A hypnotic blend of rhythms, landscapes, tones, colors, styles and moods, with melodies leading the way to certain places that only songs without words can go.
-- Pieta Brown, 2015
Notes from Nashville
It's beginning to look a lot like.... back to the future
We’re all making that mad dash to the holiday finish line, just a few more days ’til Christmas and the first days of Chanukah. I hope everybody’s winding their way through the seasons rush and crush. A liberally laced egg nog does wonders. Or, like me, simply ditch the nog and go straight for the lacing.
I just got home from twelve great days in Austin, Texas producing a new album for my old friend Steve Earle. Steve wanted to record at the legendary Arlyn Studio down there so off we went. He’s written one of his finest records in a long line of great albums. We used his band, The Dukes, and they are as fine a bunch of musicians as you’ll find… made my job a breeze. I didn’t play… didn’t need to, and was able to sit on the opposite side of the double glass and really focus on the overall picture. The recordings went down live including Steve’s vocals and there was very little in the way of repair work. Steve’s longtime engineer and often co-producer Ray Kennedy was on board behind the recording console and this stuff sounds terrific. Ray and I began mixing today, will continue through the holidays and hope to have it wrapped up the middle of January. We recorded sixteen studio tracks in six days followed by two live shows at Austin’s famed Continental Club which were also recorded for possible use later. The album is sched’d for a June 2017 release on Warner Bros. Records.
Austin’s a great city.. no lack of brilliant food there. One of the finest Italian restaurants anywhere is Vespaio on South Congress St. Also, fantastic Mexican cuisine and Texas barbecue.
Here comes 2017 and I have some ‘back to the future’ news to report. Thirty years ago in 1987, after a long, happy and fruitful recording and touring association with Neil Diamond, I struck out on my own. Having worked 17 years with him I felt I had some other things to do, I wanted to pursue producing records and get back again to a more active studio musician career here in Nashville. In order to do that I had to be off the road and stay in town. Things worked out very well with those endeavours and they were busy years for me on both sides of the studio glass. It also lead me to Mark Knopfler and a beautiful recording association then back to touring again, which continues.
About three weeks ago I heard from the Diamond camp, who I’ve never lost touch with through all these years. Turns out both of Neil’s tenured guitar players had, independently of each other, retired. Neil was wanting to contact my son Nick whose reputation as a guitar slinger preceded him. By the way, might I be available as well? It was a convergence of opportunity, desire and scheduling. For many years I’ve always thought how good it would be to do one more lap with my old buddy and boss. I’d learned so much from him in those early years and could now approach it as a seasoned professional. The very first contact I made was Mark K. and got his blessing as it looks like a quiet year for touring. The next was to my friend Kim Richey who I’d promised to produce an album for next year. I was looking forward to working with her again and this would be a disappointment for us both. Finally, I doubled back around to Neil to make sure he was serious about having me back in the band after such a long hiatus. He was serious. There was little else to say but yes. So, it’s official, I will be on Neil’s 50th Anniversary Tour beginning in April. I’m looking forward to playing some music with him again and some of my old mates who are still in the band as well as elbowing my way in with the newer members. A big plus for me will be sharing the guitar duties on stage with my son Nick who is really a great guitar player. We’ve done a fair bit of recording together but this will be a new adventure playing large venues with him riding shot-gun and saving my ass no doubt. Speaking of Neil, I am playing on his current Christmas album, Acoustic Christmas.
As for my own album, I’m so close to wrapping up now but with rehearsals and the tour ahead, more than likely I’ll put it on the back burner for the time being. I do have a couple of things I’ll try to get recorded before I get away and will leave it at that. I’ll no doubt have plenty of time to do some more writing this coming year and will add those to the stack. Look for a late 2017 or early ’18 release.
A full compliment of the Bennett clan will be around the holiday table this year and our usual Christmas dinner will be served…. Navajo Tacos, complete with Pollo Guisada con Chilli Verde. A Christmas trifle and persimmon pudding are also on deck. The only thing missing will be a big, blazing yule log as it’s threatening to be nearly 70 degrees here on Christmas day. Shorts and t-shirt weather.
Stay tuned, I will be up-dating this page a little more frequently in the coming year. Meantime, here’s wishing everybody warm, peaceful holidays and only the best for 2017.
We’re well into autumn by a couple of months and I’m long overdue to write a few words.
Here in Nashville, apart from the leaves on the ground, you’d be hard pressed to think it’s anything but summer…bright and sunny with temps in the 80s and no rain for ages, it’s dry as a bone. While I do enjoy these hot autumn days, there’s no doubt the cause behind it. I’m afraid America has recklessly chosen a new leader who believes climate change is a hoax… not to mention everything else this guy stands for. It was an historic election and not in a good way. It goes well beyond whether my team won or lost, this impacts us all. Buckle up.
We spent a great couple of weeks holiday in September on a small island on the Gulf of Mexico, sunshine, swimming, reading and cooking. Our son married his girlfriend there on the beach as well, a picture perfect sunset ceremony with the waves lapping the shore followed by a great dinner. It’s always hard coming back to reality after those endless summer days.
I’ve been writing and recording, stockpiling tunes for a new album and I am pleased to say I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, though still have a few more things I want to record.
I’ll be heading to Austin, Texas in a couple of weeks to produce a new album for my friend Steve Earle. We go back to the early 80s when I was still living in Los Angeles and flew to Nashville to play on a few sides for him. A couple of years later I was involved producing his breakthrough album Guitar Town and it’s follow-up Exit 0. I’ve worked with Steve on and off after that producing an album called I Feel Alright and playing on the current duet record he did with Shawn Colvin. I’m looking forward to getting in the studio with him, his band, a great collection of new songs…. and, it’s Austin so there’ll be some serious Mexican food involved.
It looks like I’ll also be making a new album for the wonderful singer-songwriter Kim Richey sometime next year. I produced Kim’s first album on Mercury Records some 22 years ago and we’ve been talking about making another one together ever since. I’ve always enjoyed Kim’s music and it will be a good way to kick off 2017.
Bo Ramsey has released an album of guitar instrumentals called Wildwood Calling. It’s been out for a couple of months and is seldom far from my CD player. It’s dripping with atmosphere, soul and is the slinkiest thing I’ve heard in ages. Wildwood Calling is available through CD Baby where you can hear samples of all the cuts before you buy the record. Highly recommended.
Next week is Thanksgiving here in the States. A day when family and friends come together over the traditional dinner of roast turkey and reflect on how fortunate we are. We’ll be doing the same although this year we’re trading the turkey for homemade tamales. So much for tradition however we won’t forget how much we have to be thankful for.
Then, Christmas. Stay tuned.
This will be a short post but I did want to acknowledge an honour that was laid on me courtesy of The Country Music Hall of Fame. On July 30th I was inducted into an ongoing series called Nashville Cats that honours the musicians who play on the records. Bill Lloyd conceived this series 12 years ago and continues to research and host each one. The musicians who have gone before me are my heroes, members of the original A-Team, onto the great ‘60s and ‘70s musicians. After a dozen years, they are now acknowledging the players of the ‘80s. In my case I go back to the late ‘60s in L.A. continuing on here In Nashville from the mid-‘80s. I’m tremendously honoured and flattered to be included in this program and want to thank the Hall of Fame and especially Bill Lloyd who did such a brilliant job in researching my career and driving the interview. If interested you can watch the 90-minute stream at the link below.
It’s been a great summer and I can’t believe it’s August already. Things have been slow work-wise which I’ve enjoyed as it’s given me time to write and the luxury of dabbling around with a new album for myself. The Weber kettle’s been getting a good workout these last few months and I’ve been doing some cooking indoor as well. I’ll be tackling a Pork Ragu al Maialino tomorrow evening courtesy of Sam Sifton found online at cooking.nytimes.com
Hope everyone’s have a good summertime. Stay hydrated, stay happy.
I am always punctual about posting up new notes while on tour and so lax when at home… from daily to seasonal. Well, here it is, the Summer ’16 edition
It’s been a beautiful Nashville Spring… plenty of rain but also lots of sunshine. The trees are in full leaf and so am I. Loads of time outdoors and that Weber grill is in heavy rotation. We bought it in 1976 and the thing just keeps on ticking. I have noticed some rusting around the leg joints and that may well be the beginning of the end. Still…40 years? What can you get now that will last that long? Definitely not a Weber. We bought a second one about 15 years ago to accommodate a dinner we threw and that b.b.q. weighed about half of our old one. They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Anyway, here’s to a few more years on our old Weber kettle. They’re the best.
Work’s been quiet this year though I’m not complaining. A few sessions, notably for Rodney Crowell’s new album. Instead I’ve been writing and recording a new album for myself, have a few things to show for it and will keep chipping away until it is finished.
We spent a little time up in Indianapolis helping our daughter and her family relocate from Knoxville. They’ve moved to a northern part of the city near Butler University, a fantastic area with loads of cool bar and grills, boutiques, art happenings, theatres, etc. all within walking distance. George Clinton and the Parliment/Funkadelics played a small theatre three blocks from their house the other night. Looking forward to getting reacquainted with my mid-western roots again. Though not from Indiana, I was born and raised in Chicago until we headed west in 1960 and you can take the boy out of the prairie but you can’t take the prairie out of the boy. I can say the same thing about my time out west.
The album I played on with Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle last December is due for release on June 10th. I’ve heard several mixes and it’s even better than I remember. Appropriately titled, Colvin and Earle… I’m looking forward to hearing the whole thing.
All’s well on this end and as we head into the Memorial Day weekend and I hope the same goes for you. Here’s to summer.
I’ve received a few queries as to my well being given that I’ve not up-dated this page for a little while and shocked myself to find the last post was Christmas Eve. I can’t believe this much time has flown by, like old movies when the hands of a clock begin spinning faster and faster until they’re only a blur, or the pages of a calendar blowing off like confetti. It is exactly what life has become.
All is well on this end. It’s been a very mild winter in Nashville with the exception of one major (by Nashville standards) snowstorm. In January we were hit with 9” in just a few hours. Nashville is not a city that gets very much snow and a couple of inches paralyses the town but 9 inches shut it down for several days. Happily, we didn’t loose power and had plenty of food, firewood and supplies, making it an enforced mini-holiday. It’d been nearly 30 years since we’d seen that much snow at one time and it looked beautiful but by the end of the 4th day cabin fever had set in. I was never so glad to get out and run some errands. It’s now mid-March and it feels as though we’ve entered an early spring. The doors and windows are open as I peck this note out and we’re expecting 80 degrees this week.
I’ve begun recording a new album for myself with a few things already in the can and will continue chipping away on and off through this year. Apart from that, things have been a little quiet on the recording front and that’s fine as I’ve really enjoyed spending the time writing, reading and with my family. On the listening front I’m currently binging lots of Don Gibson’s records from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. One album in particular, Sweet Dreams, stands out as a real high water mark in song writing, singing, recording and arrangement. Produced by Chet Atkins, it is the “Nashville Sound” fully developed but prior to it becoming too slick. Another album in that mode getting loads of spins is Hank Locklin’s Please Help Me I’m Falling from 1960. My favourite guitar player, Johnny Smith is seldom far from the turntable. On the current side, a wonderful album by Boards Of Canada, The Campfire Headphase… modern and atmospheric instrumental music. A great documentary about Fats Domino aired a few weeks ago and it served to remind me how long it has been since I’d listened to all those fantastic early rock and roll records he made, so Fats is getting a lot of needle time around here as well. His first hit in 1949, The Fat Man, is arguably the first rock and roll record, a couple of years before the oft-cited Rocket 88 and five years ahead of Elvis’ first record on Sun. The Fat Man, definitely worth a couple minutes of your time.
I hope 2016 has launched well for everyone as we turn the corner into springtime.
It’s a wrap, put a bow on it and pass me an egg nog and the fortifier that goes with it. It’s Christmas eve afternoon as I peck out this last up-date of the year. I’m staring out our kitchen window at a perfect sunny day with clear blue skies and air temp of…72 F. ??? The weather is so screwed up, daily record breaking readings in the mid-west, south and east. Last night was a roller coaster here in the Tennessee as 60 m.p.h. winds and severe thunderstorms tore through the state producing a tornado or two. This is the kind of thing we see every spring but nearly unheard of in winter. As yet, we really haven’t had a winter and I’m still in shorts and t-shirts. I wish they’d get moving a little quicker with the environmental healing.
Having taken the whole month of November off, December has been good work-wise. I played on a great duet album by Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle. My friend and great musician Buddy Miller produced it, he and I played electric guitars, Shawn and Steve acoustics, Fred Eltringham drums and Chris Wood of the Wood Bros. played acoustic bass. We recorded 14 songs in five days, all live with vocals as well, very little over dubbing or repairing. The whole record is crackling with life and energy, Steve and Shawn sound great together and the songs are good as well. It was good making records again with my old friend Steve. He reminded me that the Guitar Town album we did is coming up to its 30th anniversary next year. That really set me back on my heels… 30 years. I don’t pay much attention to the years as they’ve gone by and it seems the last 30 have slipped by pretty quickly. Anyway, we may do a few shows together next year to commemorate the occasion. I’d like that.
