costs in the U.S. were rising steadily. But inflation hit especially hard in the early ’70s. The cost of building an acoustic guitar like the D-28 was almost all labor—the prices Martin paid for Sitka spruce, East Indian rosewood, mahogany, plus a set of Grover Rotomatics and a case were a small percentage of what you were paying for when you bought a polished and playable dreadnought. Martin’s list price of a D-28 first crossed the $500 line in July 1972, when it went from $495 to $570. The next price increase came only nine months later and was even more painful, going up to $660. Then came two more price increases, and by September 1974 the price had jumped to $770. Those numbers represent a price increase of more than 50 percent between early 1972 and the fall of 1974. No wonder a popular parody of Janis Joplin’s humorous “Mercedes Benz” began:
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a D-Twenty-Eight
My friends all have Martins, how long must I wait?
The prices keep rising, I fear I’m too late,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a D-Twenty-Eight
Yet 20 years later, inflation in North America had long since cooled. Price increases throughout the ’70s and ’80s had taken their toll, and Martin’s D-28 crossed the $2,000 line in 1993 (to $2,060), but then leveled out. Ten years later, the MSRP of a D-28 was still less than $2,500 ($2,469 in 2004). That’s an increase of 20 percent over more than a decade. Needless to say, the young guitar-picker who’d been saving for a D-28 in the late ’90s, when the price was unchanged for five years and then went up only $69, didn’t feel punished for saving. But during the high-flying inflation of the early 1970s, even folk-rockers and the bluegrass faithful, at least when shopping for a new D-28, were singing the blues.
The takeaway from all this? Financial forecasts suggest that inflation isn’t going to back off in the near future. Buying that dream rig now rather than later is probably a good idea, especially if you put it to good use!
Deep into Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder’s Get on Board: The Songs of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, percussionist Joachim Cooder lays out, letting the two elder musicians can take a pass through “Pawn Shop Blues.” To start, they loosely play around with the song’s intro on their acoustic guitars. “Yeah, nice,” remarks Mahal off-handedly in his distinctive rasp—present since he was a young man but, at 79, he’s aged into it—and Cooder lightly chuckles. They hit the turnaround and settle into a slow, loping tempo. It’s a casual and informal affair—some notes buzz, and it sounds like one of them is stomping his foot intermittently. Except for Cooder’s slide choruses, neither guitar plays a rhythm or lead role. They simply converse.
The two legends sound less like they’re making a record in a studio and more like they’re hanging out and catching up over some music. Mahal describes this feel as “ragged, but right.” It’s the same kind of collective sound that historic blues duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee often possessed. But on Get on Board, it’s unique to these two old friends, who set out on their journeys long ago. “We’re bouncing off one another, we’re bouncing off the music, and we’re bouncing off the joy of being able to play this stuff, having the opportunity,” says Mahal.
Taj Mahal & Ry Cooder – The Making of ‘GET ON BOARD’
That “ragged, but right” vibe pervades each track on Get on Board, from the opening thump of “My Baby Done Changed the Lock on the Door” to the springy call and response of “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” to the closing ritardando on “I Shall Not Be Moved.” And it’s why, as Mahal explains, Get on Board transcends its recorded form: “It’s the kind of thing, when you listen in on it if you have the record playing in the other room, you’re sure those guys are in the other room,” he says. “Even though you know they’re not there, you gotta go and look.”
There are plenty of blues and folk albums that celebrate the genre’s early heroes—tribute projects that offer a feel-good time for musicians and listeners alike. And Get on Board is a masterfully produced, creative take on fantastic old music. But it’s also a one-of-a-kind reunion of two musical polyglots who, it’s fair to say, have explored the depth of the blues, following it on separate paths to the ends of the Earth and delving into the music from every angle—maybe more than anyone else. Now, five decades after their initial career-starting collaboration in 1965, they’ve come back to their roots together.
The Early Days
Each player’s early history is essential to their music as a duo. “Both of my parents were musical, and their culture was extremely musical and at a very high, sophisticated level,” Mahal explains. “We’re talking Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Count Basie, Billy Eckstein, Billy Daniels, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald … this kind of music. But there was also swinging, dancing music that was happening. Jitterbugging, all kinds of different stuff.”
