Randy Kohrs (www.myspace.com/slackkeystudio) has played guitar and other string instruments with many of Nashville's finest (including Dolly Parton, Randy Travis and Hank Thompson). He considers himself “first and foremost a session musician,” and he began working with recording technology as a way to experiment, listen back and perfect his musicianship.
Musician/engineer Randy Kohrs (seated) is recording the follow-up to Jim Lauderdale’s Bluegrass in his Slack-key Studio. Meanwhile, Kohrs’ album Old Photograph is climbing the bluegrass chart.
“I started with small recorders and having a studio in the house that I could practice in, and it just evolved,” Kohrs explains. “I've had lots of help from some of the great engineers here in town. There's lots to learn from those guys, and I've been lucky enough to play on sessions where I could ask them questions.”
Kohrs now uses his project room, Slack-key Studio, to record his own bluegrass band, Randy Kohrs & The Lites (get it?) and a number of other indie country acts, such as Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time, Hank III and Jim Lauderdale. At press time, Kohrs and Lauderdale were busy tracking the follow-up to Lauderdale's Grammy-nominated Bluegrass. Kohrs co-produced Bluegrass, which he says was recorded mostly live at Bil Vorndick's studio. “On this next album,” Kohrs says, “we've recorded upright bass, mandolin, guitar, banjo and Jim's scratch vocal going down, and I'm really taking my time with the dobro and fiddle parts. Also, this album has a different character from Bluegrass. We've got some vintage country kind of mirror-image licks — a lot like they would do with pedal steel and fiddle back in the '50s. We're really breaking them down, and there's all kinds of unison playing that branches off into harmonies — it's very creative, very enjoyable stuff.” Also going onto Lauderdale's release will be a duet with Patty Loveless and guest vocals by American Idol stand-out Melinda Doolittle.
Kohrs' studio comprises a 13×16-foot control room and a 500-square-foot tracking room, where he gets separation with the use of 12-inch-thick foam partitions. Kohrs tracks to Steinberg Nuendo 3, using Apogee 16X AD/DA converters. His outboard gear includes a collector's assortment of analog preamps from Universal Audio, Telefunken, Forsell Technologies and Ampex. “I have a stereo pair of vintage Ampex 601s that were modified by Natale Tomiano in New York City,” Kohrs explains. “I met him when I was on tour with Dolly Parton, and we've been friends ever since. He makes these old pre's — basically guts them and does his mods on them, and when he gets done they're just incredible.”
Kohrs also benefits from a number of endorsements, including microphone manufacturers RØDE, Royer, Shure and, most recently, Lauten Audio with its Horizon tube mic. His main monitors are Mackie 824 near-fields with matching sub.
Next up for Kohrs, once Lauderdale's project is in the can, will be four bonus tracks for a Dave Evans compilation and a follow-up to his own solo album, Old Photograph, which was released this past March on Rural Rhythm Records. “That album was done 50 percent with my touring band and 50 percent with session musicians. I just found out that it went up this week from Number 30 on the bluegrass chart to Number 20. So things are definitely looking up.”