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“The Lucky One” is coming soon, but not before Christmas

I'm nearly finished with vocal and harp overdubs for my record "The Lucky One." I'd originally thought we'd have the record available for sale (and for distribution to the people who contributed to the Indiegogo fundraiser) by Christmas, but it's looking more like January now. I apologize for the delay; rest assured that I will deliver the best damn stuff I can, even if it takes another week or two, and the results are worth waiting for. I'll take this opportunity to talk a little about this record. It's no secret that I'm using layered overdubs with plenty of FX to shape the sound of this record. That's not new in itself; artists like Scott Albert Johnson and John Popper have used FX very well on recent records, and Filip Jers, among others, created masterpieces on his first CD with overdubbed harps. What's new is that I'm not simply out to produce new electric harmonica sounds with this work; I'm putting the harmonica into a range of roles in the band that it has rarely, if ever, occupied. Harmonica is traditionally a lead instrument in a rock band; I'm building on the work of Lee Oskar and Magic Dick to put it more deeply into the rhythm and horn sections, guided by the sounds of blues, the band Morphine, and the White Stripes. The results are definitely new; these textures have never been present on any record I've heard, and I've heard a lot of harp records. Most importantly, I imagine that this music can be effectively performed live with a band that includes at least two harmonica players playing through the Digitech RP500 setup I've used for all the harmonica tracks.
Digitech RP500: It's all over "The Lucky One"

Digitech RP500: It's all over "The Lucky One"

And why not? Plenty of rock bands have two guitarists; how about some equal time for harp players? This is not music designed only for the studio; this is music designed to be performed. (By the way, if anyone is interested in being part of some of my performances, please contact me. Qualifications include ability to play diatonic harps in multiple positions, the ability to play chromatic harmonica in multiple keys, and the willingness to use the rig I provide, which of course includes a Digitech RP500 and an Audix Fireball. Practical knowledge of chord structure and theory is essential, like for example knowing what notes are included in an Ab major triad and what scales work against that chord. Ability to read music in this case is deeply respected, but not required. New York/Philly area is tops.) If this record goes as planned, it will be as definitive a statement about the role of harmonica in a rock band as my previous CDs, "The Act of Being Free in One Act" and "The Second Act of Free Being," were for solo harmonica. That's what I'm shooting for. I know it's ambitious; the facts are that I've been working on this approach for ten years, the concept is fully formed, and I'm too old not to aim high right now. When Mick Jagger said in an interview recently that spending three full days in the studio recording the new Stones blues record was pretty hard on him, I knew exactly what he was talking about; I literally limped out of the studio in Philly after three full days and two nights of blowing my brains out on this record. Like I said: time to aim high. Whatever else this record is, it's not the usual, by design. And it rocks hard. You can check out samples of early rough mixes in the "Updates" section of the Indiegogo campaign for "The Lucky One". (The campaign is closed, so you can't make a contribution. If you like what you hear, just buy the download or the CD come January.)

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Coming soon: pre-order page for “The Lucky One!”

Thanks to everyone how contributed to the Indiegogo campaign to fund our 21st century rock harmonica record "The Lucky One!" We expect the record to be completed soon, with digital downloads available to contributors before Christmas, and hardcopy CDs available in January. If you missed the deadline for contributions, not to worry. In a few days we'll have a page up at this site where you can pre-order the record and/or the digital download. Stay tuned! In the meantime, if you haven't heard the clips from this record that we've posted at this site, check them out now in the "What's New" section. img_6749-ph-3-splatter-blue-cut-out-winner-half-size

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More from “The Lucky One”: Make The Noise You Came To Make

