Articles & Reviews
The Blues Highway 61 - April 7, 2021
Interview by Gary "Soulman" Goldsmith
If you’re a fan of guitar, and what Blues fan isn’t, you need to know Jimmy Warren. Take the time to listen to his Guitar Talk Podcast, and I promise, you will have a better understanding of guitar, music, technology, gear and all that conjures up. Warren is the equivalent of a guitar wizard. There are others who play better, moves faster on a fret board, have better tone, and own more guitars than anyone deserves to have. Jimmy Warren is all of that and none of that. I know that doesn’t make sense, but it really does if you take a minute to think about it.
In Jimmy’s case it’s all about separating what is important from what is simply glam (unnecessary). Jimmy takes advantage of all of those static elements and produces some of the finest guitar tone you will hear anywhere. Guitar tone is something all players search for. Some discover it quickly, for others it takes longer. It’s one thing to understand how to get a “sound” from a guitar. It’s another thing all together to produce a sound that plays well with others. Jimmy Warren can show how that process works well, and what options are available to get there. I’d be the first to admit the Soul Man’s no expert, but if I was it would be because I follow Warren and his many different Guitar Talk podcasts. It’s a side of Jazz, Blues & Rock you rarely get to see in this sort of detail. From gear to beer, Jimmy has it covered. You’re gonna learn now!
Seriously if you enjoy good, no great guitar, check out Jimmy Warren. He leaves it all on the stage and then involves you more with his podcasts. His passion is our enjoyment, that’s for certain!
March 11, 2021
How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
Music doesn't necessarily influence my view of the world. My appreciation and love for music crosses many lines. Sure, things are far different today then when I started out in the 1980's, and the changes in music have made the journey challenging at times. However, the bottom line is you have to be able to adapt and stay focused. I've chosen a lane to travel this journey in and I just stay focused on it and don't get distracted by all the noise.
How do you describe your sound, music and songbook? What do you love most about a live performance?
As someone who loves the guitar, my sound has changed over time. Sometimes it takes time to develop what you hear in your head. From a technical point of view, as a guitarist I lean towards the "D" sound or the "Dumble" sound. Which is based off of the Howard Dumble amps. Players like Robben Ford, Larry Carton and others have made the sound a staple in the guitar world. Today live my sound is in that vein. I use Fusch & Two Rock amps along with an Ethos Overdrive pedal into two lightly stacked delays to give fullness and body to my tone. Now as for music, well as I stated in your first question, I chose a lane and it was blues and blues rock. I've released nine albums. Seven have been blues, one was all guitar instrumentals, and another was contemporary jazz. As I grow and progress as a player and artist, so does my music. I just did an EP with Walter Trout's rhythm section which is all blues, but I'm in the studio doing something that is more of a mixture of blues and fusion. So, my songbook is evolving as am I as a player. Playing live is really what we live for. The opportunity to stand in front of a crowd and pour your heart out through music is the most rewarding part of what I do. I love the interaction with the crowd and the conversation between the musicians, musically. It's the one place you can freely express yourself through an instrument and have people dig it.
Which meetings have been the most important experiences?
I have to be honest. I've met so many people and have had so many experiences that sometimes I have to stop and take a breath. However, there have been some that have the most meaning. First was a Chicago southside bluesman named Buddy Scott. His band was Buddy Scott & the Rib Tips. I met Buddy at Rosa's Lounge in Chicago. He invited me to sit in when I was first starting out and at that point, I felt he began to mentor me in a way no one else had. He was kind, gracious and invited me to more opportunities than I could have imagined. All my first gigs all came through him. He introduced me to artists like Tyrone Davis, Lefty Dizz, Little Mack Simmons, Nate Turner, son Seals, AC Reed, Pinetop Perkins and many others. Buddy invested in me as a young talent in a way nobody ever did. Thats stuck with me and I've tried to carry that on in my own life's relationships.
