Mountain Heart lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Josh Shilling has released his debut solo effort, Letting Go, a self-produced 6-song, EP CD.
Shilling readily admits that this isn’t a bluegrass record, but more of a singer/songwriter album showcasing his bluesy roots. Prior to joining up with Mountain Heart, Josh worked the east coast music scene with a number of different bands, relying on his strong skills as a soulful singer and keyboardist.
But the boy has the grass bug as well, even if it’s not as evident here on Letting Go as it may be on stage with the MH guys. Randy Kohrs play redo and lap steel, Aaron Ramsey added banjo and mandolin, with Jim Van Cleve laying down some fiddle.
In an interview earlier today, Josh explained a few things about the album, and some of the people who assisted him in the studio.
“On top of an all-star cast of known bluegrass players/singers, we also enlisted legendary producer Mike Clute (Restless Heart, Faith Hill, Diamond Rio) to co-produce the CD with me. I also am honored to have written or co-written all the songs on Letting Go with some of Nashville’s best songwriters. Our good friend David Hall tracked the project at First Ave Sound in Franklin, TN, and my pal and co-writer Jimmy Olander (guitarist for Diamond Rio) played guitar on a song entitled Don’t Move that he and I wrote together.
Famous producer Barry Beckett’s son and well-known session player Mark Beckett played drums on the project and upright/electric bassist Kevin ‘Swine’ Grantt played bass on most tracks. There are a few songs that lean more towards commercial radio and a few that fall into the Americana/Folk category. Overall, we didn’t set out to fit into a particular genre or mold. We just wanted to record some strong material and allow the music to breath and go where it naturally felt right. I think we achieved that goal and I’m really excited for folks to hear what we came up with.”
Josh also sent along a couple of audio samples that he thought grassers might enjoy, along with a few words on each. First is his take on the title track of Adam Steffey’s 2009 album.
Out on the road with Mountain Heart, Aaron Ramsey and I have been performing this tune in a stripped down section of our show. After having a good crowd response from this song on tour, we started getting asked ‘when are you guys gonna cut that song….like that?!’ So, I realized that I just had to include it on this CD. One More For The Road was captured for this project around midnight and completely live.
Very few recordings go down this way these days. There’s so much editing, tuning, and post work that takes away from most of today’s music but like much of Letting Go, almost all of the music and most of the vocals were recorded and kept from the first couple takes.
On this track, Aaron played upright, Randy Kohrs played dobro, and I played guitar and sang the song only twice all the way through and we kept the second pass. You can tell it’s live and that’s what I really love about it. You can hear my foot patting and Randy breathing through his dobro mics. You can hear the tiny imperfections that occur when you hear real human musicians play and sing but with that, we also captured the raw emotion that listeners respond to when they hear a live, raw performance.
This one was the easiest to complete because it simply ‘happened’ and there aren’t any edits. Oddly enough, it seems to be a favorite for most people who hear the project.”
One More For The Road:
And one he sings as a duet with Cia Cherryholmes:
“Wondering If You’re Wondering is kind of a Sam Cooke type throw back song that I wrote years ago. The song simply talks about walking through everyday life blinded by the love for another and wondering if they feel the same way.
After years of performing it live at the piano alone, I took a look at the lyrics and realized that it would make a great duet. I immediately thought of Cia Cherryholmes, so I gave her call and she came over to the studio a few days later. I’ve got to tell you, you’ve never heard Cia sound like this…she absolutely killed it!
We sing back and forth throughout the verses and we wind up singing in harmony on every line toward the back of the song. It is a very soulful piece and one of my favorites from the project for sure.
While recording this one, I started thinking about Etta James when listening to the rough tracks of the song and it rekindled my love for the large, lush string sections on most of those old recordings. So I started looking for a small string section and oddly enough, I immediately thought of Molly Cherryholmes! A few days later, we ended up with both sisters (Cia and Molly) singing and layering cello, octave violin, and violin all over this thing.
I’m so proud of it and I’m glad to be part of showcasing their talents in a new light.”
Wondering If You’re Wondering:
Letting Go is not yet available in iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, etc, but it can be ordered now from Shilling’s web site. Look for download sales from online digital resellers soon.
Category: Bluegrass recording news
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John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.
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