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Mix Regional: Southwest U.S. - Mixonline
Joe Bonamassa and Beth (?) at Studio at the Palms. Photo by Erik Kabik

Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart

Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart in Session for “Black Coffee,” Studio at the Palms

For their latest duo album, guitar master Joe Bonamassa and musician/singer/songwriter Beth Hart dug into songs by many of their favorites, covering hits and deep cuts from Edgar Winter, Etta James, Howlin’ Wolf, Lucinda Williams and others. The album Black Coffee was recorded in just five days at Studio at The Palms (Las Vegas), with Bonamassa’s frequent collaborator Kevin “Caveman” Shirley in the producer’s chair.

“Studio at The Palms suits our needs in every way,” says Shirley. “Joe was just coming off a big tour and had the band with him, so we could take advantage of the hotel and keep everyone together. No matter the time of year, we can go from hotel room to studio quickly. We have always loved working at The Palms. Manager Zoe Thrall and head tech Brent Spear always make us comfortable. The gear is fantastic and perfectly maintained.”

Mix Regional: Southwest, April 2018. Joe Bonamassa Photo by Christy Goodwin

Joe Bonamassa

Shirley captured the live band sessions to Pro Tools. “I always cut the whole band live,” he says. “It’s my thing. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot done after the basics are cut, but I love the push-pull of a band playing live.”

It’s the chemistry and interplay of the band playing live that give Black Coffee’s vintage songs new life. Backing up Bonamassa and Hart were drummer Anton Fig, horn players Ron Dziubla, Paulie Cerra and Lee Thornburg, keyboardist Reese Wynans, bassist Michael Rhodes, rhythm guitarist Rob McNelley, and backing vocalists Mahalia Barnes, Jade Macrae and Juanita Tippins. “We’re trying not to dig into a playbook that’s been done many times, which is the old soul classics,” Shirley says. “We try and find a different spin on it.”

Shirley says that the recording chains he uses on the frontman and -woman are “so basic as to be scary.” On Bonamassa’s guitar, a TUL G12 microphone into a Neve mic preamp, into Pro Tools. And on Hart’s vocals, a Neumann U67 into a Grace mic pre, and a UREI 1176LN compressor, “light—to catch peaks,” says Shirley, adding that he found it helpful to take the musicians past their comfort zone.

“This session especially wasn’t a comfortable session,” Shirley says. “Everyone left feeling challenged. It’s intriguing. We go into the studio for five days and all of the musicians are challenged, they are all very good musicians, very experienced, top of their field, [but] nothing is easy. This is people digging in deep.”

Five days, one record. Not bad.

Related:

• Bonamassa's "Black Rock": Inventing the New Greek Blues, by Barbara Schultz, Mix, Jan. 1, 2010
Beth Hart's "Bang Bang Boom Boom," by Barbara Schultz, Mix, Apr. 1, 2013

Khalid tracking vocals at Beacon Hill Studios. Mix Regional: Southwest, April 2018

Khalid tracks vocals at Beacon Hill Studios.

Update from Beacon Hill Recording Studios

Elia Esparza of Beacon Hill Recording Studios (El Paso, Texas) reports that staff producer Alfredo Gonzalez received a Grammy nomination this year in the category for Best R&B Song for co-writing on Khalid’s hit single “Location.” Both Gonzalez and staff engineer Orlando Gomez worked on Kahlid’s album American Teen, which was also nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album and includes the Platinum single “Location.” Other recent sessions at Beacon Hill include tracking Kali Uchis’ featured vocals for Miguel’s song “Caramelo Duro” on the R&B album War & Leisure (produced by Mostyn and Miguel), and Marcela Gandara’s vocals for her new album, Cerca Estás.

In the Studio

Mix Regional: Southwest, April 2018. The Tone Factory Recording Studios, Las Vegas. Producer Vinnie Castaldo (left), possibly with former Pussycat Doll Kaya Jones and songwriter Patrick Vitagliano.

Producer Vinnie Castaldo (left), with former Pussycat Doll Kaya Jones and songwriter Patrick Vitagliano

The Tone Factory Recording Studios, Las Vegas

Producer Vinnie Castaldo (at left) worked with former Pussycat Doll Kaya Jones and songwriter Patrick Vitagliano at The Tone Factory Recording Studios. Castaldo produced, engineered, mixed and mastered the sessions, which included the hit song “What the Heart Don’t Know.” Also engineered by Castaldo at The Tone Factory: Bon Jovi guitarist Phil X tracking guitars for a new release by his band The Drills; Marc Nelson of Boyz 2 Men recorded vocals in Studio B with engineer Hugo Castillo for a new project called Az Yet 2.0; and producer Ricky Luna worked with engineer Castillo on music for an upcoming Tomb Raider movie.

Related:

Mix Regional: Southwest, Mix, Apr. 11, 2017
Mix Regional Sessions: Southwest U.S., Mix, Apr. 9, 2015
Southwest News & Notes, Mix, Apr. 1, 2014

Mix Regional: Southwest, April 2018. Saltmine Studio Oasis, Mesa, Ariz.

Saltmine Studio Oasis

Saltmine Studio Oasis, Mesa, Ariz.

