pedal steel

Rig Rundown: Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley

The country and bluegrass power duo show off a selection of their acoustic and electric guitars, which include gems like an original Frying Pan and a 1927 Montgomery Ward acoustic.

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Björklund backing up Mark Lanegan with her go-to 10-string Sho-Bud single-neck.
Photo by Josine Laarakker

The Danish pedal-steel songstress talks about 10-strings, Jack White, and her masterful new album, Shaken.

Few instruments proffer as much emotional depth and unchecked possibility for expression as a well-piloted pedal steel. From lush textural flourishes to virtual singing, the instrument can conjure an incomparable range of sounds via its complex guts of rods and pulleys. For many, becoming a proficient pedal-steel player can prove a most difficult dragon to chase, but the artistic dividends are immense once the beast is tamed.

The instrument has its share of established heroes, ranging back to its primordial days in the golden era of American country music, but few have ventured away from those traditional sonic tropes with the zest and imagination of Denmark’s Maggie Björklund. Björklund’s approach to pedal steel is as unconventional as it is breathtaking. She often sounds as if she might be the progeny of Daniel Lanois and Bill Frisell—a self-contained avant-jazz post-rock orchestra with a compositional mind and gossamer vocals to match.

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The country duo discusses the gear used during the recording of Bakersfield.

Vince Gill and Paul Franklin discuss the gear they used when recording Bakersfield.

Vince's main guitar is a 1953 blackguard Tele he bought in 1979 in Del City, Oklahoma. Although it's all original, it’s been refretted a few times. Well-known luthier Joe Glaser calls it "the best one he’s ever seen."

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