Here’s a journal of how we go about making our 5th album. We’ll update this now and again during the production phase…
The working title for the album is No Smaller Than the World, which is a line from Katie Doherty’s song Passing Through. This will be included on the CD with Katie on lead vocals.
Andrew accompanies Mark on the piano
We’ve written new songs, selected traditional ones; arranged, rehearsed, recorded guide tracks prepared some drum tracks in Andrew’s studio and Andrew flew to Newcastle to record guest musician Ian Stephenson on double bass last November.
Finally a week ago it was time to drive down to Esslingen to record with Jürgen Treyz. Jürgen is a top musician and sound engineer and a good friend, so we had so many reasons to look forward to the sessions. We started on the evening before with some food and tunes with Jürgen and his wife Gudrun Walther – also a good friend and a great musician – so you can imagine that we were well behaved, sober and tucked up in bed by 9, ready for a hard days work…
Despite our headaches we did actually put in a very intense, enjoyable and fruitful two days of work, under the watchful eyes and ears of the patient and supportive Jürgen. We started with some percussion from Mark and then moved on to some mandola, guitars, fiddle, vocals – and even some piano. When we arranged one of Mark’s new songs a few months ago, a beautiful and emotional tribute to some very brave friends, we realised it would have to be led by piano. It just so happened that Jürgen had bought a refurbished 1920s Steinway grand for his studio and Andrew spent weeks re-visiting his childhood piano lessons preparing for the recording. The result is a simple but very emotional live take, which had us both on the verge of tears.
Mandola for The Drawbridge
As ever with us, the songs all have very personal meanings for us, regardless of whether they are original, traditional or covers. We like to reflect that with our choice of guest musicians and we’re lucky to have many great musicians among our friends. As mentioned earlier on, we are lucky to have the amazing Ian Stephenson on double bass. This is the third Broom Bezzums CD he’s played on and he’s always great to make music with. People who know their folk music will have heard Ian’s work with Kan, Kathryn Tickell, Baltic Crossing, Brian Finnegan and many others. Ian was the first person in the UK to buy a Broom Bezzums CD back in 2007 (he doesn’t know that!) but he and Andrew became friends in 2001 while studying traditional music together. Also in that year-group was Katie Doherty, who is basically the third Bezzum. We were honoured to play her down the aisle at her wedding in the summer. Katie and Andrew formed Roll a Penny in 2001 and have worked together on and off ever since. Mark and Katie hit it off instantly while recording for the Wine from a Mug album in 2009 and then at our first impromptu trio gig. She’s been a regular fixture ever since. Expect to hear her harmonies and vocal textures on most of the songs – and this time she takes the lead vocals on Passing Through, a song she wrote years ago and we adopted in October.
Andrew wrote Keep Hauling just as Wine From a Mug came out in 2011. It went straight in the live set as a singalong number and people have been asking for it on CD ever since. The song has already been recorded by the Oldenwälder Shanty Chor – but now it’s time for the Bezzums version on CD. Cold Winds Blow is a new song from Mark and was performed every night on the Winter Carol tour in December with Keike Faltings – this song also stirred up a lot of interest from audience members. Other live-favourites that will finally make it to CD are the Jez Lowe song Bare Knuckle and popular encore number Way Over Yonder, which was composed by Billy Bragg around lyrics by Woody Guthrie. On tour last October we revived Mark’s rousing song Here We Go Again and premiered Andrew’s Fishing in Troubled Waters and Katie’s Passing Through.
So that’s the stuff you might have heard. There are another two songs from Mark and two from Andrew that have never been played live, a great traditional song and some sets of tunes – one of which is arranged in quite a groovy way.
PART 2 – Mobile Recording
In February we took some days out from touring to record Katie Doherty’s vocals for nine songs, including lead vocals on No Smaller than the World. We brought some mobile recording equipment up to the farm where she lives and got to work.
Setting up to record Katie
Katie’s very talented nieces, Ella (L) and Hollie (R), adding additional “choir vocals”.
Katie’s nieces Hollie and Ella Smith came up for the morning to record some beautiful extra backing vocals that they had rehearsed with Katie and performed live with the band in Washington two days before.
The weather outside on the fell was very windy and brought in the odd blizzard, so we were happy to be safe and comfy in the farm house.
The scene outside the farm, up in the North Pennines
Keep Hauling – Katie adding her harmony the day before
In the spare room at Andrew’s parents’ house, just over the other side of the hills, we set the gear up once again. Mark asked Jules, Andrew’s dad, if he would like to sing additional vocals on Keep Hauling. This made sense, as the song is a modern-day sea shanty and Jules is ex – merchant navy and a keen sailor – and and experienced singer too. First we had to add Mark’s harmony and made sure it fitted tightly with Andrew and Katie’s performances. Once this was achieved, Andrew taught his dad a bass line and put him through his paces until the whole thing sounded like a choir singing together. The result is a very broad sound.
Jules Cadie adding bass voice in Garrigill
Mobile Recording Rack
Meanwhile, back in Germany, work continues. Keike Faltings came down from Kiel for a couple of days, did an impromptu gig with us for 200 people, sang some great vocals on Cold Winds Blow and then went with us to a session and preceded to drink all the men under the table. Later she recited poetry for half the night in the kitchen before heading off to bed at 4am. Life must be colourful on the Fresian islands…
Kaike Faltings about to sing on Cold Winds Blow
String Part Composition
Andrew’s trumpet waiting to be recorded…
On the left you can see a bass part Andrew wrote to send to Ian Stephenson and on the right is the new string arrangement for Down By the River, which will be played on Cello, Viola and Violin.
Before Mark and Andrew head down to Jürgen’s studio in Esslingen again at the end of April, the trumpet parts for The Drawbridge also need to go down.
Meanwhile, in Newcastle, Andy May is preparing to add piano and harmonium to two songs…
To be continued….
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