craig bancoff found me through a friend of a friend, and called me out of the blue to ask if i’d be interested in doing some session work for a record he’s working on with adam winokur and matt muir at kawari sound in philadelphia.
as it turned out, we have a lot of people in common…but i didn’t know it until we got a chance to sit down and talk a bit. i had a meeting with craig on a sunday night after doing overdubs on jd malone‘s record…i met up with wendy and we drove in to sit down and listen to what he’d done so far.
we went into his study and he put in a disc that had what he’d done thus far on it…which was acoustic guitar, bass, drums and vocals…and i was blown away by what i heard. craig’s songs have an intimate, vulnerable quality to them…they remind me of something that would come from the ethan johns discography – minimalistic, haunting stuff defined as much by the spaces between the notes as the notes themselves.
i was sitting there listening to the rough mixes wondering if i was actually drooling or not. when you’re brought into a project like this at the point that craig had chosen to bring me in, you listen to mixes like this and you can hear every possibility of what you could potentially bring to the table in the holes. the challenge is to pick the right things and enhance the song without burying it.
so craig and i got out a pad and went song by song through the demos, discussing ideas and possibilities for what instruments might go with which songs…and we convened at the studio around 2:30 or so on friday. craig had adam and matty in at noon to put down bass and drums for one last song, and i was going to get started after they’d finished what they had to do for the track they were working on.
for this one, i brought lap steel, pedal steel, the baritone guitar…as well as the dobro and the weissenborn, and my 1967 gretsch rally and my custom strat with the lipstick pickups that i use for bottleneck work. as it turned out, i didn’t really get to use much other than the lap and pedal steel, save for putting some baritone on one track. not to give the wrong impression, though – we got a lot of work done. craig wanted to concentrate on pedal steel for this session, it seemed…we did quite a bit of it, spreading it over at least half the tracks, and adding baritone guitar to a song called be your ghost. we saved my favorite moment of this session for last, though.
when i first heard what is tentatively planned as the title cut, a song called eden, i knew exactly what i wanted to do on the ending passage…i could hear david lindley‘s lap steel from the end of jackson browne‘s song the fuse from the pretender…we took the rickenbacker lap steel, into my fulldrive pedal (but with most of the dirt rolled almost all the way down) and then into a combo preamp downstairs and into a leslie 147 rotating speaker cabinet, on the slow speed.
i don’t have a word to tell you how that sounded. you’ll have to buy the record.
seriously – it was one of the most awe-inspiring things that’s ever come from my hands on a session. it was thick, sinister, swirly, and badass. i could’ve played through that rig all night.
as a tribute to The Master Himself, i even reprised david’s ascending lick from the fuse at the very end of craigs’ song. that moment definitely makes my highlight reel.
all in all, it was a productive day…we didn’t really get a chance to dig into any of the acoustic instruments at all. we concentrated on the clean electric instruments, mostly – the pedal steel and baritone guitar stuff. it was a great session, though…my first time at this particular studio, first time with this particular artist, and first time working with adam and matty.
did i mention how awesome the lap steel sounded through the leslie?