“If you don’t have good tone with just your amp and your guitar, ain’t no pedal gonna help you”: Sue Foley is dropping truth bombs and nylon-string blues in her tribute to the pioneering women of guitar

 Sue Foley live onstage with her Paisley Telecaster.
Sue Foley live onstage with her Paisley Telecaster.
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The first time Sue Foley saw blues music performed live, she was taken fully by the relationship between the performer and the audience.

“The connection between the audience and the band was so key that the audience seemed to be creating the music, too, which is really quite magical,” she says. “I’m not sure audiences realize that they’re making the performance.”

Now, as a veteran blues musician herself, she gets to experience the phenomenon from the other side of the stage. Credit the fans who turned out for Foley’s May 2023 gig at the Continental Club in Austin, then, for the fiery guitar workout she gives on her first live album.

Foley stacked the setlist on the recently released Live in Austin Vol. 1 with classics from bluesmen Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon, as well as tunes penned by Bob Dylan and Cheap Trick alongside a few of her own.

Foley leaned on her tried-and-true pink paisley Fender Telecasters – the namesake of her 2021 studio set, Pinky’s Blues – plugged into her ’59 Bassman reissue with minimal stompboxes to create her tone on the album.

“I’m based in Texas, and Texas is about tone,” she says. “You don’t get tone from pedals; you get it from your hands and by using a good, strong solid amp and a good guitar. If you don’t have good tone with just your amp and your guitar, ain’t no pedal gonna help you.”

Next up for Foley is One Guitar Woman, a collection of originals and songs by Memphis Minnie, Lydia Mendoza, Maybelle Carter, Elizabeth Cotten and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

She recorded the album, which comes out March 29, as a tribute to the pioneering women of guitar, using a flamenco guitar built by Salvador Castillo and employing styles like Piedmont fingerpicking.

There’s even a rendition of the classical composition Romance in A Minor by Paganini as a nod to French classical guitarist and composer Ida Presti, a child prodigy who played professionally until her death in 1967.

“The [common] thread is me, and it’s sort of a reflective study, because I’m taking myself and my guitar and I’m doing their thing,” she says. “Even playing blues on a nylon-string – it is different, but it really works.”