Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sean McConnell’s The Walk Around EP

Good day!

I finally had to give in and buy Sean McConnell’s EP The Walk Around because my friends Jack and Brian would not stop talking about it. I imagine them listening to it in the background as they sob at each other on the phone each night.

Sean McConnell is originally from Boston, but seems to tour endlessly around Texas. His music is sort of a countrified rock, and has a strong songwriting pedigree, having penned songs for Brad Paisley, Meatloaf and Tim McGraw, among others.

He has two full-length albums out as well as The Walk Around EP, and in my opinion, this EP is best of the lot. And it comes down to how well the songs are written – these are six gems squeezed into only 23 minutes.

”Hold On” kicks off the EP quietly, and then builds into a strong melody with intelligent lyrics: a killer combination.

The next two tracks: "Say, Say, Say" and “The Walk Around” are both slickly written as well, and have to be great additions to his live show.

My favorite track on the EP is "Reckless Love", which is not only well-written but also shows that Sean’s singing is no joke. There is pure passion in this song, my friends.

"Bob Dylan (They Say No)" is more progressive/indie than the other tracks on the EP, but it still fits in well with the package. This is the tune that has the best chance of making it onto radio, in my opinion.

The last song on the EP is "Our Love And Our Souls" which is very good and has enough emotion to make me wish there were a couple more songs in the mix.

The Walk Around EP is only $5.94 on iTunes (the price of a large drink at Starbucks), and I consider it an essential part of any music collection. Download it today, and keep an eye on his touring schedule, as I hear his live show is not to be missed.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Argument for a Cheap Microphone: the Audio Technica M8000


I do a little live sound work, and when choosing the best microphone for the job I would ordinarily go for a Shure SM-57 or SM-58. They sound good, don’t give a lot of feedback, and they hold up really well.

But, they cost about $100 each, and many times it is not worth the risk of putting them out there for the unwashed masses to grab.

Huh? You’ve seen it before. The drunk lady tries the Roger Daltrey microphone swing during karaoke, or the best man fumbles the mike while making announcements, or the mike stand gets kicked over as young bands are hustling while loading or unloading during a festival or party. And do you need high fidelity for any of these gigs? Most likely not.

I have been using Audio Technica M8000 for a lot of jobs over the past year, and they are good enough for any of those situations. I have been steadily using 5 of them with no failures and no complaints from anybody that has used them.

The M8000 is a dynamic microphone with a hypercardioid polar pattern and frequency response of 50Hz–14kHz. They are covered by a one-year warranty from Audio Technica, which I have not needed as of yet.

You might look at the list price of $259 or the street price of $80 and say, ”no thanks.” But, these are often bundled into packages that make them a lot more attractive.

For example, you can pick up a deal on these Audio Technica microphones during Musician’s Friend Microphone Month sale. The package includes six M8000 microphones, six decent boom mic stands and six cables for $229 (with free shipping).

I have not given up my Shure microphones, but these budget mics make a lot of sense for what I do most of the time. Check them out if you get a chance.


Not the new logo...


Corey gave me the inspiration for another logo, but Mr. Hall's lawyers might call me on this one...


Monday, June 27, 2011

New Rex and the Bass Logo


Well, it's not really a new logo, because I never had one before. I thought the blog header was looking a tired, do I 'shopped together the headstock logo you see here.

The line art came from a Fender technical manual, and I used a few different fonts to put the lettering in. The capital "R" is Brush Script, the "e" and "x" are actually the Fender font, and I used a generic sans serif font for "AND THE BASS".

Let me know what you think (besides that Fender will send me a letter telling me to remove it).


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Leo Quan BADASS Bridges


I have owned scads of basses throughout the years that had Leo Quan BADASS replacement bridges on them, and I was think that maybe you folks would be interested in how they came to be and the differences between their different models.

In 1972 Glen Quan (Leo?) started constructing his own guitar bridges, as he wanted something more adjustable than the factory bridges that came on guitars of the day. Other musicians saw what he had done, and asked him to make bridges for their guitars too. He started die-casting more of these bridges and made his own market. Not much later he switched to milling them from a high-density zinc alloy, for considerably better precision.

One thing led to another, and by the end of the 1970s, every Fender bass on the planet had a BADASS bridge and a brass nut. Funny how all those collectible basses do not have them anymore…

Leo Quan sells guitar and bass bridges, but their bread and butter are the bass bridges. They have a few different models of bass bridges, and their website is a little vague, so here are few details about them:

Bass Bridge

This is their first BADASS, which attaches with 3 screws. It is not a direct replacement for anything, except for the Martin Basses that came equipped from the factory with these bridges. Geddy Lee put one on his Rickenbacker, which had to be an improvement over the mess of a bridge that 4001 basses come with. This is not the best bridge if you want to change out your Fender’s bridge.

