I worked with Ed in the studio last weekend to create some booking demo songs. All the demos were taken from songs that will appear on my forthcoming album, In a Circle. Also, the songs consist of two tracks with me singing and playing guitar. After working to build up these songs over the last three years with various guest artists playing different instruments, it felt strange to hear these tunes without the drums, bass, etc. So, these demos are my “Unplugged” tunes, if you will. Here’s the demo version of Familiar Strangers:
Five of the twelve songs have now been mixed for the album by Ed and I. These songs have taken extra attention, due to the process of getting a good blend from the blended drum kit mics. Hopefully, I’m looking forward to the mixing process going faster, as we move on to other songs with no drum kit and even fewer tracks. At this point, I’m hoping to have all the mixing done by the end of April. Mix those tracks! Here’s the latest mix for Gaia’s Voice:
Artist Spotlight: The New Basement Tapes
Turning Lyrics into Songs
Last week, I watched “The Lost Tapes: The Basement Tapes Continue” documentary with a good friend. This documentary was released in late 2014, along with an album titled “Lost on the River” by the New Basement Tapes. The New Basement Tapes is an intriguing collection of great musicians: Elvis Costello, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons), Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), and Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes).
The whole album project was based on a box of unpublished Bob Dylan lyrics that he wrote in the mid 60’s and didn’t make into songs or record. All of the lyrics were uncovered by Dylan’s archivists. Later, producer T Bone Burnett got permission from Dylan to have a group of musicians to complete what Bob had started.
Music in the Basement
As the history goes, after Dylan had a motorcycle accident in the mid 60’s, he just wanted to get away for awhile from his growing popularity as an artist. So he headed to upstate New York and retired in a state of semi-seclusion. In early ’67, Dylan invited a group of mostly Canadian musicians to join him in playing some music. They had played with Dylan as the backup band for his first U.S. “electric” tour in ’65.
So, Bob and “the band” wound up recording a series of demo’s in the basement of a house in Woodstock. This all took place a couple of years before the famous Woodstock music festival. By the fall of ‘67, the sessions with Bob and the other musicians had ended. The music they had created together was never intended to be an album.
However, after some folks got a hold of the tapes and began to bootleg it for distribution, Dylan decided to make it official album. The album was released as The Basement Tapes in ‘75. Within a year of making the demos with Bob, the same group of musicians had released their first album, Music from Big Pink. Their first album was also recorded in Woodstock, NY and they decided to stick with their humble name and became known as The Band. Apparently, the rediscovered lyrics were written by Dylan during this same time period. Hence, that led to the tie in of The New Basement Tapes.
Lost on the River
Even though the producers of the Lost Tapes documentary chose to have actors playing Bob and The Band filmed from a distance with a grainy effect, it doesn’t detract from the creative power of the music created by The New Basement Tapes group. The project explores the process of songwriting via the various players. All of them were given the same set of Dylan lyrics and directed to make them into songs.
So, what unfolds in the film shows the band bringing what they’ve written to the album “potluck” and trying out various arrangements with each other. It all took place over two weeks in a studio at Capitol Records tower in Los Angeles. My personal favorite of the songs was created and sung by Rhiannon Giddens. It’s called Lost on the River and is a beautifully, haunting tune. Check it out here. “I got lost on the river, but I did not drown…”
In 2014, I began recording songs for my current musical project, In a Circle. It was the year after I had released my previous project, Older and Wiser , a compilation of original tunes written and recorded way back in the mid to late ‘80s. Older and Wiser had been recorded on reel to reel tape decks by bouncing tracks and released on three separate cassette tapes, so it needed a bit of brushing up to catch up to 21st century music recording technology. After going through the process of digitally re-mastering my music from the Older and Wiser project, releasing it as a CD, and then going the digital distribution route via Spotify, iTunes, Rhapsody, and CD Baby (to name a few), I figured it was time to get back into the recording studio and get busy with my new crop of songs that have made their way into the world since the 80’s.
After a pause and retiring from my 27 plus years of working for the State of California in 2015 (it was a solid “day job”), I resumed work on In a Circle in 2016 and am patiently making my way through the creative work process. I currently have 10 song demos completed and there will a total of 13 tracks for the finished product. Soon, I will be contacting various musicians in the Sacramento area that I know and have worked with about coming in to lay down the final song tracks. After that, it’s time for the mix down! That’s when Ed Etzel (my talented engineer and the owner of Audio West Recording Studio in West Sacramento) and I will get busy polishing the tunes to ensure a pleasant listening experience for everyone. I plan to release In a Circle in the fall of 2016.
