Wow, so much packed into a couple of days! This will be a bit of a long one so read it at your leisure in such amounts as you like. I’ll post it in pieces and see how we do. Jason and I flew into BNA (Nashville) Friday night on Southwest – cheap fares and very musician friendly. It was a full flight and there was not so much as a stutter about my guitar. Much appreciated. We got in and headed to catch some dinner, talk about the sessions, etc. A good meal, a couple of drinks and off to the hotel where I watched the end of the Sugar Bowl (sorry Bama) while Jason worked up track charts. “Track charts,” for the uninitiated, is a measure by measure, bar by bar chart of the song using the “Nashville numbering system” that allows the studio musician, engineer, etc. to know what’s happening where at all points in the song. It’s the roadmap for Jason’s direction as to what he wants to hear from each instrument and where. It makes things much more efficient and, since in the studio time is money, cheaper. Saturday morning we got to The Rec Room Studios at 10 a.m. to get rolling. Ben Surratt is the owner / engineer and had coffee, muffins, water, the whole deal. Rec Room is in the spacious basement of Ben’s home that he shares with his wife, the ultra talented Missy Raines, whose band, The New Hip, is the newest addition to the Compass Records label. They share their home with a small menagerie of cats including the senior member of the corp, Kitty Boy, who even has his own MySpace page myspace.com/kittyboy_eugene . The studio is spacious and wholly self contained – about 1200 square feet with a sizeable control room looking into the main, very large isolation room, 3 additional small isolation booths, storage areas for gear, a separate sitting area with couches and chairs, a kitchen area, bathroom – very nice. Since it’s in the basement, below ground level, with stone walls, etc. it’s a very quiet space with no distractions. Excellent mics, preamps, monitors, etc., together with the best ProTools digital gear make this an ideal spot to work on a high quality project. It is a favorite spot for various acoustic artists in the area including, of course, Missy, The Claire Lynch Band and many more. Ben has been often recognized for excellence in trade by the Nashville recording establishment. You can see more about the studio and “Bengineer” at http://www.myspace.com/therecroomstudio. We got started with Missy on bass. By way of background, you can check out Missy and her work at www.missyraines.com. Missy is undisputedly one of the best stand-up bass players in the country and has been featured in numerous prominent acoustic bands over her years in the business. Her new band is The New Hip and their debut release on Compass Records will come out February 10th. They’ll be in Florida at the Gamble Rogers Festival in May. Please check her out, sign the guestbook on her website and tell her I sent you! You’re going to really love her bass tracks on seven of my songs on this album. She is high energy and very animated in her approach – some very tasty stuff! We worked with Missy and got 3 songs done by about 2 pm and then headed out for a quick bite to eat at a nearby deli. By the time we got back Jim Hurst had gotten in from his home in Kentucky about 1 ½ hours away. Jim is a big barrel chested guy with a good old boy trucker demeanor – in fact Jim used to drive trucks in between his musical endeavors. It’s hard for me to fathom a guy that plays guitar like he does ever doing anything else. He is a two time IBMA guitarist of the year, in the 1990’s he did extended stints as guitarist for Holly Dunn and later Tricia Yearwood’s and is now the lead guitarist and banjo player in The Claire Lynch Band. I’ve seen quite a number of hot players in my time, but Jim resides in a different stratosphere. What impresses you immediately in the studio is how immaculately clean and precise he is and what solid tone he produces in the mic. He adds a deep groove and inventive energy to everything he touches. Jason had some ideas for the feel he wanted from Jim on various songs and Jim took that direction expanding it into some very special pieces. He added very unique fingerstyle parts to four songs in styles ranging from straight folky to blues to some real funky / rocky / jazzy licks. Jason then had him pull out the vintage Gibson electric to add some backing work to a fifth song. It was truly stellar material and was meticulously arranged by Jason. We worked with Jim from about 3:30 p.m. all the way to 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning!! Then Jim loaded his gear into his car and disappeared into the darkness back to Kentucky – but not before we got some pictures and stuff. Please, Please, Please!!!! Check out Jim’s music at his website www.jimhurst.com and, again, sign his guestbook telling him I sent you. His newest solo release, Box of Chocolates, should be in your collection. Even in a long, grueling session like Saturday (10 in the morning until 2 a.m. the following morning) the studio is a light hearted and energetic place. It really adds to things when the folks involved love what they do and find a common chemistry not only in the music but in their other interests. This group shared a wicked and whimsical sense of humor which at times had us taking a break due to crippling laughter over some comment, story, studio faux pas in front of the mic, etc. It was a crowd that a lifelong committed smartass like me felt immediately at home with. Let’s take a break here and I’ll turn to Sunday’s session in the next entry.