music | video | bio | photos | shows | buy | blog | press | epk | contact | home

Thursday, June 30, 2011

More photos from Friday, June 24 sessions

Jane and I sitting on our stairs practicing "Right Here" with the vocal group.

My Fender 30 amp was once again stationed in the bathroom, so this is me sitting on the toilet (not using it!) setting the tone before recording "Sinner's Child."

Doug Wilde at the piano. Make sure you watch the Canada Day show from Ottawa—the musical production, composition, and arrangement is Doug's!

Jane testing her mic upstairs for "We Want Peace."

Tannis "I-can't-stop-smiling" Slimmon ready to blast away the ending of "We Want Peace."

Dennis Gaumond getting ready to record "Right Here" with us. That's the attitude!

Nik Tjelios, the master of a million wires, mics, and headphones taking a lunch break on our deck. "I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!"

Rich Langedijk, gravelly lead singer, basking in the challenge of singing a lower fifth harmony.

Apparently, Tannis' smiling is contagious! No, the fenced area behind her is not for containing unruly drummers, it's a net for peas to grow up.

All photos by James Dean.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More session photos

Here are some photos from Friday, June 24.

Just a few of the many headphones we used last weekend.

In the 70s, I took the body of that guitar, and wired it to a makeshift turntable on an old washing machine motor. I got it spinning and poured paint on it!

Heather MacRae (now a Doctor of Naturopathy, so get in line!), brought her home made spring rolls and other goodies. She's the inspiration for the song "Right Here," which I wrote for her wedding. Great singer, too.

Jesse reacting to Adam's ignerrit groove.

Tannis Slimmon, Guelph's Queen of Smiles.

Tricia Brubacher getting ready for video duty (and vocal duty the next day).

Adam Bowman reacting to Jesse's stoopit bass riffs.

Doug Wilde loading up lunch—fresh greens from the garden, cous-cous salad, hummous, veggies, edamame, spring rolls, and-I-can't-remember-what-else.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The last recording day

We had 20 people here today! Roll the credits . . .

Jeff Bersche: vocals, tiny anvil whacking

Laura Bird: vocals-on-the-go
Adam Bowman: stupid drums and ignorant percussion
Tricia Brubacher: vocals two steps back and video
Mike Driscoll: hopped-up vocals and rock smacking
Dennis Gaumond: vocals and stump thumping
Rich Langedijk: vocals and tie-dye-influenced post-hitting
Jane Lewis: maitre d', vocals, video, cuteness
Janet Lewis: maitre d' cuisine, ginger cookie goddess, the adult in the house
Heather MacRae: Naturopathic Dr. of Cuisine, vocals
Tannis Maynard-Langedijk: vocals, muffled guffaws
Joni NehRita: D9 vocal coolness
Stu Peterson: vocals with significant "Huh!"

Tannis Slmmon: vocals, 4" x 4" dropping, joyously colourful outfit
Guy Stefan: vocals and maul-on-wedge syncopation
Nik Tjelios: maitre d'ingenieur
Jesse Turton:
maitre d' grunté, bass
Sam Turton: maitre d' funkée poulet, vocals, guitar
Kate Vanderhorst:
Maitre d' photographie
Jan Vanderhorst:
vocals and second stump, video

Jane's mom Janet arrived first and the kitchen moved into full gear. Nik arrived next and started setting up to record "Pilin' Line" outside in the back yard. The weather cooperated, and we succeeded in recording it and the final song, "Just A Little Bit."

Woo Hooooooooooooooo!!!!!

Exhausted and happy. Here's a still from the raw video—more to come in the following days.

Group from left: Jeff Bersche, Tricia Brubacher, Laura Bird, Jan Vanderhorst, Stu Peterson, Dennis Gaumond, Tannis Slimmon, Mike Driscoll, Rich Langedijk, Guy Stefan, Tannis Maynard-Langedijk, Jesse Turton. Front: Sam Turton, Kate Vanderhorst.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The second last recording session

The house was full today! We banged off three songs, and had photographer James Dean from Toronto documenting the day, along with Tricia Brubacher and Heather MacRae shooting video. Here are a few shots from the festivities.

