session log: blake allen, “the leaning tree”

the news that my longtime buddy blake allen was writing and recording again is always welcome to me…even if he and i don’t always (or ever) see eye to eye about the process itself, i love his music and i always have. he and i had a couple of conversations about getting together and working on some of the new material, but for whatever reason – either his or mine – it kept getting pushed off for another time.

as they say, though…nothing motivates like a deadline.

blake must’ve decided to push the issue a bit by setting a mix date with marc moss at target, and correctly figured that this would be motivation enough for us to set a date and actually set about doing what we needed to do to finish up the songs he planned to mix.

my particular assignment was for a song called “the leaning tree” that he wanted pedal steel on. we had played it live at a show he did at sellersville, opening for hal ketchum, so i was familiar with the song, and i’d played it already – both plusses.

since i had last been to blakes’ home studio, he’s done some work – he and mollie redid the basement at some point, and blake has a great little workspace now. he’s still lovin’ his 16-bit ADAT machines, though. 🙂

we tried using an amp for the steel, but we ended up going direct – which i’m all about these days. pedal steel sounds pretty phenomenal if you put the right stuff between it and the signal input. the best result i’ve gotten thus far was with a sansAMP, actually…but a radial DI works pretty damn well, too.

i’ve taken blake to task in the past for his recording technique, which involves taking multiple passes of the same thing over and over and then meticulously searching through them for the best of the lot…now, blake isn’t the only person who does this by any stretch. protools users do this on a regular basis, but protools (especially version eight) makes this a lot easier to do, where “comping” is concerned. when you’re working on tape or ADAT, then you either have to comp beforehand or import dozens of tracks into the computer and then manually sift through them for your keepers.

blake prefers working this way…but that’s just proof that one persons’ exasperation is anothers’ bread and butter.

at any rate, we actually only did a couple of passes on this one…one set of standard pedal steel stuff, and another of the high pitched, whiny, birdlike noises that blake likes so much. 🙂

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