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Trucks puts down the slide, pulls out a Gibson Firebird, and invites Warren Haynes to sit in for a romp through “Coming Home.” Check out Tedeschi’s Magic Sam-inspired solo at 1:46.
Susan, tell us about your setup for “Whiskey Legs.”
Tedeschi: When I first played the solo, I ran my 1970 Fender Strat through a Super Reverb, but when I recorded it live later on with Derek, they fed it through Duane Allman’s old amp.
Trucks: We found Duane’s old 50-watt Marshall—the Fillmore amp. I’d heard a guy in St. Louis had it, and he brought it out to a show about six years ago. He got it from George McCorkle, who was in the Marshall Tucker Band. It has old tubes and all the original transformers. Once those go, the spirit of the amp is bare, so I don’t play it often. This is the first record that we really cranked it up. In the solo section at the end of “Whiskey Legs,” you can hear Susan’s guitar running through the Duane Marshall, and then the solo I took on “Idle Wind” is also through that amp. You can hear the personality of the amp in those two guitar tracks.
“Idle Wind” is so compelling because of Kofi’s flute solo. It must be difficult to find a sonic space in a large band for such a delicate instrument.
Trucks: Yeah, that’s Kofi’s first instrument. He is such a badass on the flute. We wrote that song on acoustic guitar, and I wanted to track the acoustic first. So it was the percussionist, Kofi playing piano, and me on acoustic. As we kept layering the song, I kept imagining Kofi’s flute on it. I mentioned that to him and he said, "Yeah, I’ll take a stab at it." He went out there and crushed it. Everything Kofi plays is album-worthy, you just need to pick your flavor. Each time he played the solo, he took a totally different angle on it. We let him track over and over because we enjoyed hearing it all, but he really had it the first time. We’d say, “One more, just for us.” [Laughs.]
Tedeschi: It’s like that with Derek’s solos too. We make him play them a couple of times for our own entertainment.
What acoustic guitar did you use on that track?
Trucks: A 1936 Gibson L-00. It’s a beautiful guitar. I also used an old Martin 0-17H.
Susan, how has Derek influenced you as a guitarist?
Tedeschi: Whether he knows it or not, he taught me a lot about dynamics and building a solo. Really trying to get to the meat of it by being musical and not trying to show off. I always think of him as a singer when he solos, because it’s so lyrical. But you know, I’m learning all the time from Derek, Kofi, Maurice [Brown, trumpet], and Saunders [Sermons, trombone]. There are great soloists in our band. Sometimes, I feel funny. “Don’t give me a solo, they’re all better than I am.” [Laughs.] But you know, I’m working on it.
Derek, at this point in your career, open-E tuning obviously feels like home. Do you explore standard tuning at all?
Trucks: Rarely. Sometimes I will write in different tunings or mess around with standard, but on this record everything was written in open-E and it just felt right there. It’s funny, standard tuning feels like a foreign instrument to me. I haven’t really played that since I was about 12. Everything on this album was open E, but I did capo up to F# for “Calling Out to You.”
What other open tunings have you experimented with?
Trucks: Mostly open A and open B. Sometimes I play with weird variations on those.
It’ not uncommon for you to ditch the slide altogether and still play in a open tuning. As a guitarist, what has that taught you about how the fretboard is laid out?
Trucks: It’s all notes. You just learn them in different configurations. In a lot of ways, if you are playing in an open tuning without the slide, it makes the normal clichéd guitar licks kind of impossible to play. The reason a lot of the guitar riffs are clichés is that they are really easy to play, they’re right inside the box. Open E stretches the box.
Tedeschi: The box is way wider. I’ve tried and it doesn’t work.
Trucks: It changes your approach to the nature of the tuning, so it’s refreshing that way. Your normal bag of tricks is going to sound quite a bit different from someone playing standard.
Tedeschi: I play in open tunings also, and before I met Derek I used to write in open D quite a bit. It’s funny, because I used to play slide before I met Derek, and then I stopped playing slide. [Laughs.]
Trucks: I’m trying to get her to play again, because she has a really unique style. I think it would be great to bust out a tune where she plays all the slide.
Tedeschi: It would have to be in an open tuning. I just cannot play slide in standard, even though I play in standard all the time. Open tunings lend themselves to slide more and it sounds better. I learned Robert Johnson and Elmore James songs in open tuning because they sound good.
Most of the guitar tones on the record were pretty raw. Did you use any effects at all?
Trucks: It was basically guitar into amp. On the bridge to “Whiskey Legs,” underneath Susan’s vocals I’m playing an old Silvertone head through a Leslie guitar cabinet.
Tedeschi: It sounds awesome!
Trucks: It’s a pretty great sound. That’s an effect, I guess. Outside of that it was just plugging into a great amp. I used an '65 Firebird through the Ampeg on a few tracks. But mainly it was an SG through either a Vibroverb or a ’65 or ’66 Deluxe Reverb.
Tedeschi: The Deluxe is a ’64.
Trucks:I knew I was in trouble when I first started dating Susan, and we were at this great vintage shop in Cincinnati called Mike’s Music. I was looking at Pro Reverbs, just something for our garage at the time for rehearsals. There were a few really nice blackface Pro Reverbs and a few Deluxes. I asked Susan what I should do because I was thinking about getting one of each, and she said, “Well, get another one because I need one too!” I was like, “Son of a bitch.” I thought I was going to be talked off the cliff, but she was telling me to go ahead and jump.
Tedeschi: I’m a bad wife when it comes to that.