Once again, Stephen Mougin at Dark Shadow Recording has prevailed on one of his artists to retail tninthheir recording experience for us in blog form. This time, it’s Becky Buller who is working on her first solo project with the label. Here is the eighth installment of her studio diary. A talented songwriter, Becky also tours and records with Darin & Brooke Aldridge on fiddle and clawhammer banjo.
March 25, 2014
I was all set to make Tom Selleck cookies that Monday night. Had the dough mixed up and chilling in the ‘fridge. But long about midnight my brother, Michael, called in response to a Facebook comment I’d made about Luther Seminary’s Fleshpots of Egypt, the bluegrass band he plays bass for. Isn’t that a great name? So King James! Michael said he might be able to hook me up with a band t-shirt if I were to give him a line on an affordable upright bass for sale in the Minneapolis area. Their bandleader is looking to buy. So…any of my bass playing readers out there…David, Alan, Ernie…if you have any suggestions for Michael, send me a message. No t-shirts being handed out as of yet.
More importantly, we talked about Michael and his wife Erika’s upcoming interviews with churches in the Fargo, N.D., area. They’ll be graduating in May and hope to be ordained soon as Lutheran ministers. I’m so proud of them both!
All of that was much more important than making cookies at that very moment. After we hung up, I headed to bed.
4:00 a.m. CDT – Wakey, wakey! Bakey, bakey! As I mentioned, it was Tom Selleck cookies this go ‘round…probably the fussiest cookie I make. Why Tom Selleck, you ask? A friend of my mom’s heard Tom Selleck give this recipe out on Oprah years and years ago. It’s a chocolate cookie with an Andes mint melted over the top…basically a homemade Girl Scout thin mint. Of course, all the women in the connection HAD to have the recipe because they all had crushes on Tom Selleck. Have you ever noticed that everybody’s mom had a crush on Magnum P.I.? That’s one of the ongoing informal polls I’m taking. (Did YOUR mom have a crush on Magnum? Please let me know with a comment below. My mom does. Jeff’s mom did. Romy’s mom does. Jeff has a crush on Magnum’s Ferrari.)
Oh, and it’s a great cookie, too. My family has made them at Christmastime every year since.
7:00 a.m. – Jeff was just about to leave for work. He went to grab a few cookies for the road. I swatted his hand. “Those are for the Bluegrass Boys! Don’t even look at them. Shoo!” He stuck out his bottom lip and slunk out the door.
10:10 a.m. – I was a wee bit late getting to the studio. Everybody else was already there, settled in, and telling Bill Monroe stories. Ernie Sykes (bass, Tennessee Mafia Jug Band) flew in from New York for the session. Blake and Kimberly Williams (banjo and bass, The Expedition Show) drove up from Sparta, TN. and Roland White (mandolin, The Roland White Band) joined us from just around the corner in Nashville. We gathered to play Monroe’s tune Southern Flavor, which was the title cut of his 1988 album that went on to win the first Bluegrass Grammy in 1989.
Mojo laid down a scratch guitar track. I have another special guest joining me on guitar. He couldn’t be with us the day we cut. We’ll leave his identity shrouded in mystery for a day or two longer ‘til those tracks come in.
It was so fun hearing the guys’ stories about how they met and went to work with Mr. Monroe. And then there were tales of life on the road…which I can’t really share here. Ernie and Blake are absolutely hilarious! They kept egging each other on. Tech-savvy Roland was snapping photos on his phone and emailing them over to us all immediately.
Richard Smith, whose studio we commandeered for this venture, was also with us for a while before heading off to Indiana, I believe, for a run of shows with his wife, Julie Adams.
At one point, Blake opened up the door to find an almost whiteout and snow was beginning to accumulate. About 30 minutes later, he looked out again and it was completely sunny and not a stitch of snow on the ground. Although prone to exaggeration, I swannee to goodness I’m not exaggerating. (Pictorial proof attached.)
These guys headed out about noon thirty and the fiddlers came in just before 2:00 p.m. Michael Feagan and Buddy Spicher joined me for some live action triple fiddling. We took a couple hours to work out the parts, then circled up around three mics and cut it right there. It was old school and it was AWESOME!!!
It was such an honor to work with all these guys. I keep saying that throughout these blogs, but I sincerely mean it.
Ernie is all over so many albums I love, including a bunch of the Bluegrass Cardinals stuff and Livewire. “Oh, good-bye, Marie! Oh, good-bye Marie! Out the window there’s a lonesome highway calling me…” And now he’s with the mafia…Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, that is. Them boys is snappy dressers! (We bonded over Pointer Brand attire.)
I saw Blake Williams with Mr. Monroe in Hutchinson, Minn., back in about ’90 or ’91. Jimmy Campbell was on fiddle, Tater Tate on bass, Tom Ewing on guitar. Mom brought Mr. Monroe a rose because it was close to his birthday. I have a poster here at the house signed by the band that night. I was in the fifth or sixth grade, hadn’t yet hacked off my hair into that ridiculous bob I wore for a while OR had braces. In the picture, I’m wearing a tie. I bet I had my jean legs pinned. (Leave me a comment at the bottom of the page if you ever tried out that fashion trend. I gave it up pretty quickly after a bunch of the safety pins popped open and stabbed my leg while walking home from school one day. Ouch.)
Roland… I just love Roland! I saw him with the Nashville Bluegrass Band for the first time at the Big Island Rendezvous in Albert Lea, Minn. Jeff, Romy, and I watched the Kentucky Colonels on the Andy Griffith Show via Netflix just the other day. “Mayberry On Record,” right? I’ve had all the Nashville Bluegrass Band records memorized for a while and have lately been getting into the Country Gazette stuff. The Roland White Band music is great, too, of course. And I always enjoy Roland’s “Christmas Time’s A Comin’” at the Nashville Bluegrass Band’s annual Christmas Ham Jam dealio.
I had never seen Michael Feagan without his cowboy hat on until the other day. Even without it, he is still very tall and fairly quiet. Man! Can that man fiddle!
Unfortunately, I haven’t had much opportunity to watch Buddy perform live. But we did catch the Sunday afternoon fiddle showcase at the National Folk Festival in Nashville a few years ago. There was a major fiddler’s duel going on between Buddy and Bobby Hicks. It was a thing to behold, let me tell you! Buddy would play something totally amazing and way out there and Bobby, who was hanging on every note, would look completely shocked and laugh out loud. And, when it was his turn, Bobby would play something utterly incredible and Buddy would just sit back and smile…
There’s more to the story behind our cut of Southern Flavor. We’ll be sharing that soon. Most of it’s really exciting. One bit is pretty doggone sad. Stay tuned!
End of day nine. Triple fiddles are sublime! (Near enough rhyme…oh, look at the time!)