By Scott Auld
The Down and Dirty: Giving classic designs the "Greer Twist" results in very pleasant surprises and a couple of new all-time favorites.
I recently got my hands on four sweet stompboxes from Greer Amplification, located in Athens, Georgia. Right off the bat I knew I was in for a treat; Nick Greer's reputation for killer amps, like the tweed-ish Underdog 15, the 2xEL34 Rev 50 and the 4x6V6 Thunderchief, is well-known so I was salivating at the thought of the tone that might be contained in these little stompboxes. Would I be disappointed?
The first pedal I unboxed was the oddly-named "Pork 'N' Beans" - I didn't get the Beano reference until later on. Duh! It's a treble booster, similar to the classic early units that are the great-granddaddies of all effects pedals. The very early amps that our rock and roll forefathers used were pretty tame in the gain department, so they used devices like the Dallas Rangemaster and the Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face to push the amps into grit and grind. The Pork 'N' Beans is a very aggressive pedal that will grab you by the collar and shove you up against a brick wall, but it doesn't forget to be sweet, just like the original '60s germanium treble boosters. The two-position toggle switch gives you two options: the 'Beans' setting enables the classic Germanium treble boost tone that my AC30 just LOVED, while the 'Pork' voicing fattened up the tone and brought out some mids that are perfect for stepping forward in your band's mix a little bit. Like I said, this is an aggressive pedal and when the volume knob is up, you are going to get some SERIOUS rock and roll out of this box. Testing with a P90-equipped Telecaster, we were into acid-rock & WHO territory very, very easily. Dialing the guitar's volume back brought out the Cream, if you know what I mean.
Next up, the "Black Fuzz" is ready to fool you with it's appearance of simplicity. After all, there's only one knob; how complicated can it be? The secret lies in the interaction between the pedal's lone knob and your guitar's volume knob. You can set the pedal's knob somewhere north of 12 O'clock, and control the varying levels of gain from the guitar volume and your pick attack. The Black Fuzz is extremely pick-sensitive, and gave me the feeling I was playing an old tweed amp hopped up on cayenne peppers. Even with my guitar's volume control full on, I could get a nice clear clean tone by picking softly. I'm not sure if this is really just a fuzz pedal, or a mini amp in a stomp box with fuzz added for flavor. Either way, it's a wild ride.
My new favorite fuzz pedal in the world, the "Razor Burn" is a silicon/germanium hybrid with its roots in the venerable Fuzz Face. As you'd expect, you get Volume and Fuzz controls, but the play between the guitar and the pedal are even more exciting. If you're looking for a classic Fuzz Face sound, but want increased clarity and presence, the Razor Burn should be at the top of your list. I don't see this pedal leaving my board anytime soon.
I saved the unexpected favorite for last. The Relic Drive is a 4558 chip driven overdrive, claiming its heritage in the little green pedal we all love, but with a mysterious Greer twist. I don't know how to describe the difference other than to say that unlike your typical TS808/TS9, the Relic Drive WAILS in ways that make the hair stand up on your arms. The Relic Drive seems to lack the pronounced midrange hump that the Tube Screamer family is (in)famous for, but it easily gives up those cranked-Fender-Twin tones that is the whole point of this family of pedals. Pushing my Tweed Deluxe into clear, sweet overdrive, I just couldn't stop playing it. I went into this experiment looking for a FUZZ pedal, and came away with a new favorite overdrive!
Like all Greer pedals, these four feature standard DC power input and true bypass switching. The tough-as-nails enclosures won't wimp out on you, and the paint work & appearance, especially on the Razor Burn, is just awesome. If you're poking around on the internet looking for a fun new set of pedals to try, Nick Greer has tapped into something that you really need to check out.