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Recording Kenny's Southern Sojourn

3/21/2007

One of the most unusual projects Harrison and his engineer, Eric “E.T.” Thorngren were involved in recently was the recording, producing, and mixing of the music for the Kenny Wayne Shepherd CD and DVD called 10 Days Out: Blues From the Backroads (Reprise, 2007). The blues guitarist traveled for 10 days around the southern U.S., visiting, interviewing, and playing with a variety of blues musicians, both known and unknown. Almost all the musicians he visited were past retirement age and quite a number were in their nineties, making this Shepherd''s equivalent of Ry Cooder''s Buena Vista Social Club. Shot in grainy and hand-held camera style by director Noble Jones, Ten Days Out is a joy to behold for any lover of blues and guitar music, with a soundtrack that really impressive.

Harrison, Thorngren, and Sausalito Sound second engineer Matt Cohen traveled with Shepherd and a 15-man film crew on a bus for the ten days, running into all sorts of hair-raising technical problems along they way (the trio is regularly shown tearing out its hair in the movie). “It was insanely intense,” recalls Harrison, “because the equipment wasn''t really designed for being on the road. We had some crazy times, and everybody would be waiting for us and screaming at us (laughs). In the beginning we took the equipment into the rooms with us, but setting up just took too long. So after three days we kept the equipment set-up in the back of the bus.”

The Sausalito Sound trio had brought a lot of vintage equipment for the front end of recording, among them Neve and Grace mic pres, and 1176 and LA2A and LA4 compressors. “We wanted to use older equipment to record this,” comments Harrison, “because a lot of modern blues recordings somehow feel too clinical, and have lost some of what made the older ones so wonderful.” Thorngren interjects, “Many people polish things too much in their digital work stations, to the point where it''s taken beyond reality. The microphone set-up we used is pretty similar to what I use in Sausalito Sound.”

Harrison and Thorngren didn''t record the movie dialogue, but mixed all audio, including dialogue, at Sausalito Sound, in stereo and 5.1, for both the soundtrack CD and the DVD. “We mixed the CD first,” explains Thorngren, “simply taking the best performances. We had usually recorded two takes, and for most of the time the first take was the best. But it could have a lot of mistakes in it, so I would grab parts from the second take and use them to fix things.”

“The only time we played in front of an audience was in Salina, Kansas, but the PA system really messed with my room mics. So during mixing I used the [Digidesign/Trillium Lane Labs] TL Space convolution reverb. When they turned up the guitar solo in the church, I would lower the room mic and bring in the TL to fill up the space. There was a lot of massaging in that way. When we received the film, the editing had nothing to do with the quality of the performances, but purely with the quality of the picture. So we had to re-edit the songs to fit the picture. Again we had to massage in the best parts. I think we did six different mixes."

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