He began forming his own tastes in the nascent days of rock ’n’ roll, which Mahal says “was a step way down” from the music he was exploring—music by artists from the 1930s and ’40s, who, he points out, were still alive and recording. “I was getting their juice as it was coming through—not as an echo. By the time I came around to hear it, I kept thinking, there’s gotta be some older form of the music. And I would hear a little bit of it; my mother would sing some songs from South Carolina.” And thus began his lifelong search for deeper and deeper musical connections: “Once I found out that you could jump into that river, even into the ocean, and keep on finding it, it’s like fish in the sea. The more you find, the more there is—and you’ll never get to the end of it.”
“We’re bouncing off one another, we’re bouncing off the music, and we’re bouncing off the joy of being able to play this stuff, having the opportunity.” —Taj Mahal
A young Ry Cooder was simultaneously on his own version of this quest, digging deeper into the history of American music. At just 12 years old, Cooder found a record called Get on Board by the duo of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, along with percussionist Coyal McMahan. It was just one point in a long line of musical discoveries that would inform his life and music. Cooder points out that Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee “must have been the most recorded blues act ever.” But his interest set him apart from his pre-teen peers in California, and he soon developed a reputation that reached Mahal—five years his senior—all the way in Massachusetts.
Mahal tells the story of hearing a guitarist perform one night early in his career and says, “It was obvious this guy was listening to something else and played the instrument in a different way.” They struck up a friendship, and Mahal learned that this guitarist had studied with a Californian named Ry Cooder. Upon learning Cooder was just 17 years old, “I blew my top!” he exclaims. Soon enough, he packed up, booked a few gigs across the country, and headed west to find the young guitarist and start a band.
Despite their quick demise, Mahal looks back favorably on the Rising Sons: “Ry’s work on that album is still, to this day, stellar,” he says. “I could listen to it any time in any joint. Anything that he plays. There was never nothing that he ever played that I did not like. Nothing. He heard the music.” Mahal struck out on his own, with Cooder in the band for his 1968 self-titled debut. But they soon went their separate ways on long and fruitful careers.
Together, After a Lifetime of Achievement
It wasn’t until decades later, in 2014, when the Americana Music Association awarded Mahal a lifetime achievement award, that Mahal and Cooder would collaborate again. Backed by an all-star band at the AMA awards show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the two former Rising Sons revisited “Statesboro Blues,” which they recorded almost a half-century prior. But this version sounds nothing like the quick, youthful version on the ’92 reissue. Instead, the mid-tempo groove—driven in part by Don Was’ bass and Joachim Cooder’s drums—is slower and deeper, Mahal’s voice lower and stronger, and his dry, percussive fingerpicking is complemented by Cooder’s dark, fuzzy slide work.
While this warm, rousing reunion lasted just under five minutes—and got a serious standing ovation—it reconnected Mahal and Cooder and planted a seed. Soon enough, Mahal says he “took three or four instruments and a suitcase and a handbag and got on a train and went down to L.A. We got together and did some playing.” Mahal pitched Cooder on the idea of doing a project together, trusting Cooder to come up with the concept. “He knows what he likes, and he knows what I like,” Mahal says. Encouraged by his son, Cooder formulated the Get on Board idea, and as Mahal explains, “Next thing you know, I’m on the train again back to L.A.”
Taj Mahal’s Gear
- Gibson Keb’ Mo’ Bluesmaster
Cooder built his concept not just around the duo, but included Joachim. “There’s Taj and me. There was Sonny and Brownie,” he explains. “Duet music, right? But the original Get on Board included the mysterious Coyle McMahan on bass vocals and maracas. I always thought the trio was more interesting. So, Joachim stepped into the McMahan chair, and that gave us a wider range.”
When considering songs, Cooder points out that Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee “had a huge repertoire for us to consider. You have to figure out what will work best, and a record can’t be all blues shuffles—for that kind of music you need Otis Spann or Memphis Slim, and a horn section, etcetera. So, we listened for songs more rural in feeling, like ‘Hooray Hooray,’ and ‘I Shall Not Be Moved.’ Folk-blues, as it used to be called.”
“A record can’t be all blues shuffles.” —Ry Cooder
“This music was making a fleeting disappearance from the inside of the music I was listening to,” says Mahal, adding that “something about the rural music was more connected with the African in it.” But he refutes the idea that their goal was to keep Sonny and Brownie’s music alive. Instead, he insists the music is already alive and he and Cooder are just helping it find new ears. “What you ain’t seen ain’t passed you yet,” he quips.
Cooder says they aimed to capture an “old-style” sound, “like a Folkways record,” the natural environment for these songs. To cultivate an authentically comfortable, low-key vibe, they set up in Joachim’s Altadena, Calfornia, living room for four days—three for live tracking and one for overdubs. And things proceeded simply, with “live singing—one take, maybe two at the most,” according to Cooder.
