L to R: Davell Crawford, Dr. John, David Farrell
Crawford’s ‘Gift’ to Fans
By Barbara Schultz
Davell Crawford’s My Gift to You is a beautiful new album of NOLA music that stems from the singer/composer/pianist’s roots in soul, jazz, funk and blues. Gift features appearances by Dr. John, Crawford’s regular rhythm players—bassist Mark Brooks and drummer Joe Dyson Jr.—and a host of musicians that Crawford hand-picked to complement each tune.
Tracks were captured to Pro Tools, mostly in The Music Shed (New Orleans), by veteran engineer/mixer David Farrell, who—before Katrina washed it away—was co-owner of the famed Ultrasonic Studios. Farrell continues to have a very busy career, recording in other local rooms and mixing 30-plus albums a year in his personal studio.
“We like Music Shed because they have a nice big room, and I think they have the best piano in town; it’s a Yamaha C7 with a big, rich sound,” Farrell says. Farrell mics the C7 with a pair of AKG 414s in an X-Y stereo configuration. “The mics are placed probably about 12 inches above the hammers,” he says. “As long as you place them right in the structure, a little favoring the low end over the high end, you get a beautiful, sweet sound.”
Those piano mics, and the U 87 on Crawford’s vocal, went to the studio’s API mic pre’s; other instruments were miked with models from the Music Shed’s cabinet. “Everything went down live for the most part,” Farrell says, “including some of the vocals. All of the arrangements flowed from Davell, and the foundations of the songs always went down as a group. We augmented with other things on top of that, but Davell is always very conscious of capturing the spirit of the songs, and that spirit happens when everyone plays together.”
Better Than Ezra’s ‘Garden’ Grows in 5.1
By Blair Jackson
Don’t tell Richard LaBonté that selling 5.1 surround audio albums is an experiment that already failed. The successful advertising/marketing executive, who has worked in and around the fringes of the music business for many years, has launched a company called Music Valet (musicvalet.com) to put out 5.1 audio releases designed, in part, to cater to the expanding market of people with surround audio systems in their cars. LaBonté has two Acura TLs equipped with Elliot Sheiner ELS 5.1 systems and was frustrated by the lack of suitable titles, so he decided to start making his own.
His first choice is How Does Your Garden Grow?, an ambitious, highly textural 1998 release by the New Orleans band Better Than Ezra, produced by Malcolm Burn at the group’s Fudge Studios. “I did not make this record with some huge sales goal,” he says. “I thought, ‘I want to do it my way and I’m going to launch this with an esoteric record I love that people will either know or they won’t, and this will really show what we can do.’”
After getting the group’s approval and licensing the title from Rhino, LaBonté had the original analog multitrack masters transferred to digital by Lowell Reynolds at Blackbird Studio in Nashville, then brought in engineer Jay Rustin (Metallica, Brian Wilson, Leonard Cohen) to do the surround mix at TRS West in Sherman Oaks, Calif. The already sonically interesting album “was perfect for 5.1,” LaBonté says. “Besides putting some of the electronic blips and bleeps, drum loops and a lot of the ear candy in the back [speakers], it has these string parts by Karl Berger that sound gorgeous in surround.” And with songs that range from driving pop to lush ballads to punky alt-rock, the album has plenty of variety.
Dave Matthews and Charlie Sexton
The Nauts, Kenny Wayne Shepherd at Shreveport’s Blade Studios
What started out as a fun project for Brady Blade to get some musicians together and jam—such as Dave Matthews, Jakob Dylan, Charlie Sexton and Will Sexton—has turned into a full-fledged band called The Nauts, and this newly formed group has been working on a forthcoming record. Blade, a rock/pop/country drummer, record producer, composer, and Blade Studios partner—along with Scott Crompton (executive producer and CEO) and mix engineer Chris Bell—is also a part of The Nauts, who recorded the new material in the Russ Berger-designed Studio A on a 48-channel SSL Duality SE. Other equipment of note includes Neve 1081 and API 512mic preamps; Universal Audio LA-2A compressors; and Telefunken 251, Mojave 300 and Royer R-122 mics. The Nauts produced the tracks, with Bell serving as engineer.
Meanwhile, blues/roots-rock guitarist/singer/songwriter Kenny Wayne Shepherd came back to his hometown of Shreveport to do some recording at the studio. Shepherd brought along Chris Layton (drummer, founding member of Double Trouble), Tony Franklin (bassist, worked with Roy Harper, The Firm, Jimmy Page, Paul Rodgers, Whitesnake), Noah Hunt (vocalist, rhythm guitarist for the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band) and Riley Osborne (pianist, worked with Willie Nelson) to work on this new project, which also features Robert Randolph, Joe Walsh, Warren Haynes and Ringo Starr, as well as many other guests.
The group recorded in Studio A on the SSL Duality. Other equipment of notes includes CLASP and Studer 827 recorders; Neve 1081 and API 512 mic preamps; Universal Audio LA-2A compressors; and Telefunken 251, Mojave 300, Royer R-122, Royer R-121, and Coles 4038 mics.
The upcoming release is being produced by Brady Blade and Bill Pfordresher, with Chris Bell serving as engineer.
Needlz Builds Home Studio With the Help of GIK Acoustics
Multi-Platinum, Grammy Award-winning producer/engineer/composer Needlz recently enlisted GIK Acoustics to help with the design and acoustic treatments for the final space in his new home studio.
Atlanta-based Needlz’s list of production credits includes a slew of industry heavyweights such as 50 Cent, Jermaine Dupri, Drake, Lil Wayne, Fabolous, Swizz Beats, Redman, Ludacris, Young Buck and Scarface. He also co-wrote and produced Bruno Mars’ Grammy-winning single “Just The Way You Are.”
With GIK Acoustics’ help, the result of Needlz’s new space is a room with an accurate sound perfect for mixing and producing singles. “I’ve noticed a big difference in my mixes since I placed GIK Acoustics’ products in my studio,” Needlz says. “We’ve been able to mix our records with more confidence knowing that they will translate well in other environments. This was a great investment for my studio.”