On the subject of old friends, I did some recording with Rodney Crowell this month as well, a beautiful Roger Miller song called A World So Full Of Love. Another case of live recording, six musicians on the floor together in such close proximity we didn’t have to use headphones. We simply learned the song, worked up an arrangement and played it… to tape….until we got a take that everyone was happy with. Done. I go back with Rodney to the late ‘70s, playing on some of his records and doing a little touring with him back then as The Cherry Bombs. These clips have turned up on You Tube from a 1982 Austin City Limits television show we all did and I have to say we weren’t half bad:
The personnel on these are: Larrie Londin-drums, Hank DeVito-electric and steel guitar, Emory Gordy-bass, Tony Brown-piano and a 31 year old Richard Bennett playing lead electric guitar. A lot of water’s run under the bridge since we did that show and it’s still always great seeing Rodney and recording with him.
The perfect way to end my work year was with Vince Gill producing some sides for a new artist named Meghan Patrick. I’m always flattered to get a call from him to come and play on things, he’s such a great guitar player himself that he really doesn’t need anyone else, but we have a great time playing together, always loads of laughs. Vince is another old friend I go back a long time with. I played on his first solo records when he signed to RCA and prior to that we often shared the guitar duties in The Cherry Bombs together. Aside from his sizeable talents as a singer and musician, Vince Gill’s one of the nicest guys to grace this planet.
It will be a low key Christmas, we’re fairly relaxed around here these days, only got the tree up and trimmed a few days ago. Rather than the big Christmas turkey dinner, we go the non-trad route with Navajo tacos, the green chilli is simmering away already on the stove as I write this. I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful holiday and everything good in this coming year.
Leaning Into Autumn
Hello to all from Nashville,
It was difficult saying goodbye to Mark & Co. last month as we wrapped up the 2015 tour but it sure was good coming home again. I took the whole of November off, catching up with everything and everyone. There was a mountain of mail that had piled up over the course of the tour that required dispatching as well as a few chores and errands. The November weather in Nashville has been unseasonably mild and we’ve taken advantage of that, b.b.q.;s, walks and getting the house winterised. Our daughter and her children came to visit the middle of the month and stayed through our Thanksgiving holiday when her husband came to join us for a few days as well. We were all gathered around the table for the holiday dinner along with two beer can chickens (if you don’t know… google it) and all the trimmings.
Following Thanksgiving I went back to work (if you can call it that) playing on a duet album with the wonderful Shawn Colvin and my old friend Steve Earle. They’ve been touring together for several months, have written some good songs, chosen a few cool cover tunes and their voices blend so well, they really sound great together. My friend and brilliant musician Buddy Miller produced the record at his studio. We recorded 14 sides in five days all of it live with only a few repairs here and there. The album, as yet untitled, will be out this coming spring on Concord Records. I’d never worked with Shawn before, but Steve and I go back many years. He reminded me that an album we did together, Guitar Town, is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary next year and I go back even further with him than that. These numbers are getting a little frightening. Anyway, we all had a great time this week recording a very cool record.
I’ve been doing some writing and hope to get in and bet a start on a new album for myself here in December and then… here comes Christmas.
I hope this finds you well and leaning into autumn.
Contrary Cocktail Arrives
It’s here…Contrary Cocktail. Feel free to overindulge. Click the category links to listen to excerpts of each tune, read about what this record is and isn’t and also write a review. I’m very pleased to have this new album out at last; it’s the latest box of chocolates and I hope you enjoy it.
Along with the Contrary Cocktail comes this years big tour with Mark Knopfler. Looking forward to seeing everyone, working up a new show then taking it out on the road and playing it live. This tour’s running from May through October spanning the U.K., Europe and North America. As always, I’ll be sending Notes From The Road again although I’m not sure if the postings will be daily as they’ve been in past. I haven’t decided yet and will see how it goes once we’re in the flow of the tour, but I’ll definitely be posting some notes.
Finally, the world always needs more Leadbelly. A few months ago Smithsonian Folkways released a 5-CD/Book simply called Leadbelly:The Smithsonian Folkways Collection. Beautifully remastered, including previously unreleased recordings and radio programmes, essays and overviews of his importance as an artist and his broad musical legacy as well as photographs not published until now. It’s a great addition to any collection and a perfect introduction if you’re not already familiar with Leadbelly. He sang like a force of nature and played his mighty 12-string guitar like a rolling freight train. I’ve been devouring this.
All right, watch for Notes From The Road and check out Contrary Cocktail.
More to come soon,
A Quick One
Just a quick up-date. This is really an experiment trying out a new way to upload things on the website. If you’re reading this it’s been successful and if not… well back to the experts who know about these things.
I’m just a week away from heading across the pond to begin rehearsals in London for Mark’s tour this spring, summer and autumn. I’m really looking forward to seeing my mates and getting back on the boards again.
Finally, my own new album will be available in about 10 days. Keep an eye on this site, The Newly Blue album cover will be replaced with the Contrary Cocktail artwork. There’ll be a few usual links to listen to the songs, read a little about it… etc. And speaking of artwork, the image on the cover of Contrary is a wonderful collage by artist Lisa Haddad. Lisa was very kind in granting me permission to use her “The Hedges” for my album cover.
Leaning Into Spring
Man, what’s with this winter. Everyone can’t wait for it to be gone and none more than me. While Nashville can’t boast the misery of the north east of the States, we’ve had a good dose of ice, frozen rain, sleet and snow just this past month. Temps down in the single digits and grey skies and plenty of both. Although we’re in the middle of a week of rain the mercury has risen to the mid-50s, so at least it is mild again. I hope this is a coming attraction of spring even though we’re not there yet on the calendar.
Beside complaining about the weather I’ve been doing some session work here and there but mainly busy finishing an album I’ve produced for Iris DeMent that we began last June. Iris got busy with touring and we’ve only worked on it occasionally since then. Anyway, it’s heading to completion now and I’m very proud of it.
The other project that’s kept me busy is completing my own new record and I can now say it is finished, mixed, mastered and will be available middle to late April. It’s called Contrary Cocktail and was recorded at a studio called Alex The Great with Brad Jones engineering and co-producing. As soon as it is available to purchase I’ll let you know here on this page. In the meantime I’ve done an interview regarding the making of the record that you can find here: http://fansite.richard-bennett.com/p/contrary-cocktail-interview.html Henk Quintelier who runs this site came up with a bunch of good questions and I tried to answer them without resorting to lies, hyperbole or self- aggrandisement. Scattered throughout the interview are some swell pictures of the studio taken by the swell Pieta Brown.
I’ve had a guitar in hand and my George Van Eps Guitar Method book in front of me lately. Getting my chops in shape for the Mark Knopfler rehearsals that will commence the end of April leading up to the tour that will go through October 2015. Running these Van Eps chord sequences is like going to the gym for you hands and mind.
You’ll be hearing from me sooner than later as soon as Contrary Cocktail is out.
It's been a great autumn here in Nashville and now the page turns to winter. As I peck this note and look out the window, the bare trees silhouetted against the grey sky and a cold snap in the air, I'm reminded just how much I love summer's sunshine and warmth. I'll be counting the days.
I've had some nice projects over the last months, one that I'd just begun as of the last up-date was the soundtrack to a movie about Hank Williams starring Tom Hiddleston. We recorded 20+ Hank songs staying very true to the original recordings and the music came out wonderfully. Those songs have been pushed and pulled so many ways over the years that it was really good to get back to what made them tick in the first place. The movie is still shooting, currently on location in Shreveport, Louisiana and I'll keep you posted when it will be coming out.
I spent several days toward the end of October in Cleveland, Ohio rehearsing and playing a big tribute show to The Everly Brothers put on by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Graham Nash, Peter Asher, Vince Gill, Keb Mo, Emmylou Harris, Ledisi, The Secret Sisters and Waddy Wachtel were just a few of the artists who were there to sing the Everly songbook and pay tribute to the brothers. It was a fabulous show with the artists teaming up in duo combinations to perform those fantastic songs. Sadly, Phil Everly died earlier this year but Don was at the show and accepted a Music Masters Award from the Hall of Fame then joined us on stage to sing Bye Bye Love. At 77 he still sounds like he did at 20. It was one of the best nights of music I've been part of.
Just on the tail end of a new bluegrass-gospel album with Dave Peterson, all recorded completely live, with no headphones, in the studio... vocals, harmonies, solos... everything goes down as a single performance. We recorded 5 sides for the record with mandolin legend David Grisman and it was an honour to share a studio floor with him. I'll keep you posted when this one comes out. Regardless of your belief system or lack of it, this is really great music.
Spent a day recording one song with Miranda Lambert a couple of weeks ago that will be used as part of an advertising campaign for Dodge Ram. I always enjoy making records with her. I also have been recording with the great L.A. folk rock band Dawes. This album is being produced by my friend Dave Rawlings who is a tremendous guitar player and partners with Gillian Welch. We recorded at the old Woodland Studios in east Nashville. The studio was built in the '60s and was formerly a movie theatre going back to the 1930s. I produced and played on many records at Woodland in the '80s and '90s but hadn't been in there in 14 years. Gillian and Dave bought the studio 12 years ago and use it just for their own projects. They've done a wonderful job in saving the studio as it no doubt would be demolished as the business is not what it used to be and the land it sits on is extremely valuable now. Gill and Dave have been restoring the studio to it's original state tearing out all kinds of '90s "improvements". It was so good being back in that wonderful facility again and playing with Dawes was a joy.
I just heard that my friend and legendary recording engineer and producer John Hampton died. John was a fixture at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee for 4 decades and a whole lot of folks including me are going to miss him. He mixed a lot of the records that I produced and I always looked forward to spending a couple of weeks with John at Ardent. He was a wonderful guy.... no one else like him. Here's to you Hampton and here's a link that tells you a bit more about him:
I've been in the studio for my own new album since the last up-date and heading in again in January to wrap the whole thing up. I plan to have it out in April of 2015.
The holidays are on us now and I wish each of you a happy season and all the best in the coming year.
This website has been up and running for a long time now and it seems that every time I update the front page I apologise for not keeping it more current and promise to stay on top of it. Well, I've finally figured out that it simply has a rhythm of it's own.... seasonal. Given that and with no apologies or further promises here's the autumn update.
Technically it's still summer for one more week and I plan to wring every last minute out of the season. It's been a great summer this year, kind of slow work-wise which has been just fine with me. I've really enjoyed spending the time home with my family, whipping up barbecues and generally goofing off with little bits of work in between. The long, slow and hot days are just my speed and I can do nothing better than anyone else in the whole world.
We've just returned from our annual family holiday on the Gulf of Mexico. I felt slightly guilty as my whole summer has been a holiday but the feeling passed quickly. We splurged this year and spent three weeks sifting sand, swimming, reading, painting, eating and drinking for America. We normally go for two weeks and were a little concerned that the extra week might get old. It didn't. I could never tire of waking each morning and watching the sun come up over the warm Gulf water. Between my wife, children and I taking turns with the cooking duties we ate royaly. Every night topped the previous in creative cooking, a grand slam each evening made even better by enjoying it on the deck overlooking the Gulf at sundown. We all came home last week completely rested and looking very Hollywood with our tans. We were back in Nashville for just a few days before flying to Chicago for a wedding. It's one of the great American cities and my home town as well. One of the high points was a spectacular dinner at a favourite haunt, The Capital Grille. I doubt you'll find a better steak anywhere.
That brings us to now. I'm currently working on the soundtrack to a movie called I Saw The Light, a biopic about Hank Williams. My friend Rodney Crowell is the music director and he's been working very hard with the movie's star, Tom Hiddleston who will play Hank. We've already done some rehearsals with him and will begin the actual recording tomorrow and work over the next couple of weeks until it is completed.
After several months I'm returning to the Iris DeMent project that we'd begun in June and will finish that record. Iris is a completely original artist and this album is very unique though I don't want to tip it off until it's released.
I did some recording last March with my pal and old boss Neil Diamond. That album, Melody Road is due for release this fall. It was good playing music with him again after many years and I'm very proud to be part of it.
In October I'll be heading up to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio to take part in a big tribute show they're presenting to honour The Everly Brothers. An evening of those wonderful Everly songs performed by a large roster of stars. I'm very flattered to hold down one of the guitar chairs in the house band that will play for everyone.
I've been doing some recording with my friend and fantastic singer Dave Peterson as well as having played a few live gigs with him recently. He's in the middle of a new album and it's always a joy to play music with him.
I wrote a couple of new tunes while we were down there on the Gulf and will get in the studio over the autumn to record and add them to the pile I've already accumulated as I head into the home stretch of my own new record.
All that combined with the usual recording work and this autumn is shaping up to be a good one. I hope it will be for everyone of you as well.
July the 4th
Happy 4th of July to all you Yanks.
For the rest of this readership, the 4th is America's Independence Day celebration. A national holiday... a day off to consume loads of beer, barbecue and detonate fireworks... either official lavish displays put on by each town and city or the home made version where folks take life, limb and legality into their own hands. We'll be partaking of all three today, the latter legally.
The holiday began last evening with a trip down to watch our local baseball team, The Nashville Sounds, lose to the Memphis Redbirds 5-7. Memphis being one of my many adopted hometowns... I wasn't too upset. This is the last season The Sounds will be playing at Greer Stadium where they've held court for the last 36 years. A new posh stadium is well under way and the team will kick off it's 2015 season there. Greer Stadium is the last of the funky, old fashioned ball parks, the bleacher floors still wooden. A hell of a deal too, general admission seating is only $8 and assigned seating only $4 more. Hot dogs, beer and baseball is hard to beat on a beautiful July night. I plan to attend another game or two at Greer before there are no more. My motto, one last beer at Greer. Cheers.
