News From The Woods - April, 1991


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published April, 1991

"International Management Partnership & Session Notes"

Well, another month has flashed by; it seems as if it was only last week that I was staring at my word processor like this, trying to organize my thoughts into something worth reading. One reason we've been so busy is because of the added session work brought about as a result of an agreement between Cedar Crest Studio and Butch Stone's International Management Company. Stone was personal manager for Black Oak Arkansas and Krokus. We have entered into a limited partnership for the purpose of discovering and developing Arkansas-based talent. Initial projects include Jess McEntire, Rain Equine, Ruby Starr, David McKnight, and Angel Michael.

In Angel Michael's case, her career got off to an unexpectedly good start. Angel is a very gifted 21-year-old who just happens to be blind. She is a talented songwriter, singer, and guitarist who seems to be experienced beyond her age. We produced a three-song demo in two days. Angel played bass and all guitars, as well as singing lead vocals. Ruby Starr's drummer Mudslide handled the drum chores and Angel did the rest. Her guitar rig is a Moonstone guitar played horizontally on a support system. She uses a full complement of pedals as well as a Crybaby, all running to a Fender Twin. Mere words cannot do justice to her playing ability. She plays a la Jeff Healey and she's got chops, guys! I was not only impressed, I was amazed. She had all the lead parts in her head (as well as harmonies) and laid them all down like a pro. The session went smooth as glass.

Great Southern Railroad was in the studio helping to do tracks for Ruby Starr's demo. They were so impressed with Angel that they invited her to a GSR gig in Branson, Missouri. She not only went, but also wound up sitting in with the band and getting no fewer than three standing ovations from the crowd. Great Southern has been doing quite a lot of showcases recently, looking for the right deal, but they needed a good singer. Angel, on the other hand, didn't have a vehicle for her talent. I guess it was meant to be, as the chemistry that night was a sight to behold, so I am told. And voila! GSR now has a new singer and three new guitar players. Good hunting, GSR!

Meanwhile, we also cut three tracks written by Angel on Ruby Starr. Remember Ruby and Grayghost? Some of you may remember her stint with the new and improved Black Oak back in the '70's. This little stick of dynamite really can belt it out! And when we put Ruby and Susan together wow! We had a great backup vocal section. The GSR boys filled in all the studio musician parts for a great, tight rhythm section.

If you've been keeping track of my column, you should be familiar with Jess McEntire. I've been working with Jess for about six years now and we have built a catalog of original material on him. So in Jess' case, we already had some good demos on him produced for Dime-A-Dozen Music. A promotional package is already being assembled for distribution to major record company contacts. We shouldn't have to wait too long, as Jessie is a good stage performer and his songs are Nashville caliber.

Another talented Arkansas artist is Rain Equine from Eureka Springs. On the strength of a five-song demo cut two years ago here at Cedar Crest, International Management has shown enough interest in Rain to discuss career management and direction. Her music is clean and her lyrics touch on ecology, human emotions, the changing of the seasons, and other subjects. Rain plays guitar, writes, and sings. She's a kind of cult hero in Eureka Springs. I remember shooting a video of her performing at Center Street to a packed house. We could hardly move the camera around. I love her songs and her style and have always thought she deserved a shot. Apparently Butch Stone thinks so too! You'll be seeing and hearing about Rain in the future.

The project we're involved in at the moment is David McKnight, a singer/songwriter from Fayetteville. David's reputation had preceded him, plus we had met before at a Whiplash Gumbo gig at George's. I was told that he had quite a catalog of original material, but we had never had the chance to work together so I was looking forward to this session. As of this writing, David had cut three drum tracks with reference bass and guitar tracks. Before this goes to press, we will have finished and mixed the demo for International Management. David has a great voice with a lot of character. He reminds me of a cross between Dr. John and Little Feat or was it Joe Cocker and Greg Allman? I don't remember. Actually, it's pure David McKnight as only he can do it.

In addition to the above sessions, we worked in Fixation, a Fort Smith band that did a bang-up session for a future cassette release. Playground, from Harrison, also slated several songs at the end of the month. We even did three new tunes for Hamilton-Lambert for the second album, to be called Ruby Jewel. Regional sales on Ham 'n' Lamb's Letters From the Earth CD and cassette are doing very well. A cut from the album, "Tuesday Train," went up against some pretty heavy competition on Fort Smith's ROCK 106 during their "Battle of the Bands." Jai and Joe won out four days in a row, which automatically inducted them into the station's "Hall of Fame" with a regular rotation airplay spot. Many thanks to Z 106's Mark Morgan and Dave Roberts - thanks for getting behind Arkansas artists!

One more thing that I want to mention before signing off. Mark your calenders for Sunday, April 21, 1991. That's the date of the special Earth Day concert at Lake Leatherwood, near Eureka Springs. The $10 entrance fee is good for the entire day's performances and proceeds will benefit several worth-while causes. The roster includes The Freds, Great Southern Railroad, Hamilton-Lambert, Whiplash Gumbo, Black Oak Arkansas, and the Cate Brothers. That's quite a lineup of splendid talent, with something for everybody. Look for posters, handbills, and advertisements for Earth Day in Eureka Springs.

And one last thing: Congratulations to my daughter Missy and my new son-in-law Keith on their wedding, March 7. Good luck, kids!!

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