Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Banjo, Lap Steel, Fangs of Dang oh my!

This morning I met Gabe Scott at his place situated high on a crest overlooking the cold but clear Nashville urban horizon. We loaded his vehicle with a couple of instruments and an amp, hurriedly switched on the fancy seat warmers and made the 20-minute trek to The Beehive. En route, we stopped at his buddy's house to pick up a few other pertinent instruments. There, he & Gabe played me a sample of a song they'd just recorded together, which sounded incredible. Few know of Gabe's songwriting skills. I practically begged for a shot at writing some lyrics and melody for it, but I doubt I'll get the job.

At the studio, Gabe first recorded banjo on "Sad to Watch You Wave", more vibey tonic for this song's landscape. We met Andrew Peterson at Las Palmas mexican restaurant, where we ate too much cheesy, beany food, and then reconvened on the hill post-Speedy Gonzalez's. Ben had to leave and run a couple of errands, so Gabe and I took to arranging the lap steel parts for "You Don't Have the Strength". While listening to this song I had very nearly forgotten that I wrote it on the 5-year anniversary of 9/11 and is, in a sense, a memorial song. Andrew was gracious enough to take a break from working on his forthcoming new book, North! Or Be Eaten, to play the part of engineer and Pro Tools operator ("The check's in the mail, sir.") so I could attempt to communicate to Gabe what melody I was hearing in my head. Once again, I'm not fluent in the artful language of musicianship, so I had to hum the parts rather than explain them in more technical terms. But, like only a parent could understand his child's early attempts at speech, Gabe understood my babbling and did a mighty fine job of things. I love the gritty, haunting sound of lap steel.

We're now in the part of album-making that I enjoy most. Overdubs, for me, are like the icing on a cake; you get to mix the batter however you like, cut the cake in as many pieces as you want, and add as much or little candy sprinkles to the top as you can handle. This is the really fun part. We ran out of time to get Gabe on another song (or two), but that will have to wait until next week, perhaps. After all, there's still pedal steel to be captured. Tomorrow is electric guitar day with Andrew Osenga at Sputnik Studio. Yes, and good.

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