Thursday, October 20, 2005

Baby Gawron born healthy and happy!

Just got a call from Nate. Melissa gave birth at 12:05pm today to a healthy baby girl. Both mother and baby are fine and resting. Here's the basic stats:
weight 7lbs 8 1/2oz
length 19 1/4"


Friday, October 07, 2005

Throw Down!

Since we've all but finished our extensive travel for the year, I thought I would try to illuminate everybody on the eccentricities of our new cd, "Throw Down". As many of you know, the recording was done down in Beaux Bridge, LA back in January of this year with our new pal Dirk Powell. Dirk's studio, The Cypress House, is an old 3 room Louisiana house that has been converted into a nice digital recording facility. Dirk presided over the recordings from a smallish isolated control room that looks into a rustic, homey feeling medium-size room with exposed timbers and plenty of atmosphere. For almost all the tracks, we played all together in the main room choosing to overdub only a few backing vocals and solos whenever it seemed to make the most sense. Dirk has a nice collection of studio mics, and he spent several hours on the first day swapping mics, adjusting angles and positions, and listening while we warmed up and tried to get over our nervousness. His easy-going, friendly approach to recording made us feel welcome and soon after he got the sound he was looking for, we were up and rolling. When the first day was finished, we had about 8 tunes in the can and headed back to the RV park to get a good night's sleep before heading back the next day around noon. After two days, we had most of the album finished with two more days still set aside for overdubs, and preliminary mixing. In a way, it was the easiest recording we have ever done. Now that I listen to the finished product, I realize that Dirk really captured us at our best. We were excited but also terrified by trying to record our own original tunes. Thanks to Dirk, those tunes, I believe, are the best on the album. Here's some thoughts on the tracks and some back story on where they came from and how they were recorded:

Track 1- Hawk's Got a Chicken and Flew into the Woods
Betse brought this old ozark finger burner to the band sometime in the last two years and we played it live many times before coming down to Dirk's. So we were already pretty comfortable with the arrangement. Oftentimes, Betse has to try to hold us back from rushing the tempo on fiddle tunes, especially when they are really fun to play. On this track, however, it's Betse who charges ahead and honestly, we were barely able to keep up. It came out as frenetic as it felt while we were recording it, and I think it' serves as a great example of our "crazy side"

Track 2- Honky Tonk Habit
Bless Nate Gawron's heart, the boy has got a real feel for writing honky tonk tunes and this is one of his best. I remember when we were rehearsing for the recordings after the holidays, Nate had a very specific way he wanted this tune to be sung. However, Ike's voice is not at all like Nate's, and since Ike was the one who had to sing it, Nate had to let go a little bit and allow him to sing it in his own way. Ike calls this process "putting it through the Wilders machine". The tune percolates along and features a fantastic and wild solo by Betse. It's the first original tune on the album and sounds like it could have been written by some old obscure honky tonker from the 50's.

Track 3- It'll Never be Thru with Us (Until it's Thru with You)
This one is Ike's and it's been around forever. Back in the early days of the Wilders, Ike and I did a short stint doing brother duets and this tune dates back to that time. I've always loved it and when we started talking about doing originals, it was the first one of his that I thought of. The arrangement defiantly smacks of bluegrass and has the one-tow punch of a speedy tempo and impossibly high lonesome backing vocals courtesy of my silly falsetto. We encouraged (threatened) Nate to take a quick bass solo in the middle section and it just turned out great.

Track 4- Won't You Sometimes Think of Me
How do you collaborate with the greatest honky tonk singer of all time- especially when he's been dead for 40 years? Well, if you are Ike Sheldon, you listen to Hank Williams demos and find a truly great, but unfinished song fragment and then use your imagination. This tune is just heart breaking in Hank's plaintive verses, and with the addition of Ike's chorus, it sounds, well, perfectly finished. Betse got the idea to add a harmony fiddle part over her solo which makes my guts ache every time I hear it.

Track 5- Squirrel Hunters
Betse got this tune from the wonderful fiddling of John Hartford. It's actually the first tune we recorded during the sessions and I remember playing it for about an hour while Dirk got the fiddle mic situated just right. Since we were so warmed up, the tune has a cool nonchalant bounce. Everybody but Betse was floored when we listened to the playbacks. She hadn't even considered that it would be included on the album, and to this day, I'm not sure that she understands why we like it so much. When it came down to the final choices for the album, she was still holding out. We are a very democratic band, and the honest truth is that she got outvoted. Thank goodness for democracy!

