Thoughts on the questionable origins of our supposed roots-music addiction.
Last week a PG fan emailed me: “Hey mang. Your last two editorials have been boring and seemed fake. Get back to pissing people off with political shit.” It was signed, “Sincerely, Some Dude.”
I don’t know if Dude reads my column in the magazine or online, so I’m not sure if he was referring to this, this, or this. It doesn’t really matter, though—snoozy or not, that stuff was from my lame-o heart. But I get where Dude’s coming from. Truth is, I’ve toyed with writing about today’s topic for the last few months because it feels like half the emails I get are about some “rootsy” musical act or another. Every time I’ve started writing on the subject, I end up feeling mean, though. Like Rodney Dangerfield, despite my occasional fits of snark, I’m a lover, not a fighter.
But surely I can’t be alone wondering these things as I click around YouTube and various social-media holes, kicking myself for not investing in beard oil or “vintage” felt hats that look they’ve been meticulously run over by the Ice Road Truckers. You know what I’m talking about—dudes in cuffed denim jackets and at least a medium-sized beard, singing in some generic Southern gentleman brogue from atop a bale of hay. Or maybe a quaint, no-nonsense belle whose name we’re supposed to believe is Something-Something Rose, crooning a “heartfelt strummer” that sounds like it was conceived in a corporate lab owned by the makers of some magnificently mindful new sleep-aid.
If everyone’s suddenly so enamored with Neil Young, why don’t they have any of his musical adventurousness or lyrical rage?
Don’t get me wrong: I’m fine with denim jackets. For the first time in my life, I’ve even been sporting a beard for a couple months now. And, full disclosure, at the last NAMM prior to Covid, I noticed how cool luthier James Trussart looked in one of those vintage felt hats and, in what I can only conclude was a post-NAMM daze, I bought one off eBay. The second I put it on, I realized that, while Trussart totally pulled it off, I looked like a fucking idiot. I put it away forever.
Whenever something starts to feel bandwagon-y, it gives me the hardcore willies. Are we really supposed to believe that, sometime in the last five years, half the guys in the States just collectively decided to look like Depression-era farmhands? Nah. What happened was, the general music-listening populace finally got fed up with cheesy-ass, fake country tunes bullshitting about pickup trucks, lost dogs, and tubing down the river in the hot summer sun. Even some big country artists were like, “How much longer can I do this shit?”
More accurately, the music-industry suits divined from profitability charts that the last stupid trend was winding down and that it was time to pump a crapload of money into something else. But Almighty Data said that “earthy” vibe was still alluring, so they encouraged everyone to try to come across like a good ol’ boy or girl—only with more depth and retro-charming style. Something more “real.” But is it real? It’s very hard for me to listen to or look at most of it and not think of Bo Burnham’s song “White Woman’s Instagram.”
Here’s the recipe so many “Americana” acts seem to be following, as handed down by their favorite soulless “influencer”: Seize upon something “aesthetically pleasing”—but in the most banal, vanilla sense—then clean it up even more, strip it of anything that some OCD asshole might deem a blemish, place it in a sterile, clinically ordered environment, and make it all about all the surface-level stuff so that its potential for mass consumption isn’t ruined by icky natural anomalies.
If everyone’s suddenly so enamored with Neil Young, why don’t they have any of his musical adventurousness or lyrical rage? Why aren’t there any screeching, careening passages where shit’s barely in tune? How come the weird-ass natural vocal quirks everyone’s born with are replaced with a boardroom-tested tracheal patina? Neil embraces the chaos. Neil celebrates the fact that, half the time, he sounds like an unhinged Wiccan ready to beat the shit out of you with a a thrice-washed Ziploc full of gnarly granola. Neil’s real.Can we get some more of that, please?
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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
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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.