Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Sound Worth a Thousand Words

One thing I'm extremely greatful for and have been blessed with is the ability to play music and the gift of picking up many different instruments, I play nine instruments to be exact. It all started with the violin when I just a pup, years later I would discover the discovered the guitar, the bass came next, drums followed, then the piano/keys, the harp snuck in, I hit the sax, a handful of different percussion instruments, and the most recent instruments to enter my life has been the lap steel. Learning how to play the lap steel actually came pretty naturally, not that I'm some pro but I can definitely hold my own and lay down some pretty cool stuff. This is one instrument I highly suggest you try and learn, especially for you studio rat cats. The lap steel produces some great soundscapes, layers up your tracks something beautiful, and is a blast to play. With all the killer effects and devices out there the possibilities are endless. I decided a few months ago that it was time to hunt down a decent sounding and playing lap steel, the one in our studio just wasn't cutting it anymore. I came across the Joe Morrel Lap Steels while surfing the web and let me just tell you, these are some serious sounding, affordable, and great playing lap steels. I went with one of their Pro Model 6-String models... The outcome has been a whole new world of sonic possibilities. Check it out.

Joe Morrell

Pro Model 6 String Lap Steel

When I think of a great sounding song there are a certain set of instruments that must be in the mix, a guitar, bass, drums, keys, and of course vocals. I like to call these the fab-5, the fundamentals of a great sounding track. These instruments are all fine and dandy have worked and will always continue to work for as long as good rock is around, but lately it seems more and more cats have been into learning and playing more unique, old style, and off-the-wall instruments. I must say it feels great when I go out to see a band play and notice that someone in the band is playing something outside of the fab-5. The lap steel isn't necessarily anything new to the music world, in fact it has been around since the late 1800's. This wonderful instrument has been providing beautiful tones for blues, rock, funk, country, and lots more styles of music for many many years. I have been blessed and am extremely greatful for the gift of playing music and the number of different instruments I can play. I'm at number nine right now and looking to throw in a tenth instrument by the end of the year. The newest to join the family has been the lap steel, a beautiful and simple instrument full of soul and sound. We have had the same old busted lap steel laying around the studio for quite some time now, something was telling us it was time to step up our game. When we finally did decide to up our game we went ahead and did some research, I am big on doing my homework and like to see what the masses have to say about gear before I go ahead and try it. Then I remembered someone had mentioed Joe Morrell lap steels while working a session. We landed on the Morrell Music website and were very very impressed with their line of killer lap steels. Their website is very informative and provides you with a handful of great demo videos. We went with the JM Pro Model 6 String Lap Steel, an absolute beast of a tone machine. The Morrell lap steel is made of a skillfully crafted maple body which gives it a rich and defined tone, you can literally feel the sound come flowing through your bones. Holding these instruments in your hand will let you know right off the bat they are quality all the way. There is a full 3 octave range fretboard for an endless run of licks, sounds, and experimental fun. The 3 octave fretboard will hand everything from low'n'chunky bluesy licks to high'n'screaming banshee madness. It sports a slotted peghead which gives it a classic look, and individual tuners that stay in tune and perform wonderfully. One tone knob and one volume knob control a single Kent Armstrong Hot Rail pickup, a single coil sized humbucking pickup with lots of balls and lots of heart. These pickups are perfect for this lap steel if you ask me, the range of tones you can get from this one pickup is amazing. They deliver every kind of tone from clean'n'crisp, dirty'n'gritty, and even some extreme high gain stuff. The 6 String Pro Model JM lap steel is hand crafted in east Tennessee, the "birthplace of country music". Straight from the box these badboys are ready to play, they are armed with a set of Joe Morrell JMLS-G Lap steel strings which really do it justice. The strings sounded perfect and really work great for us G tuning freaks. First up to bat was running the Morrell lap steel through a low watt amp, our little 15/7 watt head was perfect (we'll let you in on exactly what 15/7 watt amp we used in a later review). The tone and feel of the lap steel for some reason always sounds so damn good to me through low wattage amps. I hooked up a few of my favorite pedals and let her rip. At low volumes every little slide and lick comes through with ease and complete clarity, something about the maple used and design of this lap steel really brings out a sweet milky tone. As we cranked the amp things only got better, the notes flew out like violin-like chants. We added in the almighty Janglebox 2 for a bit of compression and boost, this leveled everything and accented the notes exactly as I wanted. It really is surprising just how responsive this Morrell lap steel is, for the price you can not beat this. Next up to bat was a blackface type amp with some vibrato goodness, the holy grail of all amps the '65 Twin. Being that the pickup could handle some higher gain levels worked perfectly with this amp. This is where this lap steel really stepped it up and impressed me. I have played many lap steels through loud amps and most of the time things for some reason always get too muddy or grimy. The 6 String Pro Model JM handled this amp with complete clarity and class. Every push and pass of the slide howled through the amp with strength and fullness. We couldn't truly say we had put this instrument through it's paces until we played it through what kind of guitar?.... Any guesses? That's right a Telecaster. My custom bucker in the neck Tele was perfect for the job. There is something about playing a great sounding lap steel through a Tele that just sounds freakin amazing! It's like they were made for each other. Now I'm gonna share a trick I learned from one of my old school musician buddy's with you. I have a friend who once told me to try the lap steel through a bass amp, mids cranked, lows and highs at noon, through a TS808 style pedal, and clean booster. We just happened to have all these things available right in the studio. One word..... WOW!!! You have to try this out, I promise you have never heard such a chunky, rich, and defined sound come from a lap steel. We were all stoked to have discovered these Joe Morrell lap steel and are really looking forward to seeing what their 8 string models have to offer. If you're looking for a great place to start and want something that will deliver some awesome playability and sound this is the way to go. The price is right, the quality is right, and the people are super cool. There a few other models you can choose from, different colors, and vibes. This Morrell lap steel has been the key to some of the killer sounds we've been getting for our band. Jump in and see what you can get.

For more info in these killer lap steels, demos, and much more go to We will be looking into reviewing some more of their models so please stay tunes for more cool gear from Morrell Music. Go on and dig it!!!

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