I don't know if I mentioned it but my neighbors put a residential size wind turbine right in front of our house, which is causing me some consternation - the noise it makes at low speed is not ideal. I'm assessing how it is going to affect my studio and my sanity. What a shame that they couldn't have sited it a little more thoughtfully?
A drive to Shelburne, VT for a gig took me up and over the steep Lincoln Gap, and through the town of Bristol again - where the little gallery Art on Main sells my CDs and is my most productive retailer. Guess it helps that I used to live around there. It is surely a dark age for CD sales: not to worry, as downloads are rising exponentially. I'm hoping to put up a new website this winter featuring all the releases on my label Thunder Ridge Records, and sell them right there.
The gig was at Pearl(Juliet McVicker)'s house, and since I was early I got to walk her gardens - wide avenues of tightly mown grass (still green) swirling around beds of tumbling annuals who at this time in their brief lives are tangled and sumptuously sprawled. A stonework of fountains and steps, her short sized dog running underfoot depositing treasures (which I stepped in). But nothing could spoil my enjoyment of a wonderful evening with friends new and old, supporting the CD release of Mary McGinniss's "Red Tails and the Road" which she and I recorded over the last year. Pearl's daughter played a shining set of original songs as well, and when the baby was fussy she deftly placed him behind her guitar - a location he is evidently enamored of - and continued to play without hardly skipping a beat. As a mother of three, I was impressed. The night brought me a few warm surprises; old friends Kim Smith and Janice Perry (AKA Gal) were in attendance bringing me their usual smiles and humor. And of course Mary's voice soared over all, like a princess, giving me reason to coax colorful notes from the mandolin and sparkle it up.
Finally back in the saddle working with Phil Aaberg to finish up my newest solo CD "Raven", going over all the material and making a final cut. I sent him a song that I hadn't expected to use, that I wrote after a trip to Cape Breton island, which now looks to be in the running, also redid the lead vocal for "Turn off the Noise" and added electric guitar to a couple others. All in all, a satisfying week of work in the studio. Our plan is to mix in Montana at his studio the week of October 4, and I will either be driving out on my own or catching a ride with a bird hunter - pheasant season opens in October and a few normally peaceful buddies of mine will be shouldering up their guns and heading west with their dogs.
The new studio up at Ben Farney's (actually his parents house) is fantastic - we've started working on the next CD of the Newport, VT-based band Don't Call Betty, although band member Malcolm Johnston who hails from Canada was stopped at the border trying to come down, and could not find his passport, our first weekend recording. As guitarist Colin Benjamin noted, in the six years the band has had weekly rehearsals at the Farney's he has never had an issue with the border crossing. So sadly we moved into our first day without him, firing up their new Pro Tools LE 8.0 system which we got up and running after a little tinkering with the wiring to outboard devices and I/O settings (special thanks to Robb Zenn of Alto Music and Marek Stycos, my brother, for making the set up so easy) and recorded the first song. You may remember they recorded their first album "Route 100" at Pepperbox Studio over a year ago, and were so psyched by the experience they decided to equip themselves to record closer to home. I'll be going up on weekends to engineer and produce for them, and be fed in grand style by Ben's parents who could not be more hospitable.
A lively visit from Deborah Langstaff, whose interest in learning how to record at home brought her to Pepperbox Studio, for a discussion on the technical side. Reminding me of myself, she described hitting a wall with the recording process and how it's led her to want to take charge of at least part of her own engineering. Her first disk, "Take Wing in Song" (2008) was recorded beautifully in a pro studio but she's ready to roll up her sleeves and get some of her own gear now. Her voice, like that of her father John Langstaff (founder of the "Christmas Revels" of Cambridge, MA), emits power and grace - I'm as excited as she is to think she'll soon be able to capture it herself in a more natural, personal way. She is currently residing in Providence, RI with a long-time summer place in central VT.
Somehow we slipped in a quick trip to the Downeast Maine to visit Tom Bazzolo (www.bazzolo.com), a classical guitar maker, who lives and works not far from Mt. Dessert Island where I spent a summer working in restaurants at age 19. We cruised the roads of Acadia National Park and had a picnic each day on rocks above crashing surf. A visit to Thuya Gardens in Northeast Harbor, ME held many visual pleasures, including the most well kept and well designed moss garden I've ever seen. At this time of year, huge Datura (moon flower) threatened to eat us. We pondered a fountain box of water that could have been metal, could have been ceramic, could have been newly cast, could have been as old as the 1793 imprint on it's decorated surface - as my husband would say "hard telling, not knowing" Anyway, at Tom's shop there were flawless, fine guitars to be sampled and enjoyed plus Tom cooked dinner every night for us.
On a roll, we turned north the following weekend, to drop in on Creston Lea (www.crestonguitars.com) at his shop in Burlington, VT and get a taste of what an electric guitar maker does all day. His fascinating shop, in a shared space with a metal worker who tools custom bicycles and close to other fine artisans, was neatly expressive of the colors and designs he has developed that make his guitars stand out in a crowd. Before we knew it, three hours had passed in an animated conversation that frankly could have gone on for a few more hours. Now I'm thinking about my next instrument purchase, which will probably be an electric bass with flowers on - where else could I get one of those?
Now as October approaches and my trip to Montana imminent, I'm getting in a few last days in the studio to rework tracks from my next disk "Raven". I'll be heading to Phil Aaberg's studio on Thursday and everything needs to be as close as it can to finished before I leave. I've got some last minute technical challenges to apply myself to - part of the working long distance phenomena - and will be fully armed with a portable Pro Tools set-up, a cooler full of cheese sandwiches and audio books for the long drive out there. Our mix should be wrapping up late next week and the disk will head to manufacturing shortly thereafter.