Ry Cooder’s Gear
- Adams Brothers acoustic (circa 1900)
- Fairbanks long-scale custom banjo (circa 1900)
- ’60s Fender “Coodercaster” modded with an early ’60s Teisco pickup (neck) and a Valco lap-steel pickup (bridge)
- 1919 Gibson F-4 mandolin
- 1946 Martin D-18
- White amplifier (made by Fender)
Get on Board isn’t a genre exercise, but it feels vintage, thanks in some part to the select gear they chose. Mahal switches instruments, playing a Steinway piano, harmonicas, and fingerpicking his Gibson Keb’ Mo’ Bluesmaster. Cooder brought along some vintage items. “I played a 1946 D-18, similar to Brownie’s—light and twangy,” he says. “Also, a peculiar Adams Brothers guitar, circa 1900. It’s rowboat size and super resonant. Check it on ‘Beautiful City.’ And my old Gibson F-4 mandolin on ‘Hooray Hooray.’ Taj commented that I had played the same instrument on his first solo record. The lead instrument on ‘Packing Up’ is a giant gut-string Fairbanks banjo, probably a custom order.”
Although most of the record is acoustic, the opening track features a driving electric slide part that bears Cooder’s unmistakable sonic thumbprint. “I overdubbed my usual bottleneck Stratocaster on ‘Changed the Lock,’” he explains. “That’s a White amp with a busted speaker, and a tape Echoplex which belonged to the great Leon Rhodes.” [Rhodes played guitar in Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troudabours.]
“What you ain’t seen ain’t passed you yet.” —Taj Mahal
Except for the tight, driving version of “Packing Up Getting Ready to Go,” there aren’t any particularly radical reinventions on Get on Board, so the biggest differences in Mahal and Cooder’s versions of Terry and McGhee’s songs are what the individuals bring to the music. As Mahal points out, Sonny and Brownie were the original purveyors, and he and Cooder are “a couple guys who have spent their lives bringing back these nuggets of great music for all to see and hear.”
But Mahal and Cooder both bring a warmth to the music, and it’s easy to think that stems from their mutual appreciation—a feeling that was missing from the original duo, who were famously at odds. In 1982, The New York Times wrote, “Mr. Terry, the harmonica player and singer, and Mr. McGhee, the guitarist and singer, are staunch individualists whose partnership has been marked by feuds, splits, and reunions.” Mahal and Cooder, as individual as they may be, are quite the opposite. It’s friendship that brought them back together after all these years, and helped fuel the creative energy on Get on Board, which Mahal says “felt exciting.”
And if that’s not enough, he adds: “I can’t think of anyone else I’d really wanna play this kind of music with.”
Taj Mahal Ry Cooder Statesboro Blues
Country singer-songwriter Caroline Jones names her guitars. Her current go-to, a Collings I-35 Deluxe, is “Ruby.” Her Taylor Custom GS 12-string is named “Big Mama.” There’s a 1963 Strat on loan from her coproducer, Ric Wake, that she calls “Heaven.” And you’ll also see her with a 1961 Fender Esquire—called, “Tenny”—that also belongs to Wake.
“Ric lets me borrow his Esquire,” Jones says about using the instrument in the studio and sometimes at shows. “He is very sweet about it. What’s the point of having it sit at home on the wall? You want people to hear it. You want to play it. That’s what it’s for. I know it’s extremely valuable, but I just feel, what is the value if you can’t play it?”
Jones is a player, and from a young age she’s been on a quest to create the sounds and parts she hears in her head. That’s resulted in her learning multiple picking and slide techniques, tunings, and instruments. The Connecticut native spent time in the Gulf Coast where she collaborated with Jimmy Buffett and Zac Brown, but eventually she relocated to Nashville. In Music City, she has a rack of guitars to choose from in the studio, and she’s very picky, often choosing a specific guitar for just one melody, and then using another for an accompanying line or different part of the song.
Caroline Jones – Big Love (Fleetwood Mac Cover)
On her 2018 debut, Bare Feet, Jones played every instrument except bass and drums—and she spent weeks honing parts, layering rhythms, and doubling leads. But for her follow-up, Antipodes, which was released last November, she brought in a few Nashville pickers, like Danny Rader, Jason Roller, and Derek Wells, as well as special guests like Joe Bonamassa, Zac Brown, and Matthew Ramsey (Old Dominion). The initial sessions were recorded in Nashville, although most of the vocal and guitar overdubs were cut on the other side of the world in New Zealand (hence the name, “Antipodes,” which describes two locations on opposite sides of the earth), where Jones was living at the height of the pandemic.
