Tag Archives: recording

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

This article originally appeared in the pages of Banjo Newsletter magazine in December 2013. They kindly gave permission for us to reprint it here. Buy the CD here!

When I heard about the forthcoming CD project from Patuxent Music featuring Washington D.C./Baltimore/Northern Virginia-area banjo players I got super excited. The list of participants includes both legendary players and up-and-comers, bluegrass and old-time. Here, to whet your appetite, is a partial list: Tom Adams, Eddie Adcock, Paul Brown, Donnie Bryant, Bill Emerson, Cathy Fink, Joe Herrmann, Pete Kuykendall, Reed Martin, Doug McKelway, David McLaughlin, Mike Munford, Bill Runkel, Mark Schatz, Dick Smith, Roni Stoneman, Steven Wade, and Chris Warner.

I first heard of the project when my mom and I were both asked to participate. Co-produced by ace picker Mark Delaney (who plays with Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass) and Randy Barrett (president of the DC Bluegrass Union) the as-yet untitled project [now titled The Patuxent Banjo Project] will be released in the Spring 2014.  ...continue reading

Casey Henry

These days absolutely any space can be turned into a recording studio if you have the right equipment. My brother Chris has a laptop computer and a bunch of other geegaws and things that have flashing lights on them that he can take anywhere and record anyone. My living room is presently the location of his most recent recording project, which is a new Red and Chris CD. This is what it looks like:

Recording Equipment

Casey's living room: the site of the newest Red and Chris CD sessions

We started recording yesterday. For the morning and early-afternoon session I played banjo (Red on mandolin, Chris on guitar) and Mike Bub played bass. In the configuration we got six songs, mostly Chris’s original tunes. For the late-afternoon continuation I switched to bass and Red’s uncle John Hedgecoth came to play banjo. We succeeded in capturing two more songs: one of Red’s tunes called “Milton’s Ghost” and a Flatt and Scruggs standard “Why Don’t You Tell Me So.” By that time it was past 6:00 and we were all tired and hungry, so we adjourned for the evening and I whipped up a big pot of pesto pasta and some guacamole (paired with blue corn chips) which, along with the potato salad in the fridge, made a wonderful, albeit rather starchy, meal.

Today is day #2 of the session and will be me on bass again for more traditional and instrumental numbers. I play bass so rarely I’m already working up a blister on my index finger. I hope it will hold out for the entire day!!

Red HenryIn my last blog, I left you all hanging on the edge of your seats with a promise to talk about recording with Dale. Well, it was an experience we'd all looked forward to, and it was every bit as rewarding as we'd hoped. But you have to understand some things about Recording with Dale. We've recorded with him for probably 35 years, so we're used to it. But he is a very creative person, and his mind almost never works in a straight line!

Chris Henry and Dale Crider in Dale's swamp.

Chris Henry and Dale Crider in Dale's swamp.

We woke up at his house on Monday, the day we'd be recording, and Christopher had to set to work figuring out Dale's computer-based recording system. Actually, it turned out that first Chris had to figure out which of Dale's computers even had his recording program on it, and then Dale didn't know how to run the program, but Chris started working on it. So the software was in capable hands. Now, for the hardware: microphones, preamps, and the mike cords and stands.

Dale, being Dale, didn't store all his recording gear in one place. I suspect that that would be too much of a logical system. He had his microphones in one house, and his mike stands and cords at another. So he and I started off for the other house, about a quarter of a mile away, to gather that equipment.

We took Dale's cute little electric golf cart that he uses for these short trips between houses. Well, that was fine, but part way there, the golf cart started to run out of juice. Dale said, "I left it charging, but something must have gone wrong." So we turned around-- the cart barely made it back into Dale's yard-- and he said, "I'll take the truck."

Dale's truck is a beautiful, rusty, dusty, early-1950s GMC. I'd seen it sitting in Dale's yard and wondered whether it actually ran, or if he kept it around as a Scenic Ruin. We got into that vehicle and Dale said, "I wonder if it's gonna start. It's been weeks since I ran it." Well, Dale pumped the gas and turned the key, and the truck actually started! The engine roared.