It's been a great summer so far and I must say I'm really loving being home to enjoy these months as we're not on the road. That said, I did take a little road trip with my youngest son (26!) to the great midwest, Iowa City, Iowa to help Iris DeMent make a new record. You may recall her current album, Sing The Delta, was co-produced by my good friend Bo Ramsey and me. Iris's new one is very different in scope. We decided it would be nice to throw the rule book out the window and record it in Iowa City right there in Iris's living room with her 1910 Mason & Hamlin piano. Guitar legend Leo Kottke recommended a great recording engineer from Los Angeles who turned Iris's living room into a 'studio' and an adjoining bedroom into the control room. Iris's usual band and I arrived a day later along with Leo K. and we began a week of sessions yielding 18 songs, all recorded live. As I mentioned this is an unusual concept record and I won't go into detail as I don't want to spill the beans yet, but it was an absolute joy to record.
I've added a new adopted hometown to my growing list and that would be Iowa City. It's a university town about 30 minutes south of Cedar Rapids. Population, 70,000 full time residents. The food and restaurants there a nothing short of remarkable. Lots of fresh, organic vegetables and dairy and I didn't have one morsel that even bordered on just alright. Great pubs, fantastic coffee, record and book shoppes and good midwestern folks. The whole place is so cool but not too hip for the room as they say. It's a place I could live very easily if it weren't for the winters. My blood's too thin, but the summertime's terrific and I look forward to getting back there again sometime soon.
I'll be heading into the studio again next week to roll the dice and hopefully come up a winner with a couple new tunes I've written for my newest album I'm making.
Thirty-eight years ago today I married my wonderful wife. It was the luckiest day of my life and unimaginably, my luck still holds.
Here's wishing your luck still holds and you're enjoying this summer season.
With the best of intentions I promise myself to keep this front page up-dated every month or two. Well, you know the old saying about the road being paved with good intentions. Better late than never I suppose.
Spring is here at last in Nashville, the trees in full leaf, yellow pollen dust all around and the allergy meds flying off the shelves. May is always a tricky time for the mid-west and the south, tornadoes, rain and the occasional cool snap. It's been raining and grey all week here and 50 degrees as I peck this out. This has been one of the longest and most severe winters in the States. There was an old song from the 1930s called He's Dead But He Won't Lie Down. That was old man winter this year. Things becoming more extreme everywhere and the collapsing Antarctic ice shelf is troubling along with the recent climate change studies just released. Not certain what it is going to take for people to change.
It's been a quiet few months for me and that's alright. I've been writing and am heading into the studio next week to record a couple new tunes for my own ongoing project. More songs to throw on the pile that will eventually be a new album.
I'm getting ready to record another album with Iris DeMent in a few weeks. My good pal Bo Ramsey and I helped Iris make her last record, Sing The Delta, a couple of years ago. For this one both Iris and I liked the idea of recording it at her home where she'll be able to play her own piano. So, that's what we'll be doing. From Nashville it's an 8 or 9 hour drive to Iowa City where Iris lives and I'll load up the car with bunch of instruments and head her way. Coming from the west coast will be engineer Paul Dugre with microphones, pre-amps, various recording gear and loads of expertise. I am really looking forward to a little driving trip and getting started with Iris.
Don't know what got into me but I've been beating back the honeysuckle hedges that fence the land around our home. It has a tendency to creep if not tended to occasionally. It's been 20 years or more since I've thinned it out. I'm out there with machetes, long handled pruners, saws, flame throwers and an herbivorous dinosaur... anything it takes. Spring's sprung.
A Note From L.A.
It's been a long, tough and mixed up winter for everyone. The weather forecast for Nashville today and tomorrow reads like this: "46 degrees now, up to 76 this afternoon. Clouds and winds increase, rain late tonight. Only 53 degrees tomorrow, below freezing tomorrow night." A little something for everybody, the only thing missing is a tornado or two.
I'm in Los Angeles for a recording project as I peck this out and you'd never know it was winter here, up in the 70s and 80s every day, bright, sunny and beautiful.
Just before coming west I recorded a new album for Ashley Monroe with Vince Gill in the producer's chair. Her first album that we'd done was released last year to high acclaim and we all had a great week making this latest one.... lots of good music, food and loads of laughs. It's always a pleasure and honour spending some time with Vince at his studio.
My own new record is marching along although marching may be a little ambitious, more like ambling. I have three things completed and heading into the studio as soon as I get back to Nashville to put another in the can and add to the others.
The calendar says spring's almost here... we'll see.
Sorry I haven't written lately. I'd meant to update this front page a month ago at the beginning of the new year. Time flies when you are freezing. We've had some very cold days and nights, dropping down to the single digits but not as bad as the mid-west and the east has been with sub-zero temps and mountains of snow. The old fashioned 'arctic blast' has a new name now 'polar vortex'. Whatever euphemism you tag on, it all adds up to the same thing... freezing. In fairness, along with the cold we've also had some unseasonably mild days here in Nashville.... 61 degrees last Saturday. All I know is the weather continues to be more extreme and severe each year. What governments have been unable or unwilling to do regarding climate change will be addressed by corporate big business. When it begins affecting their bottom line, the big corps will start screaming blue murder. That's my forecast anyway.
The holidays around here were great, the usual dash of parties, cooking and friends leading up to a relaxed Christmas day. I prepared our annual traditional non-trad Christmas dinner of Navajo Tacos, an open face taco with green chilli, roasted pork, beans, lettuce, tomatoes and shredded cheese all piled onto a large freshly made piece of Navajo fry bread. A complete meal on a plate. We're completely over the cooking of large birds.
The new year got off to a lazy beginning, just a few bits of work in January. I continue playing somewhat regularly on the soundtrack to the American television series "Nashville" on ABC and have also begun an album with Grammy nominated singer and songwriter Jessi Alexander. The last week in February I'm booked to play on Ashley Monroe's new album with Vince Gill producing. I worked on her first record that was released last year to great acclaim. I'm looking forward to playing with her again and Vince is always a joy to be with.
I've really enjoyed having the time off to write and begin recording a new album for myself. A couple of tunes have already been put to bed and I'm heading in to record again the middle of this month. I've been doing this record at a different studio as my usual haunt is unavailable for a while. The studio's called Alex The Great, it's in an industrial strip in the Berry Hill neighbourhood of Nashville and has a great workshop feel about it. Tall ceilings, a beautiful sounding piano, pump organ, funky guitars and basses all over the place. The chief cook and bottle washer is my old friend Brad Jones, a great multi-instrumental musician, record producer, engineer and all 'round good guy. The studio console is just like the one I've been recording my previous records on and of course a 24-track tape machine, a must for me. I'm very pleased with it all and for having Brad helping make this record. So far it's shaping up to be a little different and I like that.
I hope everyone's new year has launched well and that 2014 will be a warm, peaceful and healthy one for us all.
The Home Stretch
Nashville's autumn has been the most beautiful and mild one I can remember, the colourful leaves hanging on much longer this year. Only now as I peck this out have they fallen and the forecast of cold weather looms. It was a good Thanksgiving Day around the Bennett table, all our children, son-in-law, grandson and friends gathered for a cracking dinner. We all have much to be thankful for.
I received an e-mail on Thanksgiving day from my friend Henk who has put together a fansite. Saying it was my Thanksgiving present, I clicked on the link to find he had been in touch with many of my mates and co-conspiritors in music and solicited quotes. I had no idea he had done this or how he got hold of so many people but I was very flattered by what everyone had taken the time to write. The link to his site is to the left of this posting, click 'Links', then click Henk's RB Fansite if you're interested.
On the work front things have been moving at a moderate pace, not too much or too little. Among other things, I have been playing on the soundtrack for the network television show Nashville. My friend Buddy Miller is in charge of all the music this year and has brought me in to help shoulder the guitar duties. It's a pleasure working under Buddy's baton so to speak and the music has been good, different and interesting. The actors/actresses actually sing the songs and are there for the recording of each one. After every song is completed, a photo of the guitar/s that were used is taken and the props department gets one just like it for the film shoot. Some serious attention to detail going on.
Getting ready to go in and begin a new album for myself in a couple of weeks and looking forward to nurturing another one along. I'm sitting on a bunch of tunes to get started with having done some writing over the course of our tour this past spring and summer.
As we head into Christmas, here's wishing you all a peaceful holiday and all the best in 2014.
Back home again in Nashville after a short run of dates with Mark Knopfler out west, five shows, all in small theatres; Long Beach, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and a couple in Oakland, California at the beautifully restored Oakland Fox Theatre. I've had lots of folks wondering about the Notes From The Road, if I'd be writing and if not, why not. Just plain laziness I suppose, didn't feel like cranking it up for such a short run, but as an overview I'll say that these shows were nothing short of a joy, loads of fun and a real pleasure being back on the boards with the best musicians and friends in the world.
We based from Los Angeles for most of the dates, flying out for the shows then back in after. Having played four months this past summer in Europe, it really took us no time at all to get ship shape, just a couple of days rehearsal and we were on our way. For the two shows at the Oakland Fox we were joined again by the lovely Ruth Moody who had just finished her own tour the night before and graced us by staying on a couple of extra days to be with us on stage. Every show was relaxed and chocked full of great playing, it was the perfect epilogue to the 2013 Privateering tour.
Most of you are well familiar with my scribbling from the road while touring, as well as Guy Fletcher's great tour journal but you may not be acquainted with Isaac Shabtay's tour/travel blog. Isaac attended every single show of the Privateering tour as well as the previous two tours. His is a broad overview not only of the shows themselves but of his travel experiences getting to each one, food, photos and folks along the journey. Isaac has recently published a book of his experiences and photos of the Privateering tour, I have one, it's great and you can find it here: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/isaac_s Check it out.
Always good being back on the west coast for me personally as I'd spent so many years living and working there, from the late '60s through the mid '80s. I had a chance to spend some time with my brother and his wife and as a bonus was able to catch up with some of my old Neil Diamond band mates for lunch.
It's definitely autumn now in Nashville, the leaves turning, falling, days shortening, Halloween, cool evenings and mornings, the smell of the air is different... a good time of the year. With the holidays just around the corner, I'll finally put my suitcases up on the shelf for a while I'm looking forward to a couple of recording projects, beginning a new album for myself at some point early next year and continuing later this month with the Alison Krauss record I've been playing on.
To all the Yanks who follow these sporadic postings, here's wishing you a warm and peaceful Thanksgiving.
Hope all you Yanks had a good Labour Day weekend. We certainly did down here in Nashville, Tennessee. Our son come back to the States after living and working in London for five months and we had a holiday/welcome-home barbecue in his honour and because that's what everybody does on Labour Day. Still, it is a very serious day to commemorate the people and their struggle for proper representation, fair pay and fair hours at the work place. A hard won struggle that many gave their lives for and still continues today as our country seems bent on the destruction of the organised labour movement. I'm a union man. Here's to them.
After several weeks of cooling my heals after the tour, I returned to work in earnest last week playing on Miranda Lambert's new album. It was like going from 0 to 120 miles per in an instant. Over the course of the week we recorded 14 or 15 new songs with Miranda and I'm very happy to have been part of her records from the very first one through this, her fifth. I've also been recording this week with the wonderful Alison Krauss. have enjoyed that very much and I think there's more to come.
I just wanted to clear something up that appeared in this morning's USA Today in an article about new music being released this autumn. In the number one slot is the album I played on for Sheryl Crow called Feels Like Home. The article lists me as one of the producers. I very proudly played on the whole record but I was not involved as a producer on that record. In any case, it's a great album by a tremendous artist and well worth a listen.
It's nice being home again but before long the bags are coming down again as we head off for a few dates with Mark at the end of October. It's the shortest tour ever, all of 5 shows... Los Angeles, Long Beach, Las Vegas and two shows in Oakland. Looking forward to seeing the boys again.
It's the gateway to autumn, time to throw the windows wide and manhandle a rake.
No Place Like Home
Time to pack the road notes away to the archives and resume the notes from home. It's very good being back home, four months is a long time to be away no matter how much fun you're having. As mentioned in my last post, my wife picked me up from the airport having flown all day and then some from London to New York and finally to Nashville and we went directly to that bar and grill for steaks and martinis. A perfect re-entry. By the middle of the following day my bags were unpacked, clothes put away and the suitcases back up on the closet shelf. Life picked up as before with next to no jet lag.
Nashville along with much of the mid-west and south is experiencing heavy rains for the last week, every day another large front moves through. Very dangerous flash flooding has occurred through many states. Just 20 miles north of us the city of Madison got 7" in one afternoon. We've been luckier here in our area to not have been hit quite so hard and while it is very soggy we've not had a problem with flooding. When the sun occasionally does break through with 90 degrees, the humidity is tropical, actually hard to breath for so much moisture in the air. The grass which by this point in the summer are dusty and brown are bright green and thriving with all the water.
Part of coming home after so many months is facing a large box of mail that has accumulated... a daunting task that I undertook this past week. One of several bright spots in that box was a package from my pal and brilliant guitar player Steve Hunter. It was his brand new CD and I've been enjoying it a lot. It's called The Manhattan Blues Project and it's a wonderfully melodic and moody album with a number of guest appearances, including actor Johnny Depp, great music. Check it out here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/stevehunter3
Hope your summer's going well.