Like other pieces on "The Lucky One", "Make the Noise You Came to Make" relies on a horn section made of harmonicas shifted down one and two octaves. To that we add an amped blues sound with a Whammy that shifts the pitch down a major second, creating a slide guitar effect, and another sound that uses a vibropan effect to create a psycho organ. All those parts were created with a Digitech RP500, and all can be heard on this 30-second sample. The thing rocks hard with a cool vibe that owes something to both Morphine and The Doors. Check out 30 seconds of "Make the Noise": "Make the Noise You Came to Make" copyright 2016 R. Hunter/Turtlehill Productions/ASCAP, all rights reserved. And contribute to our Indiegogo campaign to fund this record here. img_6749-ph-3-splatter-blue-cut-out-winner-half-size

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A Mysterious Piece of “The Lucky One”: Deeper

"Deeper" has been in my repertoire for years. I recorded a version of this piece for my subscription list, a decade or so ago. The original had a few harmonica parts and a lot of cool synth sounds, many of them courtesy of the hard-edged synth Pentagon. This version was recorded straight through by me and the band in the studio with me playing the lead on a Seydel Chromatic Deluxe into the Digitech RP500 running a Tweed Deluxe amp model--a nice clean, full sound--with a triggered flanger on it. Very smooth and electronic. In the second half of the piece, the lead harp is augmented by a patch that pairs an octave down with a wah wah for some very cool articulations, and by a patch that runs the Audix Fireball mic through an iStomp running Swingshift to drop the pitch an octave before it hits the triggered flanger in the RP500. Like the title says: Deeper. Check out 30 seconds of "Deeper": "Deeper" copyright 2016 R. Hunter/Turtlehill Productions/ASCAP, all rights reserved. And contribute to our Indiegogo campaign to fund this record here.

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A hard-rockin’ piece of “The Lucky One”: Double Lucky

The basic structure of Double Lucky, one of the hardest-rocking tunes on my record "The Lucky One," is a double blues: 24 bars, with 8-bar vamp sections between each 24-bar form. There are variations in the turnaround in each 12-bar section. Bar 12 ends on an Eb chord; bar 24 ends on an Ab chord. The piece is in C, and includes F snd G chords as well. If the piece wasn't played as a dead-serious blues-rock raveup, the changes would make it sound like Steely Dan. I wrote the rhythm harp vamp part--the second half of this clip--while I was sitting in traffic or something, and recorded it on my iPhone so I wouldn't forget it. The demo I sent the band didn't have that part on it, so I gave them the part in the studio and made a few comments about the feel, we rehearsed it, and we ran it down for the recorder in real time together, the way we did every basic track for this record. (I love those guys.) This clip is the rough mix of that live performance, with the harp solo added via overdub. The rest of this post is mainly of interest to harmonica players, so if you're not one of those you might want to just click on the link above and go hear the clip. If you like this music and want to make sure you get to hear the whole thing soon by helping us fund the project (and also get cool perks like a digital download of the music, a CD, a copy of the Digitech RP500 patch set I'm using for these songs, and more), check out Our Indiegogo campaign. 21st Century Harmonica Playing rhythm on this piece demands all the chords you'd get from an F harp plus the ones you'd get from an Ab harp. Most amped harmonica players use bullet mics of one sort or another, which is fine for big, heavy single note tones (like you need for traditional Chicago blues), not so great if you want to use a lot of chords. I wanted the harmonica to play a strong rhythm role in this piece, so I used an Audix Fireball V to record these parts, and on the Digitech RP500 I used a Champ amp model coupled with a pitch shift of a minor 3rd up to make the missing chords and put some heavy crunch on them. The rig is 21st century harmonica gear. (And all Huntersounds RP500 patch set licensees who signed up on or after September 2015 will get the set for free when this record is released.) The pitch shifting approach is 21st century too; I don't have to use multiple harmonicas to get a wider range of chords, I just have to shift the pitch, which I can do in real time under foot control. The Low F harmonica also isn't much older than the 21st century, and its use in this context is brand new.
Digitech RP500: Can't do "Double Lucky" without it

