A Brace of Albums

Howdy Folks,

News!

I’ve been a bit too busy to keep the stream of bloggy updates coming with regularity. A wee girl named Eugenie who arrived in early December has pretty much turned me into the archetypal doting dad with not much time or desire for anything unnecessary.

However, this weekend marks the completion of two very important projects and they are deserving of a few minutes worth of acknowledgment.

Michael Kennedy - Hearth

I have written a few updates regarding this project and I can happily announce that the masters were sent over from Scotland today and they sound fantastic.

The project has been a tricky one and its absent protagonist has still managed to enforce an imperative of standard that is probably beyond anything I’ve been at the helm of before.

The album is a dual disc release - one being the studio work entitled Hearth and another a collection of material from Michael’s recorded live performances. While the studio album has everything ranging from intimate sounding songs to big band performances, the live disc is Michael with guitar. It’s a good contrast.

We’ve had files flying around the internet, beautiful vocal performances from Karine Polwart in Scotland and Chris While in England and perfectly placed fiddles from John McCusker, flutes, whistles and pipes from Mike McGoldrick and drums/percussion from James MacKintosh - all recording amid the hustle and bustle of Celtic Connections in Glasgow.

Back home James Rigby coordinated the Backing Vocals recording with our Castlemaine BV section - Jane Thompson, Penny Larkins, Maggie Rigby and Elsie Rigby. We got some guesting accordion from Phil Carroll, some double bass from Shannon Birchall and Kate Burke holding down the guitar from Michael’s original guitar arrangements. Shane Howard and Carl Panuzzo have each sung three of the new songs.

It’s been a big undertaking.

Stuart Hamilton at Castlesound Studios has done a great job of pulling all the sounds together and making everything sound coherent. I know Michael would have been thrilled at the prospect of Stuart getting his hands and ears onto the material and he really has pulled all stops out and left his indelible imprint on the final result. There’s no replacing the experience and ears of someone like Stuart.

It really is a great album. It’s been a privilege to work on and it deserves to be recognised far and wide.

A release date should be very soon as we’re launching it at the National Folk Festival at Easter. See you there - GET ONE! (or several)

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The other album nearing completion is Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton’s long awaited follow up to 2007’s Summer’s Lonesome Tale.

With Kate in NSW, Ruth and I in Victoria and all of us busy as all get out, there were times when I wondered if we’d ever get it done. To combat the difficulties we knew we had to be very organised and on top of a schedule so we spent a longer than usual time in pre-production for song selection and nutting out arrangements. A big part of preparation was also thrashing out what the album’s intent was. I think this was a really important part of the process given the physical separation and the efficiency with which we would have to use our times spent in the same place.

There was a lot of skyping!

It’s a funny thing though, after drip feeding the tracks down and such a well percolated preparation period, the final thing has suddenly come upon us all in a rush. I’ve just finished listening to Calum Malcolm first mixes and there a fair amount of cheeky excitement only just being contained.

There’s a lot of bold material on the album in terms of both subject matter and treatment and its rather invigorating to be listening back to it in its entirety now. I don’t think the album could ever be accused of being safe, of retreading familiar ground or of gently easing back into the saddle and that was one of our conclusions in the preparation stage - this had to be a real step further from the previous albums. When you ALL buy it (ahem) and get a listen I think you'll agree!

I’m very grateful firstly for having been asked to be involved, but almost more importantly for being given a certain amount of input in how to realise the various objectives of the album. It’s been a really easy working environment on what was always going to be an album that carried a lot of weight in terms of what comes next for Kate and Ruth. Thanks gals!

I also want to put it out there - Calum Malcolm is a superb mixing and mastering engineer. He’s pole vaulted the album to another level entirely. I’ve certainly never heard the girls singing and playing in this way. Big thanks Big C.

I would love to know what people think of these two projects so please do get copies and let me know!