Depending on your outlook, a benefit of major labels crashing down— along with the popular ascension of jam bands and musicians taking control of their careers via online initiatives—is that no artist needs to squeeze his or her creativity into a tightly defined marketing niche anymore. This was obviously very good news for guitarist Dean Ulmer and vocalist Amy McFarland, as the duo’s off-kilter amalgam of barroom blues, indie rock, torchy ballads, country, gooey pop, and punk isn’t something you can nail down with a snappy phrase.
“I’m definitely an ‘in the moment’ player that bounces between styles,” says the Maineville, Ohio-based Ulmer. “It’s about the song for me, and how I can use the guitar to set up a song’s story and vibe.”
Not surprisingly, Ulmer derives inspiration from a number of guitarists, starting with John Lennon’s “hard-driving” rhythm style and George Harrison’s ability to play “only the notes that are necessary.” From there, he ricochets off Duane Allman, Pete Townshend, Les Paul, Jack White, Frank Zappa, the Ramones, the Clash, the Stones, and the New York Dolls.
For the varied tones on Full Moon Heat Wave [Half-Baked Records], Ulmer’s armory included a Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul R7 Goldtop and Elliot Easton SG, a handwired Vox AC30-H2, a Fender Cyber-Twin, a Vox V848 Clyde McCoy wah, an Electro- Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb, a Fulltone Full-Drive 2 Mosfet, and a Dunlop Uni-Vibe.
“None of this music would be possible without Amy,” says Ulmer. “She can sing anything, and hers was the voice I heard singing my songs. I pretty much hounded her until she got onboard.” —Michael Molenda