Saturday, December 31, 2016

Rex and the Bass 2016 Year in Review

Happy New Year’s Eve!

This wraps up my 7th year of blogging, and Rex and the Bass is still plodding along. I appreciate the support of my readers, and I read all of the comments that you post on this site. If nobody looked at these pages, I would lose motivation and move on to something else.

2016 is done and this page is on the verge of a few significant milestones: the blog has almost 1,000 posts, and Rex and the Bass is rapidly approaching 1,000,000 page views. Wow!

The side project of a blog has led to a few other side projects – writing gigs for Blues Blast Magazine and Chicago Blues Guide. Many thanks to their editors for having faith in me! It was a bit of a stretch this year as I was finishing up my master’s thesis, but somehow nothing went off the tracks.

As in previous years, here is a list of the top ten most read posts of all time for Rex and the Bass:

1. Apple A1121 iPod Hi-fi

2. Fender Jazz Bass Special Re-issue

3. Crystal Castles (2010) Album Review

4. Philip Kubicki Factor Basses

5. Little Dot Mark III Headphone Amplifier Review

6. Memory Lane: Pulp Fiction Soundtrack

7. Art and Lutherie Ami Cedar Parlour Acoustic Guitar

8. Gallien-Krueger 400RB Bass Amplifier Review

9. Fender Jazz Bass Special

10. Honda EU2000i Portable Generator Review

I have always said that I would stop writing this blog when it is no longer fun. Well, I am not there yet, so I look forward to another year of sharing with you!


Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Deb Ryder – Let it Rain


This CD review was originally published in the May 7, 2015 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Deb Ryder – Let it Rain | Album Review

Bejeb Music

11 tracks / 46:54

Sometimes an album comes along that just has everything going for it: solid songwriting, talented personnel that click with each other, and top-shelf production values. Deb Ryder’s sophomore solo album, Let it Rain, checks all of these boxes and then some. This disc proves that her excellent debut CD was no fluke, and that she definitely has a role in the future of blues music in the United States.

Deb Ryder is originally from Illinois, where she got an introduction to the Chicago music scene courtesy of her father, an in-demand musician and club owner. Her family moved to Los Angeles, where she often had the opportunity to sing at the Topanga Corral (owned by her step-father), opening for great artists such as Big Joe Turner, Charlie Musselwhite, and Taj Mahal, as well as her mentor, Etta James. Fast forward a few years, and you will find her still in the City of Angels, and making a name for herself as a powerful singer and songwriter.

For Let it Rain, Ryder could not have done any better than having Grammy-winner Tony Braunagel come on board as producer and drummer. They were joined in the famed Ultratone Studios in Studio City by bassist Ric Ryder (her husband), Mike Finnigan on the keys, Johnny Lee Schell and Kirk Fletcher on guitar, and the killer horn section of Lee Thornburg and Lon Price. These folks are all first-call musicians, and there are also a few guest artists that joined in to really make this a special project.

Like her debut, Might Just Get Lucky, this album is made up solely of songs that were written by Deb, and you will find that she is a very good songwriter and she does not limit herself to one sound. This record is a journey from Illinois to Louisiana, and she nails the blues sound as it is found in both of these places, as well as everywhere in between. The set opens strongly with “That’s Just How It Is” and the band is tight with killer leads from Fletcher’s guitar, and Finnigan setting the tone with his Hammond B3 as Ric Ryder and Braunagel hold the bottom end down. Deb’s voice is worthy of this fine accompaniment, as her voice is powerful and dripping with soul.

The next track brings the well-arranged horns and Schell’s guitar into the mix with the cool Latin-tinged shuffle, “Can’t Go Back Again.” This song is backed up by the swinging “You Won’t Be True” and gloriously dark “Guilty As Sin,” couple of tunes about a woman done wrong. A tasty bonus is some righteous harmonica work from guest artist Kim Wilson on the latter. You know, you just cannot beat lines like, “You’ve been talking in your sleep, and Betsy ain’t my name.” Ryder’s timing and phrasing are spot on as she adds plenty of drama to the proceedings.

Deb Ryder is not afraid of jumping into the deep end of the pool and she wrote a couple of heartfelt gospel and soul tunes, “Cry Another Tear” and “Hold Your Lamp High” to really change things up. Her voice can take on all of the genres that she tried on this disc, and these two songs are no exception. Of course, she is helped out by her steady backline and some wonderful work from Finnigan on the organ. This record really delivers the goods, and things never get dull!

On “Ma Misere,” Braunagel lays down a heavy Cajun beat as he is joined by David Fraser on accordion, and none other than Albert Lee on guitar. There are definitely benefits to recording in LA, and having Mr. Telecaster just down the hill from you in Malibu has to be near the top of the list. After this super-fun song, the disc closes out with “Round and Around,” a more bare-bones Delta and gospel-inspired track that features lovely resonator guitar from Schell and some nice harp courtesy of Wilson. This was a wise choice to end the set, as it brings the listener back to the roots of blues music.

There is not a miscue through all eleven of these tracks and kudos for this studio magic need to go out to Schell, who recorded and mixed the album.

Deb Ryder’s Let it Rain is the real deal, and we will certainly be hearing more from her. Though you will certainly love this disc, keep in mind that her talents go beyond the studio. Judging by her show last month at Malarkey’s in Long Beach she is a tremendous live performer too, so you should be sure to check out her live show if you are around the Southland -- it will definitely be a good use of your time and money!


