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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hound Dog

The original recording of Hound Dog was by Big Mama Thornton and it was definitely a blues. For years I’ve played it as a good-time blues rumba, and on Friday, after we finished “Yes Indeed,” we had time for another, so we took a crack at Hound Dog.

For this one I play my old Yamaha acoustic through a Fender 30 amp that Nik stuck in the bathroom! The Yamaha is in a dedicated high G tuning (G on the top and bottom) and it really bites when I dig in.

I’m not a fan of rock blues, so in order to keep this from descending into a loud wank-fest, I had Jesse play upright acoustic bass on it to keep the whole thing woody. Nik also mic’d the guitar acoustically to have that sound available in the mix.

Adam played drums with towels on the drumheads and clothespins on the cymbals for that down-in-the-gutter trashcan sound.

Another unusual thing about this arrangement is that it’s gospel-style three-part harmony throughout, with Tannis and Jane swooping along with me. This was really fun to lay down—the perfect antidote for an intense recording day.

 Jesse on upright—the wood is good.

We plugged that old amp in and let the tubes heat up for a while to get some nice, crunchy, old-school distortion. Cozy on the ‘loo, too!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Yes Indeed instrumentation

The ethic of “At Home” simplicity carries over to the arrangements. I believe that a good song can even stand with just the vocal.

It was a revelation to me when I heard classic gospel by the Staples Singers that kicked ass with just four vocalists, one electric guitar, and sometimes a drummer with brushes. When I got the Beatles remastered set, it amazed me how simple some of their arrangements were. The haunting song, “Julia,” is just Lennon's vocal and guitar. Even “Fool On The Hill,” only has lead vocal, piano, 12-string acoustic guitar, two recorders, two harmonicas, and a hi-hat cymbal.

I also find that when you leave sonic space, the listener can actually hear the cool things that each player is doing. I think too many performers and producers don’t have the courage to let the song and basic performance stand on its own. They feel compelled to fill it up with a wall of homogenous sound. How many times have you listened to an artist live—especially roots and folk musicians—bought the CD and felt let down when the recording didn’t really sound or feel like what you experienced? It’s often too smooth, too perfect, too produced. In contrast, I want “At Home” to be honest, and that means if my music is simple, the recording is going to be simple.

“Yes Indeed” has one acoustic guitar, one little accordion, drums/percussion, bass, lead vocal, and three harmony vocals. To me that’s lots! The little Zydeco bands I’ve seen in New Orleans can fill a whole room with that line-up, so our arrangement is following trusted tradition.

Adam laying down the freight train groove while Jane plays those fantastic Cajun licks. Note to self—it's time to put handles on our kitchen cupboards.

It's a smilin' groove, for sure. The back of my head is my best side.

Adam is definitely loving the huge sound Nik has captured. "This is your big hit, man!"

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Yes Indeed vocals

For “Yes Indeed,” I invited the stellar talents of Katherine Wheatley, Laura Bird, and Tannis Slimmon for the harmony vocals. Talented singer-songwriters in their own right, I am honoured to have them as both friends and musical compatriots. 

Katherine, Laura, and Tannis checking their parts. Adam is mesmerized by Katherine's mastery of harmonic theory. The thought balloon over his head reads, "Damn. I thought that was the extension of the multi-polyphonic thirteen suspended over the modulated mixolydian flat five!"

Getting the blend while trying to ignore the pungent aroma emanating from the covered crock on the window box that's full of fermenting sauerkraut. I kid you not!

Wait until you hear their harmonies. Katherine is pumping her fist, thinking, "Yes! Adam almost fell on his ass when I hit that ghost flat seven!"

Saturday, May 28, 2011

More preproduction

It’s five to twelve and I just realized I haven’t posted today! I’ve been working like crazy on the final vocal arrangements for the songs we’ll record at the end of June. At first it seemed easy—just do the parts the way we’ve always done them. And then I get ideas . . .

Friday, May 27, 2011

Yes Indeed

The next song we recorded on Friday was “Yes Indeed,” a piece that formed while I was driving from my daughter’s farm in Campbellford. Since I’ve been little I have been able to hear music in my head, as if it’s a radio receiver. I just tune into that “station” and the thing plays—from who knows where! So I let the music roll around and around until it was fairly complete.

I prefer writing the basics of a song without an instrument. I connect to the melody and basic phrases, and afterwards set the rest of the lyrics to it, sometimes with Jane’s poetic input.