Notes From The Road... Again
I officially christen this the first Note From The Road.
We completed our second week of rehearsals this past Saturday, the final week being in an amazing full production sound stage with our complete lighting rig, sound system, arena-size stage... the whole works. Just like a gig without people. A brand new facility in London built exactly for this purpose and I've never been in full sized work environment this nice before... clean, modern and comfortable. Complete down to dressing rooms and industrial size kitchen. Our entire crew was with us from trusted instrument techs, lighting designer, sound men, electricians, riggers and drivers. And... our fabulous travelling 5-Star catering team! It will be a challenge to keep the pounds off with this kind of food. Along with practising the show, I practised a week of self-restraint, sort of, leaning in to the soups, salads and fresh fruit and away from desserts and massively delicious entrees. Let's see how long that lasts.
We're all enjoying a few days of rest here in London before our first show in Bucharest on Thursday. Every bit of equipment was packed and is on it's way to Bucharest now. The crew will arrive later today and set up tomorrow, Wednesday. As for us, Thursday will be an action packed first day of the tour. We leave London for Bucharest, do a full production rehearsal at the venue (first gig), play the show, following the gig it's back on the plane and fly to Istanbul where we'll base for several days. To sum it up, that's 3 cities, 3 countries, 2 flights and a gig in the space of about 14 hours. Cocktails anyone? Bet on it, but not until that late night flight to Istanbul.
I can assure you that the Yanks in the band are imbibing their quota of London Pride Ale on these days off. We found a great, quiet little pub near the hotel just off Marylebone Street and have been meeting up there at 6:30 each evening for a few pints before dinner.
Finally, I appreciate the response to the Newly Blue record. Thanks to the many who have purchased or downloaded it and also to those who took a few minutes to write a review. I'm very flattered.
All right then.... this is going to be another wonderful tour, some nice surprises in the set, Mark and Co. in fine form and ready to take the boards again. I'll let you know how that first gig went in a couple of days.
Hello from London.
I arrived a few days ago and have gone several rounds with jet lag, jet lag winning. I've been coming across the pond regularly for 42 years. Wow, did I just write 42 years?!?! I'm not usually bothered by the time change and can somehow flip an internal switch and after a day be on the clock. Not so this time. No trouble getting to sleep but waking up at 1 in the morning until 5 then mercifully getting a few hours shut eye before having to wake again and go to rehearse. Anyway, no complaining. It's always a joy to be here in London, sleep deprived or otherwise especially having just savoured a stunning dinner at Jamie Oliver's Restaurant on Threadneedle Street. Brilliant food, wine, atmosphere and all at a somewhat reasonable price.
I suppose this is sort of a middle ground up-date, definitely not a Note From Nashville but not really on tour yet either. The first week of rehearsals are going great. Many of the tunes we've not played since 2010, some we recorded on the Privateering album but not played since then and others have not been played before by Ian Thomas our drummer or Jim Cox our keyboard player. I'll not give anything away here, but we've been working our way through a lot of tunes and I think there will be some surprises for everyone.
Meantime, I want to thank everyone who has picked up on my newest album, For The Newly Blue. I really appreciate it more than I can tell you. It is available through CD Baby and Amazon as well as other downloading sites. If you go to my website, www.richard-bennett.com , it has links to listen as well as purchase the album. I'd like to invite anyone who purchases the record to write a review at the site it was purchased from. It really does help other people to discover the music.
This front page will be flipped to Notes From The Road in a couple of weeks once we actually get on the road and I will post daily musings about food, travel, hotels and the gigs. We're all champing at the bit to start playing some shows again... can't wait. So, 'til then...
Newly Blue Is Go
April 1st, but no fooling around.... my new record For The Newly Blue has just been released. I love the way this one sounds and looks. Many of the tunes were written while on tour with Mark the last couple of years as well as some that were knocked out while sitting on the living room couch with the TV on and the sound off. You can listen to samples of all 12 tunes on the link above or through this CD Baby link, http://cdbaby.com/cd/richardbennett1. It is also available through Amazon and over the next few weeks will be available through every down load facility. By the way, if you get a copy through either CD Baby or Amazon, feel free to write a review after you've received the record... good or bad. It really helps others find out about the music.
I'll be leaving in a few days for another great tour of the world with Mark Knopfler. This one will all be overseas as we played North America last autumn with Bob Dylan. We're back on our own again now and looking forward to hitting the boards with a full length show. We'll spend a couple weeks rehearsing in London then begin the tour in Bucharest, Romania. Once we get rolling I'll start writing the Notes From The Road tour diary that will appear right here, almost daily.
Hope everyone had a good Easter weekend.
Leaning In To Spring
According to the calendar, Spring has sprung. Don't tell that to the folks in the middle of the country or on the east coast. Still, the days are growing longer and the clocks have leaped ahead one hour pushing back the dusk even further. Down south the lawns are showing hints of green and buds on the trees are swelling. Everything's on the upswing and heading in to my time of the year, warmth, light.... Spring/Summer.
I'm also heading into one of my favourite ways to spend those seasons, touring. I'll be leaving in a couple of weeks for London to begin rehearsals for the 2013 tour with Mark Knopfler. We'll be doing shows from the end of April through the end of July, a long four month run. We're all very excited to be out again and back on our own, which means the full-length show instead of the half we'd been doing while touring with Bob Dylan. I'll get back to vigorous writing again with Notes From The Road once we begin doing gigs. This coming week I'll be tying up a few loose ends of recording work before leaving.
I recorded a couple new tunes with Sheryl Crow a few weeks ago for her on-going project, did sessions for new comers Jason Eady and Josh Thompson, played guitar on the new duet album by Peter Cooper and Eric Brace and participated on part of a soundtrack for the series "Nashville".
An exclusive interview with me has been posted by Henk Quintelier focusing on my new album For The Newly Blue. I hope my answers were half as good as Henk's questions. This link will take you there:
As for the record, it's about one week from release. The minute it is available I will let you know right here on the site... won't be long now.....
It's been nearly two months since I last updated this page and we're now well in to the new year. I hope everyone had good holidays. Ours were grand with good friends, food and cheer. Our long time pal Mary Martin and I made our traditional Christmas spiced beef again this year. It begins in late November with a month-long brining of 15 pounds of top round packed in various spices, placed in a crockery container, refrigerated and turned every couple of days. A few days before Christmas the beef is removed and roasted at a low temperature for 6-8 hours, cooled, wrapped and pressed overnight. The following day it is served cold, sliced thinly with a loaf of rustic bread, homemade chutney and Shropshire blue cheese. We gather round the table with Mary and savour the results with wine and conversation that goes well into the evening and have done so every holiday for years. For Christmas dinner we've abandon the usual turkey in favour of Navajo Tacos with homemade green chili. The good food continued through new year's day with grilled lamb sausage, black-eye peas and turnip greens. The latter two an old southern tradition supposedly bringing good luck and wealth in the new year. Traditions honoured and broken.
January got off to a slow start work-wise but that was just fine as it gave me a chance to finally finish my album. In fact I wrapped up the last mixes yesterday and couldn't be happier with it. My good friend George Bradfute who engineers, mixes and often lends his expert musical hand to my records, outdid himself this time. I love the way the recordings sound, thanks George. The album is called For The Newly Blue and will be available in April. Stay tuned here and I'll let you know how to get hold of one.
The new record I produced for Phil Lee has just been released. Phil's got a way with words and has used quite a lot of them in the title, The Fall And Further Decline Of The Mighty King Of Love. We had loads of fun making the record at Bradfute's studio with former Wilco drummer Ken Coomer, Dave Roe on bass, Phil and I on guitars. It was recorded live in three days and is crackling with energy, spirit and Phil's very distinctive songs. Oh yeah, check out the cover, Phil with the tattooed lady...and hear some of the songs at www.reverbnation.com/phillee I'll be playing with him for the album's release party at the famous Bluebird Cafe here in Nashville on February 15th.
You may recall I'd co-produced an album with Bo Ramsey for Iris DeMent last year. That album, Sing The Delta, was released this past September to amazing critical acclaim and is selling well. It made many year-end Top 10 lists including National Public Radio, The Independent (U.K.), No Depression, Rolling Stone and more. Here is a link to one of those lists and also a good overview of Iris' Sing The Delta record:http://www.nashvillescene.com/nashville/iris-dements-self-released-album-is-no-3-in-our-poll/Content?oid=3230400
In December I went to New York with Iris to play A Prairie Home Companion that was broadcast live from Town Hall, a beautiful old theatre just off Times Square in Manhattan. The long-running programme is a throw back to the golden age of radio and is hosted by the brilliant Garrison Keillor who in his introduction of Iris said she was his favourite songwriter. Other guests on that evening's show included legendary musicians Itzhak Perlman and Dick Hyman. I was in tall cotton as they say in the south. The broadcast, from December 15th 2012, is archived on Prairie Home Companion's website.
I'd also like to mention Brent Holmes and his series of Fun Tunes For Kids that I've had the pleasure of playing on for the last 10 years or so. The latest album called Island Tunes For Kids is out now and I'm all over it playing ukulele, Hawaiian steel guitar, electric and acoustic guitars. Brent, along with Dave Hoffner who plays on and produces the series, manage to make music for children that adults love as well. Check out the music at Amazon.com and Brent's site: www.funtunesforkids.com
Calls have begun coming in for various recording projects in February including some more sessions with the great Sheryl Crow who I did an album with last year. That record is due to be released sometime this year. I'm also looking forward to the big tour with Mark Knopfler of U.K./Europe/Scandinavia this spring and summer. We'll begin rehearsals in April in London then be on our way again. Can't wait.
Finally, a reminder about Henk Quintelier's R.B. fansite. Henk continues to unearth relics of my past from who knows where and adds to that site constantly. I really enjoy going there myself to find out all kinds of useful information. Henk's site also has a snappy new address: http://fansite.richard-bennett.com
That's enough for now... more to follow. Meantime, here's wishing you all the best for 2013.
Home For The Holidays
Back to the regular Notes From Nash format again for a while, the road notes safely tucked away and a memory now. The tour wrapped the night of the 21st of November in Brooklyn and the following afternoon, Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., I was home again... a perfect day to reunite with my family over a home cooked dinner and with so much to be thankful for. It didn't take long to unpack the bags and put them back up on the shelf for a few months. Still, they won't be gathering much dust as we'll be heading out again for a long three month tour of U.K., Western and Eastern Europe and Scandinavia beginning in April of 2013. Just round the corner really. I've been enjoying this time home and looking forward to a few projects coming up in the new year prior to April.
I will be taking a very short trip back to New York in ten days to play with Iris DeMent on A Prairie Home Companion, a long running and very popular radio show hosted by Garrison Keillor. For those not familiar with PHC, it's like an old time radio variety program with music and comedy and it has been on the air since the late 1970s in America. The shows home base is St. Paul, Minnesota but they take it on the road to different cities throughout the year. December 15th it will broadcast from Town Hall in Manhattan. Iris's album that I co-produced with Bo Ramsey is doing very well, getting wonderful reviews and I'm really looking forward to playing a few tunes with her live on the air.
My friend Henk Quintelier has been doing a fantastic bit of forensic work, digging up all kinds of stuff about things I've done over the years, records I've played on and folks I've worked with that I'd completely forgotten about. He's really conscientious about updating his RB Fansite. Henk's site has grown very nicely over the last couple of years and new things are added every week. Check it out in the links section to the left of this posting or simply click here: http://fansite.richard-bennett.com.
I am heading in to the studio next week to record a couple new tunes for the ongoing album I've been promising for the last couple of years. I think this will finally put it to bed and I plan to have it available in April and of course it will be posted here first.
The season is upon us again and I wish you all warm and joyous holidays and only the best in the new year.
Landed In London
This comes to you from London where I've been enjoying my socks off for over a week now. We've had some great days of weather, in fact all last week was hot, sunny and not a cloud to be found. The city was still buzzing from this summer's events; the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the 2012 Olympics followed by the Paralympics. The season has been billed as The Great British Summer and if last week was any indication, it has been that. The Paralympics wrapped up with large closing ceremony this past Sunday and brought The Great British Summer to a close.
I've been rehearsing with Mark Knopfler and the boys, getting ready for a tour with Bob Dylan that will begin the first week in October and run through November. It's a second helping of the tour we did with Bob last year except this time we'll bring it to North America. Rehearsals have been great and I'm looking forward to taking the stage again with this amazing bunch of musicians and friends.
Of course the bonus of rehearsing in the mother country is the lashings of London Pride Ale and fabulous food the city has to offer. I'll be out to Brick Lane in the east end for a curry tonight. There are loads of good places just near where we are staying including Nando's specialising in broiled and spicy chicken slathered in peri-peri sauce. Not sure what's in that sauce but it is wonderfully hot and delicious. Also stopped in at Poppie's Fish and Chips. You'd be amazed how hard it is to find good fish and chips in London. Poppie's is it and they even have mushy peas... not that easily found in the southern part of England. And... had a wonderful meal at Jamie Oliver's restaurant on Threadneedle Street.
