Like many slide players, Michelle Malone likes the grit in her tone. And when it comes to grit, with glorious mids, punchy reverb, and a fast-response blend with just a dollop full of sponginess to temper brittleness, vintage Supro amps deliver better than UPS. So his favorite amps are a pair of old Supros: a 1959 Dual-Tone and a 1961 Super.
By the way, is there anything cooler in Gearland than naming a one-knob amp a “Super”? It sounds bold until you plug one in and hear the way it breaks down. These amps, with their cute little 8-inch speakers, bite like baby sharks. But alas, I digress.
On his new album, 1977, named after the year she started playing guitar, Malone really flies the flag as her songwriter with tunes that dive into the staff. “Not Who I Used to Be” chronicles her growth as a human, “Buck Knife Man” is a tribute to her father, and “Georgia Made” is her grandfather’s life story, all fueled by its honey and biscuits in light tones. intelligently textured vocals and arrangements.
The up-and-coming tracks on this release, his 17th studio album, are played by his band’s other guitarist, Doug Kees. But for his brass knuckles live performances and on his previous albums – which started with 1988 New experience and his major label debut in 1990, Tirelessly,and have continued for over three decades – every time a slide pops out of a pocket, it’s Malone’s. (You can hear him dig in the “Just Getting Started” video that accompanies this story.)
The Atlanta-based artist already had a rough electric guitar voice when she committed to sliding while recording her 2003 album, playground. “I was working on the song ‘Lafayette’ in the studio when I realized it needed a slide part, and no one else was around to lay it down, so I did it myself,” says -she. Thus addicted, she has developed a remarkable approach that mixes the laconic and the languorous using her signature Rocky Mountain Slides ceramic model with her Fender guitars or her white 6-string Dual-Tone Supro.
“It sounds so good – kinda trashy, with great mids and just the right amount of breakup – but you can’t crank it up or it sucks.”
The latter was purchased as a package with its Dual-Tone amp, likely via eBay, circa 2007. The Super came from the now-defunct Atlanta Midtown Music gear store, which was renowned among local musicians for its gear used and vintage. Both amps have quirks. The Super has a 6″ speaker, rather than its stock 8″. “I blew the one that came with it in the 90s,” Malone says. “Having a knob on this amp is a beautiful thing. It sounds so good – kinda trashy, with great mids and just the right amount of breakup – but you can’t turn it all the way up or it sucks. The rest of the 5 watt blast box is simple, with a 12AX7 for the preamp and a 6V6 on the power side.
The Dual-Tone is an eccentric. A stock example of this 24 watt growler and 12″ speakers typically has two channels with two inputs each, 12AX7 driven tremolo, 6973 power tubes (which were also used in 1960s jukeboxes ), a 12AX7 phase-reversing tube and two more 12AX7s for the Channel 1 and Channel 2 preamps. There are volume and tone controls for each channel, as well as the usual tremolo speed and intensity. Malone’s bizarre example, which she pulled from an “Alabama road case”, aka a cardboard box, to look at during our conversation, has three inputs and dials for volume and tone, plus a speaker 8″ – although this is probably a replacement, since Malone notices that the cabinet has room for a much larger speaker. It also only has three tubes: a 12AX7, a 6V6, and a 5Y3GT rectifier tube. In this respect, it looks like a Supro Reverb model, but… without reverb. It’s not as strange as it sounds, given original Supro builder Valco’s penchant for using whatever was in store at any given time to fulfill orders, sometimes causing variations in products. sharing the same model name. And recently a Dual-Tone with the same setup was listed on Reverb.
Malone pairs his amps and guitars with a few basic pedals. She uses a Keeley Compressor and a Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster when playing slide. Her Ibanez Soundtank Delay stays on all the time, and it reminds her of the slightly compressed, enhanced character of the Echoplex she used to haul around the road in the late 80s and early 90s. And she also uses an MXR Carbon Copy for a cleaner echo vibe, and an EHX Holy Grail when the spring reverb needs to join the game.
“I normally take these two amps to an average gig,” she says. “For larger rooms, or when I need more volume, I’ll bring one of my black panel Deluxes. But as long as you have a good sound engineer, you can rig up these little Supros and you’re golden.
Michelle Malone – Just Began [Official Video]
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