Just over a dozen years old, Fat Possum Records was started byMatthew Johnson to record local blues artists in the North Mississippiarea, including Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside, in addition tocreating music for The Sopranos and Nissan commercials—alldone with Sennheiser and Neumann mics.
Bruce Watson (pictured), who has engineered and co-produced all ofFat Possum’s releases from the beginning, said “In those early days, wedidn’t know anything about recording so we recorded with any gear wecould borrow, rent or find laying around: cheap boards and a bunch ofcheap mics, whatever. For many years, we chased live blues shows andconcerts and sold records and started making a name for ourselves asproducers of authentic North Mississippi Hill Country music.”
As Fat Possum’s clientele increased, Johnson and Watson movedtheir recording process to a real studio. Watson took over andconverted an old school building in Water Valley Mississippi into astudio he calls The Money Shot. “My first Neumann mics were a pair ofKM 184 cardioids. They were incredibly flexible. I like them for drumoverheads, piano, acoustic guitars and for string basses. It’s the bestoverall mic we own,” Watson revealed. “For electric guitars, I use theSennheiser MD 421 II dynamic and a single Neumann TLM 103 drum overheadwith maybe a kick and snare mic—that’s it! We’re very simplehere. We record straight into our Studer A-80 2-inch 16-track andtransfer to Pro Tools. I only use Pro Tools for editing and mixing backto my MCI console.”
A few years ago Watson bought a pair of TLM 103s, which quicklybecame Watson’s main vocal mics. “On vocals, the 103 makes thesinger jump out of the mix!,” he explained. “I run the 103through a Neve 1073 preamp and add a little compression from an oldGates tube compressor and that’s it. On drum overheads, the 103 issmoother on the top and fuller-sounding. It picks up more of the kit. Alot of times I’ll use the sound from just one 103 for my whole drumsound!”
A Neumann TLM 127 has recently been added to The Money Shop’smic closet and has been put through its paces on three session. “I lastused the 127 on an R&B-flavored song where the acoustic had to befull and out front and the 127 was perfect. It sounds very comparableto the 103.” Watson has started using the 127’s omni mode even thoughall the musicians are playing and singing in the same room. “I make adeal with the leakage, since there are virtually no overdubbing orfixing later in this music,” Watson continued. “We editfrom take to take. My Neumann mics always sound consistent all sessionlong. I’m set with omni mode on the TLM127—that’s great foracoustic guitars and the TLM103 for vocals and drum overheads. Boththese mics let me record this authentic American music the best it canbe.”