Antipodes is an excellent showcase for Jones’ prodigious talent and versatility. The album features barnburners, like the twangy, chicken-picked single, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable),” and also more subtle, acoustic fingerpicked songs like “No Daylight.” She also composed two songs on a New Zealand-built, Weissenborn-style lap steel: “So Many Skies,” which features Ramsey, and the earthy and bluesy, “Don’t Talk to Me Like I’m Tiffany,” featuring a somewhat restrained Bonamassa playing slide (as well as Jones on harmonica).
“Fingerpicking was the first thing that I ever learned on guitar, so it’s very natural to me. It’s probably the home of my style.”
“My now-husband wanted to get me a guitar in New Zealand to commemorate our time there,” Jones shares. “It was his idea to get the Weissenborn made by this Kiwi luthier named Paddy Burgin, and it’s beautiful. It’s made from this wood that he had sitting around for a long time. It’s really one of a kind.”
When Jones writes songs, she usually hears a version of the production in her mind that she wants to bring to life and evolve in the studio. A big part of that process also involves working with Nashville session players, who she says challenge her, and force her to up her game. “It’s extremely hard to get to that echelon of musicianship,” she says. “A lot of people don’t realize that only a few musicians are playing on almost all the Nashville records, and their level of musicianship is off the charts. For you to be comparing yourself to those people is, at times, disheartening. But I think you get a realistic picture of where the bar is for musicianship, which is something I always want to hold myself to, even though I’m very far off.”
Not that she’s that far off. The cornerstone of her right-hand work is her exceptional, yet unorthodox, fingerpicking style. She wears plastic fingerpicks on three fingers, as well as a thumbpick, which is a technique she started on banjo. It’s a style that transferred easily over to acoustic guitar, and—with a little more effort—to electric guitar as well.
“I couldn’t get any sustain or ring from my fingers,” she says. “I don’t like having long nails. I feel really dirty—although a lot of my guitar heroes have long nails or fake nails—and I just don’t like that. The picks that I use, Alaska Piks, mimic the nail. They’re not steel like banjo picks. They’re plastic, and they’re just mimicking what a long nail would be. I wear it on my ring finger—as well as my index and middle fingers—which I know is not as traditional, but I do use that finger. Fingerpicking was the first thing that I ever learned on guitar, so it’s very natural to me. It’s probably the home of my style.”
Jones also prefers fingerpicks because they have more attack, which became more important as she got deeper into country music. She uses them for chicken picking, as well as when she’s going for a cleaner, indie-type sound. Although recently, after the death of flatpicking legend Tony Rice, she’s been doing a deep dive into his catalog and figuring out those techniques.
Caroline Jones’ Gear
- Collings OM1 named “Sweet Annie”
- Beard Custom Resoluxe electric named “Blaze”
- Burgin Guitars Custom Weissenborn-style
- Collings I-35 Deluxe named “Ruby”
- 1961 Fender Custom Esquire (sunburst) named “Tenny”
- 1963 Fender Stratocaster Hardtail (sunburst) named “Heaven”
- Gretsch G6120-HR Brian Setzer Hot Rod named “Loretta”
- 1947 Martin 0-18 named “Rosie”
- Martin 00-21 Kingston Trio named “Surfer Dude”
- Nechville Universal 5-String Banjo named “Starfish”
- 1958 Rickenbacker Model BD Lap Steel (1958)
- Taylor Custom GS 12-String named “Big Mama”
Strings, Picks, Slides & Capos
- D’Addario Nickel Bronze .012–.053 Regular Light Set, .013s for lower tunings (acoustic)
- Ernie Ball Super Slinky .009s or .010s (electric)
- D’Andrea custom CJ V-Resin flatpicks in Trans Aqua (equivalent shape/gauge as Fender 351 Medium)
- ProPik Metal-Plastic Thumbpick
- Alaska Pik plastic fingerpicks
- Scheerhorn Stainless Steel Bar Slide (for lap steel and resonator)Dunlop 212 Pyrex Glass Slide (electric)
- Dunlop 220 Chromed Steel Slide (electric)
- Kyser capos
- Fractal Audio Axe-Fx III
- 1964 Fender Bassman AA864 head
- 1980s Yamaha G100-210 II 100-watt 2×10
- Vox AC50CP2 50-watt 2×12
- Rivera Silent Sister 60-watt 1×12 Isolation Cabinet with two Celestion V30s
- Fishman Aura Jerry Douglas Signature Imaging Pedal
- EV-1 Volume/Expression
- Peterson StroboStomp HD Tuner
- Vertex Effects Boost
- Boss FV-500H
- Boss GE-7 Graphic Equalizer with XTS Mod
- Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe Compressor
- Xotic EP Booster
- Nobels ODR-1 Overdrive
- JHS Pedals Bonsai
- JHS Pedals Muffuletta 6-way Fuzz
- Klon KTR
- Electro-Harmonix POG2
- Electro-Harmonix Mod Rex Polyrhythmic Modulator
- Boss RT-20 Rotary Ensemble
- Eventide H9 Max Dark
- Strymon Mobius
- Strymon TimeLine
- Strymon BigSky
- Electro-Harmonix 1440 Stereo Looper
“Tony Rice is one of the godfathers of flatpicking,” she says. “I’m forcing myself now to learn more flatpicking because it’s a very different sound. Even if some of the patterns are very similar—or they might sound in the same family—they’re totally different skill sets.”
