LAS VEGAS, NEVADA: As a country singer far from the country, Lisa Matassa had it tough. She cut her teeth singing Country standards in the clubs of Long Island in the 1980s, an era in which the demand from the millions of nearby New Yorkers was not sufficient to warrant even a single Country music radio station. Matassa’s perseverance earned her a local award in 2011 as Long Island’s first country music recording artist and a pioneer of the “Long Island Country” genre, which blends New York rock with a contemporary Country sound. Truly epic in its scope, her latest project pays homage to the Country artists in the 1980s who inspired her to keep at her craft. Working with producer Brent Rader (Jo Dee Messina, Collin Raye, Billy Dean), Matassa has recorded a duets record with a Who’s Who list of 1980s-era Country greats: The Oak Ridge Boys, Lee Greenwood, Exile, Larry Stewart (Restless Heart), Mickey Gilley, the Bellamy Brothers, Johnny Lee, T Graham Brown, David Frizzell, and Larry Gatlin, among others. Rader ensured a consistent, organic sound by using Daking Mic-Pre IV and Mic-Pre/EQs.
“These are a lot of the artists who inspired Lisa when she was coming up,” explained Rader. “And they are a lot of the artists who inspired me, for that matter, so working with them has been a great privilege! A lot of the songs we chose were duets to begin with, so Lisa simply took the female parts. We turned other songs into duets for this project. Either way, we wanted to produce fresh, modern-sounding versions that still had all of the signature elements in place. They’ll trigger every memory you’ve ever associated with them, but they’re a far cry from boring karaoke tracks. Basically, we asked, ‘if this song were being done for the first time today, how would we do it?’”
As one might guess, coordinating the logistics on the project was complicated. Veteran Nashville engineer Craig White recorded the tracking sessions at Music Row’s Curb Records and the vocal sessions at Sound Stage. From tracking to mastering, the project took just four-and a half months, and the sensible requirement that videographers attend all the sessions made the visual aesthetic a constant consideration. “We used the big live room at Sound Stage to cut vocals, and a lot of Lisa’s partners said, ‘yeah, this is where we recorded the original!’” Rader said. He brought his personal rack of Daking gear – two Mic-Pre IVs and two Mic-Pre/EQs (ten channels total) – to every session. Most of the vocals, most of the drums, and all of the acoustic instruments benefitted from Daking’s circuitry.
“Daking makes all Class-A, top-of-the-line gear, and anything I put into it is guaranteed to come out sounding great,” Rader said. “I love Daking’s transient response, which makes it not only an obvious choice for drums, but also for acoustic instruments. My Daking preamps respond well to the pick, the strumming, and the percussive nature of acoustic instruments. And of course, country music is all about wood and wire instruments! Almost every song has doubled acoustic guitar, mandolin and banjo. The equalizer on the Mic-Pre/EQ is silky smooth, especially on vocals. I put in a little bit of the 20kHz shelf in at the top, and it’s like, ‘ah, there’s the magic!’” Rader gets his Daking gear from Warren Dent at ZenPro Audio.
Rader continued, “The musicianship on this project is fantastic. Some of these guys are in their 70s at this point, and I was amazed at how great they all sounded. When I think of somebody in their 70s, I think of them in a La-Z-Boy, kicking back and enjoying the fruits for their labors. These guys are still out there, giving it 100% and sounding awesome. I’d argue that many of the performances we captured for this release are even better than their originals!”
Although Rader does plenty of mixing himself, he handed this project over to expert mix engineer Drew Bollman. “One of the huge advantages of recording through the Daking gear is that it stacks beautifully,” Rader said. “If you A/B a single track through Daking and through some other pro gear, the difference may be subtle. But when you increase the track count, the difference becomes obvious. Everything that went through the Daking sits nicely in the mix. It all glues together beautifully. Drew was thrilled with the sounds we gave him. He didn’t have to EQ too much and he specifically commented on how easy it was to place things in the mix.”
The new album, Why I‘m Here, is slated for release June 10th. To celebrate the release, almost all of the project’s collaborators will assemble at Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville that evening for a huge night of Country classics.
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