Friday, December 30, 2016

IK Multimedia MODO BASS Plug-in Review


As a bass player I am skeptical of any electronic device that wants to replace me, but I was still excited to try out IK Multimedia’s new MODO BASS modeling software. You see, I have used their amplifier modeling programs before and was blown away, so I expected them to do a fine job with this plug-in too. I was not disappointed!

IK Multimedia touts a total bass experience, with the ability of the user to choose their own bass, amplifier and effects, but it goes much further than this, with options for different fingerstyles, and even choices for how fresh you want the strings to be. It is hard to find anything that their engineers missed, really. This goes way beyond what other companies have provided for the bass modeling software. Way beyond.

To get started, I downloaded MODO BASS onto my 2014 MacBook Pro, and it installed without a hitch, with the program taking up less than 200 megs of memory. From there it was time to mess around with the program and see what I could make it do. There is not much in the way of a help function, but you will not need one. This program is like using a smart phone – you can figure it out by yourself. If you cannot figure it out on your own then you are going to have way bigger problems with the rest of the process for making your electronic music.

Let’s see what MODO BASS can do!

First off, you get to choose a bass, and there are a dozen popular models to choose from: two P Basses, two Jazz Basses, Hofner Beatle Bass, EB-O, Warwick, Rickenbacker, Music Man SR5, Yamaha RB5, Gibson Thunderbird, and Ibanez Soundgear. Some of the names have been changed, probably due to licensing issues. Surely there will be some people out there who will say, “Why isn't there a _____ bass?” Well, maybe because whatever you are looking for isn't terribly popular. Maybe those really picky people will need to practice and play their Steinberger, Dingwall, or Wal straight into the board…

But you do not have to be done once you choose your bass. You can add active electronics and do unholy things with pickup selections. Do you want a Piezo or two P-bass pickups in your Jazz Bass? No problem! Maybe you want to throw a Musicman pickup in that Hofner bass – why not? This program will make it fit! Then you can choose the number of strings (4, 4 drop D, or 5), flat or round-wound strings, old or new strings, and even your reference pitch. You might also want to set your action: High, low or standard are available. I do not see a setting for eBay purchase with nasty fret buzz or broken trussrod. Thank goodness!

There are also options for how you would like to play this bass, and you can pick it, pluck it, or slap it. From there you can dial in how much muting you want, how aggressively you want to strike the strings, and how much you want them to ring. There are even choices for whether you want to use open strings and if you want to add in that roundwound zing when you slide from note to note.

Then you can add in effects. After going through the bass selection process, you might be a little disappointed, as there are only seven effects to choose from (compressor, distortion, octave, chorus, envelope filter, graphic EQ, and delay) and only four slots to put them in. You do not get to choose different brand of effects, but there are full controls for each one. The amp choices are also a bit more slim, but this plug-in is obviously more about the bass that the rest of the equipment. You can choose from solid state or tube. Fair enough.

Once again – all of this is really easy to accomplish as the interface is really intuitive. When seeing it all written out it may seem daunting, but it practice it is really cool.

When it comes time to pay, there are a few choices of how you want to input the note. You can simply click on the strings between the frets, or you can use the piano keyboard at the bottom of the screen. My preferred method is the keyboard but you experience may vary – that why it is neat that the designers provided a couple of choices.

I have owned almost every bass that they modeled in this software, and I agree that instruments sound like the real deal, even with subtleties such as the difference in tone between the ash and alder Fender basses. The sounds are universally warm and live, and do not sound the least bit contrived. Of course there are basses I would like to see added (making me just like the people I ranted about a couple of paragraphs ago), but there is more than enough variety, and there are sounds for every type of music you will want to record.

As far as fitting this program into my life, I do still love having a bass in my hands, but there is definitely a place in my world for this plug in. I dig MODO BASS because I don't always have an analog bass on hand. This program allows me to experiment and put together bass lines in airports, hotels, and endless overseas flights.

Overall, I think IK Multimedia’s MODO BASS is a winner: the company delivered on all it promised, with a clean interface that ensures that great bass sounds are just a click away. And it is not super expensive, coming in at $299, or $199 with crossgrade pricing if you are one of their loyal customers. Check out their free trial – I think you will dig it too! You can find more information at


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

1989 Ibanez EX405 Electric Bass Review

Hi there!

I have always had a place in my heart for oddball imported guitars and basses, and the subject of today’s blog post is a fine example. This is an Ibanez EX 405 bass that was made in Japan in 1989, and it is a pretty cool instrument (in my opinion, anyway).

Specs are similar to what you would find in many Fender bass copies that wer made overseas in the late 1980s. The basswood body is carved into a pseudo-precision bass shape with really pointy horns, and covered in a very pretty pearl red finish. The maple neck has a slim jazz bass profile (1.5-inch nut width) and a rosewood fretboard that has 22 medium-sized frets set into it. And, of course, it has a pointy headstock. How could you go wrong?

The equipment list is fairly typical until you get to the electronics package, which is unique as the folks at Ibanez chose to load it up with a pair of passive split-coil P-bass pickups. These are wired through two volume pots and a tone pot, which is fairly intuitive if you have ever played a jazz bass before.

This bass is in great shape, but it is not entirely original. A previous owner upgraded the wimpy chrome-plated tuners and bridge, and changed over to black hardware at the same time. This resulted in a beefier bridge and tuners that work well, as well as a neck plate that is kind amateurishly painted in a nubbly black-ish finish. Since this plate is on the back of the instrument, it does not bother me very much.