This is Jane shooting James shooting Tricia shooting Jane with Jesse on bass and Doug at the keys.

Doug running through "Sinner's Child," and Nik conferring with Adam.

Sam conferring with Adam on an aspect of "We Want Peace."

Jeff Bersche in a jovial mood prior to screaming his lungs out on "We Want Peace."

Laura Bird singing "we want love . . . "

The happy hosts.

The whole crew (minus Tricia, and James taking the shot) on our deck. Standing left: Rich Lagedijk. Standing right: Adam Bowman. Back row from left: Jeff Bersche, Doug Wilde, Dennis Gaumond, Jesse Turton, Heather MacRae. Sitting on the bench from left: Tannis Slimmon, Jane Lewis. Sitting on the deck from left: Sam Turton, Laura Bird, Nik Tjelios.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The final set-up day

Tomorrow is piano day. I have the instrument on three songs and Doug Wilde is coming from Toronto to lay those down with us on Friday. I booked Paul Wall from Kitchener to do the tuning ages ago, and the poor thing has been shifting sharp—along with all the guitars—because of the damp weather. It’s a beautifully constructed early 40s Nordheimer apartment upright.

Yesterday we closed up the house and turned on the central air (which we rarely use) and a dehumidifier to gently bring the humidity down before the tuning. Right now the humidity outdoors is at 94% and we managed to bring it down to 60% by this morning. The ideal for pianos is 50-60%.

Pall arrived at 9:30 am and got to work. Within an hour he had it sounding great and suggested we hold the humidity at 60% through the recording. Yes sir!

Then I got to work clearing out the house and Jane prepared food. I cleaned up the back deck, rehearsed a bit and had a nap. Energy conservation is key. Jane never stopped in the kitchen, so I hope she gets a good sleep tonight!

I rooted around our garage for work song-type items for rhythm on “Pilin’ Line.” I pulled out some sledge hammers, axes, crowbars, old ball-peen hammers of my grandfather’s—even a little anvil! The boys are gonna have fun on Saturday morning!
 tonight . . .

The gear.

The veggie curry, with the last potatoes from our 2010 garden.

Big group vocal rehearsal

This post was prepared before midnight on Wednesday, June 22, but I couldn't post it because another violent thunderstorm knocked the power out!

This Friday and Saturday are the final recording days, and we saved the most complex songs for last. On Friday we start with three back-up singers and by Saturday afternoon we’ll have nine. Tonight was the vocal rehearsal for this bigger group, which included Jane Lewis, Tannis Slimmon, Laura Bird, Guy Stefan, Dennis Gaumond, Rich Langedijk, Jeff Bersche, Joni NehRita, Tricia Brubacher, and Heather MacRae.

Everyone had checked out their support materials and was ready to go. Tannis, Laura, Jane and I met early and went over “Sinner’s Child,” then Tannis headed off to an evening class.

Dennis, Jeff, and Rich arrived and together with Jane and Laura, we worked on “We Want Peace,” and “Right Here.”

Then Joni, Tricia, and Heather arrived, Laura headed back to Orangeville and we tackled the toughest song of the bunch—“Just A Little Bit.” This one has three groups of three singers each who do very simple but rhythmically complex, interlocking parts. We slowly eased into it by checking each person’s individual parts, each group together, then various sections of the song. Finally we were able to tackle the song as a whole.

As expected, it will likely be the most challenging to do live, but we will persevere!  By the time we left, it was coming together, and everyone left knowing the song much better, with two days more to practice!

Clockwise from bottom left: Heather MacRae, Tricia Brubacher, Joni NehRita, Jeff Bersche, Rich Langedijk, Sam Turton, Dennis Gaumond, Guy Stefan, and Jane Lewis.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A letter to our neighbours

Jane and I created a letter to twenty-four of our “within earshot” neighbours to ask their cooperation with this weekend’s recording. I delivered them by hand today. Check it out:

We’re your neighbours at 238 Kathleen Street, three doors up from the corner of Kathleen and Division.