With “Yes Indeed,” the entire song had formed by the time I got home and picked up a guitar. The main theme was the chorus—“love, love, love is what we need now, yes indeed,” along with a chugging zydeco backing that I heard very clearly.

I had a sense of the lines as frames in a kaleidoscopic documentary. Each image was a flash of a person having some kind of challenge that genuine love and attention would heal. To me, love is a word that indicates deep connection. When we feel connected in this way, it’s not possible to abuse or neglect ourselves, others, or the world at large. I believe that most personal and societal suffering can be tracked to the original abuse or neglect of the people behaving in this way. If their original needs had been cared for—which is what connected, loving caretakers do—most of this suffering could have been avoided. And even after the fact, environments of genuine love, understanding, and caring would help the issues resolve.

Yes indeed!

Yes Indeed 

© 2007 Sam Turton

For the baby in the belly
Junkie in the alley
Farmer on a combine
Daddy in a coal mine
Mama on the highway
Teenage runaway
Daughter of a drunkard
Beggar on the boulevard

I say love, love
Love is what we need now
Yes indeed
Love, love
Love is what we need now
Yes indeed

For the urchin on the curbstone
Grandma all alone
Toddler by the TV
Schoolyard misery
Armchair romeo
Sister with the rosary
And the dancer with the left feet

I say love, love
Love is what we need now
Yes indeed
Love, love
Love is what we need now
Yes indeed

For the orphan in a war zone
Stranger in the unknown
A Muslim in Texas
The vet with the flashbacks
Native on main street
Alcoholic MD
Family on a flood plain
Refugee freight train

I say love, love
Love is what we need now
Yes indeed
Love, love
Love is what we need now
Yes indeed

 Jane preparing to lead the zydeco train. Love, love, love . . .



Recording Next Time

“Next Time” is the type of full-belt song that could easily be played by the Rolling Stones. My idea was to do it without amplification and prove that you can still rock it out with acoustic instruments!

Adam was on drums, Jesse on upright bass, I was on National resonator, Jane on duet vocal, with Tannis and Katherine on harmonies for the big ending. Adam was in the dining room, I was in the living room, Jesse in the front hallway and Jane, Tannis and Katherine were in the upstairs hall.

As always, it takes a few passes to get warmed up and in the groove, and everything was rolling like my arrangement. At one point, the girls began suggesting adjustments to the vocal dynamics, and started singing the ending with more punch. Then they considered building their part from a more staccato, “next time!” at the beginning, to a longer, “next t-i-i-i-ime!” in the finale. We did a hell of a lot of takes, but it was worth it! Sometimes you can’t know these things until you’re in it. 

Adam "thwacking" with his bundles. "Drumsticks? I don' need no stinkin' drumsticks!"

Jesse thumpin' on the upright. "Amp? I don' need no stinkin' amp!"

Me getting nasty with the slide. "Happy songs? I don' need no stinkin' happy songs!"

Jane happily singing a miserable song while air knitting. "Needles? I don' need no stinkin' needles!"

Tannis singing "next time" a million times while Katherine does her best Joe Cocker impression. "Help from my friends? I don' need no stinkin' help from my friends!"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Next Time

On Friday, the first song we recorded was “Next Time,” a reflection on my family. The tough gospel/blues arrangement automatically implies a rough, abusive situation, when in fact, our family troubles were more about neglect and serious dysfunction. You don’t have get hit to get hurt. Hmmm—that sounds like another song!

My father was a full-blown narcissist. This disorder has a way of undermining a family without anyone overtly noticing it. The wounding he carried from his family wreaked serious emotional damage on the rest of us.

My Mom was an embattled sweetheart. Her art was my creative inspiration, but she was held down by my father. She was also emotionally fragile and had a breakdown when I was three months old, and had to leave for a period. Abandonment feelings? You bet!

My response to all of this was to be the good boy—the hardworking one who brightened up the family darkness. When I perform or take on projects now, I have to be sure that it’s for me and not for those old reasons. It took a lot of personal work to release that burden.

The phrase, “My mama died too early and my daddy lived too long,” simply appeared to me one day. I knew I had a blues song!

I’m not a Christian, but I often refer to Jesus because that character has such powerful, iconic meaning in our culture. In this song, “Oh Jesus” can be felt as both a curse and a call. I also think it’s amusing that I’m calling on Jesus to have me reincarnated!