The finish is clean, there are not many dings despite the softness of basswood, which give it a total weight of only 7 pounds, 8 ounces. Despite its age there is little fret wear, and it plays very well. As far as tone goes, it ends up being pretty much like a louder precision bass, so there are no surprises here. I dig it because it looks different, but it will probably not be sticking around too long as aside from the looks it does not really stand out sonically. Drop me a line if you are interested!


Monday, December 26, 2016

Sunday, December 25, 2016

DR Pro DJ Laptop Stand Review


When I take a laptop to a gig I like to have it closer to eye height, so a laptop stand comes in pretty handy. I recently picked up a DR Pro model DRDJLS1 DJ laptop stand, and I thought I would let you know how it is working out.

The DRDJLS1 is billed as being easily adjustable, and I am not going to argue with this very much. The way that is constructed allows the height to be adjusted from 8 inches to 12 inches, and the width from 9 inches to 11 inches. There is also flexibility in mounting this unit, as it can be set on a table, or mounted to a case with sturdy clamps that are included in the kit. An added bonus is a removable shelf that is a handy place to put accessories, like effect pedals, hard drives, and whatnot. Whatnot.

Assembling this laptop stand was pretty straightforward, as all of the parts were well-organized in the box and the instructions were pretty clear. The only tool that was needed for assembly was a Philips-head screwdriver, and may of the pieced screwed together with plastic knobs. Everything lines up ok, and a lot of extra screws were included. This is obviously a quality piece of equipment, made of heavier steel than other stands I have seen on the market. Of course this means it is heavy, and it comes in at around 5 ½ pounds, which makes it not very fun to cart around.

This bulk makes the DR Pro laptop stand really solid, and I am not worried about it falling apart. I am annoyed by the lack of adjustment for the angles of the laptop stand and the shelf. Also, it does not easily break down. It actually has to be disassembled if you want it easier to stow for your gigs. Although it is well made, there are only a certain number of times you can unscrew things before the threads start to wear out and the plastic knobs start to crack.

So, this stand is not exactly portable, and it is pretty much delegated to my office, where it does a wonderful job of getting my laptop and docking station off of my desk. What I use it for

The DR Pro DJ laptop stand is a pretty good piece of equipment, but its weight, the lack of angle adjustment, and the inability to quickly break it down will relegate this to home use only for me. The marketing of this stand exacerbates this situation, as none of the sellers I found online mention any useful details about the unit, such as its actual dimensions or its weight.

But still, it is really nice for home of office use, and if you are looking for one, it will be worth your time to research the best deal. The list price for the DRDJLS1 is $99.99, making it one of the more expensive stands on the market. But, they sell on Amazon for $$67.97, and I have seen them on sale for as low as $30, which is a pretty darned good deal, as long as you don't need to haul it around on a regular basis


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Los Tijuana Blues – Thunderbird Motel

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the April 26, 2015 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Los Tijuana Blues – Thunderbird Motel

Self Release

10 tracks / 30:17

Los Tijuana Blues is a band out of Valencia, Spain that has found inspiration from the Chess Records and Excello Records catalogs of the 1950 and 1960s, and added a healthy dose of Tex-Mex style to end up with the Spanish equivalent of the whacky North Carolina band, Southern Culture on the Skids. Their first album, Thunderbird Motel, is a fun and fascinating blend of blues-rock, rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and surf rock.

Guitarist Javier Tijuana founded the band a few years back, and he is joined on this release by vocalist Vince Lewinsky, and a rhythm section of J.C. Mota on the bass and Alexis Alemany behind the drums. Coming in at 30 minutes, this is a short album (almost an EP), and it is made up of ten tracks, eight of them originals written by Tijuana. None of these songs lasts more than four minutes, so you will not find any epic guitar solos or psychedelic experimentation here.

This quartet hits hard right from the start with “Sweet Evil Mama” and Javier’s jangly Telecaster hammers this catchy blues rocker into your head. Get used to it, you are going to hear a lot of this over the next nine songs. Lewinsky’s vocals are raw and enthusiastic while Alemany’s dry snare keeps the beat with precision.

After the opener they run through the two cover tunes, both of which they put their own spin on. Bobby Fuller’s 1964 song “Wine Wine Wine” has been roughed up into a country rocker, which is a debatable improvement over the original. And the Midnighters’ “Open Up Your Backdoor” loses the piano and do-wop and ends up as a slightly faster blues rocker. Javier is quite a good guitarist, and he gets to cut loose a bit on this track, which ends up being one of the standouts from Thunderbird Motel.

After some straight-up blues (“Last in Line”) and a little rhythm and blues (“Callin’ Me Blues”), Los Tijuana Blues gives a quick nod to their Spanish heritage. This break starts with an instrumental “Corrido Amoroso,” which is a Latin-tinged surf rock tune, then segues into “Dices Que Te Alegras,” the only song from the disc that is sung in Spanish. When these lyrics are presented with old-style reverb-soaked guitar the effect is mesmerizing, and it turns vintage-feeling rock and roll into something special.

Lewinsky croons on the swinging “Caught by the Tail,” showing a smoothness that has not appeared previously on the album, while Tijuana matches him with slick chords and a very pretty guitar solo. But they keep changing the tempo and feel from track-to-track so the listener never gets bored, and after the Texas boogie of “She’s a Hot One” the band finishes up their set with a another surf instrumental, “Blue Monkey.” Before you know it the album is over.