Track 6- Belshazzar
We've been playing this old Johnny Cash gospel tune since the earliest days of the band. We actually recorded it for our first cd, "Cornbread, Molasses and Sassafrass Tea", but since that one has been out of print for years AND since Nate wasn't even in the band at that time, we decided to give it another go. Nate brings a honky tonk beat to it and we generally juked it up like crazy. Ike always says that preachers don't tell old testament stories like this because it might scare you out of church. Disembodied hands writing on the wall in blood. Yikes.

Track 7-Jenny on the Railroad
Betse got this one from an old 78 recording by Carter Brothers and Son and it just smokes. We recorded it late on the second day and I think Dirk was getting itchy from sitting in the control room for two days. We were warming up on it and all the sudden Dirk appeared in the doorway with his fiddle. We all looked at each other thinking, "is he really? no he wouldn't, yes he would!" Betse ran through it a couple of times so Dirk could get the fingering, and then he ran back into the control room and started it rolling. We recorded it twice and this was the second take. It has a crazy, almost out of control feel punctuated by Ike's yipping and yelling. Wow, Dirk played on one of our tracks. Cool, really cool.

Track 8- Together Apart
I wrote this tune about 4 years ago with the intention that our old pals, Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys, would snatch it up and run with it. That never happened and it sat in the cellar until we started talking about recording originals. I dusted it off and taught it to Ike and he messed around with it for about a week before bringing it back to us in it's current form. The subject matter is pretty depressing but I intended it as a love song. I think anyone who has had a long term relationship can relate to the feeling of this song on some level. I'm pretty proud of the way it turned out.

Track 9- The Blues Come Around
Another Hank Williams tune that we'd been doing live for about a year before the recording. This one almost met with the chopping block during the mixing phase. There was something about it, however, that represented an aspect of the band like no other song we recorded. I used an experimental tuning on the dobro which gives the tune it's 50's honky tonk voicing. I also especially like the fact that the whole band chimes in on choruses.

Track 10- Goat Creek
Betse loves goats- little goats especially, but she'll take whatever goats you've got. We were playing at the Minnesota state fair when Betse showed this to me for the first time. It was obviously a kick-in-the-butt kind of a fiddle tune. I'm not sure when she wrote it, but it sounded completely finished the first time I ever heard it. She taught it to me first, and then we rehearsed it with the band a few weeks later. It was an obvious choice for the recording along with two other Betse originals. During the mixing, it emerged as the one of the best fiddle tunes we recorded, and fit very neatly into the tracking order. Just to let you know, Betse has written several more original fiddle tunes that are just as great (if not better) than this one. You will have many more to look forward to on future recordings.

Track 11- Drivin' Nails in My Coffin
This is another honky tonker that we've been covering for awhile. Ike originally came up with the idea to break it into pieces- a slow waltz on the verses and frantic 4/4 on the verses. It's humorous. It's dumb. It's us.

Track 12- When I Get to Heaven
I'm not sure when Ike wrote this one, but he's been doing it live very occasionally at gospel shows in the last year. He recorded it on the third day after most of the other tracks were finished. We had discussed the possibility of trying a solo and it seemed like the right time/ mood to let him give it a go. Everybody just went outside and let him have at it. Dirk turned the lights down low and Ike reached down deep in his gut to pull this one off. For my money, it's the most honest tune on the record.

Track 13- When the Levee's Gone
I wrote a whole tune around these lyrics many years ago in response to the last Missouri River flood. People were pitching in with the sandbags trying to save downtown Parkville, Missouri and I just let my imagination run. When we started talking about originals, I dug into an old folder and rediscovered the lyrics. I couldn't, for the life of me, remember the tune that went with it so I just handed them over to Ike and said, "if you can come up with a tune, here's some words". The next week at practice, he showed up early and played me what he had written for it. I was floored. He took a bluesy dirge about drowning and made it happy. The recording went very easily on this one and I believe it is one of Dirk's favorites. Now, as the city of New Orleans is still being pumped out, the song has taken on a ominous tone for me. We stopped performing it live during the hurricane's aftermath. It was just way too creepy.

Track 14- January Waltz
Oftentimes, we will finish an old timey dance performance with a waltz and it seemed fitting to end the album with this wonderful Betse original. She penned this one several years ago and we actually tried to record it for the "Spring a Leak" album. But that version wasn't up to snuff, and I'm glad for it because we got another chance to get it right for this recording. For me, January waltz brings images to my mind of gray, snow filled skies. It's a lovely tune and lovingly played by all. Incidentally, Dirk's masterful use of digital editing saved this one from the chopping block. You see, my mandolin went horribly out of tune toward the end of the tune. Click click, chop chop and it's saved. And you'd never know it except I just told you.

So that's my take on the takes. If you have a copy, listen to it again and let me know your thoughts. If you haven't got a copy, you can buy it on our website ( Let's face it, you need the music and we need the money. It's a win win.

all the best.