It's finally out the gate, nearly two years in the making and one of the freest album-making experiences I've yet had. Sarah is a great friend of mine - we met at the Woodford Folk Festival in 2004/5 and had an uproarious time - needless to say, we've been close ever since. This album is a sort of culmination of our friendship thus far, but in the language of sound and music.
Sarah sent me a bunch of demos to begin with and I picked all the ones I thought I could handle. She then proceed to throw in all the ones I didn't pick. I pretty much wanted to make a tight and concise record of 9 to 10 songs, but we ended up recording 15. But right from the start, it was to be anything goes, deliberately deciding to not limit the album by stylistic continuity or sound... and yet, almost in spite of itself, it's a cohesive and realised collection of what we ended up declaring to be "pastoral prog."
Sarah's songs are always from the heart and full of soulful observation, quirky chord changes and memorable hooks. For me to play on them was so easy - things just formed up by osmosis. It's needs to be pointed out, however, that all this was made so much more possible due to the stellar contributions of the rhythm section - the then 17-year-old George Wilson (Sarah's son) on drums AND bass along with my great friend and studio partner, Ronny Rindo on drums also. A dream team.
George did things that made me so happy - such as set up entirely different kits and rigs according to what he thought would suit the song. Drums we're gaff-taped, had chains hung on them, mixed kit pieces, treated cymbals... you name it. Ronny was his usual groove-mastering self - and when he wasn't doing that, he poured wine and cooked superb food.
There were many other guests - Gleny Rae fiddled, Libby Wakeford violined, Tim Neal raked the hammond as did Barney Wakeford. Ronny and Libby's young children also made the cut. Meg Dunn sanged and mused. Jackie Marshall took up the backing vocal post with her customary outlandish panache while all other backing vocals were undertaken by Sarah and George in many takes and layers. Chris Wilson is in there too - look out for him.
Plenty of experimentation happened along the way with rotating speakers, detuned zithers, electrical orchestrations.. and of course, for my part, swathes of guitars and steels, both electrical and acoustical. Bit of trumpet and french horn too - bit of synth. I mixed it alone and spent as long as I needed to. Anybody who does this work knows how potentially nerve wracking it can be, but it's always worth it.
Sarah of course is the real key here - writing these true songs, allowing me loose on them, corralling the troops and singing what I consider to be her best vocals yet. She achieved the exact opposite of what I dislike in music - that situation in which I don't believe the performance or the intention of the artist.
I totally believe in this album and I am immensely proud to have produced it.
An entirely apt title it is too.