John Bohlinger lands a gig on an HDNet concert, and takes us along for the ride.
My book, A Guitar and A Pen (Center Street), arrives in book stores on May 12th. Get a jump start on your summer reading and pick up a few dozen copies. To promote the book, we are hosting a contest to give away a must-have Gibson acoustic valued at $2500. You can be the lucky bastard that walks away with this dream axe by visiting our website and/or MySpace. On to this months column...
In February, I played a star-studded PBS/HDNet special entitled "The Outlaw Trail." We filmed at the Paramount in Austin, one of those wonderful old theaters built by true craftsmen that managed to combine ornate aesthetics with incredible acoustics; the kind of amazing venues that have almost all been bulldozed and replaced by strip centers and multiplex theaters. (What a fitting legacy for our generation; beauty and functionality exchanged for shining cheap shit – forgive me, I digress.) Serendipity and luck managed to get me this gig. My great friend and co-writer Dave Goodwin produced audio on the show and suggested me as a featured guest to the executive producer Charles McCutchin. We met, wrote a fantastic song, became immediate friends and, within 40 days, we filmed. The only catch: Charles had worked closely with Poco when they co-ruled California country cool with the Eagles. He wanted Del Castillo to perform “Rose of Cimarron” with me on electric.
Me: "I''d love to, love the song, love Poco, love Del Castillo."
Charles: "It''s imperative that you play it on a Gretsch White Falcon as it was performed on the original."
Me: "You mean if I have the guitar, I got the gig?"
Charles: "In essence, yes."
Me: "I will see you in Austin, Gretsch White Falcon in hand."
The next day I spent more money on that White Falcon than I had ever spent on any guitar. Believe it or not, I found the best deal at a music store in my home state of Montana. The downside was it took a while to get it to my home in Nashville. As I said in my last column, Fear of Flying, I''ve had some bad luck with airlines lately and a friend was going to hand-deliver it to me. I felt a bit nervous about doing four songs on a TV gig with a guitar much different than anything I''d ever played. By the time I got it, I had two days to figure out what those weird switches do, get use to the Bigbsy and the feel of a big, fat archtop and learn how to work a good tone out of those pickups. Actually, it wasn''t that big of an adjustment. Getting away from your normal guitar makes you play differently. In my case, that''s a good thing. I get so tired of my same old bag of tricks that I need circumstance to force me to try and build a melody instead of blowing Tele stuff head to outro.
Charles assembled an amazing cast, including Rodney Crowell, Asleep at the Wheel, Suzy Bogguss, Carlene Carter, Del Castillo, Jessi Colter, Raul Malo, Megan Mullins, Lee Roy Parnell, Ray Scott, Russell Smith, Cowboy Troy, Holly Williams and your humble scribe. The Austin guys in the band were all good players, but it always feels a little awkward being the stranger sitting in with a band of players who work together all the time. They were welcoming and we all found our parts pretty quickly. The hardest part about a situation like this is trying to determine who plays when and knowing when to hang out to avoid muddying up the sound. It''s a tricky balance to get it full but not crowded and flammy. Sometimes mud can be fixed in a mix if it''s a taped show, but you’re far better off getting parts and dynamics mapped out before they roll tape.
John on mandolin
They booked me to play and sing the title song, "Outlaw Trail" along with Suzy, Lee Roy, Russell, and Del Castillo. The arrangement for "Outlaw Trail" came from an impromptu acoustic jam the night before we taped. Charles and Dave Goodwin assembled the four singers, Megan and myself in a hotel room and we worked it out old-school – the “who sings what” of the song. These artists, all wildly talented and far more successful than me, couldn''t have been more kind about including me in the project. The recording of "Outlaw Trail" had a guitar solo, but the mando sounded so good in that hotel room that we decided to keep it to give a bit more variety to our guitar heavy night of music. When we played with the band, the mando worked great in the solo and helped on the rhythm as well, almost as a percussion instrument as it backbeated along with train beat that the drummer stirred out on brushes. Regrettably the cameras were not in the hotel room – that would have made a killer B-roll behind the scenes. Then again, everyone may not have been so wine-drinkingly giggly and jokey if cameras followed it all.
Raul Malo of the supergroup The Mavericks sang the Marty Robbins classic outlaw song "El Paso." Megan and I joined him on BGs, fiddle and White Falcon. Raul took "El Paso" to such a cool place, very far away from Marty''s version. That''s pretty much what you have to do with a classic, otherwise what''s the point, just listen to the original. He balanced it perfectly, making it his own, nailing it, telling Marty''s killer story like the Maverick Raul is.
Imagine mixing the Gipsy Kings and the Rolling Stones, with Keith replaced by Django; that''s Del Castillo, a fantastic band that''s unlike anything I''ve ever seen. They are such a tight machine that it could have felt very awkward for Megan and me to join them. As it turns out, Del Castillo are some of the most fun, good time band of gypsies you''d ever want to meet. They welcomed us in and made us feel like family. They have two killer gut-string players, which left plenty of sonic space for Megan''s violin and my White Falcon.
John (playing the White Falcon) with Megan and Del Castillo
Cowboy Troy, the master of hick-hop, joined Del Castillo, Megan and I for a hybrid amalgam of Latin, country, spoken word and hip hop with thick background harmonies. Troy and I wrote "The Ballad of Cherokee Bill" the week before, and worked up a great little demo on my Digi 002 Pro Tools rig. We sent an mp3 to the producers, who loved it; they forwarded the song on to Del Castillo, who improved on it. We ran the song one time at soundcheck and nailed it that night.
They ended the show with a full cast reprise of Johnny Cash''s "Wanted Man." There must have been eight guitars on stage, which made me completely superfluous, but it was such a cool moment -- there was no way I was going to sit it out in the wings. Everyone was laughing, singing, playing, high-fiving, back slapping and hugging to make it one big love fest. Not to sound too corny, but playing music together does build bonds. This sounds cliché, but remember, most clichés became clichés because they''re based in truth. I will probably never play with most of these people again, but for that short time on stage, we felt something together that I suspect civilians never experience. It makes you think, "I don''t mind the insanity and insecurity of my career as long as I''m rewarded with a feeling like this every now and then.”
"The Outlaw Trail" will be aired on HDNet in May. HDNet''s concert schedule will have the date when it is announced.
John Bohlinger is a Montana native and former Ivy Leaguer who was close to earning a Ph.D. in psychology when he dropped out to pursue a life in music. "The psych background comes in handy when dealing with the music business" John quips. Over his fifteen years in Nashville, John has toured the world, holding down the guitar/mandolin/pedal steel end for over 30 major label artists; he currently leads the band for the hit show Nashville Star, which has moved to NBC. John''s songs and playing can be heard in several major motion pictures, major label releases and literally hundreds of television drops. For more info visit johnbohlinger.com
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.