Soul legend Solomon Burke recorded his first country album with artist/songwriter/producer Buddy Miller in Miller’s home studio. Burke met Miller when they both performed at the Americana Awards at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville last September. Miller was guitarist and bandleader for the event, and Burke performed the Hank Williams classic “Wealth Won’t Save Your Soul.” “It was off his last record,” Miller observes. “It meant a lot to him to be singing a Hank Williams song at the Ryman — on the same stage where Hank Williams performed.
“He hadn’t done a real country record, but a lot of his records were country songs interpreted for the R&B market,” Miller continues. “Even his early Atlantic Records, like the song ‘Just out of Reach,’ was a country hit, too. He did ‘Four Walls’; he did ‘He’ll Have to Go.’ Being a huge Solomon Burke fan, I wanted to make it a special time for him to come and do a record here in Nashville.”
Miller’s studio occupies the entire ground floor of the home he shares with his wife, singer/songwriter Julie Miller, with large glass doors separating the rooms and providing sight lines between the players. Engineer Jake Burns recorded the tracks live to Pro Tools HD3, with Burke’s astounding vocal going from a Neumann U47 through a Telefunken B76, a UREI 1176 and a Manley Massive Passive EQ.
“We’d go from a full band tracking in the house to situations like the night-after session when Gillian [Welch] and David [Rawlings] came over and we sat around the living room and just played. It was just them and a bass player and Solomon, recording live, sitting around in a circle.”
Miller says that whenever possible, he made sure the songwriters whose work appears on the album (Welch, Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Dolly Parton, Paul Kennerley, Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and others) played on their own tracks. “I had them come because they’re great players and singers, but also so I could turn around when he sings the first line of their song and see the look on their face. It’s such an incredible thing to hear that voice singing your song!”