News From The Woods - July, 1990


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published July, 1990

"Whiplash Gumbo"

QUESTION: What do Rod Arnold, Earl Cate, John Davies, Danny Fletcher, Ross Hawkins, Porky Hill, Paul Hughes, Brenda Johnson, Bob & Susan Ketchum, Jurgen Lottman, Bob McAnarney, George Mason, Frank Posey, Fred Rakestraw, Darren Ray, and David Renko all have in common?

ANSWER: They are all playing on the new M. R. Keck album "Whiplash Gumbo."

The project, due this month on the HYPE label, will be released on cassette only. It contains no less than 13 songs, is over an hour long, and took three years to complete. It is the second release by M. R. "Randy" Keck on the HYPE label, the first being an lp released in 1985 entitled Dalte Kizer (HYPE #H-1001-85), which we recorded and produced here at Cedar Crest. The only similarities between the two projects are Randy's distinctive vocal style and piano playing. Most of these songs took months to record, as musicians were imported from all around the region and everybody's schedules had to be considered. Unless otherwise noted, all songs were recorded at Cedar Crest Studios.

Starting with Side One: The Letter "S" was recorded December 8, 1989. The rhythm section includes Porky Hill (drums) and John Davies (bass). Randy recorded three piano parts, which we mixed together "wet" (with reverb effects) onto two tracks in stereo. Randy and I played percussion and Danny Fletcher added clarinet. It's a perfect beginning for the tape with the orchestra tuning up at the start. Porky added two more snare parts during the middle section to fatten it up. I used a synchronous delay of 714 ms on Randy's vocal track during mixdown to give it that "haunting" effect. Randy's original keyboard part was cut to a click track and Porky added the drums a month later, then we started adding tracks.

Missin' Out On The Muscadine started in July of 1989 with Porky, John, and Randy. Earl Cate lent his distinctive bluesy guitar style to the track four months later. Randy also lugged his B-3 down for this track and added some Mirage-sampled brass. Randy, my wife Susan, and Darren Ray cut harmony vocals together in February of this year. This is pretty straight-forward song, featuring Earl's soaring guitar riffs throughout.

Mister Christopher was written by Randy in 1981, but didn't make it into the studio until July 1989. Porky on drums again, but accompanied by Ross Hawkins on bass. In addition to piano and B-3, Randy also played sampled strings. Rod Arnold played acoustic and electric guitars. We added a second snare track to add a little punch to the original. Bob McAnarney, Randy, Susan, and Darren did the background vocals.

Alone Lee was originally tracked in July of '89 with Porky on drums, Randy on piano and B-3, Rod on guitar, and Ross playing both fretted and fretless bass. Randy later added four sampled pipe organs, violins, cellos, and choir. George Mason overdubbed his violin part in February of this year. Background vocals were Bob Mc, Susan, Randy, and Darren.

Two is For You is one of the most interesting tunes and was fun to mix. Randy's play on "two's" grabs everyone's attention. Another July, '89 session - Porky laid down some pretty strange drum signatures with John Davies again on bass. George Mason just blew us away with his violin track! Rod did the acoustic guitar part while Randy played piano and sampled choir tracks. I used an 1154 ms synchro delay on Randy's vocal track and really compressed his mic to get a "breathy," intimate sound. We created the reverse reverb effect by turning the master 16-track tape around backwards and cutting a ten-second reverb off the kick drum track (going the other way). We later dubbed over each kick drum hit coming out of the effect with Porky's R-8 digital drum machine to give the reverse effect some "snap" on the downbeat. It's the little things that make differences sometimes, folks. Susan, Bob Mc, and Darren did background vocals. For me, this song really works.

The Man in the Moon was recorded at Wonder Valley Studio and is the only song on which Randy shares writer's credit (with Paul Hughes, who sure looks a lot like Earl Cate). Randy plays keyboards, synch bass, and percussion in addition to lead vocals. Porky's on drums and background vocals, and Paul plays guitars and does background vocals. I also added some percussion to the track before mixdown here at Cedar Crest.

Side Two begins with Cassandra Knows. This track was originally recorded at Wonder Valley with Porky (drums), Paul (guitars), Randy (keys), and Darren Ray (vocals). Randy and Porky weren't satisfied with the drum tracks, however, and we cut them over at Cedar Crest (kids, don't try this at home). It turned out quite well, all things considered. Darren's high, thin vocals compliment the song's "feel". Paul Hughes did a great solo track. In my opinion he is one of the most underrated guitar players in this part of the country.