This is a musical household, and you may have heard music from workshops and rehearsals emanating from our property in the past.

This Friday and Saturday—June 24 and 25—we’re doing a live recording here at our house. 

We're writing to ask, if at all possible, you could get any outdoor machine-driven chores taken care of either before or after those two days. (Or before 10 a.m. on the 24th & 25th). 

Our concern is that loud engine sounds, such as lawn mowers, weed whackers, and chain saws will bleed through and force us to stop. We’re even hoping to record a song with just voices right out in our back yard! 

Your help would be much appreciated.

If you’re curious about the project, check out the blog at

Thank you in advance!

Sam and Jane.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Harmony changes and guitar work

When Doug added some gospel piano changes to the arrangement of “Right Here,” he suggested a linking diminished chord in the chorus that I realized might change the vocal harmonies. Today I viewed the rehearsal video and checked the harmony parts against it, expecting that I’d have to send the singers a corrected file.

As it turns out, the upper third harmony does indeed need to change - by one note in one location! It’s so obvious that I don’t the singers will have difficulty with it. One more thing I can cross off my list!

I spent some time solidifying the slide intro and solo in “We Want Peace,” which I keep forgetting and changing! As it turned out, I ended up with something even better.

In “Sinner’s Child,” I don’t start playing until the solo, which is feeling really good, though I have altered some positional aspects of it that make the parts really resonate. At the latest band rehearsal, Doug told me it sounded like George Harrison, which is quite a compliment. George didn’t play it from a blues perspective but as a melodic voice like a violin. When Paul, George, and Ringo recorded Lennon’s “Free As A Bird” song, Harrison performed one of the most moving slide solos of his career over a stunning modulated chord sequence:

Ah, The Beatles. They woke me up to music in 1964 when I was 13, and I still adore their stuff.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Watching video

Today I checked out the footage of our rehearsal. It was very helpful, given that it isn’t easy for me to listen to all the instruments while I’m playing and singing. That’s where having an independent producer would be handy. That, of course, isn’t an option, because I would never give up full creative control anyway!

It's interesting how perceptions vary. Reviewing the video, some things came across just like the initial experience, while other sections that appeared solid need work—and parts that I thought needed work sounded great. So much for objective reality!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Final band rehearsal

Today Doug drove from Toronto to rehearse here with Jesse, Adam, and I to put the final touches on the songs. Adam brought his little kit, Jesse and I played  through our little amps, and Doug played our lovely little upright piano.

We started with “We Want Peace,” and mostly focused on dynamics—when to hold back, when to build, when to let loose. After about a half hour, we had it where it needed to be.

“Sinner’s Child,” was next, and it has a very specific arrangement of accented shots and rhythmic pushes that the rhythm section (Adam, Jesse, and Doug) had to get together on. I don’t even play until the instrumental solo, and even after that what I do is colour rather than rhythm. I’m very fortunate that Jesse and Adam are like one musical brain, and that Doug is so talented that he can sink right into it. They sounded great together.

Even though it was just a rehearsal and there were no extra singers to liven things up, I felt that the band was holding back a little up to that point. I called for one more run-through and urged them to give it more urgency in key sections, and they nailed it.

Doug and I then focused on the first verse, which he and I do alone, so Jesse and Adam went out to the deck to get some sun. We’ve got a nest of baby cardinals in a bush close by and their cheeping adds to the great atmosphere.

Sinner’s Child starts with one piano chord and the vocal, “A cop got shot in Woodstock.” Like the opening scene in a movie, the piano has to leave space for the unfolding story, yet build the mood. We worked on subtle fills that Doug could do before the rest of the band comes in.

Then Doug and I ran through “Right Here.” This has a very gospel piano intro that slows down considerably before the singing starts. We don’t want to do this with a click track so that the music can ebb and flow between the vocals and piano, but I was feeling rhythmically lost, so I found the ideal tempo on the metronome, got settled with it in my system, and stood where Doug could see me so that I could swing my hand in time. He played the intro, I found my time and we moved ahead in a much more cohesive way. Nik will probably set all the singers up in the living room so we can see each other to follow cues. We might not even need headphones. It should be interesting!