This album is my way of honoring other songwriters I have collaborated with (and been inspired by) over the years of my own songwriting career. It is also my acknowledgement of the power of creative flexing that’s needed to bring about new musical expressions as inspired by life and its multitude of experiences. The process of collaborative songwriting with others requires humility, boldness, patience, listening to each other, and an open heart and mind.
In This Circle at Audio West Studio I met Ed Etzel when I was singing with the Harmony Brothers. We were looking for a recording studio to work on an album of tunes and got referred by a fellow musician to check out Audio West in West Sacramento. Since discovering Ed...
I’m continuing with the process of studio mixdown for my album, In a Circle. So far, I have three songs mixed with only nine left to go. For those of you unfamiliar with mixing, it’s the most unglamorous part of recording an album. You might think of it in terms of housecleaning. I don’t enjoy vacuuming the carpet AND it’s nice to have a clean house to share with friends when they come over for a visit. In other words, mixing an album is necessary for everyone’s recorded musical enjoyment! And speaking of that, enjoy this recently mixed version of It Ain’t Natural by clicking here:
If you want to read more about how this song came about, click here.
Men at Work
I’m not referring to that popular 80’s New Wave band from Australia here. No, I’m talking about men’s groups. Back in the summer of 1979, I had just moved to California. I was a new father living with my infant son, wife, and step-daughter in the town of Davis. I had read some of Robert Bly’s early writings about men becoming more conscious and connecting with their true masculine self. As a result, I was very intrigued with this notion. While living in Davis, I joined my first ever men’s support group and experienced something totally new. In this group, I witnessed men who were being honest and open with other men about themselves and their life journey. For me, a powerful seed was planted that day and I wanted more.
Are We Not Men…?
Over the years, I have been in various men’s groups. I’ve also been part of several different men’s communities. One of those men’s communities has trainings and chapters around the world in different countries. Around 2006, I became involved with a mentoring organization that works with young men from ages 12 through 17. Along the way, I have also participated in or staffed many different workshops and weekends for men and young men. I currently sit in a men’s group on a weekly basis. I have found this to be a very useful and empowering resource in my life.
We are Not a Men’s Group
If you’re thinking that all this men’s work stuff is always a serious matter, I offer you this tongue-in-cheek song. You may see a reflection of yourself here or a man that you know.
Poetry Spotlight: Rumi’s Moon
This poem came about from my experience at an event called Rumi’s Caravan, an evening of poetry with music. I found myself outside during the break enjoying the evening when the Muse paid me one of those unexpected visits.
Written by Marshal Jon McKitrick 9/7/14
After words flutter about
followed by proclamations of “Ahhh!!!”
I step down off the back porch
into the mystery of evening
Standing on bare dirt
making out moonglow
just over the roofline
there she is in her glory
for the last full moon of summer
And over there
the old church’s cathedral spire
is fully lit like a rocket on the launching pad
aiming for an unknown destination
that has already been reached in moonlight
The moon says:
There is nowhere to go
that cannot be found here
the journey and the destination
are one and the same
So, I will enjoy the fluttering
followed by “Ahhh!!!”
and savor the dark drive home
Last week, I made my way back to the recording studio. I had to take a break from working on my album, In a Circle, due to financial reasons. Ed has been very supportive of my first time out as a full producer and I appreciate him for that. I had a productive session and now all the song editing has been completed. Hooray! Also, I recorded a new piano track for Familiar Strangers. To hear a sample of the latest recording, click on the player below.
Next, I’ll move on to the mixing process to complete my time in the studio. If you’re wondering about the expected release date, that will be impacted by post production costs and logistics. At this time, I’m hoping to release the album by either May or June. I’m grateful to everyone who has been encouraging and supportive of me through this studio journey. As always, stay tuned!
Poetry Spotlight: Ego is a Funny Beast
I wrote this poem while I was part of a local men’s group. We called ourselves Men at Work. I continue to seek balance with my own ego, as a musician and songwriter.
My Ego is a Funny Beast
Written by Marshal McKitrick/ Copyright 1995
My ego is a funny beast
If I ignore him or try to lock him up
He comes in howling at just the wrong time
And I say things that make me wonder
Who’s really in charge
My ego is a funny beast
If I entertain his notions or just give in to him
He struts around the room like a peacock in heat
And this time I’m the prisoner
Easter Egg: Morning Lake
Folks who like my music and are serious students of album liner notes may have already heard Morning Lake and read about it on my website. You’ll find it included in my liner notes for my last CD, Older and Wiser. I recorded it near the end of my time at Bender Studio in Sacramento. If you haven’t heard it yet and are curious, you can listen below. To read more about it, click here.