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Recording for the “The Lucky One” is Set for September in Philly

I’ve been hard at work writing songs and recording demos for the upcoming record sessions. The tentative title for this project is “The Lucky One.” We’ve set the date for the sessions in late September, and we’ve got guitarist Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner, who I’ve played with on several of Ed Abbiatti’s records, and some of his favorite rhythm section buddies lined up to handle that end.

In addition to playing harp in various amped and un-amped configurations, I plan to sing and play keys on this record too. Keys are entering the picture now because I’m finding that there are just some things that I express better with an electric piano than with a harmonica. Go figure. (Perhaps one of those things is a desire to be perfectly in tune…)

This record is going to be dark, rocking and jammy. The touch points are Morphine, Little Walter, and the White Stripes. My strategy for these sessions is to rely on the players to create an organic sound with lots of personality, because this is not one of those sessions where there are going to be 1000 tracks going into the mix. This is one of those sessions where the people in the room define the sound. As Mark Ronson said in a recent interview, “A bunch of dudes in a room playing the shit out of something will never date.”

The KickStarter campaign will start before long. In the meantime, here are the lyrics for the title piece. These are copyright 2016 Richard Hunter, all rights reserved. Enjoy.

The Lucky One

Chorus
everything’s relative
with fathers and sons
in my house
I was the lucky one
The one who changed
The one who found love
The one who’s alive
The lucky one

1. My father was a winner
Who thought he was a loser
Anything that wore a skirt
Walked by and he’d pursue her
I guess he had his reasons
For doing what he done
One thing I know, he didn’t show
A father to his sons

Chorus
everything’s relative
with fathers and sons
in my house
I was the lucky one
The one who changed
The one who found love
The one who’s alive
The lucky one

2. My father’s lies became his truth
He hollowed out inside
Embraced the dark side of his life
And that is where he died
One brother fled to Mexico
One went to Paris France
I went through lots of places
Till I found out who I am

Chorus
everything’s relative
with fathers and sons
in my house
I was the lucky one
The one who changed
The one who found love
The one who’s alive
The lucky one

3.
You came along and saved my life
Long before I saved yours
I know that I been lucky
Maybe more than I deserved
I wasn’t taught to be a man
To raise a family
I didn’t know what love was
Till you showered it on me

Chorus
everything’s relative
with fathers and sons
in my house
I was the lucky one
The one who changed
The one who found love
The one who’s alive
The lucky one

Chorus
everything’s relative
with fathers and sons
in my house
I was the lucky one
The one who changed
The one who found love
The one who’s alive
The lucky one

Blog, Hunter's Effects, Recommended Gear

Digitech’s Software and Firmware Troubles with the RP360 Continue; We Recommend the RP500 Instead

It’s been about 2 years since Digitech released the RP360 and RP360XP, two great-sounding devices. Unfortunately, in that time Digitech hasn’t seen fit to address the terrifically daunting software issues they’ve laid on unsuspecting RP360 owners. Those issues begin with a firmware update that consistently fails, leaving RP360 owners with a device that won’t work and forcing them to repeat the update procedure, over and over, until it decides to take. The Nexus application, which is the ONLY software support for backing up and reloading an RP360, apparently won’t run under Windows 10 (at least if our customers are to believed), and even when it works it doesn’t work as well as the Xedit application that supports every other RP from the 150 to the 1000.

In short, Digitech has more or less completely dropped the ball on software support for the RP360/360XP. At Huntersounds, we are sick of seeing messsages from our RP360 patchset customers telling us how much time and effort they have to put into getting these basics to work. I mean, for God’s sake, Digitech can’t make a f—ing firmware update work? That’s Comp Sci 101. Who the hell writes the code at Digitech, and why don’t they know how to make their own gear work?

