Friday, May 7, 2010

Storyhill Album "Shade of the Trees"

Okay, I am going to semi-toot my own horn briefly and say I love listening to the recently-released Storyhill album I produced, "Shade of the Trees," as much as anything I've ever worked on. Maybe because it gives the impression of "just happening," and not being worked on at all. Maybe it's got my fingerprints all over it, but if so, I don't see them. The guys in the band, John Hermanson and Chris Cunningham, challenged me to help them make the most stripped-down and intimate document of their music yet, and the plan we came up with was utterly minimal - just the two of them, live in studio, no overdubs, both voices singing together with two guitars and sometimes one. My plea to add pump organ was ruthlessly quashed by Johnny. Wisely so.

(So I bought a $50 pump organ and am adding it to all the songs for my new album instead. But that's another story.)

My mental image for the album was to make a super-detailed and painfully intimate record which almost sounds like they opened their laptop, pressed "record" on GarageBand and just started singing. But then secretly if you listened on a real stereo you'd hear the guitars vibrating in the air, you'd hear every bit of drama in the performances, you'd hear what The Postal Service jokingly called "the shrillest highs and lowest lows" in their song "Such Great Heights." Turns out, making a great sounding recording of two guys in a room is not as simple as it sounded. Whew. But we did it, with some serious help from engineer Brad Bivens during the tracking and mastering engineer Richard Dodd. My method in mixing the album: distortion, just beneath the threshold of hearing, applied liberally and with variety.

Okay, here's a link to a performance from the record (yes, we used the performance from this clip on the album, and you can hear filmmaker Tommy Stone's feet creaking on the floorboards more than once,) called "Dangerous Weapon." Eyes closed, inside the song, two voices sounding like one. I love these guys.