Martin Stephenson (left) and Jim Hornsby
English guitarist Martin Stephenson became enchanted with the music of North Carolina and wrote an album's worth of songs inspired by the region. He recorded Hell's Half Acre in the town of Midland, N.C., which is also known by that same name. Stephenson recorded the album on the porch and in the kitchen of Midland resident Dolph Ramseur, the owner of Ramseur Records (distributed by Sony Red), which released the record.
A location-recording enthusiast, North Carolina native Ramseur wanted to record the album with an authenticity that no studio production could deliver, and suggested that they use the ambience of his rural home.
"I only do location recordings, and I wanted a single microphone that sounded amazing and that would be simple to set up," Ramseur explains. "Everything pointed to the SoundField MKV [studio microphone system]. I know that the MKV has a lot of different capabilities—figure-8, cardioid, surround, and so on—but I threw all of that out the window and let my ears guide me. I moved things a little bit while they were setting up, but I quickly found what sounded right and didn't need to tinker with it after that."
Stephenson and other musicians, including UK acoustic guitarist Jim Hornsby, first gathered around the MKV on Ramseur's 8x40-foot front porch. Ramseur set up his Alesis Masterlink 2-channel recorder with a pair of headphones about 20 feet away. "We taped birds, bugs, cars going down the road, and even a thunderstorm,” Ramseur recalls. “All of those ambient noises were absolutely beautiful in the SoundField. There are five or six cars going by on the record and you definitely hear them. The recording has a context that you can practically feel."
Everything was recorded in one pass with no overdubs, and Ramseur mixed each song by moving the musicians around the MKV. "Martin and Jim have recorded in some of the best studios in the world," says Ramseur, "and they could tell right off the bat that the sound was authentic. We had the sweet spot and it wasn't hard to find. I couldn't believe how easy it was to pull Martin in just a little bit, and bam! We had it.
"I'm no sound guy, but everyone who hears this recording thinks it's out of this world. I think that's what's so great about the SoundField MKV system—all you have to do is trust your ears and you'll get something spectacular. If I can achieve success with this format, then anyone can achieve success with this format. It's really just point and click!"