I just read the comments left on yesterday's blog. Thank you so much for all your prayers. Let's just say, I think they worked!
Today was such a tremendous experience. I am completely exhausted tonight in body, soul, and voice, so please excuse me if any of my descriptions seem a little blurry!
Our session took place at Hilltop Studios, just north of Nashville. We arrived just before 10am for the first of our three 3 hour sessions. There was us, Aaron (producer and percussion), Steve (engineer), Doug (steel), Mark (bass), Jeremy (electric guitar), Joel (acoustic guitar), and Johnny (piano, accordion, and Aaron's dad). All the musicians have amazing resumes, and their skills and creativity were an absolute blessing. At the risk of sounding corny, it's truly an honour to have people of this caliber on the album. All the musicians were in the main part of the studio, and I was in a very tiny isolation booth down the hallway. It had a small, deep-set window in the wall, which made me feel like a museum exhibit.
Our goal was to get the instrumental tracks recorded for all 10 songs. Aaron had charts done up for each song in that infamous Nashville number system. Instead of notes and lyrics, each song now looked like a page-long math equation written in black marker. The musicians would look at the math equation and listen to our rough demos of the song. Most of the time, they wouldn't listen to the whole song, just bits and pieces of it. Then they futzed around with things for a few minutes. They'd establish the tempo and the groove. They'd make sure everyone was in agreement with the chart. They'd figure out who played what instrument in what place (some players played multiple instruments).
Then we'd just do it. We'd all go through the entire piece, and almost like magic, the whole thing would come out as one, beautiful, musical song. (I would sing along, but that was just as a guideline for the band.) Once or twice we did a second take, but for the most part, that was it. After that take, individual instrumentalists would go back in to tweek small sections. It was so fast! On one song, we did the first full run, and I realized the key was a little too high for me. So we did another take in another key, and the band didn't even need to rehearse it. We just gave a down beat and did it all over again. The skills of these players is just amazing!
And it all sounded so good too. One of the things I really want on the album is a 'signature sound". (No, not the quartet, though that could be an interesting project...) You know how when you listen to Ray Charles, he can be doing jazz or blues or country, yet it all sounds like Ray Charles? Well, I want that feel. Not specifically Ray Charles, but I want each song to sound like "Allison Lynn". It's an eclectic group of songs, so I want the whole album to have a cohesive presence when it's all finished. And I think today went a long way in establishing that sound.
So, what are some of the songs? We started with "Wedding at Cana". It sounded incredible! Aaron made a few chord changes, but I really like it all. It was amazing to hear my little song put together in this way, and it got a good response from some of the musicians, so that was uber-cool and satisfying. The other songs of mine were "Abide With Me" and "Do You Wanna Be My Neighbour in Gloryland". "Abide" has a very different feel, but I really like it. "Neighbour" was incredible, maybe my favourite song of the day. It's like Aaron was able to transcribe the band in my head onto paper.
I did Gerald's "Real Big Fan", and that was awesome. It's really different than Gerald's version. My version is very jazz, very cool. We also did a beautiful folk-jazz version of the hymn, "At the Cross".
I did 2 Lee Roy Abernathy songs, 2 Joel Lindsey songs, and one Daryl Williams song. Everything turned out so great. It's definitely Southern Gospel meets jazz, but it's got some other great sounds in there too, like swing, and music theatre, and folk, and, if I have to admit it, I guess the steel guitar puts a little country twang in there too.
At the end of the night, Steve gave me a rough cut of all the instrumental tracks. My job is now to take this disc and practice, practice, practice. Some time in the next few weeks, I'll meet up with Aaron and we'll record my vocals.
Everything went so well today, and it was great to see the players getting excited by the music too. It's amazing to see things finally coming together. I'm getting a real sense of how the whole project will sound and feel and even look. I'm more excited than ever!