Track of the Week: “What I Am,” by Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians

Track of the WeekBelieve it or not, there was a time when a pop song had a guitar solo. Nowadays, solos are rare in music that ends up on the radio. And even when you hear a solo on your local rock station, its usually very short or the song is very old.

“What I Am” was released in in 1988 as a single by Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians. If it’s a single, it’s a pop song. Plain and simple. This pop song has a groovin’ guitar part and a fantastic solo. Both are played by Kenny Withrow. Take a listen.

You may be wondering what that effect is on Withrow’s guitar during the solo. That would be an auto-wah. It is an effect that mimics the effect of rocking your foot forward and backward on a wah-wah pedal. Except the auto-wah doesn’t have a rocker plate. Instead, the funky frequency enhancements are achieved by plucking the string harder. The harder you pluck, the higher the pitch is that is being enhanced. It’s a very cool pedal, and Withrow uses it expertly here.

This is a great example of how to use the more gimmicky pedals to your advantage. The song has a funky vibe and the auto-wah pedal fits right in. Choose when to use your outrageous effects carefully. Use them sparingly and purposefully and you’ll be fine.

Anyways, back to the solo. Aside from the cool effect, the solo is a great example of thematic playing. Throughout the solo, Withrow stays within the framework of the song. He repeats the same melody in different octaves throughout the solo and it ties everything together. The solo almost feels like a composed melody and that’s why I like it so much.

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2 responses to “Track of the Week: “What I Am,” by Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians

  1. Remember hearing this tune for the first time and was really impressed with the tune. It’s always been my opinion that a well crafted perfectly executed pop song, transcends musical fads and trends,and becomes a timeless classic. Interesting to note that Edie married Paul Simon a few years later! I understand that she is working in another band, the Gaddabouts, and they are set to release their debut in January of 2011. Blues fans should note that among other fine musicians, Pino Palladino appears on the record and is supposed to do some guitar playing along with his customarily fine bass work! Looking forward to hearing some cuts!

    • Good stuff Dad, as always. I actually remember hearing this song for the first time sitting in that old Hyundai Excel with you waiting for my boss at Sunny’s Surplus to show up to the store. That was in October of 1996; I was 17. Wow, that was a long time ago.

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