Memphis southern rock and country act The Dirt Brothers have been in and out of the studio this year and last, working on 14 songs that will make up their LP debut, Riding Dirty. Most recently the guys have been in Studio A under the guidance of Nashville producer and engineer extraordinaire Mike Clute (Faith Hill, Diamond Rio).
Ardent’s Mike Wilson has made Clute’s and the band’s settling in as smooth as possible, making whatever they need available to them at a snap of the fingers.
But with the Dirt Brothers, it’s more a stomp of the foot than a snap of the fingers. The band stands firm on its commitment to Memphis as a hometown, and their belief in what they do has been heard echoing through the halls of Ardent throughout the time they’ve been working here. Those who would say that country is a Nashville thing, take heed – The Dirt Brothers are comin’.
Look for their 14 track LP to release in March of this year, and keep an eye out for The Dirt Brothers on the road in support of Riding Dirty.
In the picture, L to R: Producer/engineer Mike Clute, Chad Gatewood, Justin Gatewood, Mike Wilson, Andy McCullough, Traci McCullough, John Salazar, and John “John Boy” Hall.
Memphis based engineer Wes Leyshon recently brought a new project through Ardent in an effort to capture his client’s sound in the best way possible. The artist, Colin Elmore, met Wes at the wedding reception of a mutual friend, and a new working relationship was forged. This is the second project that Wes has produced for Colin. The first was a Springfield, MO based indie rock project with Elmore’s previous band, Berch (2010′s Before and After the Fall). This time around, and under a solo moniker, Colin wanted to put his songwriting in the center of the project. Looking for that “warm and slightly dirty” sound, they knew they wanted to cut to analog tape, and they knew that Ardent was the best choice for just such an undertaking.
Over the course of 4 days, and with the help of in-house engineer Mike Wilson, Elmore and his band (consisting of Emmet Franz and his family) cut seven songs and two instrumentals, mixing on the final day. This release will fittingly be billed under the name of Colin Elmore and the Franz Family band, and will be entitled This Side of the Sun. The instrumentation on these recordings reflects a recent return to acoustic roots for many artists – acoustic guitars, dobro, upright bass, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, etc. Some of the songs were flushed out further with Hammond organ, cello, french horn, flugle horn, trumpet, piano and accordian.
According to engineer Wes Leyshon, “[Mike] was everything I could’ve hoped for in an assistant. Loved the new board in C and the assortment of compressors Mike held for me to mis with on Thursday. The mic choice I had was a dream. The live room is amazing and we made good use of it. All of the Ardent staff seemed excited and encouraging about the whole project. I really hope to be back there in the near future.”
Be sure to check out a great video of Colin and Emmett performing an acoustic version of one of the album cuts in Ardent’s Studio C here:
In the picture, L to R: Caleb Franz(mandolin, banjo, BGVs), Savannah Franz, Audra Mohnkern (upright bass, BGVs), Colin Elmore (songwriter, acoustic guitar, piano, lead vocal), David Fiser (photographer), Mike Wilson (engineer), Olivia Jahnke (fiddle, piano, BGVs), Wes Leyshon (producer, engineer), and Adam Jahnke.
Our friends at Visible Music College have come quite a distance during their eleven years in existence. Starting as a modest 21 student, 9 month course and expanding to a 4 year program with accreditation, it’s been a journey that we’ve been proud to be a part of. With the new location downtown and more students than ever, we hope to do everything we can to help Visible students in their coming journeys.
Ardent recently teamed up with Visible to offer a week of studio time as a prize for the winner of their alumni songwriting competition. Erik Smallwood of the class of 2002 walked away with the prize, with a smile on his face and songs ready to go.
Ecstatic to be recording at Ardent, Erik had much to say of his time in the studio: “Just to be in the same room, same building as some of the people who have graced this place is amazing.” His singer/songwriter style is stacked with sweet and soulful sounds, and his songs got the treatment they deserve here at Ardent.
Visible School teacher and producer Kirk Smith was kind enough to spearhead the sessions, making efficient work of a week in Studio A. Relating to the success of Visible, Kirk said “the relationship with Ardent has been key for [Visible’s] audio production department.” Using many of Ardent’s tried and true pieces of equipment, he was able to help craft Erik’s music into beautifully succinct pieces.
It was the first time Erik had the opportunity to work with Kirk and he was more than satisfied with the result. “Kirk and I are on the same page… He seemed to have the same idea I do on where these songs are headed.” You’ll hear more than just the hovering hand of production from Kirk, who also added piano and rhodes on selected tracks. Kirk wasn’t the only musician to have graced the sessions; Drummer Matt Fritzler and singer Sara Jo also were featured in the songs recorded, adding style and heart to music that is already overflowing with emotion and character.
The time at Ardent was spent well, having Erik lay down three gorgeously arranged tracks to show off his talent and the capabilities of studio. To keep up with all things Erik Smallwood, head over to his website at Eriksmallwood.com. And don’t forget to look into who gave Erik the opportunity to have the time over at Visible.edu.