Digitech RP500: Can't do "Double Lucky" without it

How I Played It I used a Manji low F harp for all the rhythm parts. I played F and G on the turnarounds as octaves, which gave them a horn-like sound. I played the Eb as a full chord by shifting the C chord (draw 2-3-4) up a minor 3rd, and I did the same with the Ab by shifting the F chord (blow 1-2-3-4) up a minor 3rd. I used a Lee Oskar C Natural Minor (equivalent in register to a standard F harp) for the lead part, which I played with the same patch I used for the rhythm parts, with the pitch shifter disengaged. The Lee Oskar C natural Minor is pitched an octave higher than the Low F, so it contrasts very nicely with the rhythm harps. This stuff is red hot. Dig. And like I said: check out Our Indiegogo campaign.

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A Glimpse of “The Lucky One”: Orphan Jam

This clip of "Orphan Jam" from the sessions for my record "The Lucky One" is based on a simple chord progression: G major and Eb major. The lap steel sets an appropriately grand and spooky tone, and the harmonica comes in like some kind of alien singing. The piece as you hear it here was recorded in one pass live in the studio with no overdubs. The band, with Mark Schreiber on drums, John Cunningham on bass, and Mike Brenner on lap steel, rocks hard. I've said before that every time I drag my complete harmonica rig out to a session, there turns out to be one song where I need an instrument from deep in my case that I haven't used in ten years. This is that song for this session. The harmonica I used on this piece is a Lee Oskar that I set up years ago, dropped in my case, and completely forgot about. It has a unique pairing of reed plates, which is something you can do pretty easily with Lee Oskar harps. The draw reed plate is a standard C harp draw plate, which makes a G7+9 chord, and the blow plate is the blow plate from a Lee Oskar G Natural Minor, which makes a C minor triad. So G7 on the draw and C minor, relative minor of Eb, on the blow, and all the right scale tones are in place. There's no Bb built into this diatonic tuning, which is not tops when you consider that one of the two chords is an Eb major, but you can get that Bb in the bottom octave with an easy bend on the draw 3 reed, and in the middle register with an overblow on the blow 6 reed. I used both on this piece. (That approach works for single notes, but of course it doesn't work for chords. I used a chromatic harmonica in C to give me partial G and Eb chords.) The harmonica is played through an Audix Fireball V mic into a Digitech RP500 running a patch I set up myself that includes a big distortion, an octave up pitch shift, and a long digital delay set low in the mix. John, Mark, and Richard John in the moment Mike closeup We're definitely in the 21st century now. If you like this music and want to make sure you get to hear the whole thing soon by helping us fund the project (and also get cool perks like a digital download of the music, a CD, a copy of the Digitech RP500 patch set I'm using for these songs, and more), check out Our Indiegogo campaign.

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Check out the pics from the Philadelphia sessions for “The Lucky One”

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The Vocal Performances for “The Lucky One” started last night

The band's performances for "The Lucky One" are completed, and great performances they are, done at speed and loaded with cool. I started recording vocals last night, and that's the hardest part for me. I went into these sessions confident about the music, the lyrics, the band, and my own harmonica playing. Singing has always been a self-conscious thing for me, and it still is, recent months of training notwithstanding. I'm told that every singer gets anxious when it's time to record, so I suppose it's no surprise if I do. But man, what a test of will. All of that said, I got good performances on four of the nine vocal tracks on the record last night. With luck, tonight I get all or most of the next five. I'm going to take it easy today and do my best to take it easy tonight when I go to the studio. In the meantime, I'll do my best to think good thoughts and remember to breathe.