Doug was done and went off to our workshop space to give Jane a lesson in gospel and New Orleans-style piano while Adam, Jesse and I worked on one more tune.

“Just A Little Bit” started as a blues/gospel shuffle, but has evolved way beyond that and I wanted Adam to develop a drum groove to suit. It took discussion, trial and error, but we got something that swayed and rolled with tasty intensity. Jesse plays upright bass and I essentially play a tambura-like drone on my resonator. It’s going to be big!

So it was a wrap—we’re ready for next Friday.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fresh veggies

A week Friday, our house will contain an engineer, a drummer, a bass player, a pianist, a guitar player and six singers—and they will all get hungry. We will be serving a number of healthy selections, including greens from our backyard garden.

I mulched today with wood chips from trees that had fallen in that freak thunderstorm a week ago, and then picked our first full salad.

Bottom left, chard; far left: kale; at the back, poles for beans just sprouting; back centre, garlic; centre, various types of lettuce; far right, more greens; centre front, green onions (still a bit thin and difficult to see).

The Swiss Chard is looking good!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Right Here

The third song Doug Wilde will play on is “Right Here,” an anthem to the power of the moment that I wrote as a wedding gift to our dear friend (and newly graduated naturopathic doctor!) Heather MacRae.

I had wanted to write a song for Heather, but didn’t want to force it. Weeks passed, and as the wedding approached, nothing was coming to me, so I put it out of my mind. After lunch on the day of the wedding, I was washing dishes and suddenly the song came to me. I wiped plates and scribbled words, and when the dishes were done, so was the song. Jane and I practiced it while we drove to the festivities and sang it to Heather and Chris that afternoon.

I didn’t expect to play it again, but being a very singalongable little tune, I pulled it out at a few jams and people really loved it. To make the message more universal, I changed the word “you” to “we,” and now it’s a regular part of my repertoire.

I usually play it as a type of secular hymn, with a very sparse guitar accompaniment, and often Jane and Jesse will add piano and upright bass. I have always imagined that it might have a more black gospel feel, but wasn’t sure how to accomplish this.

At our arrangement meeting, I asked Doug to see if he could play in that style, and Holy Hannah! He blew me away with what he created. It was what I had been feeling but hadn’t been able to realize. The southern piano style made me sing more soulfully, and it was so powerful that I decided to nix the bass and guitar and let the song stand on its own with just piano and vocals.

Even though “At Home” follows the ethic of minimalist instrumentation, it is also shaping up as a recording with significant sonic variation, and the arrangement of “Right Here” will be a big part of that.

Right Here
© 2005 Sam Turton

We travelled long
We travelled far
To be right here
Where we are
Reach out a hand
No need to fear
‘Cause all we need
Is right here

All we need, all we need
All we need is right here
All we need, all we need
All we need is right here

The night was dark
But the day is bright
Together we
Can lift our eyes
To all we love
And we hold dear
‘Cause all we need
Is right here

All we need, all we need
All we need is right here
All we need, all we need
All we need is right here
All we need, all we need
All we need is right here

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Piano arrangements, part 2

I am very fortunate to have DougWilde playing with us on this recording. There are three songs he’ll be joining us for: “We Want Peace,” “Sinner’s Child,” and “Right Here.” Jane usually plays on these, but Doug’s knowledge of multiple styles—including the gospel/soul zone that these songs pull from—is something both Jane and I wanted his expertise on.

Doug got the charts and rough mp3 recordings in advance, and we needed to work out the particulars of the piano arrangements in person. “We Want Peace” is quite straightforward, and Doug holds down the main chordal accompaniment while I play lightly on my Yamaha and take a slide lead. “Sinner’s Child,” relies more heavily on piano—I don’t even play until the solo. Sometimes you need a break from guitars, guitars, guitars!