Bass II Bridge

This is a direct replacement for 5-screw Fender bridges, and works on both Jazz and Precision basses with no modifications to the bass. Fender is using these bridges as an OEM parts for some of their basses, such as the Geddy Lee artist model.

Bass III Bridge

Heh. This one is not even shown on the Leo Quan website, which does not seem to have been updated since 2001. This is a direct for later model 3-screw Fender Bridges, and allows stringing thought the body. The Bass III bridges have grooved saddles, so no filing is needed.

Rumor has it that that Leo Quan is out of business, or pretty close to it. Many stores no longer have their Badass bridges in stock, and they seem to be going for stupidly prices on eBay. Smart money has it that their product line will soon be picked up by Fender, which makes sense as they use the bridges on some of their basses, and have an established parts distribution business and network.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

D’Addario ETB92 Nylon Tapewound Bass Strings

Como estas?

I’ve never been a fan of tapewound strings. It seemed like every bass that I have played with them sounded dull, and the strings never felt quite right because the gauges were different than normal roundwounds. But a friend of mine tried these D’Addario tapewounds, and really liked them, so I had to give them a shot.

The set that I tried is the D'Addario ETB92 Nylon Tapewound Bass Strings, which fit long-scale basses. I put these on a 1982 Fender JV Precision Bass that already played and sounded very good (with D’Addario roundwounds, BTW).

Upon stringing the bass up, I found out that D’Addario took care of one of my complaints. This flatwound set has normal string gauges: 0.050, 0.065, 0.085 and 0.105. For starters, this means that they fit well in my normal-sized nut (heh), and also that the tension and feel is closer to that of “normal” strings.

The outer layer is flattened black nylon, so they feel slicker than cat snot, and they look tough too. Playing the bass unplugged bass was a little surprising, as it was louder and more resonant than I was expecting. But I got a bigger surprise when I plugged it in. The strings are more dynamic than any other tapewounds I have played, and have a very round tone.

They are a winner and I am going to keep them on this bass. I am curious to see how they sound in a mix as well as how they age over time.

The list price for a set of D’Addario ETB92 Nylon Tapewound Bass Strings is $62.99, but you would be stupid to pay that much. Heck, D’Addario sells them on their own web site for $41.00. Your best bet would be to head over to Musician’s Friend or Guitar Center and pick up a set for $29.99.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Martin Strap Button


This may seem like the lamest product I have ever reviewed, but stick with me on this one. I had not seen one of these Martin strap buttons before I took the Martin factory tour awhile back, and I wish I had found them earlier. I bought one at their gift shop and it is maybe the best 6 bucks I have ever spent.

Most of my acoustic guitar playing is done while standing, so a strap is a must. Unfortunately, many acoustic guitars only have one strap button, so one has to improvise. On my cheaper acoustics I usually drill a hole at the heel of the neck to install a second button, but I have never had the stones to do that to one of my Martins. So I go with the old standard shoelace behind the nut and hope and pray that it does not come untied or break.

Well, this made in the USA Martin accessory works perfectly, and looks a bit more professional than a shoelace too. It installs easily: just thread it behind the strings by the nut, and button the ends together. Then a strap can be attached to the other button, and you are good to go.

The leather is a bit stiff when these are new, making them a bit harder to put on. Of course this makes it a bit harder for it to accidentally come loose as well.

When installed, there is a decidedly horizontal strap angle, but I did not have too much trouble adjusting to it. I wonder a bit about whether it is good to leave the suede part of this strap in contact with the finish on my headstock for extended periods of time. I will need to check with my more knowledgeable friends about this.

As I said earlier, the Martin strap buttons are around $6 ($5.95), and they come in fashionable black, tan or brown. You can find them through any of the major online retailers such as Musician’s Friend or Sam Ash.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

2008 Spector NS-2JA-R Re-issue Bass


Today we are looking at the NS-2JA-R, which is a 25th anniversary re-issue of the 1983 Spector NS-2JA. This is one of only 83 of these basses that were finished in glossy black. 83, because this is a re-issue of the 1983 model – savvy? They made 83 each in glossy white and natural, so there were only a total of 249 built in the Czech Republic.

This is a 34-inch scale bolt-on neck bass with 24 frets. The frets are level and did not need anything when it came out of the box. It has simple dot inlays on the rosewood fretboard, and check out that brass nut! It is almost like we are still in the 1970s! The tuners are first-rate Schaller machines.

The maple body is carved into the traditional Spector contoured shape with a highly erotic upper horn. There is a chrome Leo Quan Badass bridge, which has always been a favorite of mine. The body is loaded with a pair of active EMG pickups, which are wired with EMG BT active tone controls (2 volume and 2 tone). The lower cutaway goes pretty far into the neck joint, so there is good access to the upper frets.

