Ally Venable

Fire and Honey
Ally Venable
Ally Venable: Tino Sieland.

Ally Venable’s latest album, Real Gone, features excellent production, accessible songwriting, intense guitar playing, and guest spots by Joe Bonamassa as well as blues legend Buddy Guy. But, ardent blues fans won’t be distracted from the main event as Venable brings her unique blend of pentatonic fire and honey. Sit back, or you might get burnt.

What’s it like, playing with Buddy Guy?
Oh my gosh, it’s a dream. I’ve been living a dream being around him touring for the last year and a half, getting to know him, being around his team, meeting producer Tom Hambridge, and making this record.

You tour a lot. Did that have an influence on Real Gone?
When I write songs, I try to write about what’s going on in my life or something other people can relate to in an impactful way. With all the Covid stuff going on, I had a lot bottled up while I was writing with Tom and Rich Fleming in Nashville. I wrote a few songs with other people for other albums, but never for a whole album. It brought another set of eyes, ears, feelings, and experiences. They saw something in me that could go well with what I was expressing.

Writing was my favorite part of the experience and we had to write the whole album in two days. It seemed like a lot going in, but didn’t feel that way at all. It was effortless, writing with them.

You’ve shared the stage with Joe Bonamassa and Eric Gales. Is it pressure or inspiration?
I look to Joe and Eric for inspiration. They’ve been doing this for so long. They’re amazing players and masters of their craft. I look to them for advice and guidance, and like playing with them, too. They’re very welcoming, and Buddy Guy is super welcoming, especially to young people in the music industry. So it’s pretty cool (laughs).

Your playing on Real Gone is superb without help from any of those guys.
Thank you. I’ve toured a lot. I’ve done a lot of playing over the years. I’ve been playing since I was 12, started touring when I was 15, and I’m 24 this year. That’s almost 10 years of solid touring. I’m not saying I’m the best guitar player, but I’m constantly learning on the road. I feel like my playing has matured over time from touring, playing, and being around amazing players. All that combined has helped me become the player I am today. Blues will always be a part of my playing, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get away from that – I don’t want to get away from that (laughs). It’s what connects with me the best.

Was there a main guitar you used for the album?
The main guitar I used for most of the tracks was my 1990 Les Paul Standard Limited Colours Edition in Trans Magenta Purple. I also used a Jimmy Wallace Strat copy he made for me. It’s a pinkish Fiesta Red, and I used that on a few songs.

What kind of amplifiers do you like?
I like a nice clean tube amp. On the road, I use Category 5; I met Don Ritter at the Dallas International Guitar Festival and I’ve been using his amps for several years. They sound so good; I have the Angel model, which uses 6L6 tubes and a 12″ Celestion. I used an early Fender Super Reverb for the album and cranked it up as loud as I could. It sounded great.

Did you put any pedals in front of it?
I used my Analogman King of Tone pedal for most of it, and a Crybaby wah. In the studio, I used everything in my rig except for my road amp. I also use a Keeley Monterey Rotary Fuzz Vibe – I use the Univibe setting. I also have an MXR Carbon Copy delay and a Boss wireless system, which works great.

How do you set the King of Tone?
The Gain and Tone are maxed out. It sounds great.

Any Buddy Guy stories?
We were playing in Houston, and my dressing room was next to his. He saw me and said, “Come in here!” Somebody had given him a big polka-dot guitar cake. I didn’t have any cake, but he poured me a glass of cognac and said, “You’ve been initiated,” then he clinked my glass.

This article originally appeared in VG’s July 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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