How the Waylon Jennings Phaser Pedal helped me discover outlaw music

Guitar pedals come in all shapes and sizes, but few of them can boast the pedigree of a new Fender model I tested out recently.

I learned to play guitar in high school. True story — my friend’s mom had an ornamental guitar on the wall with an arrangement of plastic flowers. I asked if I could borrow it for a while. I played almost constantly and learned a few chords on my own from a crusty beginner’s guide.

By the time summer rolled around that year and eventually college that fall, I was learning most complex rhythms and had graduated to an electric guitar — a classic Rickenbacher that never stayed in tune. I’ve always been drawn to earthier music like Neil Young and Bob Dylan, so somehow I missed the entire outlaw country phase in the 1970s.

I missed some amazing guitar licks during that time period, and chief among the axe-wielders was Waylon Jennings. He had a unique sound that was almost like a warbling — I never could quite place it how that sound was generated.

Now I have some experience with how it was accomplished. I’ve tested a lot of products over the years, but few have lived up to the exact replication of what you would expect. The Waylon Jennings Phaser Pedal costs $129 and does exactly what you’d expect it to do.

After plugging in the pedal and adjusting a few of the settings, I was able to replicate that same phaser sound that Jennings made famous. It was fun to listen to a few of his songs (like this one on YouTube) and then immediately be able to produce that same effect.

Like most pedals, you can power the device using a 9-volt battery or an AC adapter (not included). I used to have a cadre of pedals but have stuck with amps and software lately, but it was fun to go back to the days when all you could really use was a guitar pedal.

There are three distinct phaser settings on the pedal (two, four or six) and then an option called “sweet” that locks into a phaser that to my ears sounded the most like Jennings.

For audio purists, the pedal uses all analog circuitry so there is nothing “digital” about this guitar pedal. There is a dial for ranger, rate, and feedback so you can find the exact tone you are looking for, although one way or another it will sound like a warble. For country music fans, this is the exact sound you hear on many outlaw country albums and some country hits. Of course, it wont give you a distortion sound like you hear on alt-country albums by bands like Son Volt.

It was also fun to try and combine some sounds. I used a Spark Go amp which is about as big as your hand but allows you to mix various pedals and sounds with your phone. I came up with one that had a distinct phaser tone from the pedal with a hint of distortion. (I’ll be reviewing the Spark Go soon.) I also tested the phaser pedal with the Fender Vintera II Telecaster which I’ll also review separately — but for now, the Waylon Jennings Phaser Pedal is a fun and low-cost way to discover a new sound — and a lot of new outlaw country music.