Witness how this Ecuadorian-via-Switzerland duo evokes everything that’s beautiful and bleak from the desert, using hollowbodies, a serendipitous Strymon, and rhythmic hypnosis to paint an Ennio Morricone soundscape.
When some people travel, they take photos on their phone to remember the trip. Old-soul voyagers will recount their adventures with pen and paper. But for Alejandro and Estevan Gutiérrez, who together make the globetrotting Ecuadorian-Swiss duo Hermanos Gutiérrez, their experiences conjure soundtracks, and a visit years ago to the American Southwest changed their sound forever.
A couple years after forming their duo, the brothers took a trip through Death Valley and the Mojave Desert. “It just blew our minds,” Estevan told PG. The desert, he says, “is where our music was born.”
“Part of what we’re doing is traveling together as brothers,” Alejandro told PG in 2022. “We go to places, we come back and we’re feeling inspired, and we feel like we’ve gotta write something about this place.”
After finding bountiful inspiration in the West, the duo began turning out mystical compositions, like sonic souvenirs and passport stamps on their consciousness. “It’s just beautiful where we can go with this music,” Alejandro said last year. “It’s just my brother and I together, and we’re so happy to have this.”
The sold-out Hermanos Gutiérrez concert at Nashville’s Basement East on June 20th marked their first time performing in Music City since recording El Bueno Y El Malo with Dan Auerbach at Easy Eye Sound in 2022. The pair invited PG’s Chris Kies onstage to decode their spellbinding cinematic sounds. The conversation touched on their symbiotic alchemy, enchanting hollowbodies, and how a single Strymon reset their slow-burn backdrop.Brought to you by D’Addario Nexxus 360 Tuner.
Like their muse the desert, the brothers’ setups are sparse. Each one totes a single hollowbody. Alejandro travels with his 1963 Silvertone 1446, which is stock except for a refret and custom-made, snake-like Bigsby arm, both done by longtime Dan Auerbach tech Dan Johnson. (You might recognize Dan from his three different Black Keys Rig Rundowns. Check out the latest one from 2019!)
Alejandro is a fingerstyle player (inspired by Estevan) and, at the suggestion of Johnson, uses Pyramid Gold Heavy (.013–.052).
For songs like “Tres Hermanos,” Alejandro gets down with this 1940s Rickenbacker Electro NS lap steel.
Estevan connected with Dan Auerbach’s 1958 Gretsch 6120 “Rudy” while tracking El Bueno Y El Malo at Easy Eye Sound last year. For road duties, he never leaves home without his own Gretsch G6120T-59 Vintage Select 1959 Chet Atkins hollowbody. Inspired by a random YouTube video of an older gentleman playing Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk,” Estevan built a partnership with the 6120. “I’ve tried many, many guitars, but none of them gives me the sound that is me except this Gretsch,” he says. Estevan puts D’Addario EXL 115 (.011–.049) strings on his creamy crusader.
Check out all the hip hardware substitutions and rattlesnake-approved artwork on Estevan’s 6120.
Given that Nashville and Easy Eye have become an oasis for Hermanos Gutiérrez, it makes sense they would take advantage of the studio’s library of vintage and vibey gear. For the Basement East show, Alejandro borrowed a 1960s Fender Deluxe Reverb from Easy Eye and plugged into the first input of the vibrato circuit.
Spaghetti in Stereo
When creating El Bueno Y El Malo, Estevan plugged into Auerbach’s vintage Magnatone for the whole recording process. (You can really hear the amp’s magic vibrato pulsing during the album’s opening title track.) For this show, he compromised by running his 6120 into a modern Magnatone Panoramic Stereo model.
Alejandro Gutiérrez’s Pedalboard
Alejandro packs light with a compact board that holds a MXR Dyna Comp Mini, a Boss GE-7 Equalizer, a Strymon Flint, and the influential Strymon El Capistan. While Estevan discovered the El Cap and unlocked its magic for Hermanos Gutiérrez (more on that in a second), Alejandro has molded it to his sound in different ways. “I use it as a layer,” he explains. “Really subtle. My brother uses it more as a delay. He has this horse sound, like this galloping sound he can create with his slapping, which only he can do.” A Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner keeps the Silvertone in line.
Estevan Gutiérrez’s Pedalboard
You can see that Estevan utilizes nearly every square inch of his pedalboard. Overlaps between the brothers’ boards include the MXR Dyna Comp Mini, the Strymon Flint, and the aforementioned Strymon El Capistan. You might think their setup is basic now, but they used to play sans pedals. Eventually, Estevan discovered the Strymon El Capistan, and their sound was never the same. “I remember that day,” he recounted to PG about first playing the pedal. “I fell in love. I knew it was gonna change something in our sound.” As soon as he purchased the El Capistan, he called his brother and said, “You have to buy this. This is gonna be next level for us.”
The remaining effects for Estevan include a Malekko Omicron Vibrato, a Boss RC-500 Loop Station, and a Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner (off the board) keeps his Gretsch in check. Lastly, you’ll notice a G7th Performance 3 ART Capo on the pedalboard, too.
