The Embleton Sessions
I'm going to see how far I can get with this as I'm so knackered I can hardly push down the letters on my keyboard.
I've just had a blast of a time in a remote town in Northumberland that feels the way Christmas did when I was a small child, recording in a village hall with some of he best musicians I've ever played with.
Where to start? I was so scared I didn't sleep a wink the night before and practically cried as I went through the London rush hour to catch the train to Newcastle with my guitar on my back- people were literally shoving me out of the way in their hurry to get to work (mad!). A scary stop at the Beef Jerky place off the A1, a mile's drive across cold, quiet, flat fields to get plates of beans on toast, could have turned into a Deliverance experience and it was good to get going again. When we got to Embleton, an hour later than we meant to, everything was set up but waiting for a funeral in the next-door church to finish. There was the DJ Buddha, calm, sitting by the tea-hatch with his portable studio; the kit was set up in the corner, three amazing Gibson amps, like a little cream-coloured family, waited for their sound, and an array of fabulous guitars leaned casually up against the walls. A beautiful blonde double-bass reclined on the floor.
The hall was a throwback to the past- those thin flowery curtains you can't get any more, evidence of Brownies and Guides on noticeboards along one wall, a chilly kitchen with masses of cups, old fashioned chairs stacked up. It was the perfect place to do what we were about to do.
The cast was ace guitarist Joe Guillan and his friend from school years ago, Cav, on double bass, both impeccably attired in 50s style; Keith, of Deacon Jones and the Sinners, was to sit behind the kit. Martin and myself were on guitars and vocals, DJ Buddha was at the desk, and last but not least, Cav's 14-year-old son had brought his sax along and was to be the only one-take wonder of the whole weekend.
So we got to work- Rockin' Girl took about 2 hours to knock into shape but we became almost a band by the time it was ready to record. I can't believe I played bar chords for nearly three hours on Friday afternoon without a murmur of cramp from my fingers. Now I will call their bluff and call them spoiled bastards if they ever complain again! The thing is if you are totally into what you are doing you don't even notice anything like that. It was amazing- the guys picked it up so quickly, and we recorded a really energetic track. Joe is a fantastic guitarist- he works out the chords then works out really good voicings, and then weeds out anything he doesn't need, and you end up with some searingly powerful playing.
We braved the cold winds of Seahouses to get fish'n'chips (goodbye cholesterol-free diet) then went up to the hotel to do the evening gig, which was low-key, four visitors and the guy from behind the bar, but mostly it was fun to sit and talk. Cav played us a lovely song he had written, before we retired to sleep in rooms that had been undressed for the off-season, naked pillows and duvets, bald mattresses, but warm and comfortable.
So next day, we started with a vengeance; ten o'clock saw us recording Martin's song Walking Cowboy, with Cav's son on sax; I got to play Joe's tenor guitar, a squarish-shaped dark green Guild De-Armand, which I played with a pick; Martin yodelled and crooned like a Gene Autry, and I sang on it too. Joe wrote out a sax part for Cav's son to play and he did it first take. Next up was Cav's song; Cav has a lovely high tenor and it's a sweet song with a really catchy melody- I've been singing it all day.
Then I played them Freight Train and they liked that so we did a rip-roaring version of that, getting tighter playing together all the time. I think the best one was probably Martin's You Can't Fool Love, a song that's going to be on Hamilton Square, but which we really rocked up, and Keith in particular did a brilliant job on. We finished with Loverman, a proper Sun-sessions type version, and then headed up the hill to the hotel again for the evening gig.
I'll have to tell you about that tomorrow, when I upload the photos!