session log: dani mchenry

studio: turtle studios

staff: ross bellenoit, producer – jeff hiatt, engineer

instruments: pedal steel, dobro

i had started a conversation with jay levin, a partner at turtle, over facebook some time back about possible session work, and jay put me through a pretty heavy-duty screening process – asking for sound samples and the like. it was timely, as i had been editing audio clips together for the resume page of my website, so i had plenty of stuff to send to him. his initial inquiry had been about dobro, so i sent him stuff from craig bancoff‘s album, from blake allen‘s record, and from a couple of projects i had done at cambridge…then, roughly a week or so later, he asked for some pedal steel stuff, but he wanted full songs, so i threw together a static HTML page with some links to downloadable songs for him to check out.

a couple of weeks went by before i finally got a call to come in and work on something, but i was excited to find out that i’d be working with ross bellenoit – i’d been seeing and hearing ross’ name around, and he and i had exchanged notes on facebook, but somehow we’d never met…never been on the same bill at a club, never ended up in the same room somewhere, never bumped into one another. so this was a good opportunity to finally dig into something with ross, and to check out a new room.

ross and i exchanged notes about what to bring – pedal steel and dobro, obviously, but i also brought the weissenborn and the resolectric, just in case…and i left my baritone in the car, because i never go to a session without it. turned out that was unnecessary, as ross had a danelectro DC-3 style baritone there at the studio (apparently, he’s a fan of them as well…big surprise).

the night before, i restrung the pedal steel with a new GHS set that i hadn’t used before – a set of semi-flats, which (on paper, anyway) should have been a better, more stable set. i put them on, tuned the steel to pitch, and put it away until i left for the session monday morning. when i got to the studio, though, and set up to start running through the song, i could not get the damn thing to stay in tune. now, i should mention, this instrument has never given me a moments’ trouble in the time that i’ve had it…i know that some of the purists on the forum aren’t fond of this particular brand, and i’m as aware as anyone that it’s not the best instrument money can buy, but i’ve been completely happy with it in the time that i’ve owned it…i’ve never had tuning issues, the pedals have always been solid, have travelled well – but we spent almost twenty minutes just trying to get the tuning issue settled down, and in retrospect, i’m not sure we ever did. the next time i took it out of the case after the session, it was just fine (of course), but it certainly made an ass outta me during my first impression window at this session. we finally got a couple of passes that the guys said were ok, but i was never really satisfied with what i did.

thankfully, we had the dobro to do yet, and i was able to redeem myself somewhat before i left. the second song had this great, swampy, buddy miller-esque guitar track already on it, but ross wasn’t sure if that was staying or not, so we threw down both a hook part and a solo part, and that’s where we left things for the day…the client was there, and they had other work to get through before they pulled the plug for the session.

there are a few sessions i’ve done over the years that i’d like to take back, and this definitely qualifies as one of them.

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