the online blues mall gets a face lift

Come check out the new

I spent a whole week re-skinning it and adding all kinds of cool new features.

Buy some Blues t-shirts and Blues folk art while you are there!

Gig this Week – Saturday Sept. 22nd – sams town point

Sams Town Point in South Austin – 9pm – 1 am – 4 hours of rockin and rollin with the freight train troubadours. New material this gig…4 new original, so show up early and say you saw them first! No cover

Rants about Lap Steel prices and availability

There are simply not enough choices in the current market, in my opinion, for Lap Steel purchases. Fender makes one, then the Gretsch retro looking model…Chandler was making one for a while…there are some junky low-end models ( Artisan, Galveston ) and the Morrell models are solid but bore me to tears.

Goldtone has remade my steel – the Oahu Tonemaster – although I haven’t played one, they sure look the same.

I have emailed Eastwood guitars, the retro remake company
about coming out with a new retro styled Steel – especially if they could keep it in the $200 range.

I would like to see Jay Turser come out with one and push the envelope a bit…they make very solid entry level instruments
and I believe they could make a killer lap steel.

What happened to the days of the National, the Supro’s, The Rickenbackers…not to mention Guyatones, Valco’s, Silvertones and the like….when these dubious quality instruments do show up on Ebay they are selling for premium prices. These prices reflect a shortage of available NEW lap steels – not a shortage
of elderly clunkers. I am a huge fan of vintage instruments- so don’t get me wrong – I just feel a few well made modern lap steels would be nice. There are some great luthiers out there making steels today, but they are pricey. Worth it, but pricey.

Upcoming Gig Alert – July 28th

STP poster july 28th 2007

Upcoming gig alert!!
Sams Town point – Saturday july 28th 9-1am – no cover

My Gear set-up

My main steel is a Oahu Tonemaster – there is a review of it
in the Review section of this blog. I also have a back-up steel – a late 60’s Guyatone – which is my travel steel…it’s been to Mexico
and on stage a few times. Not my favorite, but it works. One pickup, and it’s a bit nasaly…not a fat wide tone like the Oahu.
I need some effects to make it sound the way I like.

My amp, I am almost ashamed to admit is Digital.
The Line 6 spider 2…..70 watts of Juice and some very nice sounding digital presets…I kid you not. I use the Blues setting
( the second one, with the green light ) and thats it. Sounds great loud or soft. I realize I should be a tube snob – but this thing is
reliable, loud and the price was right – under $200.

Effects – TS10 tube screamer….just a hint.
I occasionally use a Morley Little Alligator volume pedal
and if I am playing thru the PA, I have a Danelectro reverb
pedal that just barely does the job – it took forever to find the right setting, but I have it figured out now….I use this more with the back up steel.

I also play lead guitar here and there,with a 87 Fender custom shop Strat built by master builer Michael Stevens – co-founder of the Fender Custom Shop. This used to belong to David Grissom of Storyville, Joe Ely, John Mellencamp, etc.

Acoustic I have a Regal squareneck with a lace sensor pickup, a Seagull s6+ cutaway and a f-hole metallic navy blue Dobro.

I also haul around a great custom built Steelseat from – I highly recommend these for gear storage
and comfort – plus they look great!

What kind of Slide?

There are a ton of choices. Tone bars, with the finger groove on the top….metal round bars, Solid glass bars, spark plug sockets…you name it.

I use none of these, but instead opt for the lightweight thick walled dunlop PYREX hollow slide….yep – fits on your finger for standard slide playing.

Why? I like ’em light…I also like to be able to see thru the slide. Acoustic you can’t get the same tone as you can with a heavy bar – but I find playing electric, I prefer the pyrex.


I play bare fingered when I can – I like the freedom – but if I am just playing the Dobro on the Mic, I need the picks to amplify the sound…I use these:

Propik Nickel Fingertone Fingerpicks

You can order them at Elderly Instruments – they have a cool cutaway so you can feel the string, as opposed to bouncing on top of it. Very Organic, very comfortable – Two thumbs up.

What the heck do I tune this thing to?

Well, here’s what I do – your mileage may vary.

E Tuning E B E G# B E

The magic of the E chord….Elmore James would have tuned his guitars to this, if they wouldn’t have snapped in half. Elmore, and Duane Allman used open D tuning – this, just a step Up. The advantage to open E is that all the chords are where you think they should be…G is at the 3rd fret.
Less to think about on stage = better playing.

I know, I know…what about the classic Dobro tunings, and c6, etc…..
well I learned slide with an Elmore James tab book – so that’s what I use.
I play blues based, minor pentatonic scaled solos
so this is just fine and dandy for my applications.
You need to try them all, and see what makes sense to you.
Your style of music, your style of playing will tell you which
tuning is going to be your friend….heck – alot of pickers
use various tunings. My brain hasn’t mastered this yet
but it’s important to remember all musicians are students of music
and the learning never stops.
Be humble and practice, practice, practice.

Places I’ve played and who I played with

I’ve been very lucky to live in Austin and be surrounded by tremendous talent, and thru friendships I have been able to hop up onstage with some wonderful musicians.

Here’s a list, that I will be updating as needed:

Thierry LeCoz – French Rockabilly legend, and great guy
Ernie Durwawa – Great Drummer, worked with the Texas Tornados, John Lee Hooker and many many others.
John X Reed – Lubbock legend, known for his session work, classic leads and his work with the late great Jessie Guitar Taylor
Speedy Sparks – Austin’s Bassist for the stars – he’s played with them all.
Chris Bolister – Singer songwriter for the UK, who winters in Playa Del Carmen, a great, great talent and a super guy.
Jubal Thompson – Currently in Colorado, simply the finest musician I have ever known…great songwriter, singer, and mind boggling guitarist.
Brent Parkin – Canadian Blues king, he has played with Gatemouth, BB, all the legends…few people play as fluid and sophisticated as Brent can.
The Freight Train Troubadours – Sal, Ace, Todd, Mikey, Chris…thanks guys!
Tyler Grass  – crazy good mandolin player ( and guitar…and who knows what else)
Cecil “Chico” Orapeza – drums, mando, guitar, vocals –
our buddy Chico sits in with us here and there and is one super
musician and great guy.

Places I have hit the stage (so far):

The Saxon Pub – South Austin’s premiere music venue
Evangeline Cafe – Cajun cafe and music venue owned by Curtis Clarke
Cypress Creek cafe – Wimberley, texas – great room
Alamo Draft House – Austin Movie house with booze and tunes!
Keith’s place – Playa Del Carmen, MX – live music pub
Rockin Tomato – Austin’s combo of Pizza and live music
Capt Dave’s Bad Boys – Playa Del Carmen – the stage is 50 yards from the gulf of Mexico…you can’t beat that!
Sams Town Point
– Manchaca, TX Honky Tonk
Leeann Athertons Full Moon Barn Dance – great austin event
Wendlefest – Smithville Texas – cool outdoor festival.

and more to come……

Gear Review – Oahu Tonemaster

Here’s my late 40’s early 50’s Oahu Tonemaster – I picked her up on ebay
about 10 months ago for $250.00 with the original HSC. The tuner pegs were shot, and the wiring was rough but the folks at the Vintage shop in Austin, TX got her back to life.

These babies have a huge, fat tone – sustain for hours and a great look.
The checkerboard binding, real metal frets and inlayed dots – plus the great hand rest/ string cover makes this steel the belle of the ball.

If you can grab one for under $500, I would do it.