See the guitars, amps, and effects used on tour with the Black Keys.
PG's Chris Kies caught up with The Black Keys guitar tech, Dan Johnson, to check out Dan Auerbach's live rig. Watch our video below:
Auerbach often switches out the guitars he takes on the road, and according to guitar tech Dan Johnson, "What he records with and what he plays live with are rarely the same." When we caught up with him, Dan was playing (right to left) a Harmony H78 with D'Armonds (he favors the bridge pickup), used on most of the two-piece sections of the show; a '64 Guild Thunderbird (his current favorite) that's mostly original except the bridge pickup was restored by Lindy Fralin; a black National with a piezo in the bridge, fiberglass body, crunchy single-coils, and a Bigsby used for "Howlin' for You"; a Harmony Stratotone that was acquired nearly stripped with new Lindy Fralin P-90s and a Bigsby tuned to open G for "Run Right Back"; and a white Supro that's almost identical to his National used for most of the songs on Brothers. Dan uses SIT .011 - .050 gauge strings on all of the guitars.
Auerbach uses a three-amp setup where all three are on all the time. The amps are a reissue Marshall JTM-45 (cabinet with Jensen speakers), Fender Quad Reverb (with two Celestion Greenbacks and two Vintage 30s), and Victoria Dual Deluxe (with Eminence Red Coats). All three are set slightly dirty - just on the verge of breakup - and the effects run through all three except for a Fulltone Tube Tape Echo which only goes through the Marshall. The amps face 45 degrees away from Dan onstage to control noise and feedback, and a Palmer PDI-03 speaker simulator is also used. He uses a Divine Noise curly cable between his guitar and amps.
Dan's effects are set in a rack and controlled by an RJM Effects Gizmo and dual Mastermind controllers - a customized one at Dan's feet and a standard one switched by his tech. The MIDI setup allows Dan's tech to make more complicated changes while Dan sings (mostly for newer songs). In the rack is a Boss TR-2 Tremolo, Boss OC-2 Super Octave, and Boss PH-3 Phase Shifter (used for "Tighten Up"), a Radial JX-2 Switchbone that's used only for a warm boost, vintage Shin-ei Companion fuzz wah pedal (only used for the fuzz) run into an MXR Ten Band EQ to replace the mids that the Companion scoops out, and a vintage Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi. He uses Lehle switchers to route the pedals.
On the floor, Dan controls his volume via MIDI with a Mission EP-1 Expression Pedal and Sound Sculpture Volcano volume control. The only pedal on the floor is a Boss PS-5 Super Shifter used for the intro to "Lonely Boy."
Pickin' Like Chet, From the Basement, King's X, The Black Keys, Solo Jazz Guitar books and videos reviewed
Pickin’ Like Chet: Chet Atkins’ Vintage Classics Volume One & Two Taught by Pat Kirtley Stephan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop
Pat Kirtley has impressive fingerstyle guitar creds having done a stack of CDs and instructional videos, to say nothing of his being 1995 US National Fingerstyle Champion, and National Thumbpicking Champion in 1994. He is obviously a big Chet Atkins fan and in these DVD sets Kirtley has delivered up a huge serving of great Chet tunes. Volume One is 173 minutes of Chetty goodness featuring “Hidden Charm,” “Mystery Train,” “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” “St Louis Blues,” “Oh By Jingo,” and “Chinatown, My Chinatown.” Volume Two clocks in at 122 minutes and contains “Rose Ann,” “Down Home,” “Somebody’s Knockin’,” “Trambone,” “Drive In,” and “Alice Blue Gown.” These are classic Chet tunes and several of them are must haves for Chet-o-philes. Kirtley takes his time and explains each tune in detail with a full speed performance and then each tune is shown slowly bit by bit. The set comes with a book of transcriptions as well as PDF files on the discs. Kirtley also covers information about effects like reverb and delay as they apply to the songs.
Now if you are like me in that you love this sort of DVD lesson, then you probably have a stack of DVDs—some of which make you think why the heck did I buy that junk? and others that you go to over and over again. This is one of the latter. Frankly, lessons aside, I just enjoyed hearing Kirtley play these tunes; he plays them beautifully and gets a pretty authentic Chet tone with his Taylor T5. Just in case all this good stuff isn’t enough for you Volume One also includes some classic Chet videos, three from The Purina Show in 1955; The Poor People of Paris, Side by Side, and Makin’ Believe, and from 1958’s Ozark Jubilee; Villa and Say Si Si. It’s always a joy to hear Chet in his prime and it’s worth it just to see the outfits these folks wore.
So hey Chet fans, rejoice and check this out, you may learn something. Be sure to visit Pat Kirtley on My Space at myspace.com/patkirtley; he has posted some nice clips including one of “Mystery Train” from this set. –PS
List: $39.95 per volume
From the Basement DVD
Ever wonder what it’d be like to have a collection of TV show performances on DVD from some of contemporary indie’s biggest names without the grotesquely gushing TV hosts? From the Basement does just that and does it well. The series of artist performances was originally recorded and aired from a UK basement studio, and was later picked up and distributed in the US on the Rave channel and also on IFC. There are performances from Radiohead, including two In Rainbows tracks with just Thom Yorke on piano; the disc also includes PJ Harvey, The White Stripes, Sonic Youth, Beck and Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes fame.
