Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Nancy and I are still on hiatus from arranging more shows. We've continued to attract more artists to the database, including hip-hop, electronica, and dance folks. A few of those are interested in helping with sound effects or adding atmosphere and texture to the background of a song. This will be particularly helpful for those looking to get a pop sound.

Old MacDonald
The highlight of the last month was the completion and posting of Old MacDonald. There is a lot of effort in this song and it shows. First I searched the web for free animal sound bites. It was actually more difficult than you might think. Many of the good recordings are copywrite and for pay. One group offers a CD with unlimited use for $499!! I should have recorded all my animals when I had the farm in upstate NY. I could have made more from that than my songs!

Anyway, I programmed drums which I spent about 5-6 hours. They are buried deep in the mix but I think the work really paid off, even though you can't really hear all the work I put in. You can feel it the way the song bounces along. I laid down guitar very quickly, but had to practice the mandolin an hour a day for about a week before I could play that so it felt good and natural. I used my synthesizer to put the bass and the banjo in and played both of those live. I decided which animals to do and spent hours cutting sound bites that I liked, cataloging and saving them. I cut the vocals including harmony in about an hour.

The majority of my effort went into getting my grandson's voice clips and mixing. We had a bucket of animals and I coaxed him into saying things. I have about 15 minutes taken over three sessions with him. It was really difficult to balance his bites because he did not stay still in front of the mic. Sometimes he was on top of it and even bumping it, while other times he was a foot or more away. I had to pull in the far stuff and back off the close stuff. I then cut out about 20 clips totaling about 1 minute. After choosing the clips I wanted, I decided where to place them in the song. I also had to add some speaking parts for me that went along with the clips. I did a lot of tedious cutting and pasting to get the clips to sound conversational. All in all I probably have 35-40 hours in this song spread over two months. I'm very happy with the result.

I've listened to literally hundreds of Utah artists posted on Reverb Nation, some on My Space, and some on Face Book. Not counting established acts, many are hobbyists like me, some are earnestly trying to raise their craft to a level to make a career. There are some very good voices, instrumentation, home production, etc. going on, but a lot of us are still trying to pull all of these together. That's one of our goals - to help people find others to compliment their strengths.

Here are a few real stand outs in my opinion:

Tim Pearce - Tim's music is very genuine, very refreshing and from the heart. He possesses true soul and it comes through in his writing, guitar playing, singing and overall performance. For home recordings, his production is very high quality as well. I can't put a genre label on his music other than acoustic. It's not folk, it's not rock, but it is personal and demands to be listened to on a personal level; a true natural talent. Someone I would consider an "artist' that has forged his on path in the tradition of Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and others that defy categorization.

Dusk One - this rapper is intelligent and his lyrics show that. He has something to say and is inventive with his beats and background tracks. I particularly like his haunting slide guitar in “Black Lungs”. Unfortunately about half the songs on the site are collaborations with others. Skip those and go to his solo stuff. He is relatively clean as far as this genre goes, but as a warning there are a few explicatives. Also, his recordings are professional studio quality; ready for airplay. My endorsement is all the more meaningful as I am generally not a fan of this genre.

Steven Halliday - marry Jack Johnson with Jason Mraz and you get Steven Halliday’s pop sound. He’s not really an amateur as he is on the verge of breaking out. He has an album recorded with full band arrangements in a professional studio and he has started playing frequently in Utah and Idaho. His weakness may be his songwriting, although its good can be trite at times. I’m confident he will mature as a writer. His vocal performances more than compensate for any weakness in lyrics. He has a very radio friendly sound.

Honorable mentions:

Cache Valley Cartel (CVC) - these guys have a unique blend of pop/rock/hip hop/dance/funk. Songs are a bit catchy as well.

Audible Static aka Russell Elliot - “Hot Girls Aren’t Worth It” and This song and video is a lot of fun! He is techno, his recordings are professional, but so far a one-hit-wonder on my charts.

Stankbot Tryanny - OK, these guys aren’t that great (sorry fellas). Their songs are a bit immature and they have a real garage rock sound. But hey, they are pre-teens; the drummer is just 10 years old and wails away like John Bonham! (Salt Lake Tribune) They are also masters at self promotion, quickly rising to #1 on Reverb Nation and staying there; and featured on Reverb Nation's home page (quite a feat). In just a few months they have garnered some 15,000 registered fans, radio airplay, and courtship with record labels.

As for me –
I am recording “State of Confusion” and will be adding Blake Smith’s harmonica to my backing tracks. I will also be posting a couple of songs from the tapes I recovered. I recently posted “Carry On” and will shortly post “Get While the Getting’s Good” and “Gone, Gone, Gone.”