Thursday, March 30, 2006

New Project with Anne Loo and Eric Jarvis

Today I had the honor of beginning a new project with Anne Loo. Anne is a song writer who writes in a distinctly '70's style'. Think Burt Bacharach, early 70's Dean Martin--velvety-voiced smoking crooners. Then add the Allman Brothers, add some horns then a splash of 2006 U2... That's our target. Cool, huh?

Riding shotgun with me on this production is Eric Jarvis. Eric is going to do most of the heavy lifting, instrumentally speaking. Eric and Anne and I will be playing all of the instruments, and we have a jazz ensemble of the highest calibre waiting in the wings to do our third song (70's torch/jazz).

Anne says she takes bad pictures, so I warmed up to the face shot gradually:

I'm trying to get in a 70's mood with my photos and such.

I'll report again after our next arranging session. We all had a ball. Eric, Anne, and I are definitly on the same page.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Classic Tracks: Tribu de Ixchel

Tonight, I just happened to be checking out a new set of UE earbud-style headphones, and I wanted to see how well they reproduced low end. I dialed up some songs from the band, Tribu de Ixchel, and was instantly flung back in time to when Robbie Parrish and I were working with the band. (The earbuds must be awesome). Not only did the music sound good, I was reminded just how amazing the band was, and was delighted to hear how fresh the CD still sounded today.

In the mid and late 1990's, Robbie and I had the pleasure of working with Tribu. The band members quickly became family to Robbie and I, and we were blessed to work on two excellent CD's together, the last of which, Crema Latina was one of the best CD's I have ever worked on--getting high marks both sonically and performance-wise, with exceptional songwriting. Rodney Meyer's mastering of the CD was exceptional, and in my opinion, the high water mark for his career in the rock category.

We cut the tracks on 2" analog, and slaved two (!) Tascam DA-88's to that reel for a total of 40 audio tracks which we mixed using just the console automation. At that time we did not have Pro Tools in Studio A at SugarHill. We had the same 44 input Neotek Elite that we have now, so I brought all of the effect returns in on the mic pre-amps, padded down as heavily as I could. Consequently, the sound is huge.

Back in November of 2000 when we were were mixing, I had not yet made the transition into producing full time, and I was grateful to be part of a team with Robbie and the band. Robbie got some of the most amazing vocal performances out of Jerri and Jessie. His drum, bass and percussion ideas were equally superior. I was sort of in charge of the guitar performances, and maintaining the overall focus of the record's sound. Robbie was definitely the lead guy on this project.

Here is the song 'Restira la Ilusion'. This song is a beautiful ballad that included rock, traditional latin, and hip hop elements. It was a bear to mix because we had two completely different drum kits (NOT submixed) to contend with in different parts of the song. It was the first song that I ever spent two days mixing. It think that it was worth it. The lyrical nature of the lead vocal, along with Jerri's beautiful voice made the song one of my favorites that I have ever worked on.

While you are at it check out this song, too: 'Cama de Fuego'. This song rocks super hard, and Gabe's bass is uber-funky.

An interesting aside is that both songs feature keyboardist Michael Ramos, who has a killer songwriter/performer in his own right, and is the sideman of choice for John Melencamp and Patti Griffin. Robbie got Michael down to Houston to spread some of his love on our tracks, and his parts really added to the beauty of the songs.

Alas, Tribu is no longer BUT the core members of Tribu are continuing their journey in an excellent project, Triple.

Glad I got the headphones!

Saturday, March 18, 2006


As for my showcase with Maggie Walters: Seymour Stein was in the audience last night, as was David Garza, Sarah Sharp, and other movers and shakers in the business. The show went very well--especially after a rough soundcheck. It wasn't transcendent like our KGSR/Four Seasons gig, but it was still quite good, and the audience seemed to love it, which is, of course, what really counts.

I went to see the famous 'trainwreck' band, The Brian Jonestown Massacre which was more fun than I thought it would be (has anyone seen the movie Dig? If so then you know what I mean), then I struck out to see 'The John Popper Project with DJ Logic. John is the lead singer, harmonica player of Blues Traveler. John is the coolest harmonica player on the planet (imho), and his new project is uber-funk. Guesting were Ian Neville on keyboards, and my good friend, Carlos Sosa (Bob Schneider, Boom Box, Texas Horns), on tenor sax. The show was rocky--equipment problems, ran late, and they pulled the plug on them at 2:30--BUT,.... it had that magic.... Great players and good songs.

