The Artists of Island Sublime
Playing guitar, first as a young girl alone in her room, and now as a grown woman alone on an island, Alex had very little experience making music with others. Her photographs and writing as well are created in solitude, so the opportunity to collect gracefully rendered, often brilliant parts from a small group of well-loved local musicians and to arrange those parts to either replace or sometimes weave in and out of her own guitar was a new and exciting experience. Please enjoy these brief profiles of some very special artists and technicians adapted from the updates to the original Kickstarter campaign.
Downloads now available!! Single tracks, or the whole album with one bonus track. Stream or download at bandcamp or at IslandSublime.com. Or click "buy" in the player at left to get downloads or the CD complete with 12-page full-color booklet. (links to songs in profiles below are streamable)
|Virtuoso of Life... |
Did you get that? She built her own violin.
Also, she's amazing... see her ceramics, jewelry and art here.
One thing that surprised me during this long project was the huge amount of work required in pre-production just to get ready for sessions with musicians; consulting with recording studios, organizing my mobile recording set-up and re-recording most of the tracks so that others will be able to play along.
Sam has been a dear friend for over thirty years, and stepped up immediately to help with the production tasks on top of the beautiful violin parts she contributed all along. Often with me when I went to locations to record, always available with a laugh or an insightful observation and always dropping effortlessly into music-speak (that I don't know) to translate my thoughts and directions to the musicians... her perfect ear hears all, and her lovely disposition leans right in.
I've admired Sam's inspired playing for years, but I also know her as a kindred spirit who - guided by her boundless creativity - works in many mediums with equal dexterity. I've watched her build furniture, a kayak, her own five-string violin, and even a camper-trailer. Her boundless creativity has resulted in hundreds of beautiful tile designs, wearable and fine-art ceramics and the thoughtful design of her own studios, equipment and her life as a whole. I know you'll love her, too.
Songs with Sam's 5-String Violin:
Craig is a new friend, though he showed up on the island one winter with so many different instruments and dimensions to his talent and personality that I'm not sure that I shouldn't use the plural and say "new friends". He's not only a talented guy musically on each and every one of the instruments he owns, he's also thoughtful, philosophical, wicked funny, and above all – kind. I'm so glad to have gotten to know him during our week of recording on-island, and feel honored that he contributed parts to this project. He recently shared with me a song he wrote – inspired by his island visit – that is incredibly lovely. Listen to it here.
Craig was one of the first musicians that I recorded parts for, and we spent quite a while testing ideas and trying to deconstruct my sense of what each piece that he worked on should sound like while still leaving plenty of room for innovation. While in the final arrangements, he was my absolute go-to guy for accents that subtly but importantly added a lot of texture to everything, his ukulele part in "You" ended up as the underpinning for the whimsical sound I was going for. I hope you enjoy!
Hear More: Craig Werth at BandCamp
|Man of Many... |
Songs with Craig:
|More than a Fair Wind: |
Cynthia Chatis on Flute
Songs with Cynthia's Flute:
Hear more: Cynthia Chatis at CDbaby
In addition to the lovely guitar that’s gone everywhere with me for over thirty years, I’ve collected a few simple music-making devices that I've played on just for fun but to no great effect. Among these are a few penny-whistles with which I added a little “wind section” to a few of the rough tracks that I first recorded on Star Island with the actual wind and pattering rain accompanying. They inspired me to imagine some actually skilled wind-instrument aficionado enhancing the music beyond what I might do alone.
With the full knowledge that the crudest musician to be heard on my own album would definitely be me, I casted about among musical friends that seem to know everyone, and happily happened upon Cynthia Chatis, flautist extraordinaire. It seems that everyone connected with music in our neighborhood (seacoast NH/ME) knows her or her work, whether it's through her singing with Voices from the Heart or her own album of music titled "Wind" (which you can find here).
With her own connection to Star Island as a conference-goer, she graciously agreed to buoy several songs on our album with gorgeous strains of flute that make me smile every time. We had alot of fun getting her parts down, and I think you'll love her.
Allow me to introduce you to Kent, another musician from the amazingly skilled pool of rootsy artists that I have been so fortunate to have help with the album...
Kent not only shares my love of boats and the sea, he is also an easy-going pro who's a real pleasure to work with. As he jumped fluidly from keyboards to acoustic to slide guitar and more, he was ever responsive to each of my suggestions, and all along offered up his own thoughtful comments, riffs and contributions as well. He's so skilled and intuitive, that his additions feel nothing short of brilliant.
In fact, here's a little story about that... On a gorgeous late summer day, we set up my mobile recording stuff in a little cabin Kent has in the woods on the back of his property. With me that day was my friend Sam Goodall, and with her, her violin. Though we were there primarily to record Kent's parts, Sam's playing along created a improvisational dynamic, a "conversation" between their instruments out of which jumped a wonderfully complex duet (that fit the meaning of the song "Know Me" beautifully). Their exchange of musical prompting and inspired responsiveness made something that we are all very excited for you to hear.