At one point, we called Jesse over to play his bass lines so Doug could be sure that his piano bass would not conflict. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and to top it off, I got Doug to tell Jane and Jesse about his involvement with the big Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa. Doug is working to coordinate, compose, and arrange the musical program, which is a mind-boggling feat. The opening musical extravaganza involves drummers, dancers, acrobats, a string quartet, singers, bands—and a perfectly timed flyover by the Snowbirds! The recently married royals Will and Kate will be there, with performances by many artists, including Great Big Sea, Dehli 2 Dublin, and Sam Roberts. Wow!

Doug acting out the Canada Day wing-ding!

Working out parts while the Mac laptop records. My electric slide guitar is a late-60s Teisco Gengakki Telecaster copy that I painted psychedelic back in 1978. I keep it tuned to open E with the action high. All the gritty stuff on Jude Vadala's CD was played on this one.

Doug playing some ultra-cool shit.

Woo hoo!

That's our little videocam capturing the arrangement of "Sinner's Child."

piano arrangement

Jesse and I just had a session working on piano arrangements for three songs with Doug Wilde, keyboardist extraordinaire.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A tree fell “At Home”

Last night the forecast was clear (Ha!). At 1:00 am we were woken by lightning and the sudden onrush of a violent thunderstorm. As I was closing the window in my front office downstairs (our recording control room) I saw the huge trees by our house whipping back and forth like blades of grass. I hollered to Jane to get out of the upstairs bedroom, and seconds later there was a huge crack and one of the huge trunks gave way and fell towards the house.

I jumped out of my office and the thing crashed on the house and the power went out. I went upstairs to see if it had broken through the ceiling and window, but all I could see was the bedroom window with foliage across it. It was impossible to tell how bad the damage was, and with the possibility of a live electric cable in the wild rain, it wasn’t safe to go outside.

After having emergency services determine that our hydro lines were intact and there was no leakage, we managed to get some sleep. We awoke to the scene below.

Here’s the amazing part. Besides a slightly bent eaves trough and about six shingles that needed patching, there was no damage! The section had miraculously landed at such an angle that it just missed the power lines, and hit the roof with the weight distributed across a number of points. The tree removal team said we were extremely lucky—that’s an understatement!

So the “At Home” recording project will continue . . . 

That's our bedroom up there! The room below all the branches is the control room.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Preproduction for “Just A Little Bit”

“Just a Little Bit” is a song I started writing over a year ago and performed in Guelph for the Haiti Benefit in February 2010. Since then I had changed the words and a fair bit of the arrangement—but only in my head! Last week I finally hammered it into shape and did a rough demo.

This song has a lively drum groove, upright bass, a guitar drone and a worksong-type chant that was inspired by old field recordings. It culminates in an overlapping series of vocals with ten singers. It’ll be quite a challenge to record live.

First I wrote out the chart for Adam and Jesse. Then I created a digital drum track as a sample groove, laid down the guitar with lots of tremolo (like Pops Staples), and started singing vocal tracks, one after another—including falsetto versions of the female tracks. The Bee Gees I ain’t, but it had to be done! Then I got Jane to listen to the vocal arrangement.

After making some changes, she sat down and sang the five different female vocal parts. Then I had Jesse lay down a rough upright bass line. With all the parts done, I was able to do a rough mix and an mp3 I could send to everyone.

Then came the tedious part. I created a separate lyric sheet for each singer, with their part in bold italic and the notes in brackets. Then I created a separate mp3 for each part by going to the main mix, making that part louder than the rest, and creating another mp3. I sent this off to each singer. Now they can easily study their part and be prepared for rehearsal. Rehearsals with ten singer-friends is like herding cats, so the more prepared we are, the better it will be. When the big recording “party” arrives, it’ll be about having fun.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Wow, it’s been so busy, I keep forgetting to write even though it’s on my list and I keep telling myself to do it!

It’s big garden time. The 2000 sq. ft. community garden plot we have at the Ignatius Centre just north of town is finally ready to be worked on after an intensely wet spring. Everyone is weeks behind, but what can you do?