Possibilities was originally recorded onto 8-track back in June of '87 (before we went 16-track). Randy imported Brenda Johnson from Oklahoma for the vocal chores. I played drums on the track and Randy played electric piano, B-3, and sampled brass. An amusing anecdote: when we cut the rhythm track we didn't have a bass player, so I dubbed a "reference" bass track with the intention of going over it later. Well, we never did it over! It just seemed to work okay, so we left it. Listen for Frank Posey's slide guitar parts. He is truly an amazing slide player! And speaking of amazing musicians, Randy introduced me to Jurgen Lottman this year. He plays percussion and "water cymbal" on this track. Jurgen is currently conducting percussion workshops at the university in Fayetteville. His specialty is congas and bongos, but he has no problem with other forms of percussion and unique time signatures.

Bouffant Betty is next, with Bob McAnarney doing lead vocals. The July, '89 session has Porky on drums, John on Bass, Randy on keyboards, and David Renko on sax. Randy and Porky shared background vocals. This was a fun tune to record and Randy let David pull out all the stops on the sax.

Dirtdobber is one of my personal favorites. It was recorded July 27, 1989 and my wife Susan got the vocal honors. The original session was 8-track with Brenda Johnson doing vocals, but the music track was weak and we felt it deserved better, so we cut the whole track over onto 16-track. With Porky's killer drum track, we built a happenin' arrangement. First, John Davies de-tuned his bass and laid a punchy, slappy bottom. On top of that we added Randy's piano part. Then Fred Rakestraw (who was with Danny Fletcher at the time) came in and put on a straaaaaaaange custom DX-7 soundtrack - I think it was part piano, voice, and cymbal hit. Anyway it REALLY pushed the song along. Fred also took the synth solo part at the end of the solo passage. I was in a playing mood the night Susan did the vocal track, so I MIDI'ed up my trusty guitar and let fly one of my inimitable wham-bang solos (I only know six licks and use 'em on every song I do). Randy liked it so well when he heard it that we kept it as it was. When yer hot, yer hot! Finally, Randy dubbed the sampled brass hits on the bridge parts and we were done. It is one of the few tracks I've played guitar on that I still liked my playing after hours of tracking and mixing.

Sugar Daddy was recorded at Wonder Valley with Randy doing keys and vocals, Porky on drums, Ross Hawkins on bass, and Paul Hughes on guitars. This is a fine tune that was recorded very well and features Paul doing his usual great guitar stuff. He can really burn...... If you don't believe me, just listen to this song.

Pleasure, Not Pain was recorded August 15, 1989. Bob Mc shines on the vocals, Porky again on drums, Ross playing bass, and Randy doing sampled brass and B-3. We stacked an SG-10, Mirage, JX-8P, and Poly 800 for the keyboard sound. Jurgen Lottman played percussion and the mighty Earl Cate played guitars. Bob Mc, Susan, and Darren did the background vocals together. You can't mistake Earl's guitar work here and Bob Mc did several takes on the vocals until he was satisfied with the results. We call the ending chorus our "Chain of Fools" chorus.

Watermelon Man wraps up the project, recorded in June of '87. Brenda Johnson did vocals, I played drums, Randy did piano, sampled guitar and brass, and bass synth. Frank Posey pulled out his vintage Rickenbacker lap steel and dubbed some excellent slide parts. Jurgen got six tracks of percussion on this one as my drum tracks were pre-mixed to two tracks and we needed some strength to balance them out with the other songs. Susan later dubbed in a harmony vocal part to complement Brenda's lead vocal.

All in all, this was an enormous session for all participants. Everyone did a fine job and all the talents that Randy lined up were really professional in their attitude and wanted to do the best that they could. Randy introduced me to some great people in the process and I would like to thank him for that. Some musicians, like Jurgen Lottman and David Renko, have returned to Cedar Crest several times to help out on other session work we've been involved in. Although I dare not single out any one of this fine group of artists, I must say it has been a blast working with Porky Hill and the Cate brothers will certainly benefit from the "new blood" provided by him and David.

As for M. R. Keck, I've always considered it a privilege and an honor when we work together. He is a fine songwriter, composer, player, and vocalist and I am already looking forward to our next recording adventure.

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