Now we headed out the same way as before, along Dale's driveway out of the swamp. You have to understand that Dale's house is in a swamp. He loves the swamp. His long, narrow driveway is built right between the swamp he lives in and an old canal next to the lake. We had maybe two feet of extra space on each side before we dropped off into... well... Of course, since this is Florida, the swamp is full of water moccasins and snapping turtles, and the lake is full of alligators (there were some cute young ones visible, sunning themselves on floating logs). The trouble today was that Dale hadn't cleaned his truck windshield for several years, and we were heading right into the sun, with sharp drop-offs on each side. The sun was blinding on that dirty windshield. And if we dropped off the driveway to the left, we'd be in the swamp with those water moccasins and snapping turtles. If we dropped off to the right, we'd be in the lake with the alligators, and I didn't even want to meet one of those young ones. But Dale, who's lived there and used that driveway for almost 40 years, kept us on the road.

As we pulled into the yard of the other house, the truck's engine started to skip. Dale said, "Sounds like there's water in the gas." After he shut the engine down he decided he'd better see if it would start again, and... no luck. The engine ran for a second and stopped. "Oh," Dale said. "Looks like it's out of gas."

Jenny Obert in Dale's swamp.

Jenny Obert in Dale's swamp.

This didn't faze Dale. He simply walked back to his house and brought over his car. We loaded the mike cables and stands in the trunk, and drove back to his house. By this time, Chris had figured out how to run Dale's recording computer and was starting to set up for our recording session. Dale was short on preamps, but by experimentation and ingenuity, Chris finally got five microphones working: one each for Dale and his guitar, me and my mandolin, Chris and his lead guitar, Jenny and her fiddle, and Barbara's bass. These five channels would be plenty, with clever mixing. Chris had all this working only about two hours after he's started from scratch. Good job!

Barbara had arrived well ahead of time, so now we had everybody there and were ready to record. Dale had a stack of his original songs to go through, and started right in with some trial recordings. He and all the rest of us were in good practice from the four-day festival we'd just played, so it took no time at all to start getting good cuts.

But you need to understand some more things about Recording with Dale: for one thing, he never sings a song the same way twice. This is because he's always in a creative process. He keeps thinking of new lyrics every second, and so a new song's words change every time he sings it. And he'd never go all through a song twice the same way-- he'd never repeat the same verses, instrumental breaks, or ending--because to him there would be no point to such a boring procedure. To him, the song is all process, and the process is what's important. So, how do we record with someone like that, who won't be singing it the same way twice? We use our wits, and hang on. We stay on our toes, and arrange our parts in the song as we go, try as many takes as we need to for everything to come out right. Jenny hadn't ever recorded with Dale before, but she picked up on the system right away. And since Dale's so good at what he does, and we could all play pretty well ourselves, in a few takes each song came out great!

Christopher had the greatest challenge. He was doing the recording as well as playing lead guitar! This are usually the jobs of two or three people, but he did extremely well. Our music sounded really good in the playbacks.

We must have recorded nine or ten songs that day, running from about 11 in the morning to midnight. It was some of the best fun I've had lately. After Dale had gone through quite a few of his original songs, he had some others he wanted to record as well, and we went right through them, getting a presentable take (one that could be polished up into a CD version) in two or three takes each. When we finished up it was midnight, after all, and I sacked out so I could drive back home to Virginia the next day.

Now Dale's been sending us some of his mixes, and they're sounding Mighty Fine. Nothing like that Dale Crider Swamp-Grass! I'm already looking forward to recording with him again!

Red HenryWell, as you can guess, "Recording" is 'way too big a subject to be covered in just one day's blog. But I wanted to mention that our friend Wes Thacker, a fine singer-songwriter from Virginia, has just released his new CD, "Vault of My Old Memories". The disc features a lot of good original material along with some bluegrass standards, and some friends and I helped Wes record it.

We recorded in a small studio not far from Winchester, and it was a good experience. I played the fiddle and a bit of mandolin; David McLaughlin played most of the mandolin and all the banjo; and Marshall Wilborn supplied the bass. Wes had already put down most of the basic tracks before we got there, so all we needed to do was to record own instrumental tracks, which only took a couple of sessions.

It helps, in a recording session or a live band, if the people like each other. So this was an ideal session in that regard, and I could give Marshall and Cousin David some trouble as we sent along, to help keep things on a live, light note. We got a lot of the tracks down in just one or two tries, so Wes's music sounds fresh and lively.

Interested in the CD? You can contact Wes at  wesandt@aol.com .