Down and Dirty with G. Love: Slide Guitar Greats
Slide guitar. It's a thing, man, a real type of thing. When you play that slide, you can really make that guitar talk, you can really make it sing.
My favorite slide guitar players are the players who are from and/or play in that Mississippi Delta style. When I first heard the legendary John Hammond perform live, I was absolutely blown away by his slide work. John typically uses an old National resophonic guitar for his slide numbers and man can he play. If you've been reading my blogs or have ever seen me perform, you know by now that John Hammond has had major influence on my playing. Through his records I was introduced to a world of blues.
Through tracing back the artists John was interpreting and influenced by, I literally opened a gold mine of what I consider to be the most profound blues. Robert Johnson, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bukka White, and on it goes. These artists have some serious shit.
When you first hear slide or bottleneck style guitar, I feel it makes an immediate impression. It's not necessarily difficult to play slide, in fact it's very simple at its root. But slide guitar looks cool, it's different and it has an immediately recognizable sound. Oh yeah, and it's completely badass.
The players I mentioned above play slide in a delta style, which usually starts in an open tuning. This is where things get interesting. The three most common tunings are open G, open E and open D. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Open C, A and every other note, minor or major, are fair game. Go ahead try it now. Just tune your strings into any crazy chord and you are going to have a blast.
My bass player, Timo Shanko, turned me on to this fresh open F#m tuning, which the late great Eddie Kirkland turned him onto back in the day. The key is to experiment with the tunings you learn about and discover so that you can come up with innovative chord voicing and new, never before heard of licks. Try a basement jam session on that F#m you'll be hooked. You'll be up all night.
Robert Johnson is hailed as the king of the Delta Blues, and rightfully so. His style is so deep and profound. His tone is so clean, his tunings complex his pocket so fat. Even though everyone knows Robert Johnson, it's a great place to start. Listen to his song "come on in my kitchen". Hear how he makes the slide talk.
When I finally got turned on to Mississippi Fred McDowell, I felt like I discovered John Hammond's biggest influence. MFMc's driving rhythms and melodic slide work have such a deep feeling. Check out this version of "John Henry":
Over the past two years, I've become hooked on Bukka White. My latest release, Fixin To Die, is named after the Bukka White song, which is the title track. At the current moment I'm gonna have to say Bukka White is my favorite artist. I like Bukka because he literally slaps the shit out of his National while hammering on the strings with his left hand. Like McDowell, he keeps his rhythms driving and his melodies clean and crisp. That's the key. Here is Bukka playing his famous "Aberdeen Mississippi Blues":
I find that YouTube is just a tremendous place to find not only this great old footage of the masters but also a great place to find lessons on what these old bluesmen were doing. Root around a bit and you'll see what I mean.
Slide guitar is a whole different world. If you're a guitar player, definitely experiment with your slide work. Slide playing is something you've got to have in your bag of tricks.
Next week, we will check out some of the great slide players of my generation on the scene this days. Slide it up!! G
G. Love, aka Garrett Dutton, has been the front man and founder of the alternative hip-hop blues group G. Love & Special Sauce since their inception in 1993. Widely known for his upbeat hits "Cold Beverage," "Baby's Got Sauce" and "Hot Cookin'," G. Love returned to his blues and country roots on his latest release, Fixin' To Die (Amazon, iTunes), produced by Scott and Seth Avett. A road dog if one ever existed, G. Love performs roughly 125 shows a year all over the world including Australia, Japan, Brazil, UK, Canada and the U.S. G. Love teamed up with Gretsch to create his own signature model, the Gretsch G. Love Signature Electromatic Corvette, which features a pair of TV Jones® Power'Tron pickups, deluxe mini-precision tuners and a cool Phili-green color scheme with competition stripe that would make ANYONE from Philadelphia proud! Check it out here.