On Antipodes, Jones’ sophomore release, she pulls out all the stops, including a rack full of incredible guitars, a New Zealand-made Weissenborn-style lap steel, a lineup of special guests including Joe Bonamassa, and an impressive combination of fingerpicking and slide techniques.
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.”
The title of Caroline Jones’ sophomore album, Antipodes, refers to two places on opposite sides of the world. The initial sessions for the record were done in Nashville, but Jones recorded most of the vocal and guitar overdubs in New Zealand.
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
Caroline Jones’ main acoustic guitar is “Sweet Annie,” a Collings OM1 that she pairs with her must-have Barbera Transducer Soloist saddle pickup. “I am an acoustic-pickup freak,” says Jones.
Photo by Tyler Lord
- 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 2x10
- Vox AC50CP2 50-watt 2x12
- Rivera Silent Sister 60-watt 1x12 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.”
This borrowed 1961 Esquire (nicknamed “Tenny”) is meant to be played, says Jones. The guitar belongs to her producer, Ric Wake.
Photo by Tyler Lord
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.”
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For these new recreations, Fender focuses on the little things that make original golden-era Fenders objects of obsession.
If there’s one thing players love more than new guitars, it’s old guitars—the unique feel, the design idiosyncrasies, the quirks in finish that all came from the pre-CNC era of instrument manufacturing. These characteristics become the stuff of legend, passed on through the years via rumors and anecdotes in shops, forums, and community networks.
It’s a little difficult to separate fact from fiction given these guitars aren’t easy to get your hands on. Fender Telecasters manufactured in the 1950s and 1960s sell for upwards of $20,000. But old is about to become new again. Fender’s American Vintage II series features 12 year-specific electric guitar and bass models from over two decades, spanning 1951 to 1977, that replicate most specs on their original counterparts, but are produced with modern technologies that ensure uniform build and feel.
Chronologically, the series begins and ends, fittingly, with the Telecaster—starting with the butterscotch blonde, blackguard 1951 Telecaster (built with an ash body, one-piece U-shaped maple neck, and 7.25" radius fretboard) and ending with the 1977 Telecaster Custom, which features a C-shaped neck, a CuNiFe magnet-based Wide Range humbucker in the neck position, and a single-coil at the bridge. The rest of the series spans the highlights of Fender’s repertoire: the 1954 Precision Bass, 1957 Stratocaster in ash or alder, 1960 Precision Bass, 1961 Stratocaster, 1963 Telecaster, 1966 Jazz Bass, 1966 Jazzmaster, 1972 Tele Thinline, 1973 Strat, and 1975 Telecaster Deluxe. The 1951 Telecaster, 1957 Strat, 1961 Strat, and 1966 Jazz Bass will also be offered as left-handed models. Street prices run from $2,099 to $2,399.
Fender '72 American Vintage II Telecaster Thinline Demo | First Look
Spec’d To Please
Every guitar in the series sports the era’s 7.25" radius fretboard, a mostly abandoned spec found on Custom Shop instruments—Mexico-made Vintera models, and Fender’s Artist Series guitars like the Jimmy Page, Jason Isbell, and Albert Hammond Jr. models. Most modern Fenders feature a 9.5" radius, while radii on Gibsons reach upwards of 12". Videos experimenting with the 7.25" radius’ playability pull in tens of thousands of viewers, suggesting both a modern fascination with and a lack of exposure to the radius among some younger and less experienced players.
T.J. Osborne of the Brothers Osborne picks an American Vintage II 1966 Jazzmaster in Dakota red.
Bringing back the polarizing 7.25" radius across the entire series is a gamble, and it’s been nearly five years since Fender released year-specific models. But Fender executive vice president Justin Norvell says that two years ago when the Fender brain trust was conceptualizing the American Vintage II line, they decided the time was right to “go back to the well.”
“We’ve been doing the same [models], the same years, over and over again for 30 years,” says Norvell. “We really wanted to change the line and expand it into some new things that we hadn’t done before and pick some different years that we thought were cool.”
