Kevin Shirley handpicked a band for roots singer/songwriter Beth Hart before tracking her new solo album Bang Bang Boom Boom in Revolver Recordings (Thousand Oaks, Calif., revolverrecordings.com). Hart had sent Shirley masses of material, and the engineer/producer—who is committed to live band tracking—knew he needed players who could get great live takes, and be versatile enough to handle anything from rockers like “Better Man” to blues ballads like “Everything Must Change,” which features a solo by guitarist Joe Bonamassa. Other musicians on the record include guitarist Randy Flowers, bassist Michael Rhodes, and three drummers: Anton Fig, Herman Matthews and Curt Bisquera.
Hart plays piano on the album, and many of those parts were cut live as she was singing with the band. “There’s one track, ‘With You Every Day,’ that’s a full take of her [playing piano and singing] and her band playing. That was the first day Herman Matthews walked in. He sat down at 1:00, and at 1:05 we had a song,” Shirley says. Shirley’s MO is to keep things as simple as possible. Hart’s vocal was to a Sony 800 mic that he brought from his personal studio, The Cave, through a Neve pre, and straight to Pro Tools HD. On guitars, Shirley turns to a hand-built TUL G12 microphone that the company specially designed to his specs: “They looked at the way I normally recorded, with a couple of mics, and combined them into one microphone,” Shirley explains. “I use it on everything. It’s a fantastic mic. It will take a lot of power. I never have issues with it distorting. You don’t use any compression or EQ; it goes from amp to CD.”
During the mix, on his SSL Duality in The Cave, Shirley used some favorite outboard pieces, such as Summit TLA-100A compression on Hart’s vocal. “My studio is about as old school as you can get,” he says. “I have all analog compressors, and some wonderful high-end pieces, like the GML 9500 EQ on the 2 bus. I use it on everything. It’s part of my life: coffee and GML.”