Digitech RP500: buy this instead of the RP360/360XP

Digitech RP500: buy this instead of the RP360/360XP

At this point, we can no longer recommend to RP buyers that they go with the RP360 or 360XP. Fortunately, there’s an excellent alternative available. RP500s are still widely available new and used, and they now sell at the same price point as the RP360XP ($200 new, around $150 used in good to great condition). The RP500 is larger and heavier than the 360XP, but it sounds almost exactly the same, and the Xedit application that supports it is a perfectly viable piece of software that does its job without messing with your head. (In some ways the increased size and weight of the 500 are advantages, because they’re the result of a greatly expanded set of real-time performance features.)

In short, until Digitech fixes the software issues that should never have been present in the first place, and which they have failed to address for 2 years, we strongly recommend that anyone considering an RP360 or 360XP pick up an RP500 instead. Better is better, and at this point in time, taking all factors into account, the RP500 is simply better value for money. And if you’re planning to pick up one of our patchsets to go with your RP, rest assured that the patches we’ve created for the RP500 are the best we’ve done for ANY Digitech device, mainly because they take advantage of every single one of the footswitches in the 500’s expanded footswitch array.

We’re not happy about this announcement, but our first loyalty is to the people who use our patchsets in their RPs, and those people deserve a hell of a lot better than the crap software Digitech has pushed on them for the last two years with the RP360. We put a lot of time and effort into our patchset for the RP360/360XP, and we look forward eagerly to the day we can announce that Digitech has fixed these issues. In the meantime, buyer beware the RP360/360XP.

Blog, Recommended Gear

Why Bullet Mics in Home Studios are Not Tops for Recording Harmonica

In a recent post to the Harp-L list, the poster said that he’d found a recording setup that he liked: a Green Bullet mic on a stand, into which he played from over a foot (about half a meter) away. I’m glad the guy got a recorded sound that he likes, but I’m duty-bound to say that I would never record an acoustic (or for that matter, amped) harp this way if I had a choice.

Let’s start with the obvious: recording acoustic harp and amplified harp are two different things, and a Bullet mic is far better for the latter than the former. The Bullet’s frequency range tops out at about 6 kHz, which is in the high midrange. On the plus side, you’re cutting out the high frequencies where recorded harp can be pretty screechy; on the down side, you’re cutting ALL of those frequencies out, so you’re missing the high end gloss and sheen that a harmonica can produce. The reason harp players like bullet mics so much is that they sound good coming through a tube guitar amp, mainly because tube amps tend to top out in the same frequency range as a bullet mic, and bullet mics distort in a very pleasing way when hand-held. (Human ears love distortion, which in itself does a lot to explain the attraction of electric guitars.) I have never, repeat never, heard a great sound from a bullet taken direct to the board, and I’ve heard a lot of guys try, including John Sebastian Jr. on a live broadcast from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where the sound techs generally know what they’re doing.

The Green Bullet: Great for amped blues, not so great into the PA

The Green Bullet: Great for amped blues, not so great into the PA

It’s true that this setup avoids a proximity effect–a big boost in the low frequencies–but that’s not due to the mic. You have to be close enough to kiss the mic to get a proximity effect. If you record into an open mic from 18 inches away, you won’t get a proximity effect no matter what mic is on the stand. Anyway, a proximity effect isn’t much of a problem in recording harmonica. Proximity effects show up only in the low frequencies, and it’s easy to EQ those out of a recorded harmonica track without damaging the rest of the signal. That’s one reason why Toots Thielemans always asks for a Shure SM58 in the studio, which he hand-holds. Yes, he gets a lot of proximity effect that way, but the engineer can easily take the added bass out of the mix.

Beyond that, with an open mic on a stand, you’re inevitably letting a lot of the room sound into the mic. If your room is treated to be neutral-sounding, or it just happens to be a great-sounding room, that’s cool. Most rooms outside of professional recording studios sound like hell, with standing waves producing frequency bumps and dips all over the place. That’s certainly the way it works in my house. I’ve managed to improve the situation in my home studio with a portable enclosure that blocks out sound from the sides and back, but without that I’d never try recording into an open mic in my house again (unless I truly did not care about the quality of the sound, which for a practice session I might not–I’ve used all kinds of junky stuff to record practice sessions).

