JB above has it more or less correct, I think. Today I decided to perform a test. I went looking for a good Jerry song where his guitar is low in the mix and there's plenty of his rhythm. Found a Brokedown from 1990. Test was to record myself playing along with the song then compare the guitar track with what it sounds like inserted into the mix, just loud enough to drown out Jerry's already low-in-the-mix guitar.
First link below is to my clean rhythm track (please disregard the slop; this was one run through just for the experiment). Worth noting by the way, that I was playing very loud, enough to get a little movement out of the E120...on the theory that "loud matters." SMS at 10:00, MC250 at noon, guitar volume about 75%:http://www.soundclick.com/player/single_player.cfm?songid=11837218&q=hi&newref=1
Next link inserts my track into the Brokedown mix. It's still a little louder than it should be, but I wanted to drown out Jerry (except on the solo...definitely the man!). Also the timing may be milliseconds off; I had some problems with the sync.http://www.soundclick.com/player/single_player.cfm?songid=11837220&q=hi&newref=1
Anyway, some thoughts: I think Jerry played his rig very loud, even when not soloing, to get that signature "Jerry strum." What has been confusing me is how to reconcile being very loud to the ears but still be really dialed down in the mix. Even with my sloppy playing, my rig does sound very Jerry when dropped in the context of the band, IMO
Funny, banging the shit out of some chords at pretty serious bedroom(+) volume then making the band that much "louder" really makes me feel I'm much closer to capturing that special strum.
Maybe this is all elementary, but it's kind of my obsession to get to the bottom of Jerry's special rhythm/strum. Hope it helps someone else out there sharing similar issues!! I forge ahead....