Recently, our good friend Tim (TJ) Webb was in town from Winston Salem and did a short video with us. He did a swell job and, other than the fact that I apparently overuse the term “amazing”, he did an amazing job. Damn it! I did it again!
I’ve made some records in my day – believe you me. This was the best experience that I’ve had making recorded music. Without question. Eric McConnell was just freakin’ amazing and his studio, which sits comfortably in the favorite area of my beloved Nashville, couldn’t be more inviting. Don’t get me wrong, making the Pretty Bird record with George Bradfute, Viktor Krauss, Fats Kaplin, Paul Burch, and Wes L’Anglois was an amazing experience, for sure. One that I’ll never forget. However, I can’t honestly say that I was as comfortable making that record. I felt like I was in way over my head. I was right.
This time, sure, yeah, I suppose it was hard work. I mean, we knocked out 7 tunes in 2 days – including vocal, keyboard, pedal steel, and horn overdubs. But, man…it was a party! Nothing but good friends hanging out on what turned out to be an absolutely beautiful weekend. Not only folks playing music but visiting, sitting in, getting a listen, talking, drinking, and congregating while we made what may turn out to be the best record that I’ve ever made. The one that I’m finally happy with. I was so glad that our friends Sarah, Ry, Annie, Dave, Wes, and Paul could stop by and be a part of it. Wood and Frank completely KILLED the grooves in these tunes – IN A GOOD WAY! They just tore it up. I dunno, I suppose I’m rambling. Trying to put this into words in a way that has a beginning, middle, and end is difficult because, for me, it hasn’t ended. I’m still giddy from the experience.
One funny thing…I was walking around the whole time taking photos. Seriously, I took like 160 photos. That is…until Eric and I got talking and I mentioned that I couldn’t find any photos of his place on the internet. That’s when he informed me that he doesn’t really let anyone post pics of his studio. Oops. That’s why the only pic you’re gonna get of the sessions is this swell shot of my boots.😉
Lately, on a tour through some cities in the south, Atlanta, Charleston (SC), Asheville, etc, as always, I was asked where I’m from. “West Virginia”, I say proudly. This usually results in an odd look or two, questions about Jesco White (do you know him?), or comments about how “my brother-in-law lives in Roanoke” (wrong state, dear!). A lot of conversations, (which I love having with people at our shows, by the way) end up with me explaining how I lived in Nashville for 8 years, worked at Gruhn Guitars for basically my entire tenure in Music City, moved from there to Omaha, Nebraska, from there lived in Baltimore, Maryland, which may very well have some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, and finally ended up back in West Virginia, living in a small rural town right in the middle of two out of three of the only notable cities in the state, Huntington and Charleston.
Why the hell would you move back there? Well,…it’s home. To be honest, I also consider Nashville home. I have so many friends there and some of the best times in my life were spent in that city. I lived in Nashville at a time when I was becoming the man that I was going to be for the rest of my life. But, come on, nowhere is ever as dear as the place where you grew up and no one as dear as the friends that you made at that time.
Being a musician in West Virginia can be,…I don’t want to say “difficult” because it’s not. There are great clubs, great bands, and plenty of people to patronize said venues. What is a little daunting is being a touring musician from West Virginia. Especially if you’re not a Bluegrass musician – though I do love to listen to and play some ‘grass. When supporting the “Dead Leaves” recording, I hadn’t set my roots down anywhere. I was wandering from city to city and promoted the band as being “from Nashville” as it was easier than trying to explain that I wasn’t really living anywhere specific, the bass player (Paul Valla) was from Omaha, and everyone else was from an equally far-away place from Nashville. So, music city, it was! Selling an unknown band to a club owner/booking agent as a Nashville band, let me tell you, is FAR easier than being an unknown from West Virginia. It’s a damn shame too. I see bands week in and week out from WV that are as good as Nashville’s best and bands from Nashville that are as bad as WV’s worst. That said, I’ve seen bands and musicians from Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, and Missouri that are as good or better than any of them. While styles can be regional, talent is not. Don’t believe me? Check out Tyler Childers, Sierra Ferrell, Sasha Colette, Farnsworth, Blistered Nifkin, Qiet, AC30, Bud Carroll, The Demon Beat, Prison Book Club, Sly Roosevelt…I could seriously go on and on and on.
While not glamorous or filled with a large metropolis’ idea of culture. I write my music surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains, streams, trees, and rivers in the whole of our great country. Yes, Hazel Dickens (and Annie Neeley), I know what you meant when you sang “West Virginia, My Home”.
I’m happy to say that this weekend should be one swell time! On Friday, I’ll be doing a solo set at Taylor Books in Charleston, WV. Saturday, the Horse Traders are playing at, legendary venue, The Empty Glass for a Gov’t Mule after party show. With any luck, Warren and the boys will come and join us for a jam or two. Wishful thinking but, hey, a guy can dream can’t he?
Starting in early March, the Horse Traders and myself are Nashville bound to start on our first record together. We’ll be at the Tone Chaparral with the Tone Chaperone himself, Mr. George Bradfute. George is a bit of an underground hero in Nashville who’s worked with the likes of Todd Snider, Richard Bennett, and a personal hero of mine, Steve Earle. I’ve worked with before. George did my first solo record, “Pretty Bird” and I’ve regretted not doing every other project I’ve ever done with him.
This summer will see a lot more shows and – well, who knows at this point? One thing’s for sure, we’ll be making music somewhere.
Really excited for this show. The Carpenter Ants are amazing and I can’t wait to see them with former Blind Boys of Alabama member Reverend R.L. Bush!