by Jamie Kime
Throughout the early nineties, metal fans looked to Jerry Cantrell and Alice In Chains as the band that would save the genre. But despite releasing critically acclaimed albums, the band did painfully little of what it takes to sustain a consistently high profile in the rock world: Tour - something that's undoubtedly difficult to do when your front-man is a heroin addict (just ask STP). Still, the cry-for-help lyrics of vocalist Layne Staley, straight-ahead rock approach of Cantrell, and production that leaned heavily on dense vocal harmonies and thick walls of guitars created a formula that would help them to maintain a presence on radio with songs like "Would," "The Rooster" (an eerie song written by Cantrell about his Vietnam vet father), and the greatest stripper song of all time, "Man In The Box." In addition to various substance abuse issues within the band, A.I.C. also was a victim of myopic marketing. However, at this point, it's hard to say if record company pinheads, anxious to jump on the Seattle bandwagon, hurt or helped the band by pushing them as a "grunge" band when they were obviously closer to a straight-up metal outfit. In any case, the fact remains that the band was painfully absent from the live stage, by the mid-90's making only the odd T.V. appearance. Cantrell's prolific creativity has thus far been channeled into two solo albums, 1998's Boggy Depot, which featured A.I.C.'s rhythm section of Mike Inez and Sean Kinney, and Degradation Trip, completed just before the not-so-shocking news of Staley's death in April 2002.
On Alice In Chains' studio recordings, Cantrell often employed a unique approach to recording where the guitar signal from his beat up G&L was split and routed to several different amp rigs: A Boogie Rectifier, a Marshall, and a Bogner Fish preamp. Each amp was miked and recorded to emphasize either the low end, the mids, or the highs. This technique did away with recording with one amp and E.Q.-ing it to death at the console. As a result, nailing his tone can be a bit challenging with just one amp. On this bluesy Cantrell lick, you might try rolling back your tone knob a bit. And pick hard!