Unfortunately, there are a few hitches along the way. For starters, for ten bucks it would definitely be good to get more than a half hour of music. Also, the album is mixed with really heavy guitar and vocals, so much that the kick drum is lost and Mota’s bass is very hard to hear, either through speakers or headphones. That being said, it is still a fun record with very catchy tunes that would be a great soundtrack for your next cookout.

Los Tijuana Blues is off to a good start and they have created their own distinctive sound that should have staying power. Check out a few of their songs from Thunderbird Motel on iTunes, and see what you think!

Bob Coburn: 1948 to 2016

I am gutted, another influence from my youth has passed. Rest in peace, Bob.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Journey of Faded Gold Hardware


My most recent trip overseas was fruitful, as I found two pretty slick basses that you just won’t see very often in the United States. They were both made in Japan, and I managed to pick up the pair and still come well under the customs allowance. Of course, it made packing for the trip home a little more challenging…

First is a 1986 Fender Jazz Bass Special, model PJM-65R/SWH, a medium scale instrument in a cool metallic green with a matching headstock. It is loaded up with a killer factory electronics package, and it is a model I have never seen before. I found this bass at Ishibashi in Sakae.

Second is a 1984 Aria Pro II bass, similar to the Wedge model but with the tuners on the headstock. This thing was dirt-cheap and even included the funky factory soft case. This one came from a Hard-off secondhand store.

Full reviews of both of these are in the works, but I thought I would share the good news!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Blueheart Revival – Stone Feathers


This CD review was originally published in the April 16, 2015 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Blueheart Revival – Stone Feathers

Self release

9 tracks / 46:03

It is always fun when a band goes outside the box and adds tangible elements from other types of music to an established genre, and blues is no exception. Blueheart Revival does this well, combining their blend of blues, funk, soul and rock with solid musicianship to create their own niche in the music world.

Blueheart Revival is a Washington, D.C. based band that brings a lot of original material to their listeners, as their debut LP, Stone Feathers, has eight original tracks and only one cover tune. This five-piece band formed in 2012, put out an EP in 2013, and is fronted by Bobby Thompson on lead vocals and guitar, with local hero Tommy Lepson on keys, Colin Thompson (no relation) on guitar, Kurt Kratch on bass, and Gary Crockett behind the drum kit.

Despite their almost Yankee origins, there is a southern rock feel to the first track, Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Early in the Morning.” There is no shortage of hearty Hammond B3 from Lepson, and the two Thompsons lay down some righteous guitar riffs, including masterful slide work. For this lone cover tune on the album, they reworked the original into a more modern tune and did it just right, making it one of the standout tracks on the album. It is always cool to get off to a strong start!

The second song, “On Her Wings Again,” is also solid and things gets funky with wah on the rhythm guitar and a neat dry sound to Crockett’s drums. The backline holds this song together with a tough groove of bass and drums under Bobby Thompson’s growly vocals. A cool element on this track is the guest percussion work by Leon Mobley of Ben Harper’s Innocent Criminals. If you are not familiar with his work you should check out his bio, as he is a fascinating cat who has a diverse musical background.

This quintet can also cut loose with a blues rock jam or two, as found in “Until We Shine” which wins the heaviest guitar riff of the day award. This sounds like the kind of song that was refined from a Tuesday night blues jam where everything went right. “Setting Sun” has a similar feel, but this time with a little more classic blues influence combined with the hard rocking beat, and terrific vocal harmonies between Thompson and Crockett.

Lepson takes the helm on “Consider Me,” bringing his hearty vocals and strong organ work to the party. This song has more of a rhythm and blues vibe, and this more laid-back feel allows the meaning of the words to come forward, and shows the mature songwriting skills of Blueheart Revival. This also goes for the sole acoustic track on the disc, “Get it by the Grace,” which has Delta and gospel influences, plus a bigger than expected sound thanks to the stereo effect of the two acoustic guitars and the rich vocal harmonies.

This release finishes off with the two most polished tracks on Stone Feathers, and they are also the longest songs, which is all right because they are both pretty awesome. The title track is a radio-friendly with a catchy guitar melody and the story of a girl who is hard to connect with. And the closer, “Morning Stranger” has a crazy slow funk-rock AOR mood that takes advantage of every vintage effect that they did not find a place for anywhere else on the record (and that is a good thing).

Stone Feathers is a fun album with no two songs that sound alike, and it certainly never gets boring. Blueheart Revival put together a strong debut, and they are not sitting still. They are putting together a gig schedule, and are releasing a live EP with three tracks that were recorded in November at the their CD release show at the IOTA Club & Cafe in Arlington, Virginia. If this album is any indicator of what their live show is like, the EP should be a good buy too!


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Press Release from IK Multimedia for MODO BASS!


Check out this press release from IK Multimedia – I am stoked to get a chenace to try out this new bass modeling software!

November 30, 2016 - IK Multimedia, the pioneer in analog effects modeling, is pleased to announce the release of MODO BASS®, the new breakthrough physical modeling technology that brings a completely new level of realism and playability to the world of virtual bass instruments. MODO BASS is a customizable physically modeled virtual bass instrument that recreates the sound of the electric bass and how it's played in real time - from all of the physical instrument components, the human technique of how the instrument is played, to the entire sound signal chain with effects and amplifiers.