“It takes a lot of doing to go back in time and sort of uncover the secret-sauce recipes.”—Steve Thomas, Fender
To decide on which years to produce, Fender drew from what Norvell calls a “huge cauldron of information” from Custom Shop master builders to collectors with vintage models to former employees from the 1950s and 1960s. The hands-on manufacturing of Fender’s golden years meant guitars produced within the same year would have marked differences in design and finish. So, the team had to procure multiple versions of the same year’s guitar to decide which models to replicate. Norvell says some purists would advocate for the “cleanest, most down-the-middle kind of variant,” while others would push for more esoteric and rare versions. Norvell says that ultimately, the team picked the models that they felt best represented “the throughline of history on our platforms.”
Simple and agile, the Fender Precision Bass—here in its new American Vintage II ’54 incarnation—earned its reputation in the hands of Bill Black, James Jamerson, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and other foundational players.
Norvell says the American Vintage II series was developed, in part, in response to calls to reproduce vintage guitars. Just like with classic cars, he says, people are passionate about year-specific guitars. Plus, American Vintage II fits perfectly with the pandemic-stoked yearning for bygone times. “For some people, these specific years are representative of experiences they had when they were first playing guitar, or a favorite artist that played guitars from these eras,” says Norvell. “These are touchstones for those stories, and that makes them very desirable.”
Fender’s electric guitar research and design team, led by director Steve Thomas, dug through the company’s archive of original drawings and designs—dating all the way back to Leo Fender’s original shop in Fullerton, California. They found detailed notes, including some documenting body woods that changed mid-year on certain models. Halfway through 1956, for example, Stratocaster bodies switched from ash to alder. That meant the American Vintage II 1957 Stratocaster needed to be alder, too. That, in turn, meant ensuring enough alder was on hand to fulfill production needs.
Among the series’ Stratocaster recreations is this 1973-style instrument, with an ash body, maple C-profile neck, rosewood fretboard, and the company’s Pure Vintage single-coils.
Thomas and his team discovered another piece of the production puzzle when researching how pickups for that same 1957 Strat were made. “We realized that if we incorporated a little bit more pinch control on the winders, we could more effectively mimic the way pickups would have been hand-wound in the ’50s,” says Thomas. “It takes a lot of doing to go back in time and sort of uncover the secret-sauce recipes.”
Thomas proudly calls the guitars “some of the best instruments we’ve ever made here in the Fender plant,” pointing to the level of detail put into design features, including more delicate lacquer finishes which take longer to cure and dry, and vintage-correct tweed cases for some guitars. New pickups were incorporated in the series, like a reworking of Seth Lover’s famed CuNiFe Wide Range humbuckers, which were discontinued around 1981. Even more minute details, like the width of 12th fret dots and the material used for them, were labored over. Three different models in the line feature clay dot inlays at unique, year-specific spacings.
Ironically, modern CNC manufacturing now makes these design quirks consistent features in mass-produced instruments. While the hand-crafted guitars from the ’50s and ’60s varied a lot from instrument to instrument. “Everything needs to be located perfectly, and it wasn’t necessarily back in the day,” says Norvell. “Now, it can be.”
Don’t Look Back
With this new series so firmly planted in the rose-tinted past, Fender does run the risk of netting only vintage-obsessed players. But Norvell says the team, despite being sticklers for period-correct detail, sought to strike a balance between vintage specs, practicality, and playability. The 1957 Stratocaster, for example, has a 5-way switch rather than the original’s 3-way switch. Norvell also asserts that the “ergonomic” old-school radius feels great when chording. “It might not be [right for] a shred machine, but it feels great and effortless.”
The 1966 Jazz Bass is also represented, shown here in a left-handed version.
Norvell also pushes back on the notion that Fender is playing it safe by indulging nostalgia and leaning on their past successes. He says that while the vintage models are some of the most desirable on the market, the team “purposely did not stick to the safe bets,” citing unusual year models like the 1954 P Bass and the 1973 Stratocaster.There’s a good reason why anything that hails back to “the good ol’ days” hits home with every generation. We’re constantly plagued by a belief that what came before is better than what we’ve got now. But with the American Vintage II series, Fender makes the case that guitars from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s can very easily be a relevant part of the 2020s.
The Sunn O))) Life Pedal circuit has been meticulously tweaked from the original and includes a third footswitch.
Sunn O))) present an enhanced version of the Sunn O))) Life Pedal Octave Distortion + Booster, in collaboration with their comrades at EarthQuaker Devices. The Sunn O))) Life Pedal circuit has been meticulously tweaked from the original to squeeze every last drop of heavy crushing tone available. The octave section has been fine tuned to make it more pronounced without losing the bottom end and we added a third footswitch, utilizing Flexi-Switch Technology, for the octave to allow an additional method of quick and radical tone shaping.
