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Interview: Luther Dickinson - Keys to the Kingdom

Interview: Luther Dickinson - Keys to the Kingdom

Luther (left) rocks his Gibson ES-335 onstage with his brother Cody (right) at a North Mississippi Allstars show in Pittsburgh, PA on January 19, 2011. Photo by Hugh Twyman,

Your guitar tone on this record goes from super-fuzzed out rhythm to very smooth and overdriven. What guitars did you use?

It was mostly a Gibson ES-335 that Chris Robinson gave me. I also used my old Epiphone Casino that my dad gave me when I was a kid. That was my first serious guitar. I have a great old Harmony Soverington with a DeArmond pickup. For the funkier sounds, I would use that guitar. The Harmony made it on a lot of the acoustic rhythm tracks. I also had a custom-made Baxendale. He is a guitar maker out of Athens, Georgia. He makes a lot of stuff for the Drive-By Truckers. Baxendale is amazing. He makes these acoustic guitars that just speak out. A lot of the slide on the record is actually a Supro lap steel.

Do you bring the old Epis and Harmony out on the road?

I quit playing the cool, old Harmonys, Teiscos, and Silvertones out on the road in the late ’90s because they just fell apart. It was such a shame because the upkeep was just too much. Between our family and Kevin, we have amassed a lot of old gear. Some of it is real old and funky. The Casino I mentioned also can't put up with the volume. The atmosphere of the volume just makes it go crazy. I have a Gibson ES-175 that I would love to use as well, but I just keep that in the studio. Since then, I got a Hofner thinline, and it sounds great. Live, I usually use the Hofner and the 335.

How does your rig for an Allstars gig differ from when you play with the Black Crowes?

With the Crowes I have to use more song-specific gear. I try to not be to crazy about it, but sometimes you have to get that Strat sound or you have to use a wah-wah pedal. I play a lot of SGs and the 335. That is pretty much what I gravitate towards. I found you could make an SG sound any way you want with the pickup switch in the middle position. The nature of the SG is more light and springy than a Les Paul. I really fell in love with the SG in the last few years. I bought a ’71 SG with P-90s and used it for some slide guitar on the record.

Dickinson plays a Gibson archtop at a Black Crowes show at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium on September 12, 2010. Photo by Bianca Garza.

Did you have a “go-to” amp for the sessions?

The amp is usually a Fender Concert. That’s my favorite, a little brown Fender Concert. There is just something about the Concert. I like Supers too, but the Concerts just add a little a little more definition and give me my perfect sound in the studio. I also have a Marshall Bluesbreaker. But live, I have been using Fuchs amps. I got turned on to those by Jimmy Herring when I was out with the Crowes. They sound so great, plus they’re powerful and reliable.

With such powerful amps, do you use a boost pedal?

Jimmy [Herring] and Derek [Trucks] have shamed me into not relying on distortion or boost pedals. It really is as simple as turning the amp up and working the volume knob on you guitar. Sometimes you have to work with the pots, like take the caps off or change the resistors. Some guitars have volume pots that don't react like you want them to so you just tweak them out enough so you have a clean response. That simple mod is so worth it.

What does end up on your pedalboard?

Analog Man makes some great pedals. When I do have to boost, like say when I am using a Strat or something with a lower output, I find those pedals work great. Humbuckers are great for cranking up the amp and working the knobs, but I find the Strats really love having a little boost. I also really like the King of Tone pedal. Marc Ford turned me onto the Sun Face, which is this disgusting fuzz. It has a clean boost and a dirty boost that is very transparent and durable. Alvin "Youngblood" Hart makes the Blood Drives, which have the germanium and silicone fuzz sound. I don't use those too much live, mostly in the studio for color.
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