mortuary

White Mortuary.

IMG_4563 This is the casket elevator at White Mortuary, the place my dad worked for my entire childhood. It's ancient. Works on arm muscle and pulleys. Remember that diagram you saw in your junior high physics class, where the guy lifts a car with one arm because of the application of science? Well I do. Something about the more pulleys, the less effort. I don't understand how it all works. But I do remember the sound those huge gears made. Every time we visited him at work, my little brother and I would beg Dad to take us in the elevator down to the basement where the bodies were embalmed. Dad was cool so most of the time he said yes.

The platform shifted and creaked when the three of us took our places, the mediciney smell of the formaldehyde wafting up from below, making my little brother wrinkle his nose. Dad stood close to the gear side of the wall. First he would pull the frayed nylon rope until the attached grey metal bar swung freely. That was the elevator brake. Then he took hold of the black rubber cable, giving it a powerful downward tug. We would stare up at the strange machine overhead  as the wheels began to groan and spin, each in proportion to its size. The descent of the platform was simultaneous, gaining speed as dad whipped the black cable faster and faster. 

That he could power an elevator with his bare hands was just another of our dad's apparent superpowers. The times when my mom was there, she'd watch us giggle until we disappeared below the threshold, and then she'd take the short flight of stairs and be waiting there for us at the bottom. The stairs were way faster, but not fun. Looking back, I'm grateful my dad always had time to treat us to the mechanical elevator ride. It's not like it only happened once.

So today, recording, I made a discovery: the elevator might be charming, but it isn't really an ideal acoustic environment. The song I was recording - Nothing Really Matters - has kind of a brushy quiet guitar thing going. Quiet means the room doesn't matter as much, as long as you're close to the mic. But for some reason there was just this woofy sound no amount of EQ tweaking on the channel strip could ameliorate. After an hour of trying, I gave up and switched guitars. The Martin D-18V is my main instrument, but when I switched to the Gibson, all the problems disappeared. That Gibson is a student model and has about half the tone of the Martin. But in this case, half the tone was perfect.

After I recorded the guitar track, I sang a few passes. The song is all low register at the verse, with a few big loud notes in the chorus. Over time, I've tended more and more to sing quietly, but too much of the same thing is boring. Plus I'm trying to do things that scare me, and singing loud scares me. So I went for it.

I haven't listened to the takes yet, but it felt pretty good.

 

Westbound.

IMG_4311 Day One. Salina, Kansas

I woke up this morning happy because the hotel I stayed in costs $35. You know how I like my dive motels. This one was that. Stripped down. No counter in the bathroom. No coffeepot. No frills. I slept on top of the covers, which is probably an empty gesture but you gotta feel like you're doing something to protect yourself. It always seems to work out.

I'm in Salina, Kansas, for another hour at least. Then I make for Denver, which is on the way to Idaho, which is where I'm starting the recording of my new record, Thousand Springs. I'll be there all month, recording in the places that are dear to me: White Mortuary (where my dad worked doing mortician stuff  while my little brother I played in the caskets), my best friend Nelson's house, my childhood home (assuming the new owners let me -- why wouldn't they??), the church I went to as a kid, that sort of thing.

I bought an expensive battery (more on that in future posts) and I'm going to try some outdoor recording too. Wilderness recording. Like at Craters of the Moon if the snow melts. I'll keep you posted on what shapes up.

Got a carload full of instruments and recording gear. Here's what I'm bringing:

20 new songs 1999 Martin D-18vm 1963 Gibson LG Baritone Ukulele I bought from a guy in a parking lot 2 soprano ukes, one of which is mostly plastic 1975 Peavey T60, a guitar I am made fun of for loving Appalachian dulcimer my mom sent me Fiddle I stole from my brother 20 years ago Apollo Twin loaded with my favorite UA plug-ins Oxygen8 2 octave midi controller 2015 Mojave 301FET condenser mic 2014 Sennheiser 935 1989 Shure SM57 1 pair AKG K701 Reference Headphones Modified Canon 7D + tripod and dolly, for filming A couple laptops Modified 2001 Fender Blues Jr amp 1 crate of paperbacks, for recreation 1 bottle bourbon (Jefferson's single barrel), for same Way too many shoes