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The band sessions for “The Lucky One” were killer–now for the overdubs

From Friday to yesterday I recorded the rhythm section, guitar, and some harmonica tracks for my upcoming rock record "The Lucky One." At this point we have twelve such tracks in the bag, meaning that in the 27+ hours of recording starting Friday we've averaged 2 hours and 15 minutes per keeper take. img_6749-ph-3-splatter-blue-cut-out-winner-half-size We recorded these tracks the old fashioned way: four musicians playing the material together in real time in the same space, without headphones. It was challenging--with that kind of setup there's enough bleed between tracks to make it difficult to, say, redo the harmonica solo without colliding with bleed from the previous solo take on the drum overheads--but oh so gratifying to hear and feel the drive you get from people playing together. As Mark Ronson, who produced "Uptown Funk" for Bruno Mars, said: a bunch of dudes playing the s--- out of some material in a room will never go out of date. Cutting Stone Castle--Richard working the wahwah I've used the Digitech RP500 exclusively to record the tracks so far, and it's working out very, very well. One of the songs on the CD is my composition "Double Lucky", which started life as a blues but became a 24-bar double blues structure that includes C, F minor, G, Eb, and Ab chords. I took one of my RP500 amped blues patches and programmed in a pitch shifter that takes the pitch up a minor 3rd. With that I was able to play every one of those chords (except the G, which I played as an octave); I engaged the pitch shifter to take the C up to an Eb, and again to take the F up to an Ab. I used a low F harp for the rhythm tracks and a C Natural Minor for the solo, which let me stop worrying about hitting the Eb note right on the money on a standard F harp (and also took the solo into a register an octave higher than the Low F, eliminating any conflicts on that score). The RP tracked the chords perfectly; you'd never know that the Eb and Ab chords weren't played on an instrument tuned to them.
Digitech RP500: If yer not usin' one of these, you ain't gettin' the sounds I'm gettin'

Digitech RP500: If yer not usin' one of these, you ain't gettin' the sounds I'm gettin'

For a jam on the "Orphan Black" TV show theme, I used a Lee Oskar harp with a special tuning that I made by combining a C minor blow reed plate with a standard C harp draw plate. That produced a tuning that in second position basically produces a G7/9 chord on the draw and C minor on the blow, just right for "Orphan Black," which consists entirely of two chords, G and Eb major. It's one of the harps that I carry around in my case and use maybe once every ten years; but hey, better to have it when you need it than to leave it home and make do with something less perfect for the tune. I coupled that with an RP500 patch that includes a big distortion effect and an octave up pitch shift. Did someone say "psychedelic"? We start the vocal and harmonica overdubs, in that order, for this project tonight. If we keep up the pace and quality we've achieved so far, this is gonna be one killer record. Stay tuned, and if you're in the mood, check out this project on indiegogo.

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The IndieGoGO campaign for “The Lucky One” is underway…

And about time. Recording sessions for this project begin in one week in Philadelphia, on September 16. So it's not a day too soon to get the IndieGoGo campaign to fund this project going. Next Friday we'll set up in the studio, get some levels, and start playing through the repertoire. We'll take some time for a jams or two just to get loose and feel each other out. We may record some keeper tracks--that would be nice--but the main goal is to get everything ready for performance and recording the next day. img_6749-ph-3-splatter-blue-cut-out-winner-half-size Saturday and Sunday we track the band plus lead harp as we play through the songs. Monday and Tuesday nights we do overdubs. This is where vocals, lap steel, and additional harmonica layers come in. And that's the schedule. If all goes well, we have great recordings in the can by Sep. 21. I think we will. I've done a lot of prep for this record, we have a bunch of good players, and we have a pretty good idea of what the thing should sound like. I want a rhythm section that's deep and dark, with various harmonica sounds-2 to 3 per song--filling the low midrange and punching through in the upper mids. My go-to harp combination for this record includes an amped sound with a low octave double, a modulated sound like a vibrato or rotary speaker, and an amped blues or direct (clean) tone with or without delay, reverb, and/or distortion. That's a weighty combination with a lot of movement in the sounds. If this all sounds great to you, go check out the IndieGoGo campaign and reserve a digital download, a physical CD, or some other perk for a very reasonable contribution. Thanks!

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