"The raw simplicity! It feels as if things have become more complicated and challenging. What I mean is, in the 80's or even 90's getting gigs and making money wasn't hard. There seemed to be more opportunities available and no over saturation of the market. The days for young bands to gigs based off of the music they played and how good they were changed to where that doesn't matter and what does is how many people can you get to the venue." (Photo: Jimmy Warren)
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
I'll share two. Meeting and then playing with Buddy Miles in my early days. I was playing at Buddy Guys with the house band on a Monday night, which was made up of side men from bands such as Buddy Guy, Jr Wells, Otis Rush and Bo Diddley. He came on stage to sing; he liked my playing and after that we hit it off and I ended up doing several shows with him. To be playing with a member of Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys was surreal. The last was Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon. I host a jam at a venue that Gary would come into from time to time and once he ended up jamming. We became friends and in 1989 when he left REO I would play with the Richrath Band on occasions. I recall in 1992 he gave me one of his first Epiphone Les Pauls. I could literally do this all day, lol.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
The raw simplicity! It feels as if things have become more complicated and challenging. What I mean is, in the 80's or even 90's getting gigs and making money wasn't hard. There seemed to be more opportunities available and no over saturation of the market. The days for young bands to gigs based off of the music they played and how good they were changed to where that doesn't matter and what does is how many people can you get to the venue. The venues had a crowd because they offered something, live music. Today it seems as if live music isn't as special as it was then. Our US market is oversaturated. Anyone with a laptop can release music now everywhere. Although there is good in that, it also Muddy's the waters and makes it difficult for everyone.
What would you say characterizes Illinois blues scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits?
They are each different and yet the same. Across the country there are so many different styles of blues created by the region they are in. You have Delta Blues, Piedmont Blues, Texas Blues, Memphis Blues, Chicago Blues etc, etc. What sets Illinois apart is Chicago, home of the blues. Although the scene is different today than it was in my early days, it is still home of the blues with a thriving blues scene and some of the greatest blues players in the world. However, you can travel to Danville, Springfield, Lombard or any other part of the state and here some good live blues, it's everywhere. Equally you can go to Texas and find a thriving scene with amazing players. I personally love the diversity. I love the freedom of expression music offers, and that is expressed differently in different regions. I say enjoy and appreciate as much of it as you can.
"Music doesn't necessarily influence my view of the world. My appreciation and love for music crosses many lines. Sure, things are far different today then when I started out in the 1980's, and the changes in music have made the journey challenging at times. However, the bottom line is you have to be able to adapt and stay focused. I've chosen a lane to travel this journey in and I just stay focused on it and don't get distracted by all the noise." (Photo: Jimmy Warren)
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
You have to be yourself. You cannot let others dictate who or what you have to say musically. Some will dig what you do, others not so much. Once you discover your path, you blaze it! There are so many voices that can be negative or detrimental, simply ignore them and press on. The other big thing I've learned is to treat others with 100% total respect. I've learned how important it is to invest in others and how to value them.
What is the impact of Blues/Rock music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want to affect people?
If you come with the mindset or preconceived notions of what you think blues are. Or, if you are looking at it from historical lenses, then you may completely dislike any form of rock in blues. I come from the mindset of, who really has the right to tell a musician how they can express or interpret the blues? Remember when Run DMC covered "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith? Some were outraged, while others appreciated the artist's interpretation. I personally have an immense respect for the blues. I value the history and the artist that laid the foundation for us all. I've shared the stage with many historic bluesmen. However, I'm not Muddy Waters or Peetie Wheatstraw, I'm Jimmy Warren. My expressive version of the blues is out of total respect and love. It may not be viewed that way by some, but that's just some. How do I want to affect people? Well, I just want people to enjoy and appreciate my heart being poured into my music, because it's out of passion and love for the genre.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
This may sound crazy, but in 1977 Van Halen recorded their first album. I know it's not blues, but EVH changed the course of guitar at that time. I'd spend a day in the studio watching them record that first album.