Ardent Studios is proud to announce the complete renovation of Studio C! In conjunction with the 45th anniversary of the studio, we’re in the process of upgrading just about everything in the control room – new console, new acoustics, new aesthetics, and much more. You can keep up to date with the changes to Studio C by visiting thenewstudioc.com. Meanwhile, read more in our official press release below:
Ardent in Memphis Guts Famed Studio C for New SSL Install
“Appetite for Construction” Celebrates 45th Anniversary of Venerable Studio
Pictured at Ardent Studios in the shell of the new Studio C control room are (L-R) chief technical engineer Chris Jackson, founder John Fry, and studio manager/Big Star drummer Jody Stephens.
Memphis, TN, August, 2011 – As an integral part of its 45th Anniversary, Memphis’ venerated Ardent Studios is celebrating with an “Appetite for Construction” and completely gutting the control room of Studio C in preparation for the installation of an SSL Duality console. The studio’s prized workhorse Neve V 40 x 40 console has been decommissioned and will be reborn as a classic sidecar to accompany the state-of-the-art Duality, giving Ardent the best of both vintage and new.
“It was time to bring Studio C into the highly competitive 21st Century world of recording,” stated Ardent founder and the studio’s first engineer John Fry. ”This room has a legacy that includes landmark work by Bob Dylan, ZZ Top, 3 Doors Down, R.E.M.,and B.B. King, among so many other great artists, and we are keeping that traditional acoustic tracking space alongside our new control room with SSL’s flagship console.”
Adjacent to a 32′ x 26′ tracking room with three isolation booths, Studio C’s control room will house an SSL Duality SE 48-channel console with in-board patchbay (RHS). Also, the SSL I/O package consists of one Delta Link HD-MADI unit and two Alpha Link converter units for a total of 48 analog I/Os. With consoles in place worldwide, Duality has established a new industry standard for professional audio production.
Chief technical engineer Chris Jackson decommissions the Neve V 40×40 console in Studio C control room.
Ardent Studios started off with early classics by Sam & Dave, Led Zeppelin, Al Green and The Staple Singers, then racked up hits in the 70s and 80s by ZZ Top, REM, George Thorogood, The Allman Brothers, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Ardent continues today with recent triumphs by such artists as Sir Cliff Richard, Jack White, Huey Lewis and the News, Smashing Pumpkins, Montgomery Gentry, and Klaus Voorman. Of significant note is John Hiatt’s “Master of Disaster,” produced by the late Jim Dickinson in the studio he embraced for over 30 years.
The Solid State Logic Duality’s innovative hybrid approach combines a traditional analog path and signal processing along with exceptional DAW control, all within a single hardware surface. Duality has a diverse user base that includes many of the world’s most prestigious commercial recording facilities, on-air broadcast production studios, educational establishments, film & TV score specialists and a growing group of notable private owners.
John Fry cites several reasons for Ardent’s longevity in a recording world that has few survivors from the early days. ”We’re flexible and we’ve always strived to adapt to the changes in the technology and recording industry. We’ve also been fortunate to have so much talent on our staff, and long term relationships with successful artists and producers. Also, having a production company, a record label, and a publishing business has allowed us to be one of our own best clients. We expect our new Studio C will be a perfect fit for our continued momentum.”
To learn more about Ardent’s new Studio C, visit: http://www.thenewstudioc.com
For information about Ardent Studios, visit: http://www.ardentstudios.com
Memphis, TN (June 14, 2011)—UK pop legend Sir Cliff Richard recorded vocals for his new album, Soulicious, at Ardent Studios in Memphis.
Working with producer and Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier, Richard first tracked at nearby Royal Recording Studios with “Boo” Mitchell, son of the late Willie Mitchell. The album features a wealth of soul stars, including Deniece “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” Williams, Freda “Band of Gold” Payne and Billy “Me and Mrs. Jones” Paul.
Executive producer for Soulicious is David Gest, who organized last November’s “David Gest’s Soul Spectacular,” at the UK’s Southport Theatre and Convention Center. Featuring 18 of the world’s best selling R&B artists, the show was hailed as history’s largest gathering of soul greats on one night.
Cliff Richard’s new album includes a mix of soul classics and new songs penned by producer Lamont Dozier and his son Beau. Ardent’s Matt Martone served as ProTools engineer at Royal Recording and handled vocal recording at Ardent. Additional guest vocalists included Candi Staton, Percy Sledge, Russell Thomkins, Jr. and The New Stylistics.
Richard has sold over 260 million records in his enduring career. With his backing group The Shadows, Richard dominated the British popular music scene in the pre-Beatles period of the late 1950s and early 1960s. His 1958 hit single, “Move It,” is often described as Britain’s first authentic rock and roll song, and John Lennon once claimed that ”before Cliff and the Shadows, there had been nothing worth listening to in British music.”
The album’s producer, Lamont Dozier, was part of the legendary Motown production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. A unifying force in the ’60s pop and R&B chart-dominance of the Detroit-based independent record label, the trio later formed Invictus and Hot Wax Records, and enjoyed continuing success with the Chairmen of the Board, Freda Payne, 100 Proof Aged in Soul, the Honey Cone, and 8th Day.
Story by Mr. Bonzai.
In the photo, L to R: Engineer Matt Martone, executive producer David Gest, Sir Cliff Richard, producer Lamont Dozier, and assistant Mike Wilson. Photo by Daniel J. Russo.
Memphis country artist Webb Dalton recently finished tracking his newest endeavor here at Ardent Studios. The CD, entitled (insert tongue firmly in cheek) Mine’s Bigger, will be officially released on April 8th, 2011. Dalton recruited Keith Sykes as co-producer and Ardent Engineer Pete Matthews to round out a thank you list that includes some of Memphis’ finest players: Paul Taylor on bass, Dave Wiggins and Bruce Lester on guitar, Jeff Smith on drums, Chris Stephenson on keys, and Reba Russel, Debbie Jamison and Susanne Jerome Taylor on background vocals.
Co-producer Sykes, a long-time client and friend of Ardent, also co-wrote some of the material on the album. His past credits includes songwriting for the likes of The Judds, Jimmy Buffett, and John Prine, to name a few.
Dalton has had success with past albums and appearances on TNN and CMT. He has had chart success with “At the Drop of a Hat” and a video for the title cut from his last album, “Honk if You Wanna Honky Tonk,” was featured on CMT and GAC. He has opened shows for many artists, including Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, George Strait, George Jones, Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many others.
Mine’s Bigger has been several months in the making, and started with co-writing with Keith Sykes and Jimmy Davis. What we have here is a carefully curated collection of songs that show Dalton’s musical influences and reflect his Montgomery, Alabama upbringing: tinges of Jimmy Rodgers, Merle Haggard, Delbert McClinton, with some Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, and Johnny Cash thrown in for good measure.
Dalton’s style of music has been described as “rockabilly honky tonkin’ rock’n'roll.” Although he’s not one to be labeled, Dalton can’t help but agree. Says the man himself: “One of the first things Keith and I did for this CD is write a song called ‘Rockabilly HonkyTonkin’ RockNRoll.’ It seemed natural that we write a song that describes me and my music.”
After recording his last CD in Nashville, TN, it was like a coming home party for Webb to be able to record his new CD in Memphis. And to be able to work with some of Memphis’ finest musicians and singers is special to Dalton as well. “I’m thrilled beyond belief how this project has come together and the folks that have agreed to contribute to this project. Memphis is known for it’s diversity of music worldwide, but only those that live here can truly witness the Memphis music family that makes Memphis music what it is.”
We couldn’t agree more.
The release of Mine’s Bigger will be accompanied by a performance on WREG’s Live at Nine in Memphis, followed by a CD release party at Wet Willie’s on Beale Street in downtown Memphis.
(In the photo, L to R: Co-producer Keith Sykes, Webb Dalton, and engineer Pete Matthews)
Billy Seward recently made the long trek from Florida to record at Ardent with producer George Sluppick (The City Champs) and engineer Jeff Powell. George and Billy are long time friends, having met while playing gigs together in California some 10 years ago. They spent 4 days in studio A tracking with some of Memphis’ finest, in what was the first of a two-part session for Billy’s solo record. Says George Sluppick of the experience:
I would categorize Billy’s music as sould and this is a soul record, no question but there is definitely a strong blues element thrown in there too as Billy states Luther Allison, O.V. Wright and Otis Clay as major influences on his playing and songwriting.
…He asked me to produce and put together a group of seasoned Memphis players, which was easy for me to do and I was excited and honored for the opportunity. When discussing studios, we both agreed that Ardent was the best choice for what we wanted to do and Jeff Powell the only engineer for the job. The rest of the story is easy.
I got Marc Franklin to play trumpet and flugelhorn and he also did all of the horn arrangements. Marc is the man. The “Emperor of Sax,” Jim Spake, played tenor saxophone and did an amazing job. Al Gamble (The City Champs, Gamble Brothers) played Hammond organ, Wurlitzer, piano and did some wonderful background vocals. My min man, Joe Restivo (The City Champs) played some killer guitar and Landon Moore (Haven Hill & Jeremy Stanfill) came in with less than 24 hours notice and absolutely saved the day on bass. I played drums and had more fun on this session than just about any other I’ve ever been on.
Jeff Powell is truly a master and along with his assistant, Lucas Peterson, made our job fun and easy. The sounds we got in that room were so good, Billy was actually brought to tears during the listening party. What a fantastic crew of folks and we had a great time. Many thanks to everyone who helped make this recording happen, all of the great staff at Ardent and these wonderful musicians. I will be calling all of these guys again as soon as we can get Billy back up here to Memphis for round #2. Stay tuned.
In the picture, L to R: Billy Seward, assistant Lucas Peterson, Marc Franklin, engineer Jeff Powell, Al Gamble, George Sluppick, Landon Moore