Unlike traditional sample-based virtual instruments, MODO BASS utilizes modal synthesis technology and an ultra-optimized sound engine to model each string as a nonlinear resonator - the string's acoustic behavior is determined by its physical parameters as well as by the interaction of the string with fretboard, body and pick-ups of the instrument. The action of the player is then modeled as a nonlinear physical interaction with specific areas on the string surface. Then using IK's cutting edge analog modeling expertise, the amp and effects rig of the electric bass is added to the sound chain. This gives MODO BASS the ability to create hyper-realistic sound in real time.

Every electric bass sound imaginable

MODO BASS contains a collection of 12 physically modeled iconic electric basses that span the history of bass sound in recorded music - more bass models than available in most other virtual instruments. Models include "60s P-Bass" based on an Alder body 60s era Fender Precision Bass®, "70's P-Bass" based on an Ash body Fender Precision Bass®, "70's J-Bass" based on an Alder body Fender Jazz Bass®; "Modern J-Bass" based on an Ash body Fender Jazz Bass®, "Devil Bass" based on Gibson® EB-0; "Bass Man 5" based on Music Man® StingRay 5-string; "Rick n' Bass" based on Rickenbacker® 4003; "Studio Bass" based on Yamaha® RB5; "Violin Bass" based on a Hofner® Violin Bass, "Thunder Bass" based on a Gibson® Thunderbird, "Japan Bass" based on an Ibanez® Soundgear, and "Flame Bass" based on Warwick® Streamer.

Every detail of each bass has been meticulously analyzed and modeled to capture their true sonic character; the shape and type, the wood used for the body and neck construction, the hardware components, the original onboard electronics and controls - every aspect and detail has been recreated to provide the highest degree of authenticity of the original instrument. But the sounds available with MODO BASS extend far beyond the 12 modeled basses - with the available customization features, users can craft virtually every electric bass sound imaginable. MODO BASS is able to produce an unmatched and unlimited palette of bass sounds because everything can be customized.

Pluck, Slap or Pick - modeled playing styles

Once the bass has been selected, players can choose from 3 playing styles - pluck, slap or pick - and control parameters of each style and how they influence the sound. Adjustments can be made to the force applied to the strings, the position of the hand, the direction of the stroke, the fingers used to play the instrument and how the strings are approached, the impact of the thumb slap and the finger pull on the string and even the thickness of the pick and style of its attack. Every aspect of playing style has been modeled as a non-linear interaction with the strings to provide a dynamic, ever-changing sound output.

String Customization

IK painstakingly studied and recreated all of the factors that affect string tone and performance. Players can choose the number of strings on the bass, the construction type and material of the strings (round or flat wound), the gauge and age, plus the physical action height of above the fretboard. Each of these options contributes its own character to the output of the bass and introduces realism never before heard in a virtual instrument.

Custom pickup configuration

There are 20 iconic bass pickups from which to choose that can be freely interchanged and added to the instrument - up to 2 pickups per bass. Users can change the type of pickups used, neck or bridge single coil or humbuckers, and their physical location under the strings can be moved freely for unlimited playing and tonal variations - a feature virtually impossible in the physical world. MODO BASS also gives players the ability to mix in the sound of an under-bridge piezo pickup for added resonance and top end. Switching from Passive to Active electronics option also enables a 3-band parametric EQ to fine-tune the pickup output tone.

Customize FX and Amp choices

With MODO BASS, players have full control over the post-instrument signal path as well and get 7 bass stomp boxes and two classic bass amplifiers derived from IK's AmpliTube flagship software. Stomp box effects include an Octaver, Distortion, Chorus, Compressor, Delay, Envelope Filter or Graphic EQ. Each stomp box gives players full control over the effect applied to the signal, parameter adjustment and overall output volume into the next effect. Also available is a classic all-tube amplifier and 1x15 cab, or a solid-state model with a 4x10 cab.

Expressive control in real time

MODO BASS provides MIDI control of critical parameters that can be automated in real time. With the MIDI Control section, players control and adjust the application of vibrato, the playing style, the application of Mute technique and the amount of slide technique applied while playing. The frequency of the vibrato, the amount of the bend, plus the amount of slide and detach noise while playing can all be controlled in real time on the fly.

Keyswitching in MODO BASS allows players to create amazingly real techniques like slides and percussive ghost notes. Users can switch on the fly between chord mode and note mode, the type of stroke used for playing, the fingers used and the method of playing, which provides the ability to completely customize the sound in real time.

Pricing and availability

MODO BASS is available now from the IK Multimedia online store for a special introductory price of $/€149.99* until December 4, 2016. After that date, MODO BASS will be $/€299.99* and a crossgrade will be available for $/€199.99 ** to qualified users.

*All prices excluding taxes.

**Any previous purchase of an IK Multimedia product with a value of $/€99.99 or more qualifies for crossgrade pricing.

For more information, please visit:

To see MODO BASS in action, watch the videos:

Stay tuned for my review!


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Acoustic G10 Lead Series Guitar Amplifier Review


Acoustic brand amplifiers have been around since the late 1960s when Steve Marks and his dad founded the company from their shop on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. They made huge amps that were popular with major artists of the time, and have sort of plodded along since then, and they currently sell mostly low-end amps that are not a whole lot different than everything else on the market. Today we are looking at their G10 Lead Series amplifier, the smallest model in a new line-up that extends up to the G120 DSP (which is a 120-watt amp with four 12-inch speakers).