This bass was one of the first shipped, arriving in the US in March 2008. And, it is a real winner. The neck is very thin and fast, and the tone is super punchy with tons of mids. There is plenty of sustain too, if that is what you are looking for. Another bit of good news is that this bass is quite light, despite its maple body, coming in at 8 pounds, 6 ounces.

These basses had a list price of $2099 when they came out, and a street price of $1575. They did not sell very well, and there are still a few new ones to be found at dealers for a little under $1500. You could do a lot worse for your money.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Epiphone Joe Perry Boneyard Les Paul


I am as much of a guitar snob as the next guy and am often quick to sniff at a cheap instrument and buy something more expensive on general principle, but this imported Epiphone is no joke. Today’s pick is the Joe Perry Epiphone Boneyard model which was introduced in 2004, and were discontinued a few years ago.

Joe Perry is an American icon and guitar hero (to me, anyway), and I’ve had a couple of his Gibson signature models over the years. But when I saw his Boneyard Epiphone back in 2005 I had to head down to Guitar Center and try one out.

And I was amazed, especially when comparing it to the guitars that Gibson is crapping out of its American division.

You can see that the Boneyard is a Les Paul model, with its traditional body shape and layout of components. And it is a distinctive-looking Les Paul with a super-flamed out tiger maple top that has been tinted orange-y to really bring out the grain.

The list of specs for this guitar is as impressive as its top. It has a mahogany body and neck that have both been finished in satin black. The rosewood fretboard has trapezoidal inlays and the same cream-colored binding as the body. The tuners are Epiphone-marked Kluson replicas, and the bridge is standard Les Paul fare. And check out that juvenile Boneyard logo on the headstock!

They did not bother to include a pickguard with these, which was probably the right choice given the looks of this guitar.

The electronics are a step beyond what you would find on other Epiphones, as they installed Gibson USA Burstbuckers on the Boneyard. They chose to put a model 2 in the rhythm position and a more gnarly model 3 at the bridge. An extra-cool feature is if you put that orange pickup selector tip in the middle position (both pickups on) you will find that the pickups are wired out of phase (ala Peter Green)

This is a solid collection of parts, and Epiphone’s Chinese factory did a fab job of sticking them together. I am continually astonished that the public continues buying $2500 Gibson Les Pauls with lumpy fretboards and hillbilly smile frets when there are much better alternatives out there for less money.

This Boneyard had a fantastic neck with perfect frets and a pretty low action right out of the box. It has a C profile and its thickness is right in the middle between the 50’s and 60’s neck profiles that are so popular. This translates into a lot smoother playing experience for me, which is worth a bunch because I am a horrible guitarist.

The tone is killer if you are looking for the classic blues/rock sound, especially with the selector in the middle position. The out of phase Burstbuckers are just magical in this guitar. It has more of a processed sound than I was expecting in the middle position, almost like there is a wah or phaser in the loop. The other positions provide traditional Les Paul sounds, so you can get plenty of overdrive and crunch.

This one is pretty light for a Les Paul, coming in just a hair over 8 pounds, which is lighter than the Telecaster I am playing right now. Then again, maybe that says more about how ungodly heavy my Telecaster is.

When the Epiphone Boneyard guitars were new their street price was around $700 (with no case), which is pricy for an Epiphone Les Paul. But, as I said earlier, these guitars were discontinued, and they seem to be very hard to find now. I have not seen any pop up on eBay recently, so the guys that bought them must be holding on to them.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kala Tenor Ukulele KA-JTE-M


Today we are looking at a super Kala KA-JTE-Mahogany tenor archtop ukulele. This is a pretty rare one in the now-discontinued clear mahogany finish. Most of these you see are finished in various burst colors or are black.

I am impressed by the sound and the build quality of this ukulele, and even more by the price, which is quite reasonable.

It is a pleasant-looking ukulele, with a glossy clear finish, and classy mother-of-pearl body and fretboard binding. There is a cute mother-of-pearl palm tree inlay on the fretboard too.

The back and sides are mahogany and the spruce top is tinted to match. The neck appears to be mahogany and it has a rosewood fretboard.

The sealed tuners are nice quality and hold well. The bridge is made of rosewood with a synthetic saddle.

This model comes standard with the Shadow P3 pickup with volume and tone controls. The electronics are quiet and reproduce the uke’s sounds accurately.

The workmanship on this one is good: all of the joints are solid, and the fretwork is nice. The frets are level and the edges are neat.

It is nice and light, weighing in at a featherweight 1 pound, 11 ounces according to my scale.

So, overall it is a nicely-made ukulele that is made with solid materials. But, it sounds good and plays well too! It has a sweet, balanced tone. Due to the f-holes it has a little less volume than a conventional ukulele, but it still has some good low-end tone. It is pleasant to play, and would be great to gig with if you plug it in.

