Happy new year to everybody. I hope the holidays were warm, joyous and not too stressful. I'm looking ahead to this year and hope things will begin the turn for the better.
I spent a wonderful couple of weeks of recording in London with Mark Knopfler and look forward to another fortnight in February. It's always a rewarding and challenging experience making records with Mark and the results speak for themselves. Getting back together as a band is a joy as we're up to our old tricks after work in the pub and various dining establishments. I can't wait for the next round of recording to be with them all in and out of the studio.
I'm scheduled to play on a new album for Miranda Lambert before returning to London. It will be her third album that I've been asked to participate in and I'm very happy to be there. Miranda's one of the new breed of young, female country singers... tough, tender, rocking, writes her own songs and has a definite point of view. She's always fun to be around and judging from a few things we've already recorded, the new songs show her ongoing growth and maturity.
I quietly began recording a few tunes for my own new album. I hope to have it finished and available by early 2010. Another session is booked for later this month and I'll continue chipping away at it throughout 2009. My own things seem to get put on the back burner so easily and that's why it seems to take so long to finish.
On a sad note, I lost a couple of good friends recently. Jody Reynolds who wrote and had the big hit record of Endless Sleep in 1958, died this past November. I'd met Jody when I was a teenager through my friend Al Casey who'd played the low throbbing electric guitar on Endless Sleep. It was a song about a girl's attempted suicide that was foiled by her boyfriend running into the angry sea, saving her from an endless sleep. I remember hearing it on the radio as a youngster and not quite knowing what it all meant at the time but realising this was not a happy song. It had such a dark and threatening undertow and record scared me as a kid but I used to sit by my radio hoping to hear it over and over again. It's still one of my favourite records and still scares the hell out of me.
Another friend, Butch Baldassari died yesterday after a brave 20 month struggle with an inoperable brain tumour. Butch was a brilliant mandolinist covering a breathtaking range of music and styles from classical mandolin of the 1800's, to bluegrass, jazz, pop and new age. Butch was a highly regarded recording and performing artist, record producer, historian of the instrument, author, instructor and professor of mandolin at Blair University here in Nashville. In the early 1990's Butch revived the idea of the mandolin orchestras that were so popular in the late 1800's and early part of the 1900's but had completely disappeared by the 1930's. Butch organised the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble consisting of mandolins, mandolas, mandocello, guitar and string bass. He had some great arrangers write charts for the orchestra, rehearsed it like crazy and began playing shows in Nashville. I attended a sold out performance in an old church and was so impressed with them that after the show I came up to Butch, introduced myself and offered my services as a record producer. I normally don't do that kind of thing but I really wanted to be a part of this in some way. To my surprise and delight he asked me to come to their rehearsals. One thing lead to another which lead to me helping Butch produce a couple of albums with the Ensemble. Butch was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and could really turn on the Italian tough guy if he felt his toes were being stood on, but he was a great and grand guy, a true artist with a wonderful sense of humour and an unquenchable thirst for learning about and expanding the role of his instrument, the mandolin. Here's a link to a video of Butch and the Nashville Mandolin orchestra.