The graveyard image is from the burial of my father’s ashes. There were only four of us, like the lines of a song, the corners of a box, the seasons of the year—the Cemetery director, the gravedigger, Jane, and me. I felt I couldn’t just hand over the urn and leave. I had to watch the gravedigger put it in the ground, fill the hole, and pack it down with his boot. It reminded me of Dylan’s “Masters of War” -

And I'll stand over your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead

Then I felt that something had finished. Some chain of pain had been broken for good. But no longer having parents can be a strange mixture of relief, loss, and strange spaciousness.

I’m on an empty road tonight

Next Time
© 2009 Sam Turton

My mama died too early
My daddy lived too long
My mama got some things right
My daddy got ‘em wrong

Oh Jesus, next time make it easy
Give me a cold, cold heart of stone
Or Mama, next time
Don’t you leave me on my own

My mama had her demons
And Daddy made it hell
And none of us escaped it
As far as I can tell

Oh Jesus, next time make it easy
Give me a cold, cold heart of stone
Or Mama, next time
Don’t you leave me on my own

Dig the grave and fill it
Pack the dirt down tight
Lock the gate behind me
I’m on an empty road tonight

Oh Jesus, next time make it easy
Give me a cold, cold heart of stone
Or Mama, next time
Don’t you leave me on my own

The next time - Mama, I need ya to stay
The next time - Daddy, don’t block my way
The next time - Mama, please turn around
The next time - Daddy, don’t drag me down

The next time - Mama, don’t die so soon
The next time - Daddy, don’t be a fool
The next time - Mama, take me by the hand
The next time - Daddy, gotta be a man

The next time

I completed that painting in 1972. My mother loved her cup of tea, and I did this one for her. When she died, I had the pot and cup carved into the gravestone.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Photos from Friday

I’m crazy busy doing more preproduction recordings for the final songs, so I can’t get to reporting on the last sessions yet. But here are some shots, taken by our good friend, singer, and imminent naturopath, Heather MacRae.

Yummies! Fruit, homemade cookies and brownies, roasted almonds, organic nachos and salsa, cucumber, broccoli, carrots, and celery. Out of the frame: potato-leek soup, homemade bread, and hummous.

 Jesse, Jane, and Adam in the Eat & Record Kitchen!

Apparently my chart has blown Adam's mind. The one, white, fingerless glove is not an attempt to mimic Michael Jackson, or Donald Duck—it's to keep my sweaty hands from sticking to the bridge cover of my National. And the bare feet are not an attempt to mimic McCartney on Abbey Road, either.

Katherine in our upstairs hallway vocal "booth." We're running through a part.

Tannis enjoying the scent of Spring microphone. Jane is setting up the video tripod in front of her home office.

Jane with her giant coffee mug—an Iris Dorton creation! No, I'm not looking down a manhole. That's a cool little sound baffle (not yet in proper position), and I'm staring at my tuner. The blinding light is from the Mothership hovering over our front window—they like my slide playing.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Accordion is cool

In the last sessions, Jane played accordion on two songs. One was “Yes Indeed,” a Zydeco-influenced number where the accordion is featured, and the other was “Walk With Me,” where she played meditative chordal drones.

Nik decided that the kitchen was the best place to do it!

That’s one cute accordion player!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Whew . . .

Another great recording day—will tell the story tomorrow after I get some sleep.

Here’s another of Jane’s photographic masterpieces. Since bathrooms and showers are good for vocals, apparently they’re also good for amplified slide guitar!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Three more songs down

Holy Hannah—what a day. A whole lot of great music, great suggestions, great tweaks, and a whole lot of takes! I’m happy, but too tired to post any . . . more . . . now . . .

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The day before

We are ridiculously ready. The house is clean, the food is made, and my office organized the way Nik needs it. Adam dropped by and set up his drums with a different bass head. It has a hole in it for a more focused sound, since the next songs are a bit more dynamic.

Nik spent the day swinging by the homes of all our great musical friends, acquiring necessary gear. He just dropped by and set a bunch of it up.

I ran through the tunes once for good measure, and cleaned my strings. I’ll be using my National Estralita Deluxe resonator for “Next Time,” and "Walk With Me,” my Garrison G20 for “Yes Indeed,” and my Yamaha FG-300 for “Hound Dog.”