Hear more: Kent Allyn at CDbaby
|A Most Pleasant Pro: |
Songs with Kent:
|Music Room-inations: |
Lauren Wool & Her Cello
Songs with Lauren's Cello:
Hear more: Lauren Wool at CDbaby
One interesting part of assembling this album is that - in most cases - we packed up a mobile recording studio and traveled to wherever they were to record the musicians, one by one. A couple of them recorded their parts on the island last winter, but most others we met at their homes. One exception was the excellent Lauren Wool, whose home is on a busy (loud) road. But the point is to hear her cello... and not some guy's motorcycle, so that would never do.
Wracking our brains for options, we realized that nearby was the amazing Creek Farm, on 36 acres of what is now (super-quiet!) conservation land owned by the stellar Society for the Protection of NH Forests. Turns out that we knew the right people, and they very generously gave their permission to record Lauren's cello in a beautiful historic music room in a cool old mansion that still stands on the property.
Lauren sounded and looked great sitting in that fantastic old room - which had originally been built for an aspiring cellist, it turns out! Watching the precision of her bowing and playing was inspiring and the light was rare and warm through leaded windows. None of us who were there that day will ever forget it, and the lovely strains of Lauren's playing will be linked with that memory always.
I've known Robbie Kneeland since forever ago, having met him through friends at a food co-op I belonged to in the 80's. Then, he held the bottom together for a band called "Big Chicken" who were locally viral before we even had that word. Now playing with a tight circle of friends including High Range, he's also been a kindred spirit for his dedication to land conservation and, with his partner Sarah, dedicated to acquiring and protecting land all around their sweet timberframe homestead.
Though he's at home with a dizzying number of instruments, my memory of him always goes to percussion and, as I've heard it said and have known myself, what he adds to any tune with his percussive accents makes that music something new and special.
You'll hear him in several tracks on Island Sublime, never forward, never overstated, with just what the music needs. He seized anything at hand - congos, bundles of sticks, and an ebony piano-key kokorico that Brad made - to create for this music some nice, subtle runs that I just love. I am so very, very delighted to have him helping with this project, and bonus: it gave me time with him and Sarah again, laughing as in the old days over pizza and beers.
|An Exceptional Regular Guy: |
Songs with Robbie's percussion:
Hear More: "High Range" at CDbaby
Oh, and enjoy this: Robbie with The Rev Tor Band
|Somebody's Gotta Do It:|
Songs with Brad:
For "only" a few decades, I've been lucky to have as my very best friend Brad Anderson, self-described "jack-of-all-trades". To his friends, his life-long habit of just being interested in almost everything translates to a weirdly eclectic, ever-expanding pile of seemingly unrelated skills and knowledge that he's ready, always, to share.
Happily, he's not just a jack of all trades, he's also a master of some. He's managed all the business of this project, figuring out the Kickstarter campaign, plus editing, ordering, doing fulfillment, engineering recording sessions, filming video, making liner notes, doing the CD layout and pre-press and building new instruments.
Sudden to-do lists don't bother Brad... One day, I needed some unique percussion sounds, so on the spur of the moment, he just went out to his barn and took some parts from an old piano and built a little pile of sound-making devices that worked perfectly. Several of them are types of "kokorico" (sometimes known as "binshasa") but there's little shakers and stick bundles too. He's pretty good with playing them as well, though he's only just learned.
Something I learned: It really gets down to seemingly infinite detail once you start mixing together dozens and dozens of audio clips, all so good that they are hard to choose from. It feels like every choice is questionable - and question I did, over and over on every one to create the arrangements. Or, maybe something would work, but only if it got some little tweak or a bit of technical torquing could be applied to bend it to my will...
Enter Thundering Sky Studios and "soul" proprietor Chris Magruder. While this was perhaps the part of the process that I was most anxious about because I knew the least about it, I found Chris to be endlessly facilitating to all the nervous, nuanced notes that I'd jotted on a big legal pad as we spent two weeks(!) going over - and then back over (and over) every song. Chris was fully tuned-in to every fine variation that needed to be a bit better, yet he appeared to me entirely ego-less; always, always ready with whatever could be drawn from his brain, his ear and his sophisticated equipment to make real what I had imagined.
By the end of it all, we both had so much contributed and invested in the mixes, that we didn't know who did what, but his never-wavering willingness to let the artist guide the process made me feel fantastic about the whole experience... Now I know: I needn't have worried about anything.
|A Perfect Ear, Perfectly Helpful:
|Dept. of Locally Sourced Awesomeness:
I dare you to try to find a more professional, totally on-the-case vendor for something as specialized as manufacturing the actual CD of your album. Maybe you've never done it before and need everything done for you, or you may be lucky enough to have some in-house skills that let you do all the layout and formatting of your jacket, booklet, CD label etc... either way, Charlie Gaylord will stay in touch, return every call, fix every problem (if any) and generally help you to feel perfect confidence that all your hard work will be as perfectly realized as you want it to be. Musicians in the seacoast area are very lucky to have Crooked Cove CD & Vinyl right here in our neighborhood.