Jones also says there’s no shame in using a capo. It’s an important tool in her toolbox and enables her to access many guitaristic devices—like drones and harmonics—that don’t necessarily work in every key, especially when it’s in a key that sits better with her voice.
“I’ve been a capo snob in my life, as in, ‘I’m not going to use the capo, because that’s cheating,’” she says. “But then you see the best players on earth in Nashville, capo-ing up their acoustic guitars—because the open voicings just sound better. I’m like, ‘If they’re doing it, then I’m allowed, too.’ In the end, it’s music. It’s about what sounds good. It’s not about forcing yourself to do the hardest thing so you can prove you can do it. It’s about what’s going to serve the song, and sometimes that means capo-ing up, or forcing yourself to learn a different voicing without a capo, or using an open tuning. There’s a reason all the guitar songs are in D and E and C and G and A. Those are the voicings that are natural to guitar. Sometimes we get a little too in our heads as guitar players and forget that we’re trying to make it sound good.”
“There’s a reason all the guitar songs are in D and E and C and G and A. Those are the voicings that are natural to guitar. Sometimes we get a little too in our heads as guitar players and forget that we’re trying to make it sound good.”
Jones often tunes her guitars down a half-step to make it easier to play in keys that work with her voice, and a lot of her songs are in F and Eb. It’s something she’s discovered that the Zac Brown Band does as well. “Their baseline is Eb,” she says. “They tune all their instruments down a half-step, just because it’s better for Zac. All their songs are either in Eb or Db or Gb, for the most part.”
As choosy as Jones may be when it comes to gear, that’s not a luxury she has when playing live, although she makes the best of it. She’s outfitted her acoustic guitars with Barbera Transducer Systems pickups, which she feels is a must when performing primarily on acoustic—which she’ll be doing as a special guest with the Zac Brown Band for most of summer 2022.
“I am an acoustic-pickup freak,” she says, “because that’s all anyone hears. The sound of your guitar matters to a certain extent, but the pickup matters a whole lot more because if you don’t have a pickup that’s doing justice to the sound, even if you have the best acoustic guitar, who cares? We really did a lot of R&D and the Barbera pickups are the latest top-of-the-line for me.”
She’s been forced to become a minimalist with her amps and effects as well. In the studio, her go-tos are a Fender Bassman and a 1980s-era solid-state Yamaha G100 amp that shines for clean tones, as well as an army of programmable digital pedals and transparent overdrives and boosts. But live, everything, including her acoustics, are run through a digital modeler.
“Live, we usually just recreate those sounds in the Fractal Axe-Fx,” she says. “Especially when I’m singing. When you’re trying to sing and perform and be the frontman, your energy is too scattered—for me at least—to be able to be tweaking and making sounds at the same time that I’m trying to sing and play guitar and entertain people.”
But despite her success and mastery of many different instruments, styles, and techniques, Jones, at the end of the day, still sees herself as a student. “It sometimes takes me time to find the parts and the melodies that I really love,” she says. “It’s a lot of trial and error. I’ll go home and figure out parts, usually by myself. I’m definitely not in real time like those Nashville musicians. They’re trained to come up with incredible parts in real time, and so they’re very practiced at it. For me, a lot of times, I try a lot of parts that don’t work before I find one that does. Guitar parts, especially rhythm parts, do so much for a track, and it really takes me in one direction or another. That’s what fascinates me so much about production.”