Thursday, May 29, 2008
SECOND SESSION, Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Well, we reported back to Mandala Music after a weekend that featured a Friday night gig, a Saturday night gig, as well as two exhausting splashes in the pool on Sunday and Monday. Mary Lou was still in California, so we didn’t have the usual Memorial Day cookout, soiree, and ankle-bite, but we were still a little too much wined, dined and jaded by Tuesday morning. Thankfully, we had plenty of juice left for recording another four-hour shot that evening. As was the case the week before, Spring had completely disappeared and was replaced by full-on summer. It was right around 100 degrees when we reported for business.
Steve and I got there first, each of us having cashed in a food coupon that was part of our Saturday night payment at OrderUp [Colonnade]. Kathy was training at the gym and couldn’t join us until 7, so we jumped into the fire with the completion of “Fast.” When we play the song “live,’ we like to introduce it by saying “this is a slow song called ‘Fast.” The song’s inspiration was the passing of Steve and Kathy’s greyhound. Steve wrote most of the lyrics, asking my help with a second bridge. It’s a “personal” song that underscores the sorrow of loss by celebrating the vibrancy of life. It has caused many a listener to tear up, and Jöel and Bett were no different.
By the time Kathy showed up, we were well on our way to getting our stuff together for “(Some Days) Everything Sounds Like a Song.” This song has a sort of Irish folk song feel. I think it’s a bit sober and serious, but Mary Lou, Kathy, and Steve love the lyric and the sound, so who am I to disagree? This one we figured would be relatively simple to record since it features only Steve on the guitar and, with the exception of a small amount of harmony from Steve, all the vocals are mine. As with “Fast,” this number features the incredibly strong evocative sounds of Steve’s 2000 Taylor Koa K14c. Anything we do with this guitar gives us the equivalent of a third voice. It sounds gorgeous on this number.
We moved along to Steve’s arrangement of the Poco hit “Crazy Love” at this point. We knew that we couldn’t get it all down, since it’s a number that features all four voices, but we decided if we got everything down but Mary Lou’s vocals, she could come in a do a vocal track in a later session. Because this number begins with an a capella phrase, and because most of our performing cues are visual, Jöel suggested that we do a “scratch” recording – that is, record Steve’s guitar, Steve’s vocal, my guitar, and my vocal “live” on a single track. We could then use the “scratch track” as a template upon which we could record individual tracks, ultimately ditching the original altogether. However, we liked the “live feel” of the scratch track so much, that we kept it with only a few tweaks. Kathy then came in and recorded her vocal. Three-fourths of the song is complete. “All we need now is the girl!” Not bad; 8 hours in the studio and 4 ¾ songs down.
I had some time while Steve was playing and while Kathy was recording to wander around the “lobby” of the studio and to chat with Bett. There are several album covers on the walls – the most recent being Bett’s Myths and Fables. All the band members have been listening to that and loving it a lot. I also thought I recognized a guy in a photograph playing with a very young Jöel Dilley. Bett identified him as jazz guitar legend Herb Ellis. I also saw a photo of Jöel with a group of musicians one of which was Willie Nelson. Wow, I hope this isn’t a comedown for him!
LESSONS LEARNED: I think this time we learned that while it was a good idea to script out all the sessions – which songs first, which tracks to record first in each song – it was even a better idea to be a little flexible with our script. We recorded two songs “out of order” on this night, but for two very good reasons. First, we wanted to record three songs in a row that feature Steve’s finger-picking. This kept the koa as the primary instrument, and we were all very familiar with its dynamics. Second, we wanted to get Kathy in front of a microphone and in the can as early as possible. It was much fun for Steve and I to hear that clear soprano blending with Steve’s tenor and my baritone. Some time next month, we’ll have the alto back, and that will make all of us very, very glad – especially me.