What Song Do You Love to Play Unplugged?
Jonathan Pearce of the Beths joins us in discussing our most beloved acoustic strummers. Plus, musical obsessions!
Q: What’s your favorite song to play on an acoustic and why?
Jonathan Pearce (The Beths) — Guest Picker
Photo by Erza Simmons
A: I love the Kenyan guitarist Henry Makobi, and I’ve tried hard to learn his song “Likuta Bibi.” I’ll never be able to play it just like him; it’s just too idiosyncratic. But I can kind of get the gist of it and it’s a wickedly clever line.
The trick I learned from this song is to harmonize a melody in sixths, with a top line melody that’s nicely “in the chords,” but a bottom line that can sneak out, and back in, harmonically. It’s a finger twister, too—you have to fully commit to have any hope of landing it. I learned about Makobi from an interview with another musical hero of mine, the Newcastle songwriter Richard Dawson.
Jonathan Pearce's Current Obsession:
Uilleann pipe music from Ireland. This segment is making my listening seem way more diverse than it really is, but truthfully this is my current obsession. Uilleann pipes are so rock ’n’ roll to me. Like a heavily distorted electric guitar, they scream, sustain, and squawk, like they’re on the edge of feedback. The drone element is so relevant to guitar music, too, and I’m trying to get my head around the way pipers adorn melodies with grace notes and turns. The repertoire is just so great, full of dexterous and rousing melodies. I’m trying to learn to play the tin whistle, with the hope of graduating to a set of pipes one day.
Mike Blue — Reader of the Month
A: “Spain” by Chick Corea.
I worked on learning that song harder than I worked on any song in 50 years. So, I only play it for me.
Mike Blue's Current Obsession:
My obsession is easy: being able to make music. Not just play notes, but make some sort of musical contribution, whatever that may be.
Ted Drozdowski — Senior Editor
A: Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball and Chain” in open Dm. I came to the song through Big Brother and Cheap Thrills but backtracked to Big Mama—an astounding person.
Big Mama Thornton 1970
She was a great musician, an out gay woman writing hits and leading a band of men around the world in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Powerful! It’s also a gateway. Down a half-step and I’m in Bentonia tuning.
Ted Drozdowski Current Obsession:
My new stereo Carr amp rig blows my mind. See my most recent Love and Sockets column.
Jason Shadrick — Associate Editor
A: I’ve been getting deeper and deeper into learning fiddle tunes and love to use the classic “Blackberry Blossom” as a good warm-up to center my mind with both hands.
Tony Rice ~ Blackberry Blossom
The fact that these tunes are eighth-note based and use pretty strict alternate picking allows me to go into an almost meditative state while working on them.
Jason Shadrick's Current Obsession:
Hands down, it’s The Rehearsal on HBO. It’s one of the most mind-bending shows I’ve ever seen, and Nathan Fielder is an absolute genius. I hesitate to say much more about it, but I guarantee there are at least a half-dozen times in the first episode where I had to pause and go, “WTF?”
First Look: Carr Telstar
John Bohlinger uses a trio of guitars (a Gretsch Black Falcon, a '60s Tele, and a humbucker-loaded Kiesel) to test this interesting combo that pairs 6L6 and EL84 output tubes.
Carr Amplifiers Introduces the Telstar Combo
The amp design blends the harmonic assertion of EL84s with the deep control of 6L6s.
Pittsboro, NC (October 12, 2018) -- The Carr Telstar. And now for something completely different!
The Telstar blends the sinewy harmonic assertion of EL84s with the deep full control of 6L6s in a new and unique push-pull recipe. You may have a 6L6 amp or an EL84 amp but not an amp that uses both types in harmony for a new pallet of expression. The Telstar sound can easily range from haunting rich cleans to creamy overdrive. Our Lean/Lush switch tailors the body of the tone while the 53/58 switch changes the overall gain structure and the frequencies the Tone control emphasizes. Sonically treading the years from early Fullerton 50s roundness thru late 50s proto British bite.
- 17 Watts full output - (Double Digit Power)
- 6L6 (stock) plus EL84 power tubes together in push pull class A - (Unprecedented)
- Use any octal power tube with the EL84 without re-biasing - (Experimental)
- 53/58 switch – round early '50s Fullerton to Proto British Hot Rod - (Macho)
- Lean/Lush switch – tight to rich bass - (Elastic)
- All tube Reverb - (Aquatic)
- Built-in variable attenuator 17 watts down to zero - (Useful)
- Mid Century Midrange - (Confident)
- Extended range One Knob tone control - (Less is More)
- Early '60s thin wall space age cabinet - (Solid Tone)
- Custom ‘Valiant’ speaker – (Sincere to Sinister)
1) 6L6 (EL34 and 6V6 compatible) + 1) EL84 1) 6SL7 Octal 1) 12AX7 1) 12AT7
100% Point to Point wiring - Solen Aerospace Satellite power supply capacitors
Selected mixed resistor types – Jupiter Tone Caps - Custom Carr power/output transformers - Local made saddle leather handles – Cabinets built in house
Retail/Street $2390 1x12 combo
For more information: