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Friday, February 17, 2012

Drugs and music

Well another very talented musician died. Whitney Houston was such an amazing singer, but her life was shortened by drugs. Why do some people get into drugs? The moth flying too close to the flame. There are so many people in the music business that have died from drugs or alcohol directly or inadvertently. Among them, Jimi Hendrix, Chet Baker, Brian Jones, Gram Parsons, Charlie Parker, Janis Joplin, John Bonham, Bon Scott, Mike Bloomfield, Keith Moon and Jaco Pastorius. As a musician, I just don't get it. I have seen drugs and certainly lots of drinking on gigs, sessions and tours, but most musicians I play with have families and take their playing very seriously. You can't be practising constantly and striving to be the best player you can be when your high or hung over. Simple as that. The strange mystique that heroin had back in the 40's when Charlie Parker was shooting and younger players thought they could play like him if they shot heroin like him, doesn't fly today. The players that are actually living that have had serious drug and drinking problems regret it. Just ask Eric Clapton. He even hosts a day long event called Crossroads, an all-star concert which raises money for an addiction rehab clinic of the same name.

The media is making such a huge deal out of Whitney Houston's death. Any death that is premature is a sad thing but when drugs are involved it becomes much less sad for me. She was a grown woman who decided to go down that road. She became a different person and lost that beautiful voice but she decided that fate. Everybody knows that drugs are a descend to hell yet she did it anyway. She was also a mother which makes that decision even more horrible. I don't want to sound cold but are we really surprised at the outcome. Same goes for Amy Winehouse. Waste of talent.

On a better note I had a nice gig with my country group Echo and Twang last Friday. Really enjoy playing country music and have been practising my country chicken pickin'. Listening to guys like Brent Mason, Steve Gibson, Vince Gill, Albert Lee and Danny Gatton.

Listened to:

Ricky Skaggs "Life is a Journey" - A great country recording by the great Ricky Skaggs who is not only a great guitar and mandolin player but also a great singer and songwriter. This recording features Brent Mason on electric guitar, Jerry Douglas on dobro, Stuart Duncan on fiddle and David Hungate (former Toto member and LA session musician) on bass among many others.

Randy Travis "Always and Forever" - Country singer Randy Travis became a huge hit in 1986 when his first record "Storms of Life". He was a breathe of fresh air in the country world and sounded like a modern Lefty Frizzell. This record features Mark o'Connor on fiddle, Brent Mason and Steve Gibson on acoustic and electric guitars, Jerry Douglas on dobro, Paul Franklin on pedal dobro, Doyle Grisham on pedal steel and David Hungate on bass. Fantastic record.

That's all for now.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Recording sessions

I find recording a lot of fun and it gives me the chance to play styles that I don't get to play live or as a leader. I've been doing sessions for quite a long time now and I always find I learn something new every time. The recording scene has changed so much. I do a lot of my guitar tracking in my home studio and then either send the files to the client or artist or bring them to the session at a bigger studio where we then import my parts. I have a Pro Tools rig and am able to record, edit, mix and export right in my own home which I still find remarkable. I will talk with other musicians and we would have been on the same recording but never have been in the same room together. I must say though I do miss the hang that usually happens at a session but being able to record at home is a luxury for sure.

To be a session guitarist, I feel it's very important to have several different sounding guitars. I have a Tele which has been on almost every recording I've done in some capacity since 1995. It's a fantastic guitar and definitely a special one even though it's a factory guitar like all the other Teles of that year. It's a '52 reissue, US built and is the classic butterscotch finish although it's got a lot of road scars. This guitar in indestructible as well and always stays in tune! I also have a beautiful Gibson Les Paul that is about 5yrs old and is chambered which means it doesn't weigh a tonne. It has that beefy Les Paul sound which is great for certain tracks and always adds heft to the song. It also can sound smooth and creamy which again has it's place on certain tracks. I have an American Standard Fender Strat which is from the late 80's and always seems to find a spot on a track. The Stratocaster has such a unique sound and really adds a lot to most tracks. It's funny, I record a lot with the Strat but rarely seem to play it live. I also have a beautiful red Gibson ES-339 which is like a 335 but smaller body shape. Great sounding semi-hollow guitar and offers something sonically that the others don't. I use all of them frequently. I have a very nice Larrivee LV-09 acoustic which is a dreadnought size with a cut away. It always tracks beautifully and has a very rich big tone. I find I almost always add an acoustic rhythm track to a song even if I mix it quite low as I find it warms up the track a lot. I also play mandolin and banjo. I've recorded a lot of mandolin tracks and again much like the acoustic guitar, it really adds a timbre and frequency range to a track that brightens up the sound and makes it sparkle.

As far as amps, I have two great Fender tube amps (Blues Deluxe and Blues Jr.) as well as the ZT Lunch Box which has it's own solid state sound which is different than the tube sounds. Basically the more sounds you can offer the more flexibility you have when recording.

If anyone is interested in having me play guitar, mandolin or banjo on their recordings I do record at home as I was saying. All that you have to do is send me a 2-mix (stereo file) and I lay down my parts and send them back to you to be mixed. e-mail me for more info.

That's all for now!