The first thing Charles said when he walked in was "I'm glad it's a garage." He'd apparently expected a slick high-profile studio that wouldn't be conducive to his laid-back style. He'd brought Sean along, and we expected a couple more friends to show up later. I set him up on one of our beat-up stools, and he warmed up on my Guild steel string acoustic while I set up my AKG C414 on the guitar and an SM58 for voice. Charles' guitar was in Hawaii, where he calls home.
Charles started playing as I got some levels. We were talking and running cables, but it was clear Charles was "elsewhere". He ran through the same song twice (Truckin's a State of Mind), then as I settled in to get final levels he said "Did you get that?" I realized then just how different this session would be.
I got the tape rolling, and he played the same song, about a trucker's life. Charles sings in a beautiful baritone, and accompanies himself on guitar. I waited for a quiet moment at the end, and shut off the tape. As Sean and I commented on the playback, Charles launched into his next tune, a haunting number about a Viet Nam veteran (Jack of All Trades). About a verse into it I said "OK, Charles, if you start it over I'll catch this one." No response; he just kept playing. I waited until the end of the song and said, "OK, now do it again." Charles willingly launched back into it, and I realized quickly the second version was not nearly as good as the first. I'd blown it. From then on, I just let the tape roll.
Charles launched into his third tune, about a sailor's life (Goodbye). At the end of that one I asked him "We're you a trucker?" He said no, which surprised me as the first song was such a quintessential portrait of "life on the road". I asked him "We're you a clerk in Saigon, before the war went bad?", referring to a line from the second song. He replied, again surprisingly, "No." I asked "Were you a sailor?" and he said "Yes." Sean and I laughed and agreed that one out of three wasn't bad. This entire conversation was captured on the tape.
Charles proceeded to perform live versions of about 35 minutes worth of songs. I was easily over 10 songs (I haven't counted yet). Charles later commented that he had planned on coming in and doing "about 5 or 6 tunes", but that the aura in the studio had carried him away and I kept telling him I had plenty of tape...
As we listened to final playback, Charles said "First thing I'd do is fire the guitarist." I told him if he had slick guitar playing it wouldn't sound at all honest to his songs. He seemed to think that was valid, and we mixed the whole session down with a simple room sound added (the studio is purposefully very dead-sounding).
Please take a listen to Charles' music. I compare his singing to Johnny
Cash in places, and the raw emotion exhibited in his singing is rarely
found in today's music market. Charles' only reason for recording his
music was so others could hear his songs, and he seemed impressed with
the idea that the whole world would have access to his songs. His main
concern is feedback, so if you listen to his songs please let me know
what you think and I'll flow him your comments.
Created 3/28/98 by webmaster@VMusic.com