Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Actually, I am never there on Thursdays, but I thought I should post office hours.

The oddest thing about my departure from WSU was that the music department is apparently unaware that I am no longer employed by the university and so never asked for me to vacate my office. I had the good sense to get everything important out of there but decided to maintain my office as a kind of installation. I had shared the office for several years with Ron Pond, a genuine Umatilla/Palutspu shaman who taught Native American music at WSU, but they found some reason to get rid of him this last summer too--I have no idea what the reason was (there is some sort of gag order about it because it involves "legal issues"). We had thought of our shared office as a kind of ghetto for non-European music, and the quiet elimination of our positions speaks volumes about diversity in the university.

I just pulled out my materials on my musical Cassandra yesterday, the real work I need to do now. I am finally getting some projects out of the studio that have been an obstacle to that work, but I have really enjoyed producing CDs for other people here, too. I have been able to use these productions to explore textures I want to use in Cassandra, and working with other people has made me much faster at getting work done in the studio. I decided to post examples from productions I have done the last few years on my website (www.palouserivemusic.com) and thought I would comment on them here.

Steptoe, "Raleigh & Spencer" (traditional), from Doggone Sophisticated (2007)
Listen to "Raleigh & Spencer"

Steptoe (Von Walden, Tina Hilding, Paul Hill, Paul Anders) is a great bluegrass-esque band from Moscow, ID. The three tracks on their 2007 CD that we recorded here represents the least amount of production I've ever done as a producer, as they had very particular ideas of what they wanted and very high standards. It was exhiliarating to work with great musicians with great ideas and do my best to realize them, producing as a team, and I think they made a wonderful record here. They had an excellent sense of how to capture a "live" performance and also enhance the production artistically. The live rooms I've set up here with good mics and preamps are perfect for this music.

Shiloh Sharrard, "Santa Can't Stay" (Dwight Yoakam), from Don't Make Me Go to School (2007)
Listen to "Santa Can't Stay"

I first heard Shiloh when she was eleven, and she had a great country voice even then. Her 2007 CD, Don't Make Me Go to School, recorded when she was fifteen, was conceived by Shiloh as a concept album around her parent's divorce, and she chose an intriguing set of a few new country songs embedded in a foundation of the country classics of failed marriage, including "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today." She came in on one day and played all her guitar parts and sang all the songs on the next day. Maybe we did one or two things later, but the approach to this CD was that it would be based around what she does when she walks out on stage with her guitar, and Shiloh is an authentically great performer, so you should see her if you get a chance (her website is www.shilohsmusic.com). I decided that this should be an acoustic production, no drums, and feature the piano in the "band," since I was finding such elegant Floyd Cramer and Pig Robbins piano parts in all these old country songs. I took it upon myself to learn their parts where I could and inject them into these interpretations, though in this song I went with a fat boogie-woogie left hand groove that I came up with years ago. And then I had three great musicians to back her up: Shayne Watkins, who plays the fattest almost-electric-sounding acoustic guitar lead I've ever heard, Alane Watkins, who had a perfect complimentary harmony voice for Shiloh (and these two have performed a bunch with Shiloh and knew her stuff), and Richard Kriehn who plays fabulous fiddle lines and driving mandolin percussion on this track. On this Dwight Yoakam tune (which sounds so intriguing coming from a still-young-sounding voice, as do many of the tracks on this CD), I sought to create the most driving trainwreck of a groove I could using acoustic instruments.

Mike and Olivia Haberman, "September Song" (Mike Haberman), from as-yet-untitled-and-unreleased (2009)
Listen to "September Song"

Olivia and Mike Haberman are a daughter-dad team of singer-songwriters, based in Lewiston, ID. I worked on their CD this last summer and we're about to finish mixing the album as I'm writing this. Besides Mike and Olivia, we brought in Richard Kriehn who plays duet fiddle on this track, and I added piano and bass. Piano and guitar textures will be a central part of the sound of Cassandra and I came up with a simple part I liked around Mike's guitar part. Olivia is another unusual young talent in the area; she just started at the University of Idaho this fall.

By the way, all the links I use to the website access the broadband version of the mp3s. There is also a lower-fi version on the site. If you have trouble playing the whole file, you might try downloading the other version.