THE UNXPECTED IS LED BY 14-YEAR-OLD COLE LAYMAN and 16-year-old Zachary Salsberry, and the young band has found success far from its hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia. They won second place in the 2013 International Blues Challenge (youth category) on Memphis’ Beale Street, and took first place (youth category) in this year’s 25th Annual Blues Festival in Washington, DC. This rate of success for a band barely two years old can largely be explained by starting instruction early in elementary school, and practicing on a daily basis.
Layman plays a Fender Vintage Hot Rod ’52 Telecaster (strung with a .012 set of Elixir strings) through a Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb Reissue amp. Salsberry wields a Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster (with Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottom strings) and a Peavey Classic 30 amp. Both use Dunlop CryBaby wahs, but Layman prefers his Ibanez Tube Screamer to Salsberry’s Boss Blues Driver with a Keeley mod.
“It adds a different kind of edge to the music,” says Layman.
Although Layman points to Joe Bonamassa as his favorite blues guitarist, both players are heavily influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan.
“Pretty much everything I do is modeled after him,” says Salsberry, “including my pick attack. I pick really hard to get that explosive midrange tone.”
Layman and Salsberry typically work out who is going to take a particular solo on a certain song, but that’s about the only thing that’s prearranged, and even that can change on a whim.
“All of our solos are pretty much improvised on the spot,” explains Layman. “And, sometimes, we’ll even switch solos on the fly. We’ll give each other ‘the look,’ and hand off the solo to the other player.”
While one can hear echoes of SRV, Bonamassa, and even B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix in their solos, the boys always try to put their own twist on classic blues and rock songs. And the band’s music, as filtered through the players’ work ethics and youth, always delivers something, well, UnXpected.