Scott Robinson on Dualtone’s latest release: Lonesome, Onry and Mean: A Tribute to Waylon Jennings
When we did the Johnny Cash tribute [Dressed in Black], we wanted to do something retro, back to the Sun Studios days, and at the end of the day, after we had the complete body of work and looked at it, it was a blast! The artists were great to work with, and we felt like we made something that was really beautiful in our own Dualtone way. Then, with the passing of Waylon a year ago—and considering influential he’s been within, not only just country but music in general—we felt like we had an opportunity to do something in his honor. We started talking to some artists, and they gave really great feedback, but we decided to do something more diverse from an artistic standpoint [from the Cash tribute]. And if you listen to the record, it’s a really diverse record. It doesn’t follow one stylistic theme. You’ve got Norah Jones and Henry Rollins and John Doe. We decided, let’s go after these artists and see who wants to be involved in it, and we got a great response.
Norah Jones, when we approached, we thought the odds were one in a million, and she came back saying, “Oh, man, I’d be honored to. This will be the coolest thing ever,” and my respect for her went up so high. Here’s an artist that’s so big, that everybody’s pulling every which way, and here she is doing something for a little company called Dualtone for Waylon. How cool is that? She’s a true artist, just like John Doe and Dave Alvin, and she made a beautiful track, recorded in New York and produced by her and her band. It was a beautiful project. That is the perfect example of the kind of records we want to continue to put out.
We played the record for Jessie Coulter [Jennings’ wife] when it was done, and she just flipped out. Her exact words were “Waylon loves this record.” And we were like, “Wow, good, that’s all that counts.” I don’t care what people think, who buys it; we’ve done what we set out to do.
And the latest addition to their roster:
We signed this beautiful, young female artist by the name of June Carter Cash. She just turned 73, and we just got done making a record. It was one of Dan’s [Herrington] and my proudest moments in the business. The album is coming out late summer, early fall. It’s so beautiful, because this is not about radio. This is not about playing the charts. This is about a cornerstone of American culture, and sharing that with people.
We made this record half in Nashville at her studio here in Nashville, and half was made up in the Clinch Mountains at the Carter Family estate, on the front porch and in the living room of the Carter Family Estate, and it was the most spiritual, magical process I’ve ever experienced in making a record. John [Cash] was there and sings on half the record.
Someone approached us about one of her records. She made a record three years ago called Press On, on a [now defunct] label called Risk, and someone said, “Hey, would you be interested in buying that master and reissuing it?” It won a Grammy, but it won a Grammy after the company went bankrupt, so we heard it and we were like, “Yeah, this is beautiful music.” Is it going to sell millions? Probably not, but it needs to be available to the masses, because it’s really special. Once we got involved in that, we ended up meeting June, and we said, “June, you know, if you want to make a record, go make a record, and we’ll put it out.”
The day we met June was such a cool day, because she had us over for lunch at her house, and it was a beautiful afternoon. After lunch, we went up to another room, and she gets the autoharp out and starts playing us songs that she wants to record. And then John comes in the room, sits down with her, and for 20 minutes, a half-hour, Dan and I get a private concert by her and John: songs they want to do together for the record. And we thought, “We’ve got to share this. We’ve got to make sure people hear this.” And what’s really cool about it is we took it a step further, and we’re doing our first DVD project around this record, because we filmed the whole recording process. It will be the making of the record, and the history of June. She’s got so many rich, beautiful stories about her life, and her and John, and that’s a great Dualtone project. As much as I want radio stuff, there’s stuff that I don’t think the majors would have the patience or the time to explore and pursue, and we can.
So, there will be two separate pieces. A record that comes out first, and then a DVD which will come out after that, and now it’s really exciting, because we’re getting some calls from L.A. and New York from production companies who want, possibly, to do a feature TV piece around this record, and about June. It’s starting to snowball in a very beautiful way, which I think is great for June and the Carter Family, and great for the Dualtone label.