Nashville-based Americana-folk band Judah & The Lion recently released Folk Hop ‘N Roll, an album whose name couldn’t be more spot-on. It’s a unique, catchy blend of folk and hip-hop, produced by Grammy Award-winner Dave Cobb (Shooter Jennings, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell) and engineered by Eddie Spear.
Spear has been engineering for Cobb for about a year; Cobb approached Spear and asked if he’d like to record Folk Hop ‘N Roll. “Obviously I said yes!” Spear says.
The album was recorded at Cobb’s home studio, Low Country Sound in Nashville. Spear says they primarily laid down the tracks live. Drums were in a booth, as were vocals, and mandolin and banjo were in the main room together with no isolation.
“We felt having them in close proximity helped get a more ‘live’ energy,” Spear says. “A few moments were punched in and a lot of the electronic-based parts were us goofing off and having fun on some of the later days of the record, but we wanted it to feel lively. Gang vocals were definitely the most fun to record late night after a few drinks! You can really hear Drew Long, the assistant on the record, in the gang vocals; I loved his commitment to the high-energy performance. He also did a fantastic job on this record; he’s a great guy!”
Spear says the band had been listening to early Beastie Boys records and wanted to make something with that raw energy. “We made the drums pretty explosive, with minimal microphone techniques and some heavy compression,” he says. “We wanted to commit to anything that felt high energy or exciting. The guys would work on the arrangements with Dave, we would maybe change out a snare or a compressor style to get the energy right and then hit Record.
“A lot of the tracks were written fairly on the spot,” Spear continues. “After the basic track was laid down, we would mess around with adding electronic sounds or playing around with cheap effect devices and guitar pedals on the vocals, drums…in fact, most sources were effected by something.”
Spear recorded Folk Hop ‘N Roll into Pro Tools, and used a variety of mics to record the instruments. On drums, he used a Bock Audio iFet on the kick, a Shure SM57 on both the top and the bottom snare, a Neumann U 67 as an overhead and a U 47 as a front mic; a DI unit on bass and keys; a small-diaphragm condenser and ribbon microphone combined (variances included a Neumann KM 84, an AKG 412, a Neumann U 87, a Coles 4038, and an RCA 77) on mandolin and banjo; and an AKG C60 or a Neumann U 47 on vocals. His vocal chain is the C60 or U 47 into a Helios console preamp feeding an 1176 Blue Stripe with a lot of compression. The majority of the vocal effects were created using a Roland VT-3 and a Caroline Guitar Kilobyte guitar pedal.
Spear mixed the album in two days. “Honestly, the record was really easy; we didn’t overthink it or get weighed down technically,” he says. “We didn’t want it to lose how it felt during tracking. As an engineer, you always want more time to tweak or change or make it loud, but making the record raw like this gave it a strong aesthetic and kept it exciting.”