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Memphis Dawls Cut New LP With Producer Jeff Powell at Ardent

Album Follows Success of Indie 7″ Single “Starting Gate”

Pictured at Ardent Studios in Memphis are (L-R) producer/engineer Jeff Powell, Holly Cole, drummer Ken Coomer (Uncle Tupelo, Wilco), Krista Wroten, Jana Misener, and assistant Lucas Peterson.

In what appears to be a trend at Ardent Studios in Memphis, another band has followed the success of a 7″ vinyl single with a full-blown album project. Tennessee favorites, The Memphis Dawls, have completed tracking their new album with producer Jeff Powell. Last year, Powell produced, recorded and mastered their hit single “Starting Gate, ” with “Where’d You Go My Love” as the B-side.

“We’re finding that if a band can record, mix and master two songs in a day, they definitely have their act together,” commented Jeff Powell. “It’s a good way to check out Ardent and get a taste of what an album project can be.”

The Memphis Dawls are known as the crowning jewel of the Memphis folk scene. The core group is made up of three veteran musicians who have played with several successful local bands. Brought together by their similar tastes in melody and style, Holly Cole (guitars, vocals) Jana Misener (cello, vocals), and Krista Wroten (viola, mandolin, accordion, vocals) deliver hauntingly romantic and lyrical folk music with a modern flare.

“We recorded those first two songs on analog,” recalled Holly Cole. “After we discovered that power, we decided to come back to Ardent for a full-length LP. Jeff works very organically and much of the album was tracked live. For the vocals, he has some great techniques, like traditional tape slap-back, which goes back to the old school Stax Records days in Memphis. Jeff gets a warm sound that you just can’t really capture digitally.”

“I always use Ardent’s two-track MCI tape machine for slap-back,” explains Powell. “Song to song, I usually set it for what I think suits the song, 16th notes or 8th notes, or the first note of what would be a triplet. I don’t like the exactness of digital delays. I like the tape slap to be a little off, usually back just a hair. I also use the slap for pre-delay to the plates or chambers. Ardent has two beautiful sounding reverb chambers, one with a long delay and another with medium.”

The themes of Memphis Dawls music tends to lean toward the power of love and heartache, much like their musical mentors: Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt. Their harmonies and music push folk, country and rock through the filter of southern hymns. Religious only in the context of their dedication to their respective crafts, they deliver a unique and hypnotizing sound that jumps from genre to genre.

“We all liked the idea of singing around one microphone for the final vocals whenever possible,” Powell continues, “The Dawls have a blend in the air way better than I could ever record by overdubbing each voice one by one and mixing that together. These girls really have a sound when they sing together that is instantly recognizable and goose-bumpy to me. Their musicianship is amazing, and they came in swinging for the fences. I did everything I could to facilitate that. I set the cutting floor up with most of the room live, but we also built a baffled, carpeted area, like a living room, where we recorded certain elements of the record that needed a more intimate sound. “

“Ardent’s equipment is incredible,” adds Holly Cole. “They have a large array of tape machines and the echo chambers were built back in the 70s. There is so much great vintage gear, it’s pretty amazing. And the folks at Ardent are like family, very welcoming. It’s a warm environment and a neat place to make music.”

The Memphis Dawls recently signed with MadJack Records for their upcoming album.

Ardent Studios officially got its start in 1966, when the operation moved from John Fry’s home studio to a commercial space on National Street in Memphis. From there it was only a matter of time until nearly every artist on the Stax Records roster made their way through the doors. Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, Sam & Dave, and Booker T & The MGs all made hit records at Ardent. The success continued through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s into the new millennium with hits for Big Star, ZZ Top, The Replacements, Joe Cocker, REM, Soundgarden, Gin Blossoms, The White Stripes, and many more. For nearly five decades, Ardent has stayed at the cutting edge of Studios technology, and currently features four full service studios with top of the line digital and analog capabilities, able to handle any and all Studios needs.
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