At Don Salter’s Saltmine Studio, rapper Boosie Badazz recorded 27 songs. Futuristic recorded and mixed several albums in Studio A and B with Andre Nelson. Lil Yachty recorded and mixed several songs for Capitol with engineer Jeff Lucero assisting producer/mixer Thomas “Tillie” Mann in Studios A and B. And rumor has it that Lil Wayne reportedly will release Tha Carter 5 soon; many of the songs for that were recorded at the Saltmine before legal issues sidelined the release.

Related: 
The Saltmine Studio Oasis, Phoenix: Vintage Meets Modern in Five-Studio Recording Complex, by Tom Kenny, Mix, Feb. 8, 2016
The Saltmine Studio Oasis, by Tom Kenny, Mix, Apr. 1, 2013

Mix Regional: Southwest, April 2018. D.I. Recording Studios, Las Vegas. Paige O'Hara and Kobe Bryant.

Paige O'Hara and Kobe Bryant

D.I. Recording Studios, Las Vegas

In D.I. Recording Studios, Paige O’Hara—yes, Belle from Disney’s animated classic Beauty and the Beast—recorded vocals for an ESPN spot produced by Kobe Bryant. Mike Lavin engineered. The studio also hosted a variety of artist-produced sessions, all engineered by Tiger Stylz; these included a session with R&B singer Keith Washington and a Christmas song by the Village People.

Mix Regional: Southwest, April 2018. Brickroad Studios, Scottsdale, Ariz. Scott Leader and George Benson.

Scott Leader and George Benson

Brickroad Studios, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Scott Leader of Brickroad Studios (profiled in last year’s Southwest issue) says that legendary artist George Benson has become a partner in the studio. Benson and Leader are pictured here after completing a jazz recording session. The studio also hosted a vocal-tracking session with pop singer Dua Lipa before the studio began its latest round of renovation: the owners are building a new kitchen and lounge this spring.

Related: Mix Regional: Southwest, Mix, Apr. 11, 2017

Mix Regional: Southwest, April 2018. Allusion Studios, Tucson, Ariz. Jim Pavett (left) and Todd Whisler.

Jim Pavett (left) and Todd Whisler

Allusion Studios, Tucson, Ariz.

Jim Pavett (pictured, left) produced and engineered the latest album by guitarist Todd Whisler (pictured) at Allusion Studios. Also appearing on this 14-track release are guitarist Troy Gray, bassist Barry Sparks, keyboard player Rich Katz, vocalists Tommy Quatraro and Crystal Stark, backing vocalists Kathren Byrnes and Julie Ann, cellist Michael Ronstadt, violinist Nick Converty, and horn players Mike Moynihan and Rick Peron. Pavett also played drums on the session.

Related: No Allusion About Auralex, by Sarah Benzuly, Mix, Dec. 1, 2011

Mix Regional: Southwest, April 2018. Dust & Stone, Tucson, Ariz. Pictured are Dust & Stone Recording Studio engineers Sullivan and Winston Watson.

Dust & Stone Recording Studio engineers Sullivan and Winston Watson

Dust & Stone, Tucson, Ariz.

Gabriel Sullivan says that his most memorable session in recent memory was a day of soundtrack work with local singer/songwriter/engineer Howe Gelb. “Howe is a longtime friend and musical partner,” Sullivan says. “For this session he said he wanted to detune the piano and play only broken instruments, and that’s exactly what we did. He tuned single notes on the piano to full chords, overdubbed nearly unplayable banjos, and sang what would become the lead vocal track into the piano mics. Fearless invention and creation take precedence always.” Pictured are Dust & Stone Recording Studio engineers Sullivan and Winston Watson.

Mix Regional: Southwest, April 2018. Waterworks Recording, Tucson, Ariz. African reggae artist General Tchefary (right) with Jim Waters.

Jim Waters and reggae artist General Tchefary

Waterworks Recording, Tucson, Ariz.

The song “Bellbottoms,” performed by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and recorded and produced at Waterworks, is featured in the Baby Driver opening action sequence. Jim Waters (pictured, left) has also engineered and produced a number of other acts, including African reggae artist General Tchefary (pictured), Gabrielle Pietrangelo and her Chaparral Kirtan Band, Fish Karma working on a new album for Alternate Tentacles Records, and Sawdust Road for their new album Faded Features.

Mix Regional: Southwest, April 2018. TucSound, Tucson, Ariz.

TucSound

TucSound, Tucson, Ariz.

Recent sessions at TucSound include a self-produced project for Diluvio Az., engineered by Oscar Fuentes; artist Alice Pringle recording a children’s album with producer Enrique “Hank” Feldman; and Leigh Lesho working on an Americana album with Fuentes producing.

Featured Studios in Southwest U.S.

Studio at the Palms, Las Vegas

Beacon Hill Recording Studios, El Paso, Texas

The Tone Factory Recording Studios, Las Vegas

Saltmine Studio Oasis, Mesa, Ariz.

D.I. Recording Studios, Las Vegas

Brickroad Studios, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Allusion Studios, Tucson, Ariz.

Dust & Stone, Tucson, Ariz.

Waterworks Recording, Tucson, Ariz.

TucSound, Tucson, Ariz.