I wanted to let you know about a new album that's come out by my pal Mel Deal. I don't even know where to begin telling you about him although I've mentioned him in these notes before. Mel is one of the finest guitar players around and was a protege of jazz legend Jimmy Raney. What Mel doesn't know about guitar is probably not worth bothering with. We're very fortunate in Nashville, a city full of brilliant guitar players, the have Mel Deal. He's the go-to guy when you want to learn how the big boys do it. I've studied with Mel and can tell you that he knows exactly what he's doing and I'm proud to call him my pal as well. The name of his record is Mel-o Guitar. 15 beautiful standards performed solo, just Mel, his fingers and his great talent. This has been getting a lot of spins by me and seems to work in all kind of settings. Check out Mel's website at:
www.MelDeal.com where you can hear some of the cuts.
I'll be writing some Notes From The Road once the tour gets going and can't wait to get started.
So for now...so long,
Another day in paradise here on the Gulf of Mexico. The Bennett clan has gathered once again for a couple of weeks of glorious sun, warm Gulf water, swimming, eating, reading, rum-centric drinking and the occasional naughty hot dog for breakfast. Also making my way through a great 6 DVD box of Ernie Kovacs shows, a brilliant early pioneer in television who knew what to do with the medium before TV itself know what to do. We're fortunate to get away to this lovely island each year and have the company of our children as well, though after last night's disastrous attempt at a board game they may have second thoughts next year.
As the waves lap the shore just below our deck, it is hard to believe that two weeks from today I'll be in London to begin rehearsals for this autumn's tour. We're having a second helping of the tour we did last year with Bob Dylan, this time in North America. Looking forward to seeing Mark and the guys soon and having a two month jaunt across America and Canada.
I was talking with a friend earlier this year who mentioned it was coming up on the 40th anniversary of the recording of Neil Diamond's Hot August Night album. I've not exactly been counting down the calendar but it really caught me by surprise. You're joking, I said.... when? He replied, uhmm.... August. Yes, of course that's when it would be and here it is. I've trod those boards several times since 1972, a couple more with Neil and a few thereafter. The thing I always remember is being 21 years old, standing behind the closed curtain as the show began, theatrical smoke so thick you could scarcely see a foot in front of you let alone breathe. The orchestra's opening strains of the overture to the first song and it's final held peak note before I staggered through the opening riff of Crunchy Granola Suite, the curtains mercifully opening to let that smoke out and we were off like a freight train. I would never have dreamed the recording of those shows would still be held in such high esteem four decades later. I'm proud to have been on those recordings and salute Neil & Co. as they continue making and breaking records.
The historic Phoenix music store Ziggie's is in the process of restoring their 1956 neon sign which has fallen victim to vandals and one too many desert storms. It's the same sign that was above the doorway when young Duane Eddy ambled in and bought the 1957 Gretsch that produced that rebellious twang we all love. Ziggie's is also one of the leading accordion dealers and repair headquarters in the west. When my pal Al Casey left L.A. and moved back home to Phoenix, he started teaching at Ziggie's and tutored countless guitar players there. You can see that famous neon sign, find out about it's restoration and even help, here's the link: http://www.indiegogo.com/ziggiessign?a=1006166&i=emal
As this summer comes to a close, I hope it's been good for everyone. It certainly has been a hot one.
Last month's posting boasted of perfectly mild weather. That all changed a couple of weeks ago when a heat wave stalled over the south bringing temps in the 100+ degree range for nearly two weeks. We broke records daily and when we hit 109, blew into territory Tennessee has never experienced since the time records have been kept, going back to the mid-1880s. Being raised in Phoenix, it was just like being back there... low humidity, high heat. Many kilowatts were consumed by air conditioners trying to keep pace. Lawns looked like hay fields and trees dying as we entered a severe drought as well. The weather broke a few days ago and we've had several days of much needed and welcomed rain.
We finished recording with Sheryl Crow yesterday and I'm sorry it's over, we had a great time and made some memorable music that probably won't be out until next year some time. We did the first bunch of recordings in a big studio here in town, but for this second round of sessions we inaugurated Sheryl's studio at her home...actually, it is above her horse stables! It sounds fabulous and is a great environment to work in.
Phil Lee's new record is now mixed and sounding raw, rough and fantastic. Next week I'll be recording an album for singer, songwriter and newcomer Brent Cobb, followed by a few days in the studio for my own album.
Check out this great internet streaming radio station, www.thejazzgroove.com. Beautiful, melodic jazz, vocals and instrumentals. They seem to have taken a liking to a couple of my own things from the last two albums and I'm flattered to be in such good company as Ben Webster, Chet Baker, Nat Cole, Paul Desmond and so many others.
Summer Soon and new up-date!
Thought I'd add a little news that I'd forgot to mention when I'd posted this latest up-date.
It's a rare opportunity for people who are not in the recording industry to actually witness the making of a record... in the studio with musicians. I'm participating in a wonderful session and it will be open to a dozen people. It's not just any old session, it is Duane Eddy, with steel guitar great Dan Dugmore, the brilliant Spooner Oldham and myself. We'll be recording two songs as part of an album with the proceeds of the completed record going to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The entire thing has been put together by my friend, producer and steel guitarist Steve Fishell. You can find out all the details here: http://www.musicpi.com/Duanedan.html
Thanks for checking in to this end of spring up-date. Summer's just around the corner and spring in Nashville, like the rest of the country, has set records for the hottest in history. However, the last couple of weeks have been absolutely perfect. The temps have come down to normal and even below with some evenings down in the 40s and several days in the low 70s. It's cloudy and cool as I peck this out.
I've recently heard the final mixes of the album we did with Mark Knopfler last year and I feel like it's the best record we've all made together...stem to stern, from the songs, playing and singing to the recording and sound of it. Most probably know already that it's to be called Privateering and released in September. A generous helping of 20 songs and one to savour for many years to come.
It's been my good fortune to have begun a brand new album with Sheryl Crow last month. We've recorded 8 or 9 songs so far with more sessions planned for July. Sheryl's been living in Nashville for the last seven years but this was the first time meeting her. She is certainly one of the most unaffected folks I've ever come across and incredibly talented and focused. Great songs and what a singer.
The Phil Lee album is nearly finished, we're taking the rest of this month off as Phil is touring but will begin mix downs in July. Also, I've put a few new tunes on tape to include for my own album. I'll just keep stock piling them until I feel it is complete.
Iris DeMent's record, Sing The Delta, will be out this October. It is mixed, mastered and being manufactured as of this writing. My good friend Bo Ramsey and I produced the album together and it's one that we're both very proud of. A collection of gothic southern songs if ever there was one.
Finally, my long time pal Dennis St. John bid adieu several days ago after a harrowing 4 year battle with esophageal cancer. I've been lucky to have had several mentors in my life and Dennis was one of them. He saw something in me that I didn't see in myself and opened a multitude of doors, not the least of which was the one in to Neil Diamond's band. Dennis was a fabulous drummer, nobody played better time or feel than he did. Nobody. He played on many hit records for people like The Classics IV, Roy Orbison, Joe South, Linda Ronstadt, The Bellamy Brothers, Jim Stafford, Dean Martin and more...not to mention so many Neil Diamond records. He treated everyone like they were the most important people in the world and helped untold numbers of folks get started or further their dreams. He was my best man at my wedding and he was one of the best guys to have walked the planet. I'll be missing him forever, for sure.
My brother did an extended interview with Dennis a few years ago that appeared in Classic Drummer magazine with photos as well. Click here to read it.
Hope everyone has a good segue to summer.
What HAVE I been doing? For starters, I'm listening to a great new album as I peck this out, called It Ain't Necessarily So...a fantastic record of finger style acoustic guitar solos by my old buddy Howard Emerson. I met Howard while recording some sides for Eric Anderson back in Los Angeles so many years ago it doesn't bear thinking about. Howard was working with Eric at the time, came out to L.A. for the sessions and we ended up hanging out for a few days. Howard's made several great records over the years, but I have to say this one's my fave. Find out more about him at www.howardemerson.com.
Another record I'm completely in love with is the new one from The Pines, Dark So Gold. It's dark, melodic and hauntingly elegant. I won't try to explain any further except to say it's on Red House Records and you should check The Pines out at www.the pinesmusic.com
I played a rare Nashville gig last night with Iris DeMent at The Belcourt Theatre. The Belcourt was built in the late 20's as a movie house and over the years has served as the home to The Grand Ole Opry prior to the show's relocation to The Ryman Auditorium in the 1940's. Having produced Iris' new album, along with Bo Ramsey, it was a real honour to share the boards with her for a little live music. Actually, a lot of live music. We did a couple of dozen songs, a lot to learn, but well worth it. Dave Jacques played bass, Bryan Owings on drums, Iris playing piano and guitar and myself, all played on her new record and we we're joined by Richard McLauren who played steel and mandolin. Richard engineered the record. So it was a comfortable gathering and sounded great on stage. No word yet on when Iris' new record will be out but I'll let you know.
I've been doing some session work for folks as well as finally getting back to my own record. I have some new tunes going that I'm really looking forward to recording. I've also been producing and playing on a new album for my pal Phil Lee, three days of rough and ready recording that yielded a dozen songs that have a unique quality all to themselves. That combined with Phil's jaundiced eye view of the world and a brilliantly skewed sense of humour in his lyrics makes this the best Phil Lee record yet. We're not quite finished but as always I'll let you know when it's available.
There's a brand new book about the famed and fabled Wrecking Crew by Kent Hartman, tracing the story of those great L.A. musicians of the 60's who played on so many hits and the soundtrack to many of our lives. I was fortunate to have come up in the recording studios with those guys though just a couple of years past the time frame of their classic period. Still, from 1968 onward, I worked with them all. I spoke with the author a couple of years ago and I am apparently in the book, complete with photo. I haven't seen it yet but am awfully flattered to be mentioned in such historic company.
And speaking of books, it's the centennial of Woody Guthrie, born in Oklahoma in 1912. I recently read a brilliantly written and comprehensive biography of Woody called Rambin' Man by Ed Cray. Wherever you get you music, on line, download, record store... however, it's time to listen to Woody again. These are songs that speak to the very times we're going through now, much as they did in the Great Depression and World War II when they were written and recorded.
Hope you are all well and enjoying this early spring/summer.
The New Year
I hope everyone had good holidays and a happy new year. It's been an unseasonably mild winter here in Nashville, topping the high 60's last week and the mid-50's this week. That's all good news for our Weber b.b.q. kettle and my thin blood, but something's not right. There are strange things afoot the last few years with the weather patterns everywhere. I'm just sayin'.......
My friend Bo Ramsey and I co-produced a wonderful album for singer and songwriter Iris DeMent just prior to Christmas. A collection of songs that is everything Southern from the heavy vines and death of a child, to dark gothic tales disguised in Sunday school piano saturated with Old Man River. We broke for the holidays then came back in January for a few days to finish up. I'm not sure when it will be released but I'll keep you posted.
I've also been doing some recording with Vince Gill again, this time he's producing Ashley Monroe. Ashley is one third of The Pistol Annies along with Miranda Lambert and Angelina Presley. All three are immensely talented songwriters, singers and artists individually as well as their combined success as the Annies. Due to that success, a major record label is in the process of signing Ashley and the recordings we did that Vince supervised are the beginnings of her album. As always it's nothing but a joy to work with Vince at his studio where we all set up in the same room facing each other and play live music together.
We got a call from Emmylou a couple of weeks back asking us to join her at The Ryman Auditorium for a special performance of The Grand Ole Opry. It was a combined celebration of her 20th anniversary as an Opry artist as well as the 20th anniversary of her live album At The Ryman. I was fortunate to have produced that record there with my pal Allen Reynolds back in 1991. At that time the Ryman was no longer a working venue for shows, the Opry having left for a modern theatre in 1974. The wonderful auditorium had fallen on very hard times, disrepair and was being used only as a destination for tourists to walk through and have a picture taken on the famous stage. It was in these squalid and somewhat unsafe conditions Emmy's album was recorded. When it was released 20 years ago it refocused the general public as well as the owner's of the Ryman to what a valuable venue it was, not only for it's past but also it's future potential. Shortly after, the Ryman Auditorium's structural problems were addressed and was completely restored making it a modern facility while keeping it historically sound. The Ryman is now packed every night with audiences enjoying all types of music and shows and The Grand Ole Opry returns each year in the winter to it's most famous home. Emmy's show the other night was fantastic with guests, Rodney Crowell, Vince, Shawn Colvin, Buddy Miller, Kimmie Rhodes and more. It was great sitting on those hundred year old oak pews, seeing and hearing all that music.
After a 6 month hiatus from my own record, I wandered back to my pal George Bradfute's studio and recorded a tune that I wrote last autumn while on tour with Mark and Dylan, a song that came to me on the Penarth Pier in Wales on a bleak and blustery afternoon. I actually called it Penarth while I worked on the tune, but have now changed the title. So, another one to throw on the pile that will eventually become the new album sometime this autumn.
I'll be heading into the studio to produce a new record for Phil Lee in March. I've done three records with him already and they're always great fun. Phil is a guy who writes songs with a wonderfully twisted angle and I'm a big fan of his.
My friend Dave Peterson and I have been talking about gathering some songs, players and studio time to make a record that I'll produce. Dave's one of the finest country/bluegrass singers going and couldn't be a nicer guy. Not sure if or when that will take place, but I sure hope it does.
That's about it for the time being. Here's wishing everyone a belated happy and healthy 2012. It's a mad old world but we're lucky stiffs to still be spinning round on it. Here's to another good turn.