Now I'm up early (how is it that I'm scheduled to get up EARLY????) to go to a musician's brunch at Ian Varley's house, (from the Drop Trio where hopefully we can discuss starting production on the DT's new record. Can you tell I'm pumped about that????

At two pm, I bust out the Casio SK-1 for a final show with Maggie at something called 'Love on the Lawn' with Maggie at 2pm. I hope it doesn't rain..... I'm sure that whatever happens will be just as it's supposed to be.


Friday, March 17, 2006


(Note: I'm repeating myself in this post with details about my gig Thursday morning at The Four Seasons, DOH!).

Here I am in my comfy hotel room on Congress street in Austin Texas, waiting for my wife, Christi, to get ready for a late breakfast/late lunch after a late night last night! I'm listening to my rehearsal homework for my gig with Maggie Walters this evening, writing on my laptop, and cruising the internet on 'borrowed wireless' from the office building next door. The modern life is awesome, if a bit high-maintenance!

Yesterday was like two days in one: I had to get up at 5:30am (again) to get ready to play at the legendary breakfast concert that is hosted by the swanky Four Season's Hotel. I walked two blocks from my hotel, with my trusty Casio SK-1 slung over my shoulder--it fit right in my old drumstick back!. When I got there, at 6:45 the crowd was up (more early risers than all-nighters) with an impressive set up in their restraunt/bar. KGSR radio was hosting the show, and broadcast the performance live. On the show with the DJ was none other than Lyle Lovett and famous Tx. Music writer, Joe Nick Patowski.

The show was great. After a shakey rehearsal the day before, we totally rocked. It was one of those gigs where you are on stage and have an 'out of body' experience in the sense that you feel like an audience member at the same time you are playing--really enjoying how good it sounds. The set up was real relaxed, we were surrounded by a sea of couches and overstuffed hotel chairs filled with attentive music lovers. What a gift! And the whole time, Lyle was about 15 feet in front of us digging it completely. I got to talk with him before the show, and that was a thrill, too. I worked with Lyle doing a spoken word piece about 6 years ago.

After the show, we did a local television station interview, and we were then invited upstairs to go play on a local El Paso rock station.

After those gigs were over, I went back to the hotel and took a nap. When I got up I went to the Austin Convention Center and looked at the trade show. The buzz here was digital distribution & marketing!! Everyone is feeding off of the corpse of mega-label paradigm. Makes me proud! I tried some top of the line iPod earbuds which were incredible but pricey. I saw John Harvey of Top Hat Studios here in Austin, and Jeff Wells owner of Sound Arts Studio in Houston. I saw a cool Korean product: a little matchbook-sized plastic box with a headphone output, and player controls. It is a cool little collectable solid state player device. Since there are no computer hookups on it, the thought is that it will prevent digital copies being made of the music that is on it. You want Brittney? Well, you buy the Brittney box and listen a you like. You replace the batteries when necessary. Yes, you could still make a recording of the headphone output in real time, but who has the patience for that these days??

I hurried back to the hotel and changed clothes. It was off to the NARAS Texas Chapter reception with Grammy President Neil Portnov, and special guest, legendary producer, Jimmy Jam (interviewed by Charlie Sexton). I got to me Ivan Neville of the Neville Brothers. My buddy and fellow NARAS Board of Governors member, Carlos Sosa had just finished reheasal with Ivan's band, 'Dumpstaphunk'. Before the presentation, Grammy winning, gospel music sensation, Yolanda Adams performed. She has some SERIOUS pipes. Jimmy Jam was incredibly cool. He is smart, articulate, and a gentleman who obviously LOVES music. He had some really funny stories about working with Prince and playing in his band.

After the NARAS deal, I met up with Josh, John, and Heba from SugarHill and went to see Morrisy with them. I'm not really sure who it was in the group that was all about seeing Morrisy, but it wasn't me. Turns out I knew more Morrisy songs than I thought. He was good and his band was better! Only thing I didn't like was that he sweats a lot on stage. Gross. After Morrisy was finished, we ate some food and went to see The Drop Trio, a 'Medeski, Martin, & Woods' jazz ensem who simply blew me away. They played at one of my DWMusic shows last year, and they are 10 times better this year. I'm in the running to produce their next studio album. After their show, I got to meet one of their label reps, who seemed pleased that I might produce the band. Nice!

