During preproduction for this record I’m working on, I was in my office/disaster area with the producer person I’m working with and got to explaining one of my amps to him. He muttered “you *&@#$% guitar players.” Not the first time I’ve heard that.
As Ray Wylie Hubbard says, “Show business is a tough business, but if you’ve got good tone it’ll get you through the gig.” Most guitar players live by that, but the search for tone is an elusive pursuit. My voice is just my voice- I can take lessons, practice, stretch my abilities a bit, but at the end of the day, I’m still gonna be a baritone, and I’m never gonna sing like Ray Charles, or even Ray Wylie Hubbard. The way my voice sounds is a gift (or curse) of the spirits, and it is what it is. I work within it.
The guitar on the other hand, is something else. I can shape that tone. I can pick up a different guitar. Or, more to the point, I can mess with the amp (if we are taking electric, if we aren’t, then I’m playing my Gibson SJ and that’s just the deal). And I do mess with amps. A lot (see here for example). Which I find is endemic to guitar players. There are so many variables to choose from. Size, watts, speakers, tubes (not whether to have tubes, ’cause if it isn’t a tube amp I’m not really interested, but which tubes and how configured).
Then there’s the question of what is the amp for? My gigging amp is a Fender Deville 2×12. Overkill, perhaps, but it sounds so good. I practice on a Fender SuperChamp XD (weighs 35 pounds less than the Deville, see where I’m going with that?) I’ve owned Marshall and Vox amps as well. And then there are pedals…lots of pedals. Lots and lots of pedals. You get the idea.
So I’m surfing ebay the other day, like you do, and up pops this Fender Pro Jr. The Pro Jr. is all tube, 15 watts, 10 inch speaker, very minimalist. Like, only two knobs- volume and tone. Philosophically you have to love that. Because that’s all there is, volume and tone. The guy selling it had tricked it out in the way only a geeky guitar player can- new speaker (same as project above- Eminence Patriot Rajin’ Cajun), matched tube set, with the tubes rebaised, serious guitar geek stuff. AND he was including the original speaker and the original tubes (that’s more stuff to mess with). He was selling it because it was still too loud, even with the rebiased tubes. Not sure what THAT’S about, but your ‘too loud’ is right up my alley (and my standard for loud is, well, let’s just say ‘different.’ I’m from Minneapolis. I grew up listening to the Replacements and Husker Du play live. That’s loud.)
Sweet new minimalist rig.
These little amps are great for recording (because you can overdrive them at lower volumes-lower being NOT ‘extinction of the dinosaurs’ volume), and while the SuperChamp has been an excellent practice amp, it isn’t a true tube amp (the signal is always going through the DSP circuit, so even though it has tubes, there is no time when the tubes are the only thing in the sound). So you just can’t leave that Pro Jr sitting there, amIright? Nope, you can’t.
Yes, that’s how it sounds. Freakin’ great. And only two knobs, so not a lot of thinking going on here (better for me). I did get a Boss ’63 Fender Reverb pedal to join it, since the amp has no reverb. Sweet little combo. Great break up when you turn the tone knob all the way. Sounds great with the Tele and with the LP. I’m probably going to give this amp a drive in the studio next week and see how it sounds when we do some overdubs on some songs- I’ll let you know how that goes!
Neal Casal, Jason Isbell and Jesse Aycock throw down together. Isbell’s Sommatone is right behind Aycock.
Stay tuned for future guitar geekery- I was at the Jason Isbell shows with Hard Working Americans last week (picture above), and as they were rolling Isbell’s Sommatone Roaring 40 offstage I noticed that the cabinet had an Eminence Red Coat and a Patriot in it. Hmmmmmm…my Fender Deville 2×12 has two Red Coat Wizards, wonder what would happened if I swapped one of them out for a Patriot?
Amp seeking new speaker-must be hot.
I’m probably going to have to find that out.