The MSRP on these is $395, with a street price of about $277. You will not find a better electric ukulele for the money.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bass Amplifier Thoughts


I am as guilty as most when it comes to searching for the perfect tone from my bass amplifiers. My experiments over the past 25 years of this have resulted in dozens of different rig changes from tube to solid state to hybrid, to all different sizes and types of drivers/cabinets, and lots of effects pedals. But I think I have finally become more realistic about what to expect.

This is probably because during the past year I have started to do more work as a sound man. From what I have seen, it does not make a ton of difference what bass amplifier is being used as long as it is loud and clean.

A friend of mine recently summed up the situation perfectly:

”I think testing amps and tone on their own is pure wankery. It's really all about how your sound sits in the mix with everything else. Nice heavy bass sound with an improperly tuned bass drum? Mud. Instant mud. Likewise if you've got a keyboard player with a severe over affection for his left hand.

If you want to sound great with the band, you have to consider your sound as part of the whole.”

And it is true, you can agonize over your tone all you want, but just because it sounds good in the store is no guarantee that it work on stage. Maybe you should agonize over whether you can haul it up two flights of stairs, or if your amp is going to shut down when it gets hot because it is too old or too temperamental (i.e. made in Italy).

Plus, remember that if you are playing at a big enough venue, your bass signal is going directly into the board and are your tone is going to be at the mercy of the sound man anyway.

So, my advice is to get a reliable set-up that puts out tons of power, and is light enough that you can lug it to the gig from the parking lot 2 blocks away. Of course, if you are just going to play it at home, you should find what sounds best for you, and maybe that 8x10 cabinet is perfect for you.

Anyway, feel free to turn up the fire and send me some hate mail, my tube amp aficionado friends…


Thursday, June 2, 2011

1982 Fender JV Precision Bass


This 1982 JV Fender has become my new #1 bass, usurping my 1983 black JV Precision Bass.

Perhaps I had better explain the whole JV thing. JV stands for “Japanese Vintage”, and was the serial number prefix for these instruments. This was the first series of guitars that were built for Fender in Japanese factories, and they were produced between 1982 and 1984.

These instruments were constructed at the Fuji Gen-Gakki factory in Matsumoto, Japan. This was the same factory that was building Ibanez and Greco guitars.

The JV-series instruments have become very collectible, and were built using the original blueprints to be authentic replicas of pre-CBS Fender models. They got the full treatment, including vintage-style tuners and cloth covered harnesses, as well as the original body contours and neck radii.

Our subject bass today is a non-export JV Precision Bass, model PB57-95. You can decipher the model number pretty easily: PB = Precision Bass, 57 = 1957 reissue, 95 = 95,000YEN (original price). There was also a cheaper model, the PB-57-70 (70,000YEN) , which I have a couple examples of. I imported it from Japan a while back, and it was original meant for the Japanese market.

The PB57-95 has a few improvements over the PB57-70. These include US pickups and pots, as well as the anodized pickguard. You have to get something for 25,000YEN.

This bass is finished in 2-tone sunburst with a maple fretboard. put the US made Fenders of the time to shame, and therefore were not imported to the United States. I brought this example back from Japan on one of my business trips.

The finish is original, and it shows a lot of wear, especially some buckle scars on the back. But, it is a true relic, showing 29 years of honest wear, and not some guy’s contrived idea of what a “relic” should look like.

It has the original electronics, and I must say, I love the cloth-covered wiring.

The neck is very nice. The vintage-style reverse tuners work fine, none are bent and they do not bind. The frets are good, with some wear, but there are still years of life left in the frets. The neck is true, and the truss rod works freely. There were some marks on the back of the neck, but my tech sanded them down, and it feels great. At the same time he replaced the truss rod nut, as it was kind of chewed up.

I think the bass is unmodified, with the exception of the knobs. These basses usually came with cheesy looking knobs, and these look a step nicer.

The serial number is JV04085, with a neck date of 6/22/82. This is only two months after the beginning of JV production. It is fairly light, coming in at around 8 pounds, 11 ounces, according to my scale.

It plays very well, and my guitar tech with La Bella Jamerson flats and it sounds killer.

When plucking the open strings with the bass unplugged the tone is rich and there is a strong resonance. Playing unplugged there is no buzz at all, even though the action is low. The strings are big (.011 to .052) so they require a little more strength to play, but they are still very comfortable.

Plugged the bass in tone is relatively bright, because these are relatively new strings , but they will darken up as time goes on and provide the thumpy tone of the 1960s that everybody and their brother is looking for.

I might be selling the black 1983 JV Precision Bass, so drop me a line if you are interested. It is a peach too!