“Working on this new version has been a great continuity of this collaboration which feels so right, and sounds so right,” says Stephen O’Malley. “It’s a really beautiful pedal and it’s also a beautiful art collaboration. I think we made something really interesting that people can enjoy to use for their own music, but also, it makes a lot of sense to release a piece of distortion as a release for our band. We’re really happy that this is a trilogy now.”
The Sunn O))) Life Pedal is designed to represent the core front end chain used in those sessions, to drive the tubes of the band’s multiple vintage Sunn O))) Model T amplifiers (or take your fancy) into overload ecstasy. This is a 100w tube amp full stack’s holy dream, or its apostate nightmare.
Sunn O))) Life Pedal is a distortion with a blendable analog octave up and a booster
- Features 3 different clipping options: Symmetrical Silicon, Asymmetrical Silicon & LED, and pure OpAmp Drive
- Distortion and booster can be used independently
- Expression and footswitch control over analog octave up
- Octave blend allows total control over how much Octave is mixed into the circuit
- True bypass with silent relay based soft touch switches
- Features EarthQuaker Devices’ proprietary Flexi-Switch® Technology
- Lifetime warranty
- Current Draw: 15 mA
- Octave Distortion: Input impedance: 1 MΩ / Output impedance: <1 kΩ
- Booster: Input Impedance: 500 kΩ / Output Impedance: <1 kΩ
- List Price: $299 USD
Sunn O))) Life Pedal Guitar Demo
Module 4 was designed to be a highly versatile take on a classic vintage compressor - Dan Armstrong's Orange Squeezer from the ‘70s.
The Module 4 can be transformed to a standard 'Full Frequency' range compressor by pushing the Orange button. Basically, the user gets two compression flavors and they are easily distinguishable. Orange brings a warm, vintage sound and feel while 'Full Frequency range' brings a more modern, brighter, clearer tone. The pedal is equipped with several colorful, and practical options, all packed into the new DryBell enclosure line.
- Output - Controls the output volume (make-up gain) of the compressor. It also acts as a high headroom and distortion-free clean Boost, thanks to the high internal power supply voltage
- Tone - Controls the overall high-frequency spectrum of the unit Blend - Sets the mix of dry and compressed signals
- Attack - Controls the reaction time of the compressor
- Release - Controls the time before the unit releases or stops compression
- Preamp - Controls the input gain of (any) instrument
- ORANGE pushbutton - Enables/disables the ORANGE mode. When the ORANGE mode is off, Module 4 becomes a 'Full Frequency range' compressor
- Expander - Automatically attenuates incoming background noise
- 3-color compression level meter - A visual representation of gain reduction and input signal level
- LOW END cut – Option to keep or remove certain low-end frequencies
- True bypass or buffered bypass options
- Orange button also works in buffered bypass when the pedal is turned off. In that case, the buffered bypass reacts like the Orange Squeezer’s Front-end, keeping the bypass EQ very similar to the EQ when the pedal is active
- Power on settings save option
- Dot marks around knobs - Represent the settings of the original OrangeSqueezer
- Standard power supply 9-18V DC, 100mA minimum
DryBell Module 4 is available for $315.00. The first batch of Module 4s is available exclusively from the DryBell webshop.
For more information, please visit drybell.com.
DryBell Module 4 demo (official)
The Flat Earth has minimal knob count and feed-forward compression circuitry.
The Mayfly Flat Earth uses Feed-Forward circuitry which determines the amount of compression by analyzing the signal before it’s compressed. Old school compressors (you know: the Red one, the Orange one, the Grey one)use Feed-Back circuitry which looks at the signal after it’s already compressed. This results in noise, pumping, and tone-loss.
Boutique pedals based on older designs try to get around these problems by adding more knobs: blend knobs, tone knobs, etc. According to Mayfly Audio, "The Flat Earth has minimal knob count to allow guitarists to get to ‘wow’ quicker."
- Feed-forward compression circuitry: great compression that’s easy to setup
- No pumping or other compression artifacts
- Very low noise floor, very low distortion
- Level, sustain, and attack controls. That’s all you need
- Full bypass using relays with Fail Safe (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with stunning artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD) direct online
Introducing the MayFly Flat Earth Compressor
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.