Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Buddy Miller: Gasoline and Matches

Back in 2005, I discovered a guitarist named Buddy Miller. He is probably one of the best known secrets of the music business – but has played with everybody. Today’s Wooden Wednesday’s selection joins Miller’s acoustic guitar with three talented ladies: Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, and Shawn Colvin. They are officially called Three Girls and their Buddy and the song is “Gasoline and Matches.”

Griffin joins Miller on lead vocals while she plays a dumbek with brushes. Emmylou Harris is the least active on this cut by only playing the shaker. Shawn Colvin brings up the bottom end by playing a Danelectro baritone guitar. Buddy calls it a bass and it is similar to a six string bass that Fender designed in the 60s called the Bass VI. The difference between the two instruments is generally tuning and sometimes scale.

The baritone guitar is often played a fourth lower (B-E-A-D-F#-B) than a guitar but some tune it a fifth lower (A-D-G-C-E-A) and occasionally in a C based tuning as (C-F-Bb-Eb-G-C). The Bass VI is tuned one octave lower than a guitar, but has thinner strings than a typical four string bass guitar. While often times the two instruments are indistinguishable by scale length, a Bass VI typically is about 30 inches from bridge to nut while a baritone guitar can run from 27 to 30 inches. A guitar’s scale is roughly 25 inches by comparison.

A longer scale baritone guitar could be tuned like a Bass VI – which may be what Shawn Colvin is doing on this tune. Typical to many recordings using a baritone guitar or a Bass VI, she has a slight bit of tremolo on her amp.

“Gasoline and Matches” was written by Buddy and his wife Julie Miller and first appeared on their album “Written in Chalk.” The album was released in 2009 and it was the Americana Music Association’s Album of the Year.

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