I arrived at Full Sail a little early in order to let Joline acclimate inside the frosty air-conditioning. As it was, a fresh set of strings was going to be somewhat dodgy. Charles arrived shortly afterwards and after talking with Michelle Bunker for a little bit, we went into the studio and began settling in.
The class was very professional and courteous; we were situated in no time. They brought out a bullet mic for Charles and rigged it to a stand while I got an AKG 414 condenser microphone that captured every sound sweetly (well, I could've done without some of the finger knocking, but then maybe I shouldn't knock my fingers on the fretboard when I play.)
We started off with "Sunday Morning" and "Gold Trails Hotel", both of us in the room together. Though I'm not sure how isolated the tracks would be, it was important to have the ability to play off one another since we only had one room to work with. However, realizing that I wanted more control over the individual tracks, I opted to lay down some of the basic dulcimer and have Charles come in with overdubs on the top. So, he sat a few out while I ran through some of the 21 songs on the list (yes, 21 - I'm a madman.)
Charles has known for some time that his stepfather was very ill and fighting a brave fight; he'd prepared himself for the inevitable and figured that it would be soon. Well, during the break, he got a voicemail that revealed his stepfather had passed. With apologies ("none needed", I told him), he left early to join the others where they were gathering at his mom's house and I sent him along with my prayers and condolences. Poor guy - he's trying very hard to be strong for his family; he had to put his dog down over the weekend, so life's been a real trial of late. He told me that he's grateful for the music and for the chance to work on a project with me, that it keeps him energized and distracts him from the grief he's been feeling. "It's just what the doctor ordered, Bing," he said. If for nothing else, I'm glad that this album is happening right now. The music has always been more about living than making money or being well-known; it's medicinal. He said he'd be back tomorrow for the next session and I told him that it wouldn't be a problem if he didn't. This is just the beginning of recording dates for the album and there'll be plenty more. But it sounds like in another 24 hours, he'll need a bit of musical escape once again. I'm happy that this project is here for him to engage.
Overall, I tracked 15 songs in the span of four hours, some will need re-doing, but it's a great start. The tunes recorded tonight include:
"Swing Low Sweet Chariot/He's Got The Whole World In His Hand"
"Cotton Eyed-Joe Goes To Cali"
"En Evant Deux"
"From The Hills To The Sea"
"Gold Trails Hotel"
"Mountains Of Pomeroy"
"The Old Black Cat Couldn't Catch A Rat"
"This Road This Moment"
"Whiskey Before Waltzing"
"Somewhere Over The Rainbow"
"Squire Wood's Lament"
Left to record are:
"Planxty Fanny Power"
"Please Bury Me By The River Shannon"
"Polly Wolly Doodle"
I'm not sure which of these are actually going on the record and which aren't - as there will be some tracks recorded here at Dark Studios - but certainly a good portion of these will, because they're already sounding so damn good.
I asked a lot of questions about recording, since I'm trying to boost my set-up, and one of the students told me that a decent pre-amp to get was the Blue Tube. Between that and the 414, I'm already looking at $1000. [Low whistle] Guess I'd better start saving pennies, huh?
In any case - here's a sneak preview of the recording - "Cotton-Eyed Joe" got a bit of a reworking, and I'm not exactly sure where this version of the tune came from - but with what we've done to it, the renaming sure seems appropriate:
"Cotton-Eyed Joe Goes To Cali" [2.2 MB - 1:56]
Charles' harp playing is highly rhythmic and perfect for what we're doing here. I love working with him and he's a great guy on top of everything. This is a tough time for him - so I'm asking that you keep him and his family in your prayers during this very trying period.