The recording producer of these sessions, Nigel Godrich, wanted these performances to be seen as the truest representation of the state of their artists work, captured in a way that lets their talents speak without the interference of presenters, logos or audiences. He does this simply by making the music the focus with few if any distractions.
With each artist performing either one or two songs, the DVD has a seamless flow from track to track, artist to artist. In addition to its stripped down demeanor, it provides gearheads with a healthy dose of rare and peculiar guitars and amps. Whether you’re a fan of Jack White’s Sears Silvertone 1485 amp paired with a 1965 JB Hutto Montgomery Airline guitar; Sonic Youth’s pairing of a vintage Fender Jazzmaster and Jaguar; or PJ Harvey’s unidentified 12-string acoustic used on “The Piano”, this underground series covers many gear-loving bases.
The only negative was the fact that there was no on-screen identification for songs or artists. However, the overall setup and production is uniquely cozy as the DVD provides a platform for the artists to play seemingly directly to the viewer… in their own basement. –CK
King’s X: Gretchen Goes to London Live DVD
The year 1990 was a turbulent one for rock music. The Seattle Sound was gaining notoriety, and among those bands slowly garnering more attention was King’s X.
Originally rising from the ashes of Sneak Preview, the band regrouped and christenedthemselves King’s X, and gained many fans, one of which was Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament, who has credited King’s X with inventing grunge. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree, the impact that the group has had is known by few outside of the music world.
The live release Gretchen Goes to London, now available on DVD through Molken Music, is a perfect way to introduce the band exhibiting their signature raw sound. The footage was taped at The Astoria in May of 1990, right at the moment when the group started to gain some commercial success. Little did they know that only a year later they would be opening for AC/DC. Gretchen Goes to London captures the essence of the legendary group quite well, even if the sound mix could use a little adjustment here and there. Video-wise, it’s a treat to watch the band rip through their set, especially staples such as “Over My Head” and “Summerland” (that’s the solo that cements Ty Tabor as one of the most underrated guitarists ever).
If you’re not familiar with King’s X, you should be, and Gretchen Goes to London is an excellent place to start. –JW
The Black Keys: Live At The Crystal Ballroom
2008 found the now well-established Black Keys in Portland, Oregon, for an energetic stand at the Crystal Ballroom.
Couldn’t be there? This DVD comes about as close as possible, without all the friendly audience elbows. Live performance video has come a long way with the prodding of people like producer and director Lance Bangs (REM’s Road Movie). Sound and image quality are of course top notch, but the camera work is what really brings this raucous show in to your living room. For a relatively cozy venue, the sweeping shots and close up stage film keep you on stage with the band, with choice glimpses of Dan Auerbach’s plethora of old, crusty gear including an oversized Silvertone 1454 with a Bigsby, a vintage Marshall Super Lead and even a song on a Rhodes Electric Piano. Onstage banter between the crowd and the band is nonexistent as the Keys concentrate on a strong performance of an equally strong set of songs. The sound quality of this live recording further showcases the Black Keys now familiar combination of fuzz, rhythm, and memorable lyrics.
While this is only the second live DVD released by the band, fans can pick from a number of critically acclaimed EPs and albums.
The disk includes 17 live songs from the Black Keys’ successful discography as well as behind-the-scenes segments on the making of the Black Keys’ fifth album Attack & Release and the making of their notable “Your Touch” video. The original music videos for “Your Touch,” “Just Got to Be” and “Strange Times” are also included. –BO
Solo Jazz Guitar: Through Chord- Melody & Beyond
This topic has been covered by many books, but few as comprehensive as this one, written by the venerable Howard Morgen. At almost 200 pages this is a pretty thick book, just as solo guitar is a deep topic. I think of books like this as a tool box from which you can take the tools you want as you need them. The best feature of this book is that rather than useless songs based on standard changes that you won’t ever play, Morgen gives you 11 real standards including classics like “‘Round Midnight,” “Li’l Darlin’,” and “My Funny Valentine.” That means once you work your butt off learning this stuff, you can actually go out on a gig and play them—that’s a biggie.
Each song is dissected then reassembled, and some of the tunes have several versions to illustrate different aspects of the illustrated techniques. This is great as you get to see how an arrangement is constructed, so you can move on to creating your own arrangements using the tools in the book. The book has 14 chapters which go into fair depth on topics like inner moving voices, two note comping, key selection, walking bass lines, and chord substitution. Morgen at least touches on all you need to know to start getting your solo style happening. Further he has a large list of other books he recommends to get into particular aspects of this style. A CD of the examples is included. Howard has been a guitar teacher and writer for a long time and his experience really shines in this work. Highly recommended! –PS