Darrell Scott in Blackbird’s Studio C
Photo: Scott Simontacchi
Darrell Scott was scheming and overdubbing, making a densely layered album called The Invisible Man. It turned out to be a success, with a song on it called “Hank Williams' Ghost” winning last year's Americana Music Association Song of the Year Prize. But in the midst of that project, something was driving Scott crazy.“I just hit the wall,” Scott says. “I needed a break from it. So I tried something else, as medicine. I wanted to go in, record and get out quickly.”
Scott called engineer Gary Paczosa. The two were fans of the Sheffield Lab series of recordings from the '70s, in which musicians recorded direct to master.
“Those had the immediacy and the live vibe, but also the studio control,” Scott says. “It was great sound, and that's what I was after. There was no multitrack hiss to them, and they were audiophile quality.”
Scott and Paczosa went into George Massenburg's Studio C at Blackbird Studios (Nashville). Massenburg's place employs more than 1,500 sheets of 1-inch-thick, medium-density fiberboard, cut in unique tines. The place looks like some futuristic city art project that taxpayers gripe about, but its construction allows musicians to stand in the room and hear each other without headphones. It was built for mixing, but Scott and Paczosa wanted to track there.
“There was close-miking, but we also flew overheads so information was shared,” Scott says. “We did almost everything live, without headphones, and we had no click track and did minimal edits. It made for something kind of tight, yet with a vibe of looseness.”
Scott and a crew of musician friends recorded 12 of his favorite songs, from 12 favorite songwriters, and then Scott went back and worked, refreshed, on The Invisible Man, released that, and now he has also released the Studio C album, Modern Hymns.
“These are songs I love, and this is Massenburg's vision of a room and this is Paczosa working his magic,” Scott says. “With all that, we got music that is immediate and in the moment.”