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MixLine Feature: Amber Dotson Gears Up for Capitol Debut

Billy Joe Walker Jr. (L) and Amber Dotson at Walker’s personal project studio Photo: Alan Mayor

Nashville’s “A Team” came out in full force to produce the debut album for one of Capitol Records’ newest acts, country music starlet Amber Dotson, a Texas native with a soulful voice that’s already earning comparisons to Tammy Wynette and other traditional country queens.

Producer Billy Joe Walker Jr., engineer Steve Tillisch and some of Music City’s top-tier session players—Lonnie Wilson (drums), Michael Rhodes (bass), Aubrey Haney (fiddle), J.T. Kornflos (electric guitar), Pat Buchanan (bass), Gordon Mote (keyboards) and Bif Watson (acoustic guitar)—gathered at Emerald Entertainment’s Studio A (the original Emerald building) to record a portion of the tracks, while the rest were recorded at Ocean Way Nashville.

In glorious “old-school” fashion, Tillisch recorded onto two analog tape machines: one with a 16-track head in sync with a 24-track analog machine. In “new-school” fashion, however, tracks were transferred to digital after the session.

Dotson’s nearly spot-on vocals were captured with a Telefunken 251, and apparently she doesn’t need much more help than that: She nailed the song “I Ain’t Your Mama,” her new single, on the first take. “I probably used 80 percent of her tracking vocal,” says Walker. “She got in there and just nailed it with the band live.”

A combination of natural ability and a few years spent as a demo singer helped Dotson develop into a seasoned pro in the studio before she ever cut her first record. The only challenge, Walker says, was finding songs to suit her voice. “She talks country, she sings country, so it was a matter of finding the right kind of songs that fit her, and then trying to build the music around her voice in a way that complimented her and didn’t take her into AC country or pop country.”

Chuck Ainlay mixed the album on his SSL 9000J at Sound Stage Studios in Nashville, and Bob Ludwig mastered the project at his Gateway Mastering facilities in Portland, Maine. “He seems to capture the analog warmth of a record that I love so much,” says Walker. “It’s punchy and fat and big, and hopefully a lot of people will love it as much as we do.”