Keeley Pedals: Red Dirt Overdrive & Memphis Sun Echo/Reverb

By Bob Cianci

Robert Keeley is an undisputed leader in the overcrowded world of stompboxes. Famous for his modifications to Boss pedals and others, Keeley has also made his mark with a line of innovative pedals that eschew flashy artwork, names and gimmicks, and usually improve upon established pedals. Just what one might expect from Robert and the guys and girls at Keeley. Let’s look at a couple.

Red Dirt Overdrive: The Red Dirt has already been on the market for a few years, but is still a bit of a sleeper. Yes, it is based loosely on the Tube Screamer, but no, it is not a Tube Screamer clone. There are too many of those on the market already, a fact not lost to the crew at Keeley. It has two of Keeley’s better known mods, “baked” and “mod plus.” There is a “lo-hi” mini toggle that allows the user to choose between these two options, and an FET input stage which helps to authenticate the sound of a tube amp breaking up. The Red Dirt can be used as a very effective near-transparent boost pedal, or, you can stack it with other OD’s for any level of overdrive, from mild, to something nearing heavy metal. And, it functions very nicely as a stand-alone OD directly into an amp, with no outside help. The Red Dirt ultimately offers clear, authentically clipped overdrive that actually bests the Tube Screamer. It takes a very familiar standard of the industry pedal and does it one better in this writer’s opinion. The Red Dirt streets at $199.

Memphis Sun Lo-Fi Echo, Reverb & Double Tracker: This recent addition to the Keeley line is meant for the guitarist who is trying to recreate the vintage lo-fidelity echo and reverb found on the old Sun rockabilly Records of the 1950s. This pedal features four knobs; Time, Reverb, Regen/Mod and Mix. The Time knob controls the amount of delay. Reverb is exactly what it says. Regen/Mod controls the number of repeats, and supposedly adds a bit of “glitch” that is said to duplicate the inconsistencies of reel-to-reel taping. Mix allows the guitarist to adjust the amounts of reverb and echo. There is also a three-way mini toggle that lets the user choose between Echo 600, Sun Mode and Room. All knobs offer different sounds through the use of these switches, so it’s absolutely necessary for the guitarist to spend some “quality time” shedding this pedal at home before taking it on a gig, in order to determine the best settings for his or her own needs. I will say that it was relatively easy to duplicate the famous Sun slapback echo with this pedal, which was one of Keeley’s objectives when designing it. You’re not going to get infinite Pink Floyd echo effects with the Memphis Sun; but why would you want to? The Memphis Sun is a necessity for any guitarist playing retro rockabilly, and it also can work well for those into ambient sounds and more. And the build quality is excellent; just what you’d expect from Keeley. The Memphis Sun streets at $179.