The Acoustic G10 is described by the company as being“ideal for solo practice or small band rehearsal.” I guess this is mostly true: it is fine for solo practice, and would work for a rehearsal – if you put a microphone in front of it and put it through a larger amplifier. This is a budget model 10-watt solid-state amp with an 8-inch speaker, so you just are not going to be able to move that much air and have it sound nice. Not that this is a bad unit, but you have to know your limitations.

This is a very portable unit, measuring 14’ by 7″ by 14″, and weighing just a touch over 14 pounds. The G10 is very simple to use, and it has two switchable channels that both sound pretty good. The lead channel provides volume and gain, and the rhythm channel has a volume control. They both share a 3-band EQ with a mid-range shift switch. Also on the control panel is a single input, the channel switch, a 1/8-inch aux input, and a 1/8-inch headphone out. This makes for a pretty awesome practice amp set-up. That is about it, except for the power switch on the front and the IEC power socket on the back. There is no footswitch or jack for channel switching, no effects, and no aux speaker out.

Build quality on this thing is good. The vinyl is neatly applied, and the wiring is tidy. The pots have a rather cheap feel to them, but this is not surprising as this is a cheap amp. There is a bit of hiss to it when it is on without the guitar being played, but it is not really noticeable once you start playing.

The sound of this Acoustic amp is pretty solid, too. The clean channel is warm sounding until you crank a lot of volume through it, then it breaks up in a really bad way. The lead channel has a very useable gain, and sounds really awesome with my Les Paul. This thing is more than good enough for the casual bedroom or garage player.

The Acoustic Lead Series G10 is a solid practice amplifier, and it is worth the money but I do recommend that you shop around a bit. The list price on these is $129.99 (really?) with a street price of $59.99, and I saw stacks of them at Guitar Center on Black Friday for $40. You are not really going to get a decent practice amp for much less than that…


Monday, November 28, 2016

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Aaron Burton – All Night Long

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the April 9, 2015 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Aaron Burton – All Night Long

Self Release

14 tracks / 51:48

As blues has evolved over time it has strayed pretty far from its original formula, but country and folk blues usually stays pretty true to the original sources of the genre. Aaron Burton’s self-released sixth album, Up All Night, falls into this latter category, and delivers a solid collection of roots and blues music with a Lone Star influence.

Aaron Burton hails from the Dallas / Fort Worth area, and he has shared his pleasant drawl and fine stringed-instrument prowess around the United States and all the way to the United Kingdom, where he is gaining a respectable collection of new fans. On Up All Night he takes care of the vocals, guitar, mandolin and dulcimer, and he his joined by “Stompin” Bill Johnston on the harp and Dick Cordes behind the drum kit. There are fourteen self-penned tracks on this release, with a couple of neat covers worked into the set.

The title track is up first, and it is readily apparent that Burton has put together a power country blues trio with a big sound. “All Night Long” starts with a dulcimer ostinato and quickly adds slide guitar and mandolin. Johnston’s harmonica takes an active role, filling in the parts that would normally be covered by a second guitar or keyboard. When you add Cordes’ hard-hitting drums into the mix, the effect is quite huge.

Burton’s guitar work is very good, but he does not show off as he plays only the notes and chords that are really necessary. This makes the CD more accessible to a larger audience and provides a more laid-back vibe. His vocals are rich and appropriately growly at times – perfect for the style of blues he is selling.

Aaron is a good storyteller and a capable songwriter as shown by “The Day Big Tex Caught Fire,” a tune that uses the classic blues lyrical style and his electric guitar to recount the loss of the famed Texas State Fair icon back in 2012. He also does a stunning job of capturing the listener’s attention and emotion with “Hard Luck Child,” a more modern blues tune that tells the sorry tale of innocent folks who never had a shot at happiness in their lives.

Despite the heaviness of this last tune, Burton maintains an upbeat mood for much of the album, with light-hearted songs about things that most folks can relate to. And those things are the highs and lows of relationships with the opposite sex. A great example of this is the good sense of humor he maintains as he tries to cut a deal with his ex in “Don’t Talk Bad About Me” (and I sure won’t talk bad about you).

The covers on Up All Night are pretty cool, and they include Charlie Patton‘s “Pony Blues” and Blind Willie McTell’s 1928 standard, “Statesboro Blues.” They both end up being a lot closer to the originals than the countless other versions out there, so if you really love the Canned Heat or Allman Brothers takes on these, you might be a bit let down. But, as they are, they are refreshingly different than what we have come to expect and they fit much better into the overall theme of this release.

The set closes out with a bonus track, “I’m Your Santa Claus,” which might be a fun inclusion for your next holiday party, and it is one last chance to hear some awesome harp work from Stompin’ Bill. Well, it should probably be an adult party, as there are plenty of double entendres that are set to the tune of John Brim’s “Ice Cream Man” (famously covered on Van Halen’s debut album).

Aaron Burton is a fine musician and a mature songwriter, and Up All Night is his best work since he first entered the studio ten years ago. If you are a fan of roots music or country blues, this CD will be just what you are looking for. Also, if you are near Dallas anytime soon, be sure to check out his website as he has a heavy gigging schedule in the DFW metro area, including a regular Tuesday night Delta Blues Jam at The Goat in East Dallas.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

1987 Aria Pro II XRB-2A Electric Bass Review

Hi there!

Today we are looking at a bass that is pretty darned close to one that I bought new back when I was in college. This is a 1987 Aria Pro II XRB-2A bass, finished in transparent red over a flamed maple top and back. These models were made from 1987 to 1989, and were some of the last Aria instruments that were made in Japan before production moved to Korea.

