Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Album – Monday, August 04, 2008

Current mood:  adventurous

Well, we’re getting underway here…

There’s been a couple of sessions so far and things are sounding great indeed!
Oh Susanna/Van Dyke Parks – bootlegger blues
The first official session for the project was done at The Henhouse, my studio, and will be a really unique track on the record. It’s a collaborative track between Oh Susanna, a wonderful singer/songwriter from Toronto and the legendary Van Dyke Parks, who I’m a big fan of. Van Dyke lives in LA and was originally known for his work with Brian Wilson as lyricist for the Beach Boys on the (no longer) ill-fated “Smile” record. He went on to make some really beautiful and strange records, as well as producing and arranging strings and horns for countless amazing artists. Anyway, Oh Susanna was recorded here, with me playing slide on a tricone national, and keith lowe on bass. We played live, but tried to isolate as much as we could because van dyke wanted to be able to isolate the vocal track for arranging strings around them. In the end, I isolated suzy in a vocal booth and we recorded like that and then overdubbed her vocals after the fact. She’s an incredibly consistent singer, and we did a few takes but in the end, we just used the entire first take. It was the best. Van Dyke will take the track and wrote a string arrangement for it, which we will likely record in LA in the coming months. Should be exciting and a very unique track…

Bob Brozman – Somebody’s Gotta Help You
Bob and I both performed at the canmore folk festival this year, so it seemed like the ideal place to set up a session to get this song down. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a studio in canmore, so I lined up a session at the Banff Centre, about 15 minutes away. Bob and I both arrived to canmore a day before we had to perform, so the festival folks were really helpful and arranged for us to get a lift to the studio and pick us up afterwards. We didn’t have a concrete plan of what we were going to do, but Bob is usually a solo performer, so I figured that is how it would end up, and we decided we’d record a bed track of Bob playing the song on his baritone tricone, and then overdubbing a lap slide part on his small-scale kona guitar. We got to the studio, and the folks there had set up a bunch of the mics and gear I’d ask for so we tested some different setups and got to work. We used a couple of mics on Bob’s tricone to get the full range of sounds from the instrument (a neumann KM 150 and a Sony C37, patched into Neve 1081 pre’s for gear geeks), miked up his voice with a trusty Neumann U87 mic and started takes. We experimented with a couple of feels, intros and tempos and the takes got consistently better, and we decided the 4th take was the one. It has some great growling baritone guitar, and cool syncopated solo bits, and Bob changed up the melody throughout the song which really built it up nicely. Bob truly is the greatest living master of the tricone alive today. His command over the instrument is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. He is so in touch with how to manipulate the sound acoustically coming out of that complex instrument that it’s freaky. I can honestly say that there is no musician like him on the planet… if you ever get a chance to see him perform, don’t miss out.
Next, we set to work on overdubbing the kona part, and the trouble set in with the pro tools system. It was one of those things that couldn’t be helped, but some kind of bug appeared and made the computer crash and it just kept crashing. so we just hung out for a while and let the engineers there try to sort it out. It took a little while, but things got running again. We were somewhat detached from the take at that point, and couldn’t remember if we had a complete take or not, or if some of our overdub had been erased in the crash – files were misplaced and out of order, so it was very confusing, and ultimately we just decided to retake the overdub track. Thanks to Bob not getting too frustrated with the glitches, he pulled off a killer take top to bottom and we had the track.
I’ve been considering recording more projects on tape lately rather than on computers, and this experience really made me want to go that way! So with the take done, we hopped in the truck and headed back to canmore, and played at a really spectacular festival. I’m still there, actually, and have a few more shows today before heading home.
Next up is John Hammond and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. We’re recording next week in Ottawa, and everything is set to go!

More info and order the CD here:



~ by stevedawson on October 6, 2008.

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