We’ve turned the corner! Coming back to the studio, right after Christmas, for a two-day stint was odd– not completely thought-out or scripted. We knew Kenny wanted to change a couple/few bass parts, and I potentially needed to drop in some final guitar parts (definitely needed for Bitter Thing) – but it was mostly about vocals. We’ve been leaning on the scratch vocals from the very beginning, and quite frankly, they have held up rather well!
Kenny kicked off the weekend – Bitter Thing has been eating at him, and now was the time to figure it out once and for all. Digging into his bag he leaned heavily on the Allman Brothers “Dreams” for inspiration –(easily going back 35 years, sitting amongst friends, smoking and drinking and listening to the ABB, being transported to Macon, Ga circa 1969) – it was that simple, problem fixed. Next up for Kenny was Shooting Stars – a couple of tweaks (run-throughs) and that was done. All of this was done by Kenny while sitting in the Control Room with us right there eyeing every move on the fretboard, I’m glad it wasn’t me.
Up next was me – Dallas-based Mark Cuthbertson played a killer solo on Into the Night so I asked him if he could also play a tremolo guitar on Gettysburg. But as it unfolded, Gettysburg went through so many edits since his recording, that his track was now out of time, and sadly, rhythmically useless. So I added the much needed tremolo effect with my SG, sorry Mark! And finally after editing the Rhodes and Hammond and eliminating the rhythm guitar from Bitter Thing, we decided the song still needed a heavy crunch rhythm to further support and bolster the keys. That was pretty much the end of the guitar tracking for the weekend, and possibly the entire recording.
Finally it was time for “Girl Power” — after months of sitting around watching and listening to the boys play, and of course, providing arrangement and other ideas, Irene was called to the mic. Honestly the timing wasn’t good, she was still recovering from a cold that robbed her of her voice completely just a couple of weeks back, and I could tell she wasn’t 100%, but we sent her to the booth anyway. She thought it best to start with the tracks that would require a more “roughed up” voice; Into the Night and Bitter Thing – as it turned out, after 20 minutes, her voice warmed up beautifully, like a vintage set of RCA Blackplate 6V6s in a ’57 tweed deluxe. With those 6V6s all biased and running hot, she really scorched Bitter Thing, maybe even surprised herself?? Going through the song list, we were certain the scratch vocal on Fretz was solid and didn’t need any attention, but true to Matt Muir’s style, we (he) decided it can’t hurt to start the “tape” running and see what happens…Well, the glowing tubes were still holding up and she lifted her game again, on a track that was already pretty damn great! And with that we called it that Saturday night knowing we were back the next day for another day of vocals. I left skeptical, thinking she wouldn’t have a voice for the more sensitive and demanding songs…..
We arrived Sunday, and I was still concerned about whether or not her voice was up to the challenge, but off to the booth she went. Once again, about 20 minutes in and the voice was coming around – I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. We started with Ghost of Yesterday, another song like Fretz where we were thinking that the scratch track was solid enough, but we kicked the tires (so to speak) and took her out for a spin. Irene instantly conjured up some of that gravel from the previous day’s session, an unexpected turn from what we’re used to hearing from the vocals – it was great. Gettysburg was next in queue, and I was wondering if that gravel was going to be permanent for the remainder of the day, not being accustomed to hearing my wife sing in that tone for more than one song before returning to her smooth “Corcovado, Quiet Nights” voice. Once again, I was to be proven wrong – she sang beautifully and kept that theme going for Shooting Stars. With all of the lead vocals in the can, we added some harmonies, fooled around with a few variations and tweaked what didn’t fall to the cutting room floor. We left that night with all six songs roughly edited, giving us a final chance to listen for a week or two to all that we’ve done, and to decide if we’re in a good place to begin the mixing process – my money is on at least another day of additional recording before calling it a wrap, we’ll see later this month.