I’ve mentioned before in this blog that I long ago came to discover what has in many ways been the most difficult part of having a record label. Finding a venue with the right supporting acoustic for the music and instrumentation of a given project is not easy, but it isn’t the hardest part. Neither is coordinating the schedules of all involved. Certainly producing, engineering, and mastering are labor intensive, as are the graphic design and preparation of the album artwork, coding the associated pages for the Soundkeeper website, and getting the word out to reviewers and customers. None of these however, has proven to be as difficult as finding the right artists to record.
Back in December of 2014, in the Equinox entry in this blog, I wrote “Of course the artist’s music must interest me sufficiently to want to undertake a new project. That part is relatively easy. The tough part is finding artists whose music moves me and who are also capable of making a recording the Soundkeeper way, which is to say, those artists who can perform their music in real time, without requiring the safety of the studio to fix mistakes or requiring an engineer to balance the music. In this day of home studios and home recording, it seems the majority of players have gotten so used to the conveniences of the more common modern recording techniques, it feels like a rarity to encounter players who can, as I often put it, play a 5-minute piece in 5 minutes. The fact that many require a few hours to accomplish this makes the patchwork approach used for most current recordings a more practical means of recording them. In my experience though, the best way to achieve the excitement of a real performance in a recording is to record a real performance.”
So I wait with eyes and ears always open for the next Soundkeeper Recordings artist. A few years ago, my friend Sean mentioned some folks he had known since childhood who had a band he felt was a good match with Soundkeeper. In fact, they had two bands: an electric iteration called the Cosmic American Derelicts and an acoustic iteration called Hillbilly Water. Over time, both have joined into what remains the Cosmic American Derelicts.
After visiting their website, listening to samples of their music and watching all the videos there, then finding more on YouTube, I asked Sean to introduce Soundkeeper, the Soundkeeper approach, and myself to the band. It didn’t take long before we were making plans to work together. Being an avid fan of country/bluegrass music, I suggested starting with an all-acoustic album.
What would normally follow such a plan would be a search for the right venue in which to record this particular ensemble. From the previous entry in this blog, called The Silo: “…since the music for this project is country/bluegrass-oriented, I thought it appropriate to record these voices and acoustic string instruments in the intimate, woody atmosphere of a barn. What better place to record country than in the country? While there is no shortage of barns in this area, the Covid-19 pandemic was rampant and I was more than hesitant to approach folks, much less undertake a recording, until I was fully vaccinated.”
That blog entry outlined the discovery, after vaccination, of a local venue that turned out to be perfect not only for this project but in other ways as well. So, with the place set we chose our time, and when the day came I met the band in person for the first time.
It was a hot July day and I got to the Silo early in order to set up. This worked out smoothly and when everything was close enough for a sound check, I went outside to greet the band as they arrived. Then we entered the barn and each band member had the same reaction I did when I first saw it. Eyes wide and mouth smiling, each realized this is no ordinary barn. No dirt floor or animals anymore. Instead, a fine finished wooden floor, comfortable furniture, and a grand piano (more about which in the previous entry). Up in the loft, a pipe organ and other instruments. Under the loft, a small kitchen with a refrigerator in which I’d placed lots of snacks and cold water to sustain us during the day.
We moved a few small pieces of furniture so the band could set up where I wanted them in front of the fireplace. In due course, we ran a sound check and after a few minor position modifications I requested to better hear everyone, we were ready to record.
For those interested in the recording setup, the equipment for this session was as follows:
- Microphones: Earthworks QTC-1 (aka QTC-40, matched pair)
- Mic cables: Nordost Tyr 2
- Interface: Metric Halo ULN-8 (serving as microphone preamps and analog-to-digital converters)
- Computer: Apple MacBook Pro
- Software: Metric Halo Console X (Session)
- Power cables: Nordost Heimdall 2 (for ULN-8) and Nordost Purple Flare (for computer)
- Power conditioner: Monster Cable HTS-400
- Vibration isolation: Custom made bases to support computer and interface
The Twain Shall Meet was recorded at 24/192 (24-bit resolution and a sample rate of 192 kHz).
The gear was pretty much what I’d used for the previous Soundkeeper Recording with the only change being a modification Metric Halo made to their Console X software, replacing the old Record Panel with an in-progress DAW called Session. I expect to see the capabilities of Session expand going forward. For now, like the Record Panel before it, along with the host hardware that is the ULN-8, it provided the most transparent recording device in my experience.
With a few breaks, the Derelicts spent most of the day recording the songs that comprise this album and having a great time doing so.
The The Twain Shall Meet page on the Soundkeeper Recordings website contains more information about the album, including samples from all the tracks, lyrics, photos and videos from the recording session, and a link to a page with “teaser” videos for the album.
George, Scott, Danny, Ed, and Nick, thank you for allowing me the privilege of recording your music.