By: Dr. Matt Warnock
Blues-rock giants Foghat used 2010 to return to their roots with the release of their latest album, Last Train Home. The album is filled with solid blues originals and covers from a group that has obviously spent many years listening to, studying and playing that style of music.
Of note is guitarist Bryan Bassett, who’s slide guitar playing reaches out and grabs the listener by the lapels, drawing them into his soulful and energetic playing.
Foghat guitarist Bryan Bassett recently sat down with Guitar International to talk about the band’s latest album, their musical future and his current choice of guitars.
On a more somber note, Bryan Bassett’s daughter Melissa passed away on October 24th, 2010 at the young age of 18 of Cystic Fibrosis. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Bassett family as they endure this difficult time in their lives.
Matt Warnock: The new album, Last Train Home, features blues covers and original blues tune from the band. What was the inspiration behind releasing an album of all blues tracks at this point in your careers?
Bryan Bassett: It’s an idea that’s been on the band’s minds for a number of years now. Of course Lonesome Dave was a huge blues fan, we all are, the blues has always been a part of the band’s chemistry. It’s an idea that’s been tossed around for a while now and when we went into the studio last year to start laying down the tracks for a new record we look at each other and decided that we should try and make a blues album.
So, we all picked a few songs that we liked and started from there. The whole record came together very quickly and we all had a great time doing it. It’s been something we’ve wanted to do for a long time and we’re glad that we were finally able to pull it off and get it out for our fans to hear.
Matt: Because the blues has an enormous catalogue of tunes to choose from, was it a tough decision when you sat down to figure out which songs you would end up covering on the album?
Bryan: Yeah, there are thousands of songs to choose from, but we all seemed to have a few right off the top of our heads that we wanted to try out. My contribution was an old Otis Rush song called “So Many Roads, So Many Trains,” and I particularly loved the version that John Mayall did with Peter Green on guitar. That’s one of my all-time favorites.
We all had a couple of favorites like this that we brought to the table and then chose the final set list from there. In all seriousness we could have done about five more blues albums with the amount of material there is out there to choose from. It was something that the more we talked about, the more tunes started to come up and be bantered around.
Matt: The album has been getting great press and the fans seem to really love it, because of the strong reaction it’s been getting is this where you see the band moving in the future, becoming a blues focused group?
Bryan: We’ve had so much fun with it and have had a great response from the blues community that I think we will be moving in this direction in the future. It’s not much different from our natural style. We’re a blues-rock band after all.
To be able to pay homage to the great blues musicians that came before us was really important to us as a band, and there’s such a wealth of material out there to work with that I don’t think we’ll ever run out of ideas if we do more recordings in the vein in the future. It was a lot of fun to do this record and I wouldn’t be surprised if we follow this path for our next few records, where we cover classic blues songs and write our own originals to go along with them.
Matt: You contribute some great slide playing on the album, what drew you to start experimenting with the slide back when you first picked it up and started bringing it to your guitar playing?
Bryan: I grew up as a blues-rock guitar player with the usual British blues-rock influences, like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, those kinds of players. But, I was also a huge fan of Dwayne Allman, and his slide playing really grabbed my ears at a young age. For anyone playing in blues-rock bands, coming up on the club circuit, slide becomes a natural part of that repertoire. Though, I really didn’t start using the slide on stage that much until I met Lonesome Dave and joined Foghat.
Of course Rod Price’s slide guitar sound had been such a big part of the band’s identity that it would be impossible not to play slide in that situation. The foundational sound of Foghat is that slide playing of Rod’s. I knew Rod for a while, we played as a five piece for about a year, and I was able to pick his brain about the slide and how he used it in the band, which allowed me to play all of those parts properly down the road.
Matt: Do you have to keep several guitars on stage, one for slide and one for normal fretting, or can you do it all on one instrument?
Bryan: I use a Gibson SG ’61 Reissuefor the slide work, which is a pretty typical slide guitar and is just perfect for playing slide with the cutaway allowing me to reach all the way up to the high frets without having any problems. I also use a Schecter Custom PT-1model. It was a NAMM show, one-off model, and I’m desperately trying to find another one. It was designed when Tom Anderson ran the custom shop at Schecter, before he left to start Anderson guitars. It’s pretty much a Telecaster design with a pair of humbuckers, and I just love that guitar. I also have a few Les Pauls and PRS Single Cuts which round out my collection.