This week it’s been all about THE RECORD.
Holly, our videographer Caleb, and I have been working, laughing, enjoying, eating, drinking, living breathing…as a unit in my house & studio. Dominique and I had our hands full, not only doing our respective jobs, and taking care of Aden, but shopping and cooking for this lively crew. It’s great to have people in the house, tho. So, if you are a regular reader of this blog, and you *haven’t* chipped in to our Pledge Music campaign, just. Stop. Now. And go to this link, and contribute. Seriously…we need you! It’s an expensive project, we need all the help we can get.
We do have quite a few special guests coming in to the picture, but one very special guest has completed her contribution — Keren Ann, a Paris-based singer, very well known here in France both as an artist and a writer/producer for other artists. She makes albums in French and English, and tours the world regularly. Holly and Keren Ann know each other via mutual music friends, and on Thursday we trucked up to her studio in Paris and tracked a song live. 4 guitars, three vocals, all around the Rondo mic, which we’ve been using for our sessions here in Tours as well. The Rondo mic is a specially designed array of 8 condenser mics, built into an egg-shaped housing, that capture sound in 360 degrees. Dysonics, the company behind the design, plan to radically change your headphone listening experience with not only their recording with this kind of mic array, but a device that attaches to any set of headphones and not only immerses you in 360º sound, but that sound also changes with *your* movements as well…heady stuff indeed. We’ve used the Rondo for a few things on the album, so this old school country concept album is using cutting edge tech to capture the performances and translate them to your ears. The Rondo captured our live take, Holly singing lead and playing acoustic 12 string; Keren Ann & I on acoustics and vocal harmonies, and her guitarist and studio-space-sharer Philippe on electric guitar. No overdubs, no mixing except for our physical positioning around the mic. We seemed to harmonize really well and blend, despite never having played together before. And Philippe, who didn’t even know he’d end up playing that day, nailed it, the perfect rootsy guitar for this kind of song. It’s going to be…well. AMAZING. We covered Willie Nelson’s “Time of the Preacher”, which links our album to his “Red Headed Stranger” album, which is the basis of the inspiration for this album we’re making now…that is, a concept album about the characters from “Doesn’t It Remind You of Something”. It’s really turning into a country opera, with full length songs, and tiny instrumental vignettes, mini themes recurring… YOU HAVE TO PREORDER THIS SO WE CAN FINISH IT!! PLEASE!!!
here’s the link: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/kenandholly/
After the session, we dropped our gear at my place, and headed up to Montmarte to have dinner at a tiny Italian place with Keren Ann and her toddler, Nico. Keren Ann retired, we hit my neighborhood favorite spots for some more wine.
The trip to Paris was typically messed up — when we walked to the tram, the sign at the stop announced the tram was blocked by a demonstration. SO we immediately called a cab, made our train no problem, but still…so typical. Paris was gridlocked by an even bigger demonstration so our cab ride from the station to my house was twice as long/expensive as normal. I hit the neighborhood running, had a new cheap suitcase to buy, had my favorite organic grocery to hit, needed dental floss that you can’t buy anywhere in Tours, it seems…plus going thru the mail at the Paris flat, and listening to the mixes from Nicole Bianchet’s album.
The next morning we were up at 6.30, Caleb our video man, who’s been an incredible trooper, asset, eater and buddy for this week, had his flight home to LA, and Holly & I had our train back to Tours. Still, I listened to the latest Phantom Sound mixes on my stereo that morning, the mixes held up. But anyway, my new Monitor Audio speakers arrived this week so now I have a great set up in Tours.
And records! I got my advance copy of the new Orange Humble Band album, “Depressing Beauty”. It’s a masterpiece. Tracked at Ardent Studios in Memphis, with Jody from Big Star on drums, Dave Smith (Cat Power, etc) on bass, Mitch Easter producing and playing guitar, Rick Steff (Lucero) on keys, and OHB mastermind Darryl Mather on acoustic guitar, and me singing the lead vocals…all live. Dwight Twilley appears, Chris Stamey and Carl Marsh (Carl did the original string etc arrangements on Big Star’s Third) did the string arrangements, and then on overdubs there’s Jon Auer singing/playing various stuff, Susan Cowsill on BVs, the Memphis Horns, Spooner Oldham on keys…it’s, just..wow. Beautiful recordings and performances. The release will be thru Citadel in Australia and it’s limited to 1000 numbered copies. Great packaging too.
Holly has been fighting what I believe is bronchitis, it’s been lingering for weeks, but she’s still managed to sing for the album, beautifully. Really impressed. I sing too, and play…well, a lot of stuff.
Meanwhile, my stepdad Dewey turned 90 (!) this week, my son Kenny turned 29. My mom and stepdad celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary. The sun came out in Tours, and I hauled the lawn mower over from Dom’s mom’s, and cut the grass; Dom’s mom came over and trimmed, and pruned, and tended to the garden.
We drank wine and even beer (we needed a beer being opened as a sound effect on the Holly & Ken record) at the house. One night when it was nice weather we all — Caleb, Aden, Holly, myself, Dom — went to the medieval town square in Tours, and also visited the cathedral, which is breathtaking. I’d not yet been. It took 500 years to build it…
One morning we woke to the unmistakable sound of a cuckoo in the woods behind us. And, I found out our rockery has lizards living in it…small brown fence lizards just like we see on Ile de Re. One morning, going to school, Aden was disgusted by a line of ‘processionaires’, a kind of tent caterpillar that move in a line, the hairs of one will always touch the ones of the caterpillar behind or ahead of it, and they move this way, all touching. It’s a bad strategy for crossing a street, I can say. They were on the side of the house right by the door, for some reason, and Aden found them too fat, wiggly, etc, for her taste. It’s just nature. We also seem to have ant lion pits under the deck. Dom used to catch them as a kid, I’ve never seen one except in books.
Bedtime here… we have three more songs to finish up in the coming days, with composition and then recording…we’re incredibly excited about it.