THE YEAR OF MYLES
WITH SLASH OCCUPIED WITH THE GUNS ‘N ROSES REUNION AND MARK TREMONTI CURRENTLY IN SOLO MODE, ALTER BRIDGE VOCALIST MYLES KENNEDY TOOK ADVANTAGE OF THE DOWNTIME TO RECORD HIS FIRST SOLO ALBUM: THE ACOUSTIC-BASED YEAR OF THE TIGER. BY PETER HODGSON
You may know Myles Kennedy as the vocalist in Alter Bridge, or Slash ft. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators. You might even know him from his appearance in the movie
RockStar. Whatever you know him from, you know that he’s capable of expressing himself authentically in many different styles.
When he’s handling Guns N’ Roses material with Slash, he sounds perfectly comfortable. When Alter Bridge gets heavy – and sometimes they even verge on thrash – it sounds like it was meant to be. Whatever musical situation he finds himself in, Kennedy belongs. So when the opportunity arose to record his debut solo album, it could have gone anywhere. Where it went is YearOfThe
Tiger, an acoustic-based album that recalls the unplugged moments of Led Zeppelin, or Alice In Chains’ JarofFlies minus the chemical dread.
“I listen to a lot of different music and it all makes its way into my DNA,” Kennedy says. “That all filtered into this record. I think the direction on this record has something to do with my fascination with music that is more blues- and acoustic-based, which started when I heard the Unplugged album Eric Clapton did in the ‘90s, as well as Zeppelin’s III and IV. I tried to dive in and understand some of the altered tunings and the approach from a fingerstyle standpoint, which was so different to what I was doing when I first started playing the guitar. It’s such a different language. So I would always chip away at it as a player to try and learn things here and there. I was always interested in it, but I never had an outlet to explore it before, so that’s what I really wanted to do with this record.”
The influence of the early ‘90s acoustic revival is all over YearOfTheTiger. The Clapton Unplugged album created thousands of new guitarists in its time, some of them staying in strummy, singer-songwriter territory, and others going on to explore more intricate styles. Landmark acoustic albums by Nirvana and Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Midnight Oil… heck, even Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant reunited for a primarily-unplugged MTV special.
“There are so many incredible acoustic fingerstyle players, and it’s something I never lost my fire for,” Kennedy says. “On the Clapton record... For me, I didn’t even know how to articulate it! I loved those Unplugged sessions in general. I even liked the LL Cool J one. It was just such a cool way to to the job! A massive record for me was Chris Whitley’s DirtFloor, which he put out in 1998 – it’s just Chris and a resonator, recorded all in a weekend. I also love pretty much anything by Mississippi John Hurt, and Robert Plant’s most recent solo record, CarryFire, is also a current favourite.
I love the new Robert Plant record, too. When you look at him as an artist and what he’s done over the last 15, 20 years, he’s brilliant. He’s found that fire and he’s a true artist.”
Kennedy’s ‘guitarsenal’ for the record revolved around a pawnshop guitar that a friend spotted: an old Gibson J-45. “I went down there and played a few chords with it, and it was immediately the Holy Grail,” Kennedy says. “That was the guitar that about 50 percent of the record was written on, that 1944 Gibson. I also did a lot of writing on a National Resonator. In the studio, I also used a 1945 Martin 000-21 and a PRS Mandolin that I borrowed from Mark Tremonti. I think he used that back in the Creed days! And I used a Gretsch Duane Eddy. All of the solos I play are from that Gretsch. The National pictured on the cover is a newer one that I’m going to take out on the road because I’m too afraid to take the old one out! They’re a fun instrument. Once you get one, you can’t put it down. I love mine.”
Kennedy will be taking the new material on the road, initially in South Africa and Europe. “The plan is to play four, five, six tracks from this record and then other things I’ve been involved in over the last 20 or so years – sort of a career retrospective – and it will all be acoustic guitars. Then, hopefully in the Summer when more people have heard the record, I’ll put a band together and tour this record with a full band.” £