Great being back home again though it was a long day of flying and milling around airports getting here. The flight from London to the States sat on the ground at Heathrow for nearly two hours due to a mechanical problem and when it finally took to the air we faced high head winds all the way, strong as 170 mph at times, delaying things further. By the time we landed in Chicago all connections had been missed and re-routing was a must. That left me with three hours to kill in the Chicago airport. I found a bar and grill there called O'Brien's and had a surprising good marinated steak sandwich with grilled onions, cheese, fries, had a couple Jameson's Irish whiskeys and stretched it out as long as possible. That left me with only two hours to kill before the flight to Nashville. I crossed my doorstep at 11 o'clock Sunday night having been en route for 17 hours and awake almost 24!
The recording we did in London these past couple of weeks with Mark was nothing short of brilliant.... the songs, performances as well as a couple of the guests that joined us for a few days each; Tim O'Brien and harmonica legend Kim Wilson. No idea when this new record will be released but I think it's safe to say sometime in 2012.
My son Nick has just posted a new song he's written and recorded (as Nudity) called Leaves Of Grass. It's marvelously played, exquisitely written and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. http://soundcloud.com/nudity/leaves-of-grass
I'm heading in to begin an album next week with Iris DeMent and Bo Ramsey, looking forward to seeing them both again. This record will take me right up to the holidays so here's wishing you all a warm, joyous holiday season and all the best in the coming new year.
Segue To Summer
Hello to all,
I suppose it's no news to those who kindly stop by this site that I'm awful at keeping it updated. Terribly sorry about that. I know it's time to get busy when folks begin asking if I'm still alive. Yeah...alive, well and thriving in my favourite season, summertime. After a wild and wooly spring chock-full of tornados and the usual deluge of rain, we segued into summer. The high temps come earlier every year and Nashville was in the 90's by the end of May. Sadly, severe weather is our new way of life... Mother Nature's cranky and I don't blame her. Still, it's great to see leaves on the trees again, the garden green, roses in bloom and the BBQ's been getting a good workout as well.
At the end of spring, my youngest son Jeremy graduate from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. I helped him move out of his apartment there, the top floor of a 4-story walk up, and was pleased to learn I can still tackle insane things like 30 trips up and down those stairs hauling and loading boxes in 95 degree weather. Actually, it was slightly less difficult than helping him move in last September when those same boxes were being carried upstairs rather than down. He's home now for the summer and will be looking for a job, not an easy prospect these days. Meantime, Jeremy's set up all his recording gear and we've been experimenting on some music together that I hope will become a shared record.
The Greg Brown album that I recorded in Memphis with Bo Ramsey has been released and is as good as I remembered it being. It's on Yep Roc Records and is called Freak Flag. Greg writes great songs and has a deep soulful voice. The production is spare and earthy and it all went down live on the studio floor. The record is getting loads of great reviews and lots of spins round here.
On the Brown/Ramsey front, Pieta Brown (Greg's daughter and Bo's wife) came to Nashville in May and we spent three grand days in the studio recording her new album. Bo manning the production duties and playing guitar as only he can. We recorded in a small, barn like studio an hour west of Nashville out in the country. It's drummer Chad Cromwell's studio and sits on 20 acres along with his home and horse barn. The line-up was Chad, Glenn Worf, Bo, Pieta and me. Again, everything went down live including Pieta's beautiful vocals. It was a fab three days of recording and when it was finished we'd done 15 or 16 songs. I spoke with Bo yesterday; both he and Pieta couldn't be happier with the record which will be released this autumn on Red House Records and is tentatively titled Mercury. Watch for it, it's good.
I've been playing on an album for singer Kellie Pickler. This has been ongoing over several months and I'll be working with her again this coming Monday. Some albums are done all at once and others in intervals. One of the songs we'd already recorded is now a single that is doing well on the country stations.
The end of May found me working on Miranda Lambert's new record. I've played on her previous three albums, have watched her mature as a writer/artist and have an extremely high regard for her. Even though her music is very different, I think she is the heir apparent to Dolly Parton for her generation. Miranda's new record reflects this continued growth artistically as well as the recording process itself. The band line-up was three guitars, bass, drums with Miranda singing. The whole thing gelled into a self contained band that required next to nothing being added after the fact. Yet again, it all went down live as we played it..... something that has been missing from record making for a very long time now. It is by far the best record we've made with her and given the nature of how it was recorded I think will possibly stir up a lot of dust. Not sure when it will be released but I'll keep you posted.
Just returned from a fantastic couple weeks of recording with Mark Knopfler in London at his brilliant British Grove Studios and as expected, the songs are great. I've always felt Mark's songwriting was overshadowed by his guitar-god status. He certainly is a genius guitar player, but his songwriting is staggeringly good to me and is what comes first. We recorded a whole bunch of them in two weeks, getting through them in the least amount of time I can ever recall. The musicianship from every corner of the studio was seriously top drawer capped off by MK's guitar-god thing. It's easy to play when you have great songs. I'm a lucky guy to be part of it, to go to London and record in what has to be the finest studio I've ever been in my 40+ years of playing on records, surrounded by the finest engineer, musicians and friends. At the end of each day we'd wander to the pub for a few pints, many bags of crisps and loads of laughs. That was usually followed with a memorable meal...Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Italian, fish and chips or a darn fine burger from GBK, the Gourmet Burger Kitchen.
In addition to doing some recording with my son Jeremy, I continue to work on my own new album, writing and recording tunes that I'll release in the not too distant future when I feel it's complete.
Finally, what I've been listening to; Build A Rocket Boys the new Elbow album, Desmond Blue and Glad To Be Unhappy both by Paul Desmond with Jim Hall, The Staple Singers-The Vee Jay Years and Duane Eddy's great new one, Road Trip. Loads of other things as well but those were the first to come to mind.
All right, I'm tired of typing and you are no doubt sick of reading. Have wonderful summer and try to keep the fireworks separated from the glowing coals of the BBQ.
...'til next time,
After what seemed like an eternity of grey skies, cold weather and rain, Nashville is now sunny, dry and in the 70s as we step in to spring. The grass is turning green again and the trees, while still bare, are loaded with leaf buds ready to burst. We'll no doubt have our share of spring rain to come as well as being right in the middle of tornado alley this time of year, but the first warmth of 2011 couldn't come too soon.
It's been a little slow on the work front though am heading into the studio for another round with Kellie Pickler and will begin a new record with Pieta Brown the top of April. Those who attended one of our U.S. shows of the 2010 Mark Knopfler tour know how talented and cool Pieta and Bo Ramsey are. Bo will be on hand to play guitar and produce and I'm really looking forward to seeing them both again to make some music.
My slower schedule over the last few weeks has allowed me much needed time to practise a few new concepts learned in the jazz courses I've been taking. Mel Deal, my guitar guru, mentioned that all the guys we hold dear were "complete players" of their respective instruments. I know first hand what he's talking about having listened to so many of their records, seen some of them live and had the very good fortune to have worked shoulder to shoulder with many of the great musicians in Los Angeles in the late 60s forward. I cannot claim mastery, but I'm a little more complete studying with Mel.
What I really want to bring to your attention is what both of my sons are doing musically. Many of you are aware of Nick's music, guitar playing, song writing and various band projects which you can listen to here:
Our son Jeremy, a senior at University of Tennessee, draws from a different textures than either Nick or I. He's an accomplished DJ, remix artist and has crafted a number of soundscapes from a stable of samples and organic sounds and instruments he's recorded himself. If you go to this site it will come up as SAURuS - that's him. You'll also see an eclectic array of influences. I really admire what he's done and you can hear some of Jeremy's work at Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/jjjeremy
Hope these next few weeks bring warmth, green and barbecues your way.
Here's to 2011
The requests have been pouring in for me to update this page. Well, not exactly pouring, more like two...my wife and a friend from England. It has been a while and I can't really account for the time except we had good holidays and more snow on the ground this winter than I can ever recall. The schools were closed five days in a row. Now, Nashville doesn't get the kind of cold and snow like folks north and east of us do, but it takes only an inch to shut this city down. Every resident makes a headlong dash to the supermarket to stock up on white goods...milk, bread and toilet paper. On the way home they find the nearest substantial tree and drive straight in to it. Anyway, we've had plenty of it this winter. Being raised out west my blood's pretty thin and if it never gets below 70 degrees again, it would be just fine for me.
Lots of the usual going on, recording projects and slowly puttering my way through my own new record. What's really exciting is the release of my son's first album with his band The Zut Alors. Smart, modern and melodic pop music. Check it out at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/ZutAlors. It's available as a download or nifty purple vinyl. Get one today.
I've begun a six week course at the Nashville Jazz Workshop taught by a fabulous guitar player named Mel Deal. It focuses on solo guitar playing, i.e. playing unaccompanied which isn't for the faint of heart. It's a tremendously challenging class but it has opened a few doors in my guitar education that have been closed far too long. Mel is a protege of the great Jimmy Raney who was one of the bebop guitar gods of the late 40s through the 50s. Raney was as good with a pen and his wit as he was a guitar player. I've included a wonderful piece that he wrote in the 90s after he'd left New York and moved back to his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
Here's wishing everyone health and peace in this new year.
Things Downbeat Never Taught Me
> by Jimmy Raney
> Louisville Music News, September 1993
> Back in 1939 or 1940, when I was just starting out to be a jazz
> musician, I was a Downbeat and Metronome freak. I devoured these two
> magazines in search of news of my heroes. I'm not talking about Benny
> Goodman or Artie Shaw. They were household words to everybody, as the
> Gabor sister, The Grateful Dead, and Kentucky Fried Chicken are today.
> I'm talking about the guys who played jazz on offbeat labels. I knew
> they all lived in New York City and had penthouses overlooking Central
> Park. I went to the movies and saw jazzmen (portrayed by Cary Grant
> and David Niven) doing just that. I figured maybe I could do that too,
> if I just kept practicing my hot licks. That's what they called them
> back then - honest.
> Louisville in those days was different than today. Back then there
> were only a half dozen musicians who could play jazz, but couldn't
> make a living at it. Nowadays there are at least ten times as many who
> can't make a living at it. Louisville has come a long way.
> Anyway, from reading Downbeat I figured the only hope I had was to get
> to New York. I knew there weren't any penthouses here, not to mention
> Cary Grant or David Niven. Since I didn't have any money but did have
> an uncle and grandmother in Chicago, I thought I could try there
> first. It did have tall buildings, a lot of people, and Downbeat was
> published there; even if they only wrote about musicians in New York,
> they wrote it there.
> Chicago turned out OK. There were a lot of talented young musicians,
> and they all played bebop. They didn't get paid for it though. Nobody
> liked bebop. Not the jazz fans, not the older musicians, not even the
> Downbeat writers. We mostly played for free in a B-Girl joint on South
> State Street called the "Say When." They didn't like bebop either,
> but they let us play there to make the place look like a real club,
> instead of a clip-joint that rolled drunks who were looking for some
> action. They got action alright, but not the kind that they had hoped
> for. They ended up in the alley with a sore head and no money. The
> bartenders were all ex-prizefighters - they had to be.
> I finally found a place where I got paid to play. It was called Elmers
> and it was on State Street too. Not on South State Street, but right
> in the heart of the Loop. The leader of the trio was a man named Max
> Miller. His age placed him in the Dixieland - swing era, but his style
> was an unidentifiable creation of his own, and was more dissonant and
> modern sounding than either. He was a fierce looking man with a black
> walrus mustache, and a menacing, enormous grin. He was stocky and
> powerful and had a vile temper, and as a consequence everyone gave him
> a wide berth. He was an accomplished vibraphonist but preferred to
> play the piano, on which his technique was quite limited.
> He had created a repertoire of originals and had quite a following. At
> least more than enough to fill this small club. The bandstand was in
> the center of a semi-circular bar, and we hammered out his collection
> of peculiar pieces with such titles as "Heartbeat Blues," "Blues for
> Beethoven," and many others whose names I have long since forgotten.
> For some reason he was quite fond of my embryonic bebop efforts, and
> treated me very nicely for a time. Our bassist was another young
> bebopper named Gary Miller, and Max really gave him a hard way to go
> for reasons I couldn't fathom. Max would play some figure in his left
> hand and glare at Gary saying, "Dig this riff." Gary, who had absolute
> pitch, would pick it up instantly. After a few bars Max would shout at
> him, "Get off my road." And so it went. No matter what Gary did he
> couldn't please him.
> A little while later it came to be my turn on the rack, and since I
> thought I played better than he did, I wasn't having any - money or
> no - so we parted company.
> There was another style going on at the time in Chicago. This was the
> Lenny Tristano style. We boppers didn't think much of Lenny, and vice
> versa. As far as I could figure out, nobody liked Lenny's music except
> Lee Konitz and his mother. (Lenny's mother, not Lee's.) He hated our
> music and we hated his, and everyone else hated all of us. Lee and
> Lenny left for New York City soon afterward, so we had the unpopular
> music scene all to ourselves.
> After awhile, I got lucky. It seems that bebop was beginning to
> making some headway in New York in spite of the critics, and some of
> our boys were working on 52nd Street. A couple of them had heard me in
> Chicago and recommended me for the guitar chair in Woody Herman's new
> bebop band.
> It was a great band, but there wasn't much for me to do. I scratched
> around on my old rhythm guitar while my electric Charlie Christian
> model Gibson sat idly by. There weren't many guitar solos for me to
> play. Finally Ralph Burns and Al Cohn took pity on me and wrote a few
> Anyway, I knew my penthouse was still waiting if I could only get to
> New York to claim it.