This was a great day indeed. Got home about 2:45 and slept like a baby,... today I'm off to see the Southern Backtones, and play a full length showcase set with Maggie.

Thursday, March 16, 2006



I arrived in Austin yesterday just moments before I was to play on KLBJ at 10:30 from a remote feed set up at the Hilton Hotel right across from the Austin Convention Center. This is the 'host' hotel for SXSW, and the corporate presence was huge. Gibson Guitars had TWO tour buses all decked out for showing artists around and hawking their wares. I haven't been to the trade show yet, but there is bound to be some great things to see. Ditto on the SXSW panels/lecture.

This is the 20th year of SXSW and the fesival is making a really big deal of it. I came to support some friends in the 3rd year of the festival. Back then, it was largely unsigned artists. Now, most of the artist are signed to smaller labels, and are looking to move up the food chain. This is interesting from a TLM standpoint in that so many artists are 'doing it yourself'.

Our radio show for KLBJ went great! One song, slam bam, thank you, mam, and we were out of there. Maggie and I left straight from the Hilton and went directly to rehearsal, where I met the other musicians in Maggie's band. They are all world class, so it made me work hard to shine.

After rehearsal, I went and snagged my hotel room, and went to collect my credentials at the Convention Center. There I saw SO many people and performers. It felt great---thousands of 'music people', MY people!!! I made friends in line, saw people I knew, and found myself basking in the love of people who were sacrificing a lot of $$$ and traveling very long ways to come to Austin for the fesival. It's unreal,.... and I love it.

Christi got into town about 7pm trundling out most of our closet and bathroom (I have the pics to prove it).

This morning, I had to get up at 5:30am(!!!!) to make it over to The Four Season sHotel for their famous (to everyone but me) morning concert series. Maggie and the band played two songs, broadcast live on KGSR, for about 200 early risers and didn't-go-to-bed'ers. It was AWESOME!!! Lyle Lovett was there, and Joe Nick Patowski (most excellent Texas Music Journalist) came up to me after the show and pumped my hand. Everyone stopped me and asked about my Casio SK-1 which I had played during the set. It was a real crowd pleaser. The show went so well that we were intervied for the local news (Austin channel 8). We were also asked to play on an El Paso radio station that was broadcasting from a suite upstars. Well helll yeah! We played 'Cowboy' right after an Audioslave song. We kicked Audioslaves' ass with some ambient girl-rock!!! The folks were mighty kind to us on the radio.

I have two more full shows to do with Maggie. 8pm Friday at the Copa for a SXSW Showcase, and on Saturday, it's Maggie and I (on the Casio again), for 'Love on the Lawn'--a SXSW tradition. It's outside, (I don't know where, yet) and I hope that it doesn't rain.

I'm going to take a bit of nap & I'll report more later!


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Old Time Hammer

Mountain Music. If you don't know exactly what it is, think Bluegrass, and then imagine what must have come before bebop jazz got a hold of it. Whatever the image, you are probably NOT reminded of three smart, cool Houston teenagers. But that is who comprises Old Time Hammer, and they are educating me as to how Mountain Music is supposed to sound, and how it should be played.

Colin Sutherland, Elise Southwick, and Jordan Johnson have deftly crafted a sound that is technically a bit raw, but incredibly beautiful--full of heart. Their instrumentation includes steel string acoustic guitar, washtub bass, four string, and 5 string banjo, National resonator guitar, and washboard (with bell and coffee can).

There's no amps, no pedals, no whammy bars, and no tattoos (that I saw). This is so refreshing as to be revolutionary. Colin, Elise, and Jordan play traditional standards and have penned their own tunes in the genre, and I can't tell the old from the new because their material is so good.

I am really excited about this project. I believe that an opportunity like this only comes around once or maybe twice in a producer's career: The chance to work with something, someone, so pure that the focus can only be about the music.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Winter Wallace, Winter 2006

Constant readers of my Studio Log will be familiar with Winter Wallace. Winter is a happyfiona, a midwesternregina, alighterimogene. She is also my good friend, and one of my favorite chanteuses. Winter and I are working on the final song in a trio of tunes arranged by Kevin Ryan. I can't let you hear the music yet, but here is what our vibe is like in the studio. We had a ball, and cut an amazin-gah son-gah. Winter and friends: