News From The Woods - March, 2007

NEWS FROM THE WOODS

By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published March 14, 2007


"A Very Special Session"


In May of 2001, a band by the name of "Mojo Factory" came into the studio to record an album. The session went well and we got a lot done in a short span of time. You can read about the band and hear audio clips here. It was an ambitious attempt for the band, as they intended to record a lot of songs in a single day. It turned out to be a very L O N G single day session. The singer for the band, Amy Jamison, was a dynamo. Most of her vocals were recorded on the first take, which saved the band a great deal of time. All throughout the day she spurred the band on, driven by many cups of coffee, a natural perky attitude, and a giant heaping of infectious humor. I enjoyed the session immensely.

Although we maintained an email correspondence, it was in 2005 that I once again heard from Amy about another project. She wanted to do a solo effort this time. Her intentions were to enlist the aid of some independent players she had been working with and come down to do a "jazz album". To that end, she sent me a deposit to block out 8 hours of time towards this effort. A month before the date I got email from her stating that she was having difficulty get everyone's schedules arranged so they could all come down together and she asked for a rain check on the session. I was happy to oblige her and waited for her to give me an alternate date.

I waited a long time…….almost two years. In that time I got periodic email from her, telling me how hectic her life had become juggling all the things in her life, and her intense passion of doing all she could for her autistic son. She was trying to amass a very large sum of money in order to send her child to a special school for autistic children. She also met up with Randy Burden - formerly of "Paperkid" - and discovered he also had an autistic child. As they delved deeper and deeper into the autistic community of western Arkansas, they discovered a mutual friend in Ft. Smith who was having a real struggle keeping his head above the water. He and his wife were also dealing with the daily hardships of a severely autistic child while holding down a regular job and trying to remain in the musical community as well. I was shocked to learn that this man was also an old friend of mine. In fact, we had played in a band together many, many years ago. We kept the channels open in recent years with email, but not once did he ever mention to me he had an autistic child.

Amy and Randy knew this person was nearing a desperate situation, and they decided to use her booked time to help this guy and his family out. I was emotionally touched because I knew how tough life was for her and Randy with both of them dealing with autism in their own respective families, and yet all they could think about was how to help this other guy out! Talk about a selfless act! They wanted to record a CD and use the proceeds from the sale of the album to aid their somewhat less fortunate friend in Ft. Smith. It was a touching gesture, and set the tone for the upcoming session.

They could not arrange to get EVERYBODY who had committed to this venture to arrange to get here to the studio for the session. So we decided we would cut some tracks here, some tracks in Ft. Smith, and some tracks and overdubbing in Springdale. The session here would consist of Amy, Randy, Jai Lambert (also from "Paperkid" and "Hamilton/Lambert"), and brothers Mitch and Bruce Hawley. Jai showed up early Friday afternoon and found me in the midst of computer hell. For some unknown reason, two of the studio's computer systems went down. I say "unknown reason" because at the time I didn't know what the cause of the problems was. I have discovered since that time that the culprit was probably a virus program. I don't want to name names here, but it starts with an "N" and rhymes with "snortin'". Anyway, by early Friday afternoon all I knew was that my main workstation and the lap top had both crashed. The guys at the local computer store managed to get the main workstation fixed by Friday and I received the lap top just mere minutes before Jai arrived. The laptop seemed to be fine, but when I hooked it up to the Mackie 1640 mixer, the laptop did not recognize the Onyx control panel or the Mackie driver. I was in a panic when Jai arrived. After an hour we finally gave up and completely disassembled the studio's video workstation and moved it over to the audio desk. After some speedy installs we finally got it talking to the mixer and the day was saved! It was the very first time I'd ever had a computer glitch threaten a recording session since I went digital over a year ago. It wasn't a good feeling, but we did get it all up and running in time and had no serious problems during the remainder of the session.

Jai, who is an incredibly accomplished musician on many levels, was tapped as "bass player" for a day. Randy held down most of the guitar chores. It was Mitch and Bruce's first visit to the studio so I didn't know what to expect. Mitch is a great drummer. He didn't mind playing my old Ludwig kit at all. He handled the jazzy tracks easily and his tasty chops complimented the jazz tracks perfectly. I played drums on the more "meat & potatoes" rock and blues tracks. It was a winning combination. Bruce turned out to be a killer pianist. His playing was so solid we all decided to shape the arrangements around him. We managed to get six rhythm tracks recorded in one eight hour block, which has gotta' be some kind of record! VERY little overdubbing was done. A couple of synth riffs here……. A couple of string sections there…… some lead guitar in spots. I laid down some percussion tracks after everyone had returned home. Amy was so worried how she would pay for the extra day and a half we spent, and although I kept telling her not to worry about it, she continued to badger me until I finally stated " Hey! He's MY friend too, and if I want to spend a little extra time on my own I will!" I think she got the hint after that.

In retrospect, after listening to reference mixes, Amy and Randy decided to pull her vocals off "Georgia On My Mind" and turn it into an instrumental. So I made a reference CD of the track and sent it to Darren Novotny in Springdale, where he will record Henry Rinne's sax tracks. He will then send the tracks back here to me and I will fly them into the mix. You gotta' love digital when it comes to this kind of recording! It's sort of like doing your parts by mail order, only faster.

Mark Rex and I have donated a couple of instrumental tracks from our recent soundtrack for the "This Is Your Town" video to the album. Randy and Amy are also soliciting a couple of tracks from a local Celtic Band in Ft. Smith to add to the mix. It should turn out to be a good album, recorded with lots of love. I hope it will raise a lot of money for our friends in Ft. Smith and increase awareness of autism. (NOTE: To learn more about autism visit the Autism Society here).

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