The pedal steel in Europe? The Jory’s still out!
Although it still has a long way to go to catch up with the US, the pedal steel is growing in popularity in Europe all
the time – that’s according to top British steeler Sarah Jory!
Sarah Jory is one of only a handful of ‘established’ steelers on the other side of the pond, but,
as she explains to ‘The Rag’, she is working hard to encourage this growing musical trend!
"People are much more aware of the steel guitar over here in Europe than they used to be," says Sarah. "Growing up in England
and playing the steel, I had a lot of explaining to do. I always used to have to explain what it was and why on earth I had
chosen to play such an ‘unusual’ instrument."
"Until recently, especially in the UK, the pedal steel was sadly given a ‘hick’ country tag (unfortunately
country music is nowhere near as big as it is Stateside) rather than appreciating the instrument for its massive versatility
and sound, that not only lends itself to country music but also to many other forms of music."
"Nowadays, the likes of the massive selling artists such as Sting, Robbie Williams, Richard Ashcroft, The Verve,
Bjork, The Thrills and Ronan Keating, to name but a few, are now using the steel on their recordings."
"This has meant that the steel is being heard by a massive mainstream audience, which is great. However, some people are
still unaware that the sound they are hearing or the instrument they see in front of them is a steel guitar, and THAT’S
what we have to change!"
"Slowly the idea of learning to play steel is becoming more and more appealing, but there is still a long way to go! It
needs to be made more accessible to young people that are interested in music."
Sarah is trying to help this situation by taking her own interpretation of the steel guitar to the grass roots area - not
only by playing shows and festivals around the world with her own six piece band but by also going out to music shops, schools
and colleges and demonstrating exactly what this instrument can do and letting people experience the steel first hand.
She says: "The response has been overwhelming, and I am pleased to say that there is a great deal of interest in the steel
from the people who attend the demonstrations - so much so that I am now planning to take some steel guitar seminars in the
Sarah first travelled to the USA when she was 13 years old to play Scotty’s steel convention in St. Louis.
She says: "In the US, the pedal steel is as well known as coffee - you never have to explain twice! I was made aware of that
the very first time I went to the States to play at Scotty’s. So many people, not just players, but general people knew
all about and loved this instrument I was playing. That was a massive eye opener for me at such a young age!"
Several years and several trips to the States later, Sarah would love to tour America state to state on a tour bus,
playing as many gigs as possible. She adds: "It has been a dream of mine for more years now than I care to remember, and I
pray that one day I will get a chance to share my music with more of the wonderful American people."
Sarah is proud to be endorsed by American-based companies Mullen Steel Guitars, Jagwire Strings and Peavey Electronics.
"I have been a Peavey endorsee now for over four years, and even though they are an American-based company, they have a
fantastic European team and MD who I am lucky enough to work very closely with. In my opinion, they make the finest steel
guitar amps in the world (and I was playing Peavey amps long before I ever had the chance to be endorsed by them)."
"Peavey amps have a clarity, tone and sheer power without the slightest distortion that is unmatched by any other steel
amp on the market. My old Peavey Session 500 is still in my studio at home and still going strong after 24 years of road use.
I now use their new Nashville range of amps as well as their guitars, which I have adapted to play slide guitar on."
"My Mullen Steel Guitar endorsement has been in place now for almost a year. When I was in St Louis last year, I was playing
my EMCI Twin neck, which I had been using on the road for 18 years, but she needed retiring; she was very road weary
"As soon as I sat down behind the Mullen, I knew it was the guitar for me. It just felt right, and I knew I could make
this guitar part of me as a person. My heart and soul would be on display every time I sat down to play it, and that’s
what I wanted."
"The pick-up has been wound to take out some of the mid range but without losing the warmth that the mids can give you.
It is a very fast and accurate action on the pedals and knee levers, and the intonation is perfect. My speed picking has come
on in leaps and bounds since I have been playing the Mullen."
"In my opinion, you blend the sound of the Mullen with the Peavey amps and my recent addition of Jagwire Strings, which
just sing out and have such a clear and fresh tone – it’s a winning combination."
"For me personally, the steel guitar is who I am and what I am about. I would like to think that the instrument
will continue to grow and touch more people as it has touched me over the last thirty years!"
Sarah is planning a series of steel seminars in Wilson, North Carolina, USA in April, 2005. For more information,
visit her website at www.sarahjory.co.uk
A new pedal steel DVD featuring tracks such as My Heart Will Go On (Theme from Titanic) and Last Horizons will be available
in early 2005. More information is at www.sarahjory.co.uk
Photos and more information available fromHelen Skillington, SMP (Strategic Marketing & Publicity Ltd),
Crew Lane, Southwell, Notts, NG25 0TX. UK.
Direct Tel +44 (0) 1636 816958
Mobile + 44 (0) 7976 554984More about Sarah
Having toured all over the world headlining major festivals with her own six-piece band, Sarah Jory has also played at
prestigious pedal steel guitar conventions in the US, Europe, Japan and Australia.
Sarah is also a master of bottleneck slide blues guitar, banjo, mandolin and acoustic guitar. Voted ‘European Country
Entertainer of the Year’ every year for the last decade, she has recorded an impressive 16 albums and three videos to
date! Major national and international TV appearances include CMT, VH1 and Sky TV. More information is at www.sarahjory.co.uk