> After about eight or nine months on an old bus I was ready to cry
> uncle. They never told about this in the Glenn Miller movie "Orchestra
> Wives." There were a lot of disillusioned orchestra wives with us too.
> I stayed in New York after that. I figured I was ready to conquer the
> Apple and lay claim to my penthouse in Manhattan. We didn't call it
> "The Big Apple" then. I think that was invented much later by Mayor
> Koch and his P.R. men.
> Things got better after that. I had made my first record with Stan
> Getz. I played it a lot, looked at it a lot. Just think! I was one of
> those guys who had made a record for an offbeat label. Maybe there
> were kids out there somewhere wishing they were me. I made some more
> records with stars such as Buddy DeFranco and Terri Gibbs. I even
> worked jobs at Birdland with them. Still, all I had was a furnished
> room on 81st Street and less money in the bank. By the time I got down
> to $60 I really started to get worried. I had started out with $2000
> in 1948 dollars.
> Artie Shaw came to my rescue by hiring me for what was to be his last
> big band. It was a fine band, as good as Woody's, and I got much more
> to play. I was afraid of him because I had heard how tough he was to
> work for, but it wasn't true. If you could play he didn't bother you.
> He seemed to care only about the music.
> Unfortunately, the people didn't care only about the music. In fact,
> they didn't like what we were doing. They wanted to see the man who
> had married so many movie stars, and hear "Begin The Beguine" and
> "Frenesi." He broke up the band and I was back in my furnished room
> with a somewhat smaller stash of 1949 dollars. I was getting a little
> better known around town by now. I worked once a month instead of
> every three months. I was starting to get calls from people from out
> of town and Europe wanting to find out which of the glamorous
> Manhattan night clubs I was appearing in nightly.
> My first telephone was my one tangible sign of success and adulthood,
> but I began to hate it. I started answering my phone by saying, "Grand
> Central Roach Control."
> I played and recorded with Stan Getz in 1950,'51, and '52. Then I did
> a one-and-a-half year stint with the Red Norvo Trio. After that I got
> married and settled down in New York City. I found out soon enough
> that you can't make a living playing jazz in one city. Not even New
> York City. So I started doing other things in order to get by. TV
> jingles, club dates, recordings-both commercial and jazz-along with
> other stuff. I even played the full run of two Broadway shows. That's
> the nearest thing in music to stuffing mattresses for a living.
> I met and played with several of the older musicians who I had admired
> so much when I was starting out in Louisville. I met them while making
> TV jingles. Alas, they were in the same boat as I. I can't complain
> though; I did make a living, and a pretty good one at that. I made a
> lot of jazz records over the years . Around fifty under my own name at
> last reckoning, and many more than that with other people. So I did
> OK after all. There were many who didn't.
> I never did get my penthouse, and I never met another jazz musician
> who had one either. I did see a few now and then. They belonged to
> millionaire stockbrokers and the like. Perhaps it's just as well I
> didn't; I most likely would have fallen off the terrace when I was
The home stretch
It's Thanksgiving day as I peck this out in Nashville, Tennessee. The trees are nearly bare, leaves all over the ground, sky's grey and through the window it looks as though it should be 30 degrees. Very strangely, it is 72. It's been an incredibly mild autumn this year and the prediction for winter is the same, dry and warmer than usual.
I'm in the middle of a nice little run of work that I really am enjoying. I recorded an album last week with Greg Brown and Bo Ramsey in Memphis at Ardent Studios, a place I always enjoy working. When I was doing a lot of record producing, I often would bring the projects there for John Hampton, one of Ardent's staff engineers, to mix. Hampton's a guy who knows what to do with mics, transformers and a 16-track tape machine and it was great being with him again. Bo Ramsey and I became friends earlier this year when he and Pieta Brown opened all of the shows we did in the States on Mark Knopfler's tour. Bo and I talked about possibly doing something together and this seemed perfect as he and Greg were coming to Memphis which is just 200 miles from my back door. Greg Brown is a great, bluesy, soulful singer/songwriter who's been making music for a good long stretch. We had loads of fun, very simple, bass, drums, Greg singing and playing acoustic guitar, Bo and I playing electric, recorded live on the floor. When everyone had a good take at the same time, it was finished. I got to spend some time as well with my daughter and her beau who live in Memphis, that combined with some brilliant food made it grand trip all around.
This past week I've been in Vince Gill's studio recording an album for our friend Big Al Anderson. Al played genius guitar for many years with NRBQ and has been a very successful and highly covered songwriter for the last couple of decades. This time he was making music for himself, an all acoustic album with Al, Vince and I holding down the acoustic guitar chairs, Glenn Worf on string bass, Chad Cromwell drums and dobro demon Jerry Douglas. Another case of live recording with great friends.
Next week I'll begin a record with a young folk-pop singer and songwriter named Rayland Baxter. I've been a fan of Rayland's music for a couple of years when it was brought to my attention by my son Nick who played on his first recordings. For this outing Nick will be joining us in the studio so I'm looking forward to playing with him, Rayland, bass player Byron House and drummer Marco Giovino. The latter two are on Robert Plant's new album and touring with him as well. With such great players and songs, which I've already heard, it should be some terrific sessions.
Finally, I've begun a new album for myself and will do more in December, slowly chipping away until it's done. I'll keep you posted.
I have much to be thankful for and I hope this finds you all well.
October is here and the weather in Nashville has been perfect with cool evenings, crisp mornings and very comfortable afternoon temps in the mid-70s...autumn's in the air. We've been doing loads of gardening on the weekends, taking advantage of the good weather and low humidity, the yard ablaze with colourful flowers.
The live show a couple of weeks ago at The Station Inn with Eric Brace and Peter Cooper was great...a packed house. Sadly, Lloyd Green had to miss the gig due to his knee. He'd been holding off replacement surgery until after this show, but a few days prior to the gig it simply gave out. The fellow who saved the day was an old friend of ours, Steve Fishell, a great steel player and record producer. Steve played in Emmylou Harris' Hot Band for 10 years and is one of the most highly regarded players of the instrument. But filling Lloyd Green's shoes takes more than just talent, it requires gumption and Steve stepped up to the plate and hit a home run.
You may recall from my last up-date that I was getting ready to sell some great guitars that I simply no longer play. I've had quite a few responses and inquiries since that posting, old friends and fans from the Neil Diamond days as well as folks who have followed me with Mark Knopfler. At last the first two are listed on the Gruhn Guitar website and they are priced to sell. The link to the listing is: www.gruhn.com/catalog/ez.htm and the item numbers are:EZ5085 and EZ5086. One guitar is an Ovation solid body electric in mint condition that I purchased while playing with Neil Diamond. The other is very rare from the early 1950s made by Kay under the brand name Kamico, an early solid body guitar with a hard-wired cord, the original case and the operating instructions that came with it. Check them out if you're interested at the link above...complete with photos.
I've been listening to a brilliant new album by The Wrights called Red and Yellow, Blue and Green. It gets a daily spinning around here, great songs, singing, playing and grooves. Their website is: www.thewrightsmusic.com If you have a minute, get over to their site and give them a listen, they're worthy of your time.
7 September 2010
Labor Day has come and gone and I hope you've all had a good summer. I always hate to see the end of the season, a throw back to my childhood when the school year started the day after Labor Day. Still, we'll have loads of mild days left for barbecues and the humidity has already begun drying up.
If you follow this site you will already know that the Mark Knopfler tour wrapped on July 31st. The following day I flew from Madrid to Miami then on to a two week holiday on the Gulf of Mexico. It was a glorious two weeks of doing absolutely nothing. All our children managed to get down with their boy/girlfriends and water was beautifully warm, clear and free of BP's sludge.
I hit the ground running on return to Nashville helping our son move into a great apartment in Knoxville where he has begun his senior year of university. A large airy one bedroom flat in a complex on the historic register. Problem is no lift and his apartment's on the forth floor. Many trips up and down those four flights.
As you can imagine being away from home for five months the mail that had accumulated looked like a small mountain. The last month has been spent digging out from under and catching up with friends and business acquaintances. I've also done some session work already, a couple of days beginning a new album with Kellie Pickler and another day recording with an artist named Sarah Johns who I've recorded with in the past.
I have a live gig coming up at Nashville's legendary Station Inn on the 18th of September with Eric Brace and Peter Cooper, two wonderful singer songwriters. They have a brand new album out together on Red Beet Records called Master Sessions that I'm very proud to have been part of. Joining us on the album are two titans of the steel guitar, dobro icon Mike Auldridge and pedal steel genius Lloyd Green. Both Lloyd and Mike have a mutual admiration for each other and the way they work together is really something to see and hear. This was another one of those albums recorded live, everybody playing at once in the studio and when it was decided we had a 'take', that was it. The show at the Station Inn will be for the release of the album and everyone who played on it will be there on stage.
After nearly 50 years of playing the guitar it's finally dawned on me that I have way too many of them. I've always been fortunate and had plenty of room to keep them all, so I never had to make a decision or let any go. Well, it's time to begin thinning the herd. I certainly have no plans for retirement, in fact just the opposite. In moving some along that I no longer play it will make room for others. I'll make note of it here on the site when I get the first one ready to sell.
One last thing, I did an interview that appeared in the September 2010 issue of Guitar Player Magazine and can be read if you go to the links on the left of this page and click "Press". The author, Andy Ellis is a senior editor of the magazine as well as hosting a great weekly radio programme called The Guitar Show on Radio Free Nashville that can be streamed and is worth hearing. He's a player himself and asks good questions.
Throw the windows wide and enjoy the cooler weather as we head into autumn.
Greetings from London,
I arrived several days ago and have begun rehearsals for the up-coming Get Lucky Tour with Mark Knopfler. Today was just our second day back together since we recorded the album, but the band already sounds amazing. This is going to be a great show and tour, everyone in top shape and playing like demons.
Thanks to you all for the enthusiastic response to the new website, so many have sent notes commenting on how up-beat it looks and the ease of getting around on it. Also, the response to the new album has been wonderful, it is flying off the shelves at CD Baby. If you've heard the new record and would care to review it, either good or bad, go to cdbaby.com to do so. At the bottom of that page will be a link and your comments will be posted along with the others on that page. CD Baby likes and encourages that interaction and what makes them happy makes me happy.
My friend Henk Quintelier of Belgium conducted an in depth interview with me regarding my life and career for his website and I think it's a very good piece. If you're interested, this link will take you directly there.
Spring is just round the corner now. Back in Nashville it is sunny and in the high 60's and it's even sunny here in London, though not that warm. We'll all be working hard for the next few weeks, but not so hard that we won't hoist a pint or two at the end of the day.
Hello and welcome, c'mon in, wander around and make yourself at home. The new year's brought a fresh look and layout to this site, sort of a remodelling of my virtual home and I couldn't be happier...it's been long overdue. The usual links are still in place and, as you'll see at the bottom of the links column, I am now on Facebook, Twitter and have my very own YouTube channel! The channel's a work in progress and will continue to have videos added over the next few weeks, but it's a start. Hope you like this new look as much as I do. As for the old site, it is happily enjoying retirement, grazing in a cyber pasture in Silicon Valley.
This new site has launched just in time to announce the release of my new record Valley Of The Sun. The album is all about my days growing up playing music in Phoenix, Arizona and the people, places and things that continue to inspire me. The sound of this record is what I've been trying to capture for years and a big salute goes to George Bradfute who engineered, mixed and made that happen. I feel like everything has come together on this one and you can listen to samples of all the songs by clicking on the link above. The 'Behind The Songs' link will take you to a drop down page where I've written a paragraph or two about each song and how it relates to the Valley of the Sun. The disc comes in a four panel, full colour digipak with a four page insert, some great images of the Valley and I've written the liner notes telling the story of that time. It's just the thing to bring a little warmth to these cold winter days.
I've been busy in the studio recording Johnny Reid's new album, his first American release on the EMI Manhattan label. You've read about Johnny on these pages in the past, he's a great Scottish blue eyed soul singer, writes soulful songs and an all 'round good guy. His albums have not been out of the Top Ten in Canada for several years now and this will be his debut album in the States.
I've been working with Vince Gill again who is producing an album for LeAnn Rimes, another tremendous singer and this is going to be a great album. I always enjoy getting a call from Vince, it means excellent music, good food and loads of laughs. Also finished up an album begun last year with Canadian artist, folk singer/songwriter David Francey. All three of these projects are so completely different from one another yet they all share the common elements of great songs, great singing and smart records. It's the winning combination.
It won't be long now and I'll be heading across the pond to begin rehearsals with Mark and the band for this year's tour. I really am looking forward to getting back together with my musical mates, we always have a helluva good time together. The tour dates have been selling out briskly which is always a good sign. I'm sure I'll be doing some Notes From The Road again so stay tuned.
Hope 2010 is off to a good start for everyone.
I've begun the year with another session for Canadian folk-singer/song writer Dave Francey. This is an ongoing project produced by Kieran Kane and very much in the same mode as Kieran's "Beyond The Roses" album from last year...musical minimalism. You can step inside these tracks, wander around and make yourself at home...very 3-D. We have one more session with Dave to finish the record and I'll keep you posted when it is available.
Also have begun some pre-production with another Canadian artist I work with, Johnny Reid. Johnny's had two albums in Canada's Top Ten for the last 2 years and over the holidays he had 4 in the Top 10 simultaneously! Johnny's been signed to a pop deal at EMI MANHATTAN in New York and this pre-production has been in prep for that album. We'll begin recording in a couple of weeks and I'm looking forward to it.