In retrospect, I realize that I carried a certain level of nervousness last time that I’m not feeling now. Last time I was facing quite a few unknowns. Now the whole process seems familiar and the nervousness has been replaced by an expectant internal hum. It’s a good feeling.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The day before the day before

Tomorrow we set up the house for the next round of recording. Nik emailed his schedule and Adam dropped by after a gig with Jesse and confirmed his arrival with drums, percussion items, mics, headphones, and who knows what else!

Jane and her mom Janet were busy preparing food today—potato leek soup, sushi rolls (smoked salmon and veggie), hummous, hardboiled eggs, toasted almonds, fruit and nut mix, biscotti, Jane’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and Janet’s famous ginger snaps. I have been told by the boss (guess who) to keep my hands off!

I feel very settled with the songs and ran through them a few times today—I don’t want to overdo it. My fingers were starting to feel a little worn last night, so I need to take it easy.

We’re ready!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Critical listening, recording, and practice

There is a level of critical listening that many musicians only “turn on” when they are in the studio control room listening to a playback. They take note of the areas that need improvement, go back in the studio and try again. This is much easier if you’re laying down one track at a time—there isn’t the pressure of making other musicians play their parts again while you get it right.

If you’re recording live off the floor like we’re doing, the ideal is for all players to peak at around the same time, which is more likely if everyone is well rehearsed and can get to that point fairly quickly. For me, that means applying the studio level of critical listening to my personal rehearsals.

I take each song and follow the same pattern: warm up vocally; sing and play to the preproduction track a few times; stop and take note of certain areas that need work; replay the song again with that in mind; record my vocal and guitar on an empty track; listen and assess; replay; repeat.

Today I spent about four to five hours doing this. Recording myself raw was an objective reality check that had a synergistic benefit. I would hear the weaknesses transform, and feel satisfaction that intrinsically moved me to better performance. It was an upward spiral that came from compassionately applying high-level critical listening in advance of the recording. I have the sense that this will allow me to be even more relaxed and open when we roll on Friday.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Practice tracks

Practicing with a metronome or click is very helpful in laying down a solid groove and getting things tight in the studio. Sometimes playing along with a drum track or loop works even better for many players, as the groove is more natural sounding.

To practice playing guitar with the Zydeco rhythm of “Yes Indeed,” I felt it would be better to play with a drum track, but when I originally created the track for the song, I did it at a tempo slightly slower than we play it at now. To correct that, I made a copy of the Garageband file, removed the guitar and vocal tracks, left the digital drum track, changed the tempo numeric, and the program automatically made the adjustment to the drums. Now I had something I could sing and play to.

Jane also wanted a rhythm track to practice accordion to, but with basic instrumentation and lead vocal. I created an empty digital track for bass and manually created a simple bass line. Then I created another blank track, sat at the computer with my guitar and sang the song. Viola! Jane had a rough track at the right tempo that she could use for her own rehearsal.

Modern technology is not always at odds with traditional roots music!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More practice

Today I set myself up with my favourite chair, my guitars, a mic, a music stand, lyrics, my laptop, a metronome, and headphones. It was time to do some structured practice for next week’s recording.

I created an environment similar to the one I’ll be in when I’m recording and began to run through the four tunes. I practice with headphones on, listening to either the preproduction recordings or a metronome. When playing with the recordings, I mute the lead vocal and guitar tracks.

I play rhythm differently with or without a drummer. Since I usually play solo, or with Jane on keyboards, I lay down the groove in a very physical, percussive way. With a drummer, however, not only is that unnecessary, it could clutter Adam’s groove. Today I worked at playing without filling that percussive role. It takes some getting used to!

The song that surprised me the most was Next Time, which I though I had mastered. As I played with the metronome, I realized how much I push the time in certain transitions where the energy increases. It was good to practice getting fired up and not speeding up!

More tomorrow.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The garden of music

The “At Home” recording project is about recognizing that what we have right here is what is. We can allow ourselves to get lost in thoughts of the illusory “out there,” of shoulds and maybes, or we can just be with this moment.

When this perspective is expressed as a perceptual/spiritual view, it could be called Zen, Taoism, or some other mysticism. When it’s expressed as a lifestyle, it’s called living locally. When I express it as an art form, I call it singing at home, and recording “At Home.” These are just different facets of one way of life.

So today, “At Home” was about gardening.

The last few days Jesse and I have been working on our family kitchen garden. Between it and our 2000 sq. ft. community garden at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre, we grow as much of our own food as possible. We’ve been turning the soil, sifting, and adding compost. Yesterday evening Jesse was in his house next door rehearsing with Rich Burnett, and Geordie Gordon while I happily raked away outside. Music and gardening—can’t beat it.