If you remember the mid to late 1980s, there was a lot of metal music floating around, and everybody knew that if you wanted to bang heads, you needed a pointy headstock on your guitar. This bass delivers exactly that and more: a Precision Bass body, a Jazz Bass neck, P-J active pickups, AND a pointy headstock. Boom!

I am pretty sure that all of the XRB basses came with alder bodies, but this one is unique and I have never seen one with the figured maple top and back before. But I figure the body is still alder underneath, as it weighs the same as other ones that I have owned - around 8 ¾ pounds. The body is nicely contoured without losing the pleasantly traditional Fender shape.

The body is loaded up with a set of Aria P and J pickups that are powered by a 9-volt preamp. The controls include a master volume control (that can actually be clicked to an off position), a tone knob, and a blend knob with a center detent. The blend knob seems like overkill as there is also a 3-way pickup selector switch. The other toggle switch changes the electronics from active mode to passive mode, though there is no real benefit to this as the tone is about the same in either setting, though it would be handy if the pre-amp battery happens to go dead at the most inopportune time. Maybe the pre-amp is crapping out on me…

My favorite part of this Aria bass is the neck, which is eerily similar to the one on the Fender Jazz Bass Specials. The profile is very similar and easy to play, with a thin jazz profile and a 1/5-inch wide nut. There is clear glossy poly sprayed on the back of the maple neck, and the rosewood fretboard has 21 frets with tiny dot markers (for some reason the marker for the 21st is missing). There are no string trees, as that pointy headstock is tilted back 14 degrees to hold the proper string tension across the nut.

The condition of this XRB-2A bass is amazing, and there is almost no wear and the only blemish is a little cracking in the veneer around the output jack. The bass plays well, but it sounds kind of meh. I like the idea of this bass a lot (and part of that is probably sentimental value) so this one might be a candidate for a pickup change, and I am thinking of going with a set of EMGs.

I will let you all know what happens!


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: The Hep Cat Boo Daddies – Down Right Nasty

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the March 12, 2015 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

The Hep Cat Boo Daddies – Down Right Nasty, A Tribute to Sean “Evil” Gerovitz

Mosher Street Records

11 tracks / 55:30

If you are not from South Florida you may never have heard of them, but back in the day the Hep Cat Boo Daddies played an intriguing blend of blues, rockabilly and surf music. Though the band went their separate ways in 2010, they recently put together a tribute album dedicated to their bass player who had passed away in 2013. Down Right Nasty, a Tribute to Sean “Evil” Gerovitz is a fine way to remember this departed soul.

The Hep Cat Boo Daddies came about after the demise of Sean Gerovitz and Joel DaSilva’s old psychobilly band, Underbelly. Based out of the Fort Lauderdale area, the band played almost every week at the Poorhouse Bar as a trio with DaSilva on vocals and guitar, Gerovitz on bass, and Randy Blitz on drums. The mostly played live, but they also put out two CDs and a DVD in the mid-2000s. This new album is made up of material culled from their set at the 2004 Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk Blues Fest and their 2005 session at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. In the final mix for this disc, most of the songs are from the live show.

Their set kicks off with the original studio recording of “The Fatboy Shake,” an instrumental that starts with a Bo Diddley beat and then transitions into a hard-rocking surf tune. From there they change directions and play a live version of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” with rockabilly-style vocals. On both of these songs, DaSilva shows great prowess on the guitar, so it is not too much of a stretch as they transition in a “You,” a 6-minute AOR jam that could have come from a mid-70s Robin Trower album. This trio rocks!

After this, the rest of Down Right Nasty is all live material. Covers include a hard rocking version of Lazy Lester’s “Sugar Coated Love” (with lounge singer vocals), a slightly sloppy version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child,” and the rockabilly fun of Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials’ “Chicken, Gravy and Biscuits.” They threw Alec Rice Miller’s “I’m Just a Playboy” into the mix, and it ends up sounding like an energetic drum solo with a 12-bar blues song laid over the top of it. There is also Ron Holden and the Thunderbirds’ 1940 song, “My Babe” with blistering guitar work, punk rock drums and a jamming bass interlude. This is the standout track of the album and it really captures what the band was all about.

Their original tunes are very solidly written, including the more conventional blues of “Evil Woman,” a nine-minute live track. Guest artist Joe Saint brings his classy organ work to “Beale St. Shuffle” which provides a fun break from the rest of the guitar-centered playlist. Lastly, they chose to wrap things up with their usual show closer, “Double Surf,” a high-energy surf rock instrumental.

As you can see, there is a little something for everybody in this CD. So, if you only listen to classic blues material, the Hep Cat Boo Daddies’ Down Right Nasty, a Tribute to Sean “Evil” Gerovitz will surely expand your horizons. If you give it a chance you might even want to track down their previous albums, Long Time Comin’ and hotrodsexgod, as they were a seriously tight and creative trio who gave it their all in their live show and in the studio. Check it out for yourself to see if it is your cup of tea!

Gonzalo Bergara – Zalos Blues | Album Review

Gonzalo Bergara – Zalo’s Blues

Self Release

12 tracks / 37:26

Gonzalo Bergara’s latest album, Zalo’s Blues, was really not what I was expecting to hear from him. You see, this Argentinian guitarist and bandleader made a name for himself as an acoustic Gypsy Jazz guitarist, and he is probably one of the best players of this genre in the world. He has received much respect for this work from the glossy guitar magazines, but who would have thought that he would do an electric blues album, and actually do all of the singing too?