Another project I'm anticipating is one that Vince Gill is producing...LeAnne Rimes. Leann's a great singer and the two of them teaming up can only spell good things. I'm flattered that Vince called and asked me to be part of the proceedings.
The clock is ticking away until I leave for London to begin rehearsals with Mark Knopfler for the Get Lucky tour. We'll rehearse a few weeks in London then come back to the States where the tour begins in early April....can't wait.
Still waiting to launch my new album. It's called Valley Of The Sun and is a nod to my early days playing music in Phoenix, Arizona...the people, places and things that inspired me along the way. Hope to have the record on line and available by March 1st. Stay tuned right here.
In the meantime, I hope this new year has been good to everyone and holds only good things in store.
The holidays are well upon us and I want to take this opportunity to wish every one of you a warm, peaceful Christmas and the best of everything in the coming year.
I've just returned from London where I was recording all last week on a project for an artist named Delta Maid. Delta's signed to Geffen Records in the U.K. and is a young singer and song writer from Liverpool with a serious ear to American roots music of the 20s through the 60s. It was a joy to work with her and producers Craig and Cassell Leon. While the record is now nearly finished, it will not be released until late summer or early autumn of 2010 and then probably only in the U.K. Should be available stateside via Amazon.com.uk. Good catching up with friends in London after work for a few pints and some great dinners. We were coincidentally recording at British Grove Studio where we record Mark Knopfler's albums so it was like old home week seeing the crew and castaways of that wonderful recording facility.
Returning home to Nashville was a harrowing experience. We sat in the plane on the tarmac at Gatwick Airport in London for nearly 2 hours waiting for the plane to be de-iced before take off. Once we finally got off the ground it was an 8 and a half hour flight to the States, of course we arrived nearly 2 hours late and I missed my connection and had to hang round the Charlotte airport for another 4 hours until the next flight to Nashville departed. It was late when I arrived home at last. Still, I did get home, which is more than I can say for many travelling this holiday season.
I managed to squeeze one last recording session in this week before things finally wind down into Christmas and the new year. I'm looking forward to touring with Mark Knopfler next year as well as the release in February of my new record Valley Of The Sun.
Until the next time, here's to 2010,
Thanksgiving in the States has come and gone and we're on the fast track to Christmas. I can't believe how quickly this year has sped by. It's been a very busy autumn with various recording projects. One of particular note was the beginning of an album with Canadian folk singer and songwriter Dave Francey. Wonderful songs and this guy can really sing, the kind of a voice that a microphone loves. Our mutual friend Kieran Kane is producing and playing on it as well. Recorded in a similar way to Kieran's record I mentioned earlier in the year, completely live with Kieran and I handling the guitar duties, Fats Kaplan on fiddle and Lucas Kane on percussion. When the take is over....that's it! Great stuff.
I'm off to London for a week of recording with Delta Maid, a cool, rootsy female singer and songwriter signed to Geffen Records. I'll spend the week before Christmas in Old Blighty then back in time for the holiday. Great way to end the year.
This past month I put a serious push to finish my record and I'm pleased to say...it is done and I'm very pleased with how it's sounding. We're looking at a February 2010 release and I'll keep you posted right here on the web-site.
There is a wonderful radio show that originates from Nashville called "The Guitar Show" with Andy Ellis. Two hours weekly of all kinds of interesting guitar music and interviews with great players both above and under the radar. He interviewed me several weeks ago and seems like we talked for hours. The show has aired and is now archived on line at www.theguitarshow.com. Scroll down to the bottom of the Interviews page and click on my name. Along the way you will see plenty of those who are above the radar that will interest you. The program streams live at this site as well and is well worth your time.
I had the most ridiculous accident the day before Thanksgiving. My wife and I decided to get as much stuff prepped as we could before the big day. My job was to roast, peel and mash the sweet potatoes. After an hour in the oven I took them out and tested each with a long bamboo skewer, the kind you use for shish-kabob. When I was satisfied they were all sufficiently done, I put the end of the skewer between my teeth while I grabbed a knife to slit the potatoes open. I took hold of the first potato, burnt my fingers and drew my hand back very suddenly impaling it on the pointed end of the skewer, simultaneously ramming the end that was in my teeth into the back of my throat. After the bleeding stopped I looked up in there with a flashlight. Pretty sore but didn't look all that bad, so I went on with things until mid-day when I could no longer swallow. Got out the flashlight again and it all looked like a bad B-movie in there. Off to the doc. After he shook his head at my stupidity he took a look at it. I am not kidding when I say he gasped. Not what you want to hear from your sawbones. He determined there were no bits of the skewer left in the wound, gave me a tetanus shot, antibiotics and something for the swelling and sent me packing. Needless to say, my Thanksgiving dinner consisted of only the mushiest of side items which included the sweet potatoes that started the whole thing. As of today, the throat's still sore but on the mend. The upshot being: never, EVER put a skewer in your mouth. As I flounder round the final months of my fifth decade you would think I'd have already learned that. Still, it was a wonderful Thanksgiving and we have much to thank our lucky stars for and hope the same for you.
I looked at this front page and was shocked to see the last time I up-dated it was in mid-March! Amazing how six months can get away from you. Actually, some people have written wondering if everything was alright and my wife has gently suggested that I should peck out a few new words. I think I just got caught up in summer and am only now getting back on task. So.....
All has been wonderful and I hope the same goes for anyone reading this. We had a great two weeks on the Gulf of Mexico, our usual summer holiday spot, kicking sand, swimming, etc. A couple of weeks after we returned we loaded up the the big truck again and moved our youngest son into an apartment to begin his junior year at university. Over the years, combined with our other children, this was our 11th such load in/out and hard to believe that after next year, it will be the last....we hope....though it is a tradition I'm sure we'll miss down the road. I've been giving the old Weber BBQ kettle a good workout as well as trying out some new indoor vegetable recipes....Eggplant Parmesan and Squash au Gratin. We've successfully grown loads of tomatoes this year and never have a shortage of fresh basil. There's nothing that says summer like tomatoes and basil. I've also improvised a stout stir-fry of fresh green beans, chicken, loads of fresh ginger and garlic, shredded carrots, onions, hot chilis, soy and vodka!!
Another great part of this summer has been spectator sport, watching the evolution of The Zut Alors first album. For those who may not know, that's my son Nick Bennett's group. He does the majority of the writing and singing as well as the guitar work along with various odds and ends. He's been recording it here at the house and various studios round town and it sounds fantastic. The songs are smart, melodic pop music and it makes me wonder why in the hell I couldn't think of melodies or guitar parts like that? The Nashville Scene, our local arts/politics/what's happening weekly, said last month, " 'The Killing Kind' (a song from their album) is one of the best tracks to emerge from Nashville in 2009." The Zut Alors record is nearly complete, but in the meantime he's released an EP and you can hear some of that music at myspace.com/thezutalors
Things have been busy in the studio again and this month I have committed to some live gigs round Nashville with various folks. The first has already taken place, a CD release show for my friend Kieran Kane's new CD Somewhere Beyond The Roses. I love this record and am tremendously proud to be part of it. A couple of people who were at the show took videos of two of the songs and posted them on You Tube. They're not tip-top quality, but you'll get a good idea of what we were up to if you go to these links: youtube.com/watch?v=GAzWkboeurI and youtube.com/watch?v=2iZhGyFZ9B0.
I'll be playing two shows this week with The Sweethearts of the Rodeo who have just finished a brand new record that I played on. The end of the month finds me with my pal Dave Peterson playing a show here in town at the International Bluegrass Music Association convention. The IBMA is bluegrass music's big event of the year and it will be the first time I've participated in it. While Dave is very well known in bluegrass music circles, it will be the straight country thing that we will be doing from his album Coming On Strong.
Mark Knopfler's new record, Get Lucky has just come out and I think it's great, really honoured to be on it. Of course I think they all are and am probably a little biased. I'm already looking ahead to next year when we'll all get together, dust off a few tunes and take to the road again. As for my own record, I have managed to drag myself in a few times over the last six months and do some recording for myself. I'm really down to the homestretch now and only have one more song to do. I had a meeting yesterday with an art director for the packaging so it really feels like the last threads are pulling together. I anticipate it being released next February.
We were heading in to spring when I wrote last and now we're staring at autumn. I promise not to leave this page so long again.
It's 70F degrees here in Nashville today. Spring can't come soon enough for me. I suppose it's my thin blood from being raised out West, but I've had enough winter. I'm ready to see the trees bust out in leaf again and give that outdoor grill a good work out.
A couple of albums that I'd mentioned on this page several months ago are finally available and I can't recommend them highly enough, not because I played on them, but because they're really great records. First, my buddy Phil Lee's "So Long It's Been Good To Know You" is loaded with smart, outrageous, funny tunes and occasionally so bittersweet it will make you tear up. You can listen to some of it at www.PhilLee1.com. This is the third album I've produced with Phil and it is unquestionably his finest writing; that's saying a lot because he's always been one of my favourites.
The other record is by David Peterson, "Comin' On Strong" and is available at CD Baby. David is a brilliant country/bluegrass singer and this record was recorded absolutely live in the studio, no overdubs or fixing things. It's the way records used to be made, you played it until everyone got it right at the same time and that was that. The steel guitar duties were spread among three legendary players, Buddy Emmons, the late John Hughey and Paul Franklin. This is an album of very hardcore country music and leaning toward the hillbilly side... decidedly 1950's. It's the kind of country music that I grew up listening to and I learned how to play guitar to this stuff. It is NOT for the faint of heart, but these songs and performances are nothing but heart-on-the-sleeve country music. Go to CD Baby and check out David Peterson, he's great. Dave's hosting an album release party/gig on March 26th here in Nashville at a cool club called 3rd & Lindsley, coincidentally the location of the place as well. Most of the band that played on the record will be onstage, including me. If you're in Nashville on the 26th, come by between 6 and 9 pm.
Just back from London and another couple of weeks recording with Mark Knopfler and the band for his new album. I won't go into detail, but will go out on a limb and say this is the best one we've done so far. It will be loads of fun to play on stage when we tour again.
I've got some session work lined up and will continue working on my own new record through the spring and summer and looking forward to this summer in Tennessee as last year's was spent touring and away from home.
All right, everyone stock up on your allergy meds, spring's just around the corner.
Happy new year to everybody. I hope the holidays were warm, joyous and not too stressful. I'm looking ahead to this year and hope things will begin the turn for the better.
I spent a wonderful couple of weeks of recording in London with Mark Knopfler and look forward to another fortnight in February. It's always a rewarding and challenging experience making records with Mark and the results speak for themselves. Getting back together as a band is a joy as we're up to our old tricks after work in the pub and various dining establishments. I can't wait for the next round of recording to be with them all in and out of the studio.
I'm scheduled to play on a new album for Miranda Lambert before returning to London. It will be her third album that I've been asked to participate in and I'm very happy to be there. Miranda's one of the new breed of young, female country singers... tough, tender, rocking, writes her own songs and has a definite point of view. She's always fun to be around and judging from a few things we've already recorded, the new songs show her ongoing growth and maturity.
I quietly began recording a few tunes for my own new album. I hope to have it finished and available by early 2010. Another session is booked for later this month and I'll continue chipping away at it throughout 2009. My own things seem to get put on the back burner so easily and that's why it seems to take so long to finish.
On a sad note, I lost a couple of good friends recently. Jody Reynolds who wrote and had the big hit record of Endless Sleep in 1958, died this past November. I'd met Jody when I was a teenager through my friend Al Casey who'd played the low throbbing electric guitar on Endless Sleep. It was a song about a girl's attempted suicide that was foiled by her boyfriend running into the angry sea, saving her from an endless sleep. I remember hearing it on the radio as a youngster and not quite knowing what it all meant at the time but realising this was not a happy song. It had such a dark and threatening undertow and record scared me as a kid but I used to sit by my radio hoping to hear it over and over again. It's still one of my favourite records and still scares the hell out of me.
Another friend, Butch Baldassari died yesterday after a brave 20 month struggle with an inoperable brain tumour. Butch was a brilliant mandolinist covering a breathtaking range of music and styles from classical mandolin of the 1800's, to bluegrass, jazz, pop and new age. Butch was a highly regarded recording and performing artist, record producer, historian of the instrument, author, instructor and professor of mandolin at Blair University here in Nashville. In the early 1990's Butch revived the idea of the mandolin orchestras that were so popular in the late 1800's and early part of the 1900's but had completely disappeared by the 1930's. Butch organised the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble consisting of mandolins, mandolas, mandocello, guitar and string bass. He had some great arrangers write charts for the orchestra, rehearsed it like crazy and began playing shows in Nashville. I attended a sold out performance in an old church and was so impressed with them that after the show I came up to Butch, introduced myself and offered my services as a record producer. I normally don't do that kind of thing but I really wanted to be a part of this in some way. To my surprise and delight he asked me to come to their rehearsals. One thing lead to another which lead to me helping Butch produce a couple of albums with the Ensemble. Butch was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and could really turn on the Italian tough guy if he felt his toes were being stood on, but he was a great and grand guy, a true artist with a wonderful sense of humour and an unquenchable thirst for learning about and expanding the role of his instrument, the mandolin. Here's a link to a video of Butch and the Nashville Mandolin orchestra.