Today I had intended to focus on music because the forecast called for rain. When I saw that the sky was fairly clear this morning, I shifted over to gardening.

I like to grow plants fairly close together in beds with walking paths between, which is more space efficient and creates an environment where my plants ouch each other and crowd out the weeds. So I started shaping the beds in hopes that I could plant the chard, onions, and various lettuce varieties I have growing in trays.

Jesse had his music playing in a constant rotation of great styles: R&B, Funk, Reggae, African, Jazz, Country, Folk, and Classical. Jane had the new Paul Simon CD playing in our house, so as I worked away and went in and out for odds and ends, it was a world of music. Such is our wee home community.

I managed to get all the plants in, and put a row cover over the chard, which saves them from leaf miner moths. In the next couple weeks, I’ll be transplanting kale, and planting peas, carrots, beans, and a variety of greens.

Whew! Time to take a shower and get ready for our singalong gig tonight!

Accordion arrangement

I intended to post this last night, but the site was down!

On two of the songs to be recorded next week, Jane will be playing accordion. “Yes Indeed,” is a Zydeco-style song in which the accordion is featured, and “Walk With Me,” is a chant-like composition in which the accordion plays drone chords, not unlike a harmonium or a shruti box.

Jane already has parts worked out for our live shows, but I wanted to have another listen to make sure they are the ideal lines for the recorded versions. This evening we got together and focused on that.

Jane pulled out her brand new red pearl, two octave Hohner accordion! We got it on Friday, before the Paul Simon show from Musical Instruments of Canada, an accordion specialty shop on Eglinton. It’s a one-floor walk-up shop run by Rudy De Florio, a real sweetheart of a guy. The walls were covered in vintage photos and the racks were filled with accordions of all sizes and styles. The instruments Jane has at home are older and inconsistent in tone and tuning, so she decided to bite the bullet (what does that mean?) and buy a new one. We are not disappointed.

I opened up the Garageband preproduction recording of “Yes Indeed,” and created a new track for the accordion part. I popped headphones on Jane, set the levels and let her play. Tomorrow I’ll give a critical listen and see if there are any changes I’d like to make.

Then we moved on to “Walk With Me,” and after an initial listen, I asked her to shift her fingering inversion to play lower drones. On the older accordion, this part sounded a bit light and warbly, but on the Hohner, the part was perfect. We tightened up the ending and called it a night. Jesse dropped by and Jane showed him what the 48 side buttons do—they play bass, octave bass, major chords, minor chords, dominant seventh and diminished chords! Realizing that the big accordions have 120 buttons as well as 41 keys, I’m beginning to develop a greater appreciation for the great accordion players—like Walter Ostanek, who is a real character and a St. Catharines native like us.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vocal rehearsal

Next Friday, May 20, and Saturday, May 21, we’ll be recording the next four songs for the album. I prefer that the performers know their parts in advance so that during the sessions, all attention and energy can be devoted to the performance—and having fun. To assist with preparation, I sent out lyrics, charts, preproduction mp3s, and for each singer, special mp3s with their vocal part louder in the mix.

Regardless of all that preparation, I still prefer to have quick rehearsals to listen, solve problems, and get feedback. So today we had a vocal rehearsal with Jane, Tannis Slimmon, and Katherine Wheatley. Laura Bird will be singing on one song, but I saw no need for her to travel from Orangeville just for that. She’ll be more than fine on the day.

After pouring tea and sharing the latest personal and community news, we got to work on the first song, “Next Time.” It’s an acoustic roots-blues rocker with Jane singing on the chorus and Tannis and Katherine joining in on the rave-up ending. We sat in a circle in the empty living room, with my laptop at the ready.

We quickly listened to the parts from the preproduction recording and ran through the ending. Once we were solid, Jane asked if I wanted some ad-libbing, and I agreed we should try it out. After one pass, Katherine noticed inconsistencies and suggested structuring the variations. They analyzed the section and came up with a vocal arrangement that was more interesting that what I had written. That’s why I like to be open to the stellar brains of my colleagues!

We moved on to the Zydeco tune, “Yes Indeed,” that has a continuous call-and-response vocal arrangement. Jane’s accordion is the main instrumental voice on this one, so I’m giving the harmony vocal duties to Laura, Katherine, and Tannis. For this rehearsal, however, Jane filled in Laura’s part.