Well, Gonzalo plugged in, stepped up to the microphone, and it all worked out well! Bergara’s guitar skills translated well to the electric, and Zalo’s Blues is a killer album. Gonzalo wrote eleven of the dozen tracks on this disc, and he was joined in the studio by bassist Mariano D’Andrea and drummer Maximiliano Bergara. Are they related? Who knows?

The first song in the trio’s set is “Drawback,” an uptempo instrumental that is sort of a jazzy shuffle. Gonzalo sets the stage here by starting out strong, and he proves that he has no problems at all with his electric guitar technique. Bergara burns through quite a few instrumentals on this disc, including the Jeff Beck-esque “Dirty Socks,” the funky jazz of “Been Runnin’,” the heavy blues rock of “Levi,” and the pretty ballad, “Ines.” On all of these songs, Mariano and Maximiliano do a stout job of laying down the groove and they are as tight of a backline as anyone could hope to play with.

Gonzalo also sings on most of the tracks, and his voice is good, though maybe a bit limited in range. Bergara’s guitar covers a lot of genres here, and one of my favorite tunes is “Gonna Go” a wild piece of country roadhouse music that provides Zalo with the opportunity to do his best Albert Lee impression. He does not disappoint the listener, as he is one mean guitar-picking machine. Another standout piece is “Woosh, ” a song that was recorded in Los Angeles in 2003, and this hard-rocking song features Vince Bilbro on bass and Michael Partlow on drums. This song has a complex build, and it takes more than one listen to hear everything that is going on – this is amazing stuff!

The lone cover is Jimmy Reed’s “You Don't Have to Go,” and after sampling Reed’s intro, the band provides an extra-heavy take on this classic tune from 1954. Gonzalo does a fabulous job of howling out the distorted vocals as Maximiliano beats his snare drum to death -- these fellows really know how to rock…

Zalo’s Blues is not a very long album, and before 40 minutes have gone by it is all over. I think it is a real winner and I am not alone: none other than Charlie Baty and Junior Watson both have high praise for Gonzalo Bergara’s work. Anybody that loves guitar music will dig this one, so why don't you check it out for yourself and let me know what you think?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Victor Bailey: March 27, 1960 to November 11, 2016

Rest in peace, Victor.

Mick Kolassa – Taylor Made Blues | Album Review

Mick Kolassa – Taylor Made Blues

Swing Suit Records

12 tracks / 48:09

Mick Kolassa has been a bluesman for decades, and over the years he has become an accomplished singer, songwriter and guitarist. But his waters go a lot deeper than that, as he is also on the Board of Directors of the Blues Foundation and all of the proceeds from his latest album, Taylor Made Blues, will be going to the HART Fund and Generation Blues charities that are administered by the Blues Foundation. If you are not familiar with these organizations, please look them up as they help artists in need and kids that are getting into the blues.

Kolassa’s latest CD is a solid set that includes eight Kolassa originals and four really neat cover tunes. This project was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis and it was produced by Jeff Jensen -- this was the successful formula for his last release, Ghosts of the Riverside Hotel). This disc features a host of Mick’s friends, including Jensen, Victor Wainwright, Bill Ruffino, Reba Russell, Chris Stephenson, “Long Tall Deb” Landolt, and more. Of course Kolassa plays his acoustic guitar and handles most of the vocals too. The album title is a play on Mick’s hometown of Taylor, Mississippi, which is just an hour and a half south of Memphis.

Kolassa shares his love for all kinds of blues in his original songs, and one of my favorites is the title track, a slick piece of laid back swampy blues that extolls the joys of sticking a little closer to home and living in a small town. Likewise, “My Hurry Done Broke” is a humorous country blues song that bemoans the impatience of others, especially when they are younger than you. And “I’m Getting Late” is a clever play on words that describes getting a little too close to the tornado that the gig scene can be. By the way, Bill Ruffino and James Cunningham hold down the backline throughout, and one could not hope for a better rhythm section.

But not every track is loaded up with chuckles and grins, as Mick uses song to express all kinds of emotions. For example, “Left Too Soon” is a sweet piece of jazzy blues that is used to convey regret for things that were left undone. And the closer, “Raul Was My Friend,” is a poignant tribute to a cherished friend, and this ballad is simply gorgeous.

The cover tunes are an interesting lot too, as they have been re-imagined a bit from their original versions. Graham Nash’s quirky pop tune “Prison Song” has been converted to slow-grinding blues with updated lyrics and gorgeous guitar work, including some baritone guitar from Colin James. The late Townes Van Zandt’s 1969 folk tune, “Lungs” is now suitable for a cocktail lounge, and Chris Stephenson’s piano really helps to set the mood. The Temptations’ funk masterpiece “Can't Get Next to You” is now a smooth blues rocker with backing vocals from Russell and Landolt, B3 from Stephenson, and guitar from special guest Castro “Mr. Sipp” Coleman. But the most fascinating of these is not even really a cover song, as Mick set Frank Lebby Stanton’s poem “Keep a Goin’” to a country blues / gospel soundtrack, complete with a vocal solo from Long Tall Deb.

If you just listen to the content and the musicianship, you will find that Mick Kolassa’s Taylor Made Blues is a really neat album that would make any blues fan happy. But, when you throw in the fact that the proceeds will further blues music education and help out musicians in need, this CD should be at the top of your purchase list. Why don’t you start your holiday shopping early, and pick up a copy today!

Thursday, November 10, 2016