Down and Dirty with G. Love: Slide Guitar's New Generation
Last week, we talked about some of the origins of the slide guitar in the Mississippi Delta.
Legends of the blues and masters of their craft, musicians like Robert Johnson, Fred McDowell, Bukka White and others who defined a genre, which is the heart of rock 'n' roll and all popular music.
I've been blessed to travel the world with my guitar in hand, and besides performing, there's nothing I like more than being inspired and getting a musical ass-whooping by my fellow musicians. As a roots musician, I am always taken aback when I see players delving into the past to create a fresh new sound. And so that brings me to the players that keep slide guitar sliding on.
Some of the most profound players of MY generation utilize slide guitar. Lap players like Ben Harper and Robert Randolph, electric slide players like Luther Dickenson and Derek Trucks, and two very unique Australian jammers John Butler and Xavier Rudd are all shaping the roots music and rock and roll of our times.
Let's break it down. One of the most profound guitarists of my generation is Ben Harper. Ben uses an antique instrument of German descent called a Weisenborn. The Weisenborn is a type of lap steel guitar. They look and sound amazing.
From what I gather, Ben's grandparents owned an eclectic folk music store and that's where he learned this unique instrument. Ben’s approach was unique as well. By amplifying this acoustic instrument and being heavily influenced by Hendrix and the blues, he made this acoustic instrument into one of the most powerful sonic forces I've heard. Ben is a true virtuoso and his music has spawned a whole sound, which is alive, and growing every day. Here is the tab for one of my favorite Ben Harper tunes, which demonstrates his command of the slide.
Another cat who I've gotten to know well over the years is my brother Robert Randolph. Robert’s playing is all church -- the church of the sacred steel. Robert's holy weapon is the pedal steel guitar, and he is a true master. I mean, I've never seen someone make playing the shit out of a complex and driving solo so easily. He is a master. Robert is also a master of the six string but his true virtuosity lies in the playing of the sacred steel.
Two Southern rockers who have risen in stature over the years are Derek Trucks of the Allman Brothers family and my old friend Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and the Black Crowes. In my opinion, both these players are heavily influenced by the electric slide playing of the late great Duane Allman.
These cats play most of their licks in a standard tuning using their dragging fingers to mute the strings and getting very pure tones. These players show us the Delta blues living on in good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll, but make no mistake, that shit is very complex. Derek and Luther really make a guitar talk. Check out my new video for "Just Fine," which features Luther on the slide guitar you hear. Unfortunately the video was shot in on tour in Brazil so he isn't in it. But his solo is a classic.
Two Australian guitar players who have kicked my ass over the years are John Butler and Xavier Rudd. It's very interesting to me how their style developed. Ben Harper was embraced so hugely by the Aussies, and his music became widely influential to a younger generation of players. It would trip me out on tour in Australia when I would see all these younger cats playing lap steels and Weisenborns.
I was like, “How do these people even know about this? We are all the way Down Under! I mean, you literally can't get any further from the Mississippi Delta than Australia, right?!” How did these cats get so much soul and blues? Well, they clearly had something in them, and watching Ben Harper brought it out.
Both Xavier and John play a wide array of cool instruments. John Butler plays much of his set on an 11-string guitar using the slide and open tunings. Xavier also plays this 11-string as well as a Weisenborn. Here's john playing his famous instrumental, "Ocean."
These younger players of my generation are out there on the circuit every day coming to a theater near you. All these players are doing their own thing with the blues of Robert Johnson and the legends of the Mississippi Delta. Just like Robert Johnson, these cats are true originals.
Keep it dirty and keep on jammin'!
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.