“EVER SINCE I COULD SPEAK, PEOPLE HAVE
asked me if I was going to play guitar in my
father’s style,” says Murali Coryell, son of jazzfusion
legend Larry Coryell. “As fate would
have it, my brother Julian turned out to be a
child prodigy on jazz guitar. My dad took him
under his wing, and encouraged me to pursue
my own interests. He turned me onto B.B.
King’s Live at the Regal, and I knew I had to be
a bluesman no matter what.”
Coryell’s commitment to his craft is unquestionable.
He refinanced his home and maxed
out his credit cards to manifest his sixth disc—
Sugar Lips [Murali’s Music]—employing topshelf
Nashville session players such as keyboardist
Reese Wynans (Stevie Ray Vaughan)
under the direction of drummer/producer Tom
Hambridge. Dusty-voiced Coryell is a rhythm
machine adept at utilizing his instrument as a
vehicle for heartfelt tunes such as “Mother’s
Day,” on which he delivers a stinging, poignant
solo. Sparks fly when father and son trade solos
on “Where’s the Spirit?” and whenever feisty
Joe Louis Walker turns up.
What led you to Tom Hambridge’s doorstep?
I’d never hired a producer before, nor had
I ever collaborated on songs, but I wanted to
work with Tom because he produced Buddy
Guy’s Skin Deep album. I feel it’s Buddy’s best
ever because of the way Tom captured his blues
in a contemporary setting. That’s what I wanted, so I sent Tom some demos. Of the
12 songs on Sugar Lips, he was only satisfied
with two originally, because he wanted to
avoid any traditional blues clichés. We collaborated
and worked with other songwriters
to get the rest up to snuff before heading
into the studio. We wound up tracking the
whole thing in two days.
What was your primary setup in the studio?
I used various guitars and amps, but my
primary sound is a Fender Strat through a
Fender Super Reverb. I also incorporated a
DigiTech Jimi Hendrix Experience pedal here
and there. I dig that pedal because the settings
correlate to Hendrix’s tunes. My
favorite is “All Along the Watchtower,”
because when you rock the footpedal forward
it’s a delay, and when you rock back
on the heel it’s a wah. I used that setting on
the solo section of “What You Gonna Do
What solo on the record makes you most
I feel my solo on “Mother’s Day” is the
best I’ve ever played because it’s pure emotion.
My mom died suddenly on Mother’s
Day last year. When it came time to record,
I tracked it on acoustic while my dad played
the electric guitar fills. He played the first
solo, and then I picked up a Tele to overdub
mine. Tom told me to play as if I were talking
to her. Tears were flowing down my face
during the take. I looked up when I had finished,
and tears were flowing down all the
faces in the control room as well. That’s what
it’s all about.
The harmonics at the very beginning of
“Mother’s Day” are sweet.
That’s my dad playing a style he learned
from Lenny Breau. My father showed the
technique to me, and I use it occasionally.
The simplest example is to lay down a barre,
and play two notes on each string—one harmonic,
and then the standard note. To
execute fluently, grab your pick between your
thumb and middle finger. Place your plucking
hand above the fretboard, and pluck while
simultaneously using your first finger to hit
a harmonic an octave above the fretted note.
Then use your pinky to pluck the main note
on the same string. Repeat on each string
to produce a cascading, waterfall-like effect.
Joe Louis Walker’s slide solo on title track is
mind blowing. Did you pick up anything from him?
That was his first take. Watching him on
that session actually inspired me to start
playing slide in earnest. I noticed that he
tuned his G-string up a half-step, which creates
a major triad on the top three strings.
I put a slide on my pinky, started moving it
up and down over the top three strings while
letting the low E ring out, and I was on my
way to approximating his solo. Joe lives near
me in upstate New York, and we hang out
all the time.
You’re lucky to have such amazing mentors.
I’m so glad to be able to present him on
my album, and my dad as well. People don’t
usually hear my dad playing blues and rock
and roll, but he grew up in Texas playing that
stuff. The end of “Where Is the Spirit?” features
the two of us trading solos live in the
studio, and he just lifted the level of the
whole session. I am truly blessed to have
such master mentors. It was an extreme
stroke of good fortune to have this record
come together as well as it did, and I’m
stoked to take these tunes on the road.