We went through the same steps as the last song, and when we came to the final double chorus, Katherine “heard” something—that they should all rise up as my lead vocal intensifies. She suggested that they all flip their harmonies up—third to fifth, fifth to upper melody, upper melody to upper third. We tried it and voila—it worked! Thanks, Katherine.

We moved on to “Walk With Me,” where Jane will be laying down an eastern-sounding accordion drone. When we play as a duo, Jane sings with me, but for this arrangement we developed a three-part vocal, with Tannis singing an octave above me with variations, and Katherine singing a fifth with variations. This creates a vocal sound that is intense and mysterious.

The last of the four songs to cover for next week was my rumba blues version of “Hound Dog” that Tannis sings with Jane and I. We quickly decided that we knew it well enough—the job was done!

"Walk With Me" solo composition

“Walk With Me” is a song with a very deliberate, chant-like melody and a very simple structure. There are only four verses—a chorus or bridge would have interfered with its mesmeric nature. To keep it from become boring, however, I decide to place an instrumental verse between verses three and four.

In blues and jazz, instrumental solo sections are opportunities for the soloist to improvise and create new melodic variations—they are flights of invention. In songs like “Walk With Me,” the instrumental is an extension of the melody and an opportunity for me to create a rising dynamic crescendo leading toward an even higher intensity ending. I needed to write the solo, just as I had written the melody,

As I mentioned in the last entry, the guitar part is both acoustic and electric, so I needed to hear that sound in order to compose the right phrasing. I set up my early 80s, black-faced Fender 30 in our workshop space, got the tubes heated up and spend a good 45 minutes getting the correct tone and distortion. Then I turned to the Garageband preproduction recording of the song, and created a loop over the instrumental section. I stuck my headphones on, muted the guitar track and played over that section, trying numerous variations.

After about 15 minutes, I paused the loop and pieced together some of these ideas. When the composition had melodic shape, I started the loop and played this “first draft” over it. I then repeated the process, adjusting elements, until the solo was finished.

I will now play that solo composition—allowing for spontaneous variations, of course—as part of my rehearsal every day until we record it, Saturday, May 21.

Walk With Me

© 2010 Sam Turton / Jane Lewis

Walk with me down this Road of Tears
Halle-lu, Halle-lah
Walk with me down this Road of Tears
Halle-lu, Halle-lah
Walk with me down this Road of Tears
Touch the face of your deepest fears
Halle-halle, Halle-lu

Walk with me down this Road of Earth
Halle-lu, Halle-lah
Walk with me down this Road of Earth
Halle-lu, Halle-lah
Walk with me down this Road of Earth
Plant our feet in the dust and dirt
Halle-halle, Halle-lu

Walk with me down this Road of Life
Halle-lu, Halle-lah
Walk with me down this Road of Life
Halle-lu, Halle-lah
Walk with me down this Road of Life
The burning days and the breathless nights
Halle-halle, Halle-lu


Walk with me down this Road of Love
Halle-lu, Halle-lah
Walk with me down this Road of Love
Halle-lu, Halle-lah
Walk with me down this Road of Love
The salted kiss and the sacred touch
Halle-halle, Halle-lu



Monday, May 9, 2011

Acoustic and electric

Today I worked on the song, “Walk With Me,” a heavy but melodic chant-like tune. The main form and words came to me in a dream last summer.

A week after I wrote the first draft of the song, I was on a workshop stage at the Home County Folk Festival in London with Don Ross on one side of me and the Sultans of String on the other. They were an inspiration, and as the set moved along, I decided to play “Walk With Me” and see what these giants could do with it.

I started it up and realized that my tubes were cooking in the summer heat and the amp rumbled with a rich distortion. At this point I’d only played the song acoustically on my National resonator, so this was something completely different.

Fortunately, the big distortion and the great players around me turned an already ominous tune into something immense. As soon as we finished, I knew I had a keeper—and a direction to take the arrangement.

What I loved about that live version was the acoustic sound of the resonator from the guitar itself, and the big distortion coming from the amp. To record it, I’ve decided to mic the guitar and an amp as well. The amp will be mic’d in a separate room so I can mic the resonator acoustically. At the mixing stage, we can balance these different inputs and create a rare, acoustic/electric mix. In fact, since the song starts gently and builds, we’ll probably bring the amplified signal in more as the song moves along.  

It should be interesting!