Yesterday I was able to get out there (it was still muddy after the thunderstorms on Saturday) and I measured the plot. Then I came home and organized the map. We’ll have potatoes, corn, tomatoes, squash, cabbage, broccoli, rutabaga, turnip, onions, carrots, hot peppers, sweet peppers, basil, beets, parsnips, zucchini, and cucumbers!

Today Jesse and I will be going out there with Mike Cathcart’s truck (thanks, Mike!) and hauling poles and gear for the tomato structures we use, as well as rakes and other tools to get the plot ready for transplanting and planting.

Later I’ll do some more listening to the rough mixes of the recorded takes. Concentration required . . .  

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Remembering the blues

Nothing on the recording front today. I’m playing the Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival Gala after-party tonight, so I rustled up a whole evening of bluesy tunes, including my originals that fit the bill.

It would seem a simple gig, since I play a very blues-related style and was a blues lead guitarist for years. But I rarely sang the stuff, so I just don’t know the words. Today I pulled together a binder of lyrics and will resign myself to reading the stuff!

I'm a Hoochie Coochie what?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Recording Saturday, May 21

My original plan was to do two songs each day, with those requiring a set-up change to amplified guitar scheduled for the second day. I had imagined the amp being so loud that we’d have to take a chunk of time to test out placement throughout the house. Nik took one look at the amp and said, “That’d be good in the downstairs bathroom,” and the problem was solved!

So we managed to get three songs on the first day, which left “Walk With Me” for Saturday. We started off the day slow as Nik came early and got things warmed up and ready to rock. Katherine, Tannis, Jesse, and Adam arrived, the coffee flowed, and the breakfast treats got nibbled.

Jane practiced the series of drone chords for her accordion part. Katherine, Tannis and I went over the vocal parts, which were of the non-parallel variety Jane and I enjoy. Adam hovered over us pretending to be part of the vocal group! Jesse laid back as is his way.

Nik mid’d the National both acoustically and from the amp, as I wanted some ”rumble,” and a wailing sound for the slide solo. When we were ready, the takes began.

The intense vocal finale of this one took some work, but we finished it without too much trouble. It was time for a lunch break—and then what? I decided to whip off another song, so I chose “I’m On My Way,” a traditional gospel tune that Jane and I play live.

This song, with the call-and-response, “I’m on my way to freedom land,” was a standard during the civil rights marches of the 60s. When it comes to gospel music, I prefer the freedom and inspirational songs of African-American gospel, and this is a great one.

We do this as a fast shuffle, and I played my Garrison acoustic through the amp with a rich tremolo, the way Pops Staples used to when he would do it. It’s a cheap guitar, but it sounds great amplified!

Since I had not prepared to do this song, we had to work out the arrangement right there and then. It took a while for the ladies to sort out their parts, and just as we were ready to record, our next-door neighbour started mowing his lawn! Even with the windows closed, the mower rumble was leaking through the mics.

It’s been a cold, wet, spring, and it was sunny day with rain forecast for Sunday. Our neighbour clearly wanted to get the long grass cut before the next rain, so I couldn’t blame him. Nik—who loves to work—happily carried on with other engineering duties while the rest of us hung out on the back porch, ate, drank, and made merry.

When the mower was at the far reaches of the yard, we did a test and decided it was safe to resume. For our final sessions later in June I intend to ask all our neighbours to schedule excessive noise on other days!

“I’m On My Way” was fun to record, but without prior rehearsal, it did take longer than expected. Jesse, Adam, and I got a kick out of what was happening at the end of every take. The final sounds would tail off, and when everything was clear, Katherine, Tannis, and Jane would burst into an animated discussion about who was supposed to go up, down, extend, or clip a line shorter! I don’t think they ever finalized what they were doing—but it sounded great!

And then it was homemade pizza time!

Waking up . . . 

 More waking up . . . 

Joking about waking up . . . 

 Tannis, Katherine, and I going over the vocal parts for "Walk With Me," while Jane scrutinizes.

"What? What? There's no falsetto vocal part for me? Frankie Valli's my main man!"