Well, we had a great “Listening Party” last Sunday!
I didn’t know what a Listening Party was until Darrell Bledsoe, my friend and producer of my new music CD, said several months ago, “Curtis, when the album’s ready, we need to have a Listening Party.”
“A what, Darrell?”
“A party where we invite folks to come just listen to the CD as we play it on a good sound system and we talk about each of the songs. It’ll be a great time!”
And he was right.
Among the many things I’ve learned making this album is why it’s a great blessing to have the right producer. Any writer, no matter how experienced, needs an editor, a second set of eyes, to help hone the work he’s already done and make it better. And I know now how true that is for music as well—and, come to think of it, life; we all need mentors, teachers, counselors, trusted friends, to help us be better than we could ever be on our own.
Obviously, very early in making a record (yeah, I’ve learned that’s still a good term; it’s short for “recording” whether it ends up on vinyl or polycarbonate plastic), you need a list of songs. I knew pretty well which songs I wanted on this CD, but when it came time to “nail down” the list, Darrell said, “We need to get some variety in here. Curtis, you need a barn burner!”
“A what? Darrell, I don’t do barn-burners.”
Well, okay, I’ve done some fast, zippy, rip-snortin’ songs with quartets and other groups, and had fun, but solos? Nope.
His reply, as I heard it, was, “Curtis, you’re a crooner. That’s your basic style. Fine. That means you have no problem helping people gently drift off to sleep; somewhere on this album, you need a song to wake ’em back up!”
He was right!
“You know what? I think it’d be fun if you’d sing ‘Long Black Train’!”
“Huh? Can you play it for me? [He did.] You’re kidding, right? [He wasn’t.]”
Well, long train—I mean “story”—short, that country-western song by Josh Turner (in Johnny Cash style) is on my album.
At first, my reaction was, “No.” Then my reaction was, “I’m not sure I can.” It would mean surrendering my English degree, clothespinning my nose, and getting as many as six syllables out of words the good Lord intended only to have one.
At one point, I found myself standing out by a railroad track with a digital recorder in hand trying to get “train sounds” to record at the first of the song (I can only imagine what the engineer thought I was about to do). We found a lot better train sound online, and a great engineer—sound, not train—actually “tuned” the whistle to my song’s key! (Two more blessings, by the way. The owner/engineer and assistant engineer at the studio who are amazing and so much fun to work with.)
All of this reminds me again that one of God’s best blessings is not one but many—the many people God graciously puts into our lives to help make us and our work and our lives so much better than we could ever be alone.
Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.