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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Recording - Day 2

After too many nights with too little sleep, I went to bed last night with the intention of getting 9 hours. Unfortunately, I woke again at 6:00 am and that was it. That slightly shaky state of overtiredness was not what I wanted to be feeling going into this day.

The first order of business was to tighten the tuning of my National to open E for the first song. Before bed I had tuned it up a half step from open D to let it gradually get used to the greater tension.

At 10:00 am Larry Kurtz arrived to play blues harp on the first tune. He’s the founder and Artistic Director of the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival, and a soulful player who fronts the band Trouble & Strife.

Nik, Adam, Jesse, and Tannis arrived next, and the organic coffee and wild blender shakes got us going. Adam took one look at Jesse standing by his upright with his 2L mason jar potion, and blurted out, “Man, what are you drinkin’? Paint?” So I launched into a take-off of Howlin’ Wolf’s, “I Asked For Water (She gave Me Gasoline” -

I asked my babe for breakfast
And she gave me a bottle of paint
Oh, I asked my babe for breakfast
Whoa, she gave me a bottle of paint
She said, drink it down, my sweetheart
And I told her, no, I cain’t
No, no, I cain’t

Cain’t! Now that’s a rhyme for ya!

The first song up was “Ain’t Gonna,” a swampy blues thing with three part harmony. I like to use the gospel approach to harmony in my blues. Nik placed Tannis and Jane in the upstairs hallway to get them away from the drums. We even managed to set up a mirror on the living room floor so that they could see me!

This one settled in fairly quickly and Larry was killin’ it on the harp. After a few takes and a few critical listens, we got it down. Then Tannis said, “Let’s do one more—and pull out the cork!” So we did!

And the sun came out.

We took a lunch break and I tuned my National back down to D and grabbed the opportunity to put my tray of 32 baby lettuce plants outside in the rays. I have 11 more trays with kale, chard, onions, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers itching to get outside too. Just in time.

We hung out on the back porch for a bit, and then Tannis and Larry bid us adieu. Now it was time for the last song of this series—“Hard Task,“ a rolling, droning lament. The main guitar riff is literally the first thing that came to me after I bought the guitar. Adam created a mesmeric beat with a brush and a mallet, and Jesse had big growling tones rolling out of his bass.

I was starting to feel the body buzz of exhaustion. True enough, it affected my ability to settle into the groove, and also resulted in an ungrounded, shaky vibrato in my voice. Everyone else sounded amazing.

We did three takes and I identified the issue and did my best to slow down inside, breathe, and “lay back.” It got a bit better for the next three takes, but it was still there. I concluded that in my present state, this might be as good as it gets today, and that we should do three more and call it a day. If we got a good one, great, if not, we’d do it again another day.

Adam had pointed out that my strumming hand and leg were moving in a fast eighth note pattern, when the groove he and Jesse were putting down was much more open. Being true Kung Fu dude, he read me a Taoist passage from Bruce Lee about letting go of ideas of perfection and allowing things be as they are. I added, “And call me Grasshopper!” Although it was a funny moment, something in me shifted from high and off-balance to low and grounded. A natural deep breath came, and I realized that they were playing a half-time feel, and I was still seeing it as busier because of my strumming hand. Suddenly I felt the whole thing as “boom - te-kaah - tuh . . . boom - te-kaah - tuh . . . “ and I was there.

The shakiness left, my voice got richer, and for the first time it stopped being work and became enjoyable. Three takes and we were done. What an amazing feeling. Thanks, Adam. Thanks, Lao Tzu!

It was before 3:00 pm—we were done early. Adam took his drums down and motored off to another gig in Toronto (the man is a drummin’ warrior!), so Nik, Jane, and I moseyed along, dismantling the “At Home” studio at our own pace.

Ahhhhhhhh . . .

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a wonderful creative process - thanks for sharing!