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. That said, in the end, the sounds you make have to inspire you before they inspire anyone else. If you want to record through a Green Bullet into the board, and you like what you hear, go for it. If you get to the point where your recorded sound isn’t inspiring you anymore, try a hand-held Audix Fireball V (which also exhibits very little proximity effect, even hand-held), or a vocal mic or large diaphragm condenser mic on a stand with an enclosure around it to take the room out of the sound. Either of those solutions is relatively inexpensive, and will give you a wider range of tones to work with in your recordings.

Blog, Hunter's Music

As Lennon said to Bowie…

“Look, it’s very simple,” John Lennon said, according to David Bowie. “Say what you mean, make it rhyme, put a beat to it.”

I didn’t realize until a few days ago that he meant to do those things in that order.

I’m working on lyrics now every morning, and I’ve discovered that it’s a lot easier if you say what you mean first, then make it rhyme, then put a beat to it. It’s not easy to start out by rhyming your ideas. As I discovered when I wrote my books, the dirty little secret about writing is that it goes a lot faster and better when you know what you’re trying to say. Why shouldn’t that apply to lyrics too?

Stay tuned for the lyrics to some of my new pieces. And stay tuned also for more news on the upcoming record sessions, now set for mid-September 2016.

Blog, Recommended Artists & Recordings

Grant Dermody’s got a Chicago Blues house party going on in Seattle tonight

We just got notice from our friend and harmonica player extraordinaire Grant Dermody, whose standard-setting record “Sun Might Shine on Me” was reviewed on this blog not long ago, that he’s playing a Chicago Blues party tonight in Seattle. Here are the specifics, straight from Grant:
***
Hey all!
I’m doing a house concert this coming Saturday!
It’s going to be a maximum groove/minimum volume Chicago Blues blowout with
Tim Sherman-guitar
Mark Dalton-bass
Conrad Ormsby-drums
Grant Dermody-harmonica.

It’s going to be a blast!!!

Saturday, April 30 at 7:30 PM in PDT
3945 South Edmunds Street Seattle WA 98118
***

If I was in Seattle I’d be there. If you’re in Seattle, you oughta be. Tell Grant I sent you.

Blog, Recommended Artists & Recordings

RIP Prince

I saw Prince perform a half dozen years or so ago at a club in Las Vegas. It was an incredible performance, easily the best I’ve ever seen in a nightclub, but I don’t think it was an unusually great show for Prince. He sounded like Jimi Hendrix fronting James Brown’s band, and the band was every bit as brilliant as he was–in fact, he left the stage for a half hour just to let them run amok. What a show. “So many hits, so little time,” he remarked at one point. “The old school, that’s the whole school,” he said at another.

Years ago, Tony Glover wrote of Little Walter: “Genius is a f—ed-over word these days, but Walter was one for sure. What’s more, he knows how to get you off.” Those words apply in full to Prince.

RIP Prince, and thanks for all the great music.

Audio/Video, Blog, Recorded Performances (live and otherwise)

A shoutout for Jon Gindick

I got an email today from Jon Gindick, harmonica player, singer, songwriter, author of numerous books on playing the harmonica, and the man behind Harmonica Jam Camp. The message was all about the latest harmonica Jam Camp in Missisippi, which apparently was a damn good time for all.

I was reminded of how much fun I had as an instructor at one of Jon’s Jam Camps years ago in Danvers, Massachusetts, near Boston. The fun included teaching one on one and in groups, listening to and learning from the other instructors (which on that occasion included Richard Sleigh and Dennis Gruenling), and jamming with Annie Raines (who disclosed to the campers and instructors that she began her own harmonica journey with Jon’s book “Harmonica Americana”). It was very gratifying to be part of an event where all involved visibly improved their musical skills and had a lot of fun doing it. (My only moment of distress at the event came when I learned that Legal Seafoods in Danvers did not offer Guinness, on tap or otherwise. I can barely express my shock at learning that Guinness was not being sold in a restaurant a few miles from downtown Boston, whose population includes more people of Irish heritage than you can find in Dublin. So far as I know Jon had nothing to do with the restaurant’s decision not to offer the best beer in the world.)

Anyway, it’s great to see that Jon’s Jam Camps are still going strong, and that he’s added singing to the list of musical skills that campers pick up at Camp. More music, more fun for all. Roll on Jon!

In case you’re interested, here’s the video of my jam with Annie from that Jam Camp in Danvers.

Blog, Hunter's Effects, Hunter's Music, Recommended Artists & Recordings, Recorded Performances (live and otherwise)

The new record is taking form

A couple months ago I announced on this blog that I’m getting ready to make a record. The shape and sound of that record is coming into focus.

For a start, it’s going to be stripped-down. I’ve realized that the stuff I’ve most enjoyed playing in the last few years–such as the gig I played with Lowands at the Windmill last month, and the work I did a few years ago with Brian Maw–is stuff where I’m one of a very few players on stage. I need sonic room to play out my conception of what harmonica does in a band. I can’t express that conception when I’m struggling to find space for the instrument behind (and I do mean behind) a wall of guitars and keys.

So this record will feature guitar, harmonica, and drums for the most part–the same lineup that backed Little Walter on his great recordings. That doesn’t mean it’s going to sound like Walter. The sound I have in my head is something like Morphine meets The White Stripes: big sounds from minimal instrumentation, low, dark, with big grooves burning underneath. I’ll use the looper with my RPs to create layers of harmonica, of which there will be a-plenty. There’ll be various flavors of blues involved, as there is in almost everything I do, but the overall sensibility is rock.

I’m writing lyrics daily now, and writing music to fit those lyrics. That’s the opposite of the way I’ve always worked; I’ve always started with a groove, gone to a song structure from there, and then to the lyrics. But starting with the lyrics seems to be working for me now, and I’m going to stick with it. I saw a documentary on Carole King, and it turns out that that’s how she worked–her collaborators delivered lyrics to her, and she’d write the music. (In the case of “Too Late Baby,” apparently it took her about an hour from the moment she first saw the lyric sheet. Genius ain’t slow.)

So the songwriting is underway, the lyric sheets are piling up, and the music is coming into focus. Pretty soon the planning for the sessions will begin. My producer and I have discussed the players, and we’re clear on who we want and where we plan to record. I’m figuring to launch a Kickstarter campaign in the next couple of months, and to to do the recording sometime in the second half of this year.

Pretty exciting, huh? I’m looking forward to making a great record. Here’s a taste of what’s coming. “50 Grand” is a blues with a rhumba beat, and it features two harmonica parts: one with an amped sound that’s a dead ringer for some of my favorite Charlie Musselwhite tones, the other with a tenor sax sound, both sounds courtesy of the Digitech RP500. The harp parts were recorded with my favorite harp recording setup: Audix Fireball V mic into Digitech RP500 into the computer via USB. The drum track is generated by EZDrummer 2; nothin’ fancy, but it’s a demo. I played the bass and keyboard parts. I don’t expect to use keys on the album much, but I don’t play guitar, so the demo’s got keys. I can stand it if you can.

It’s just a demo, but I like the greasy (pronounced “gree-zee”) groove on it, and the lyrics have a lot of black comedy in them. I also like the part of the second solo chorus that’s harmonized in 6ths, a plenty cool sound that I don’t think I’ve heard from anyone else. It’s the kind of thing you can do with a Fireball mic, and can’t do with a bullet, because a bullet would just make an ugly smear from those chords.

Enjoy.

“50 Grand” by Richard Hunter. Copyright 2016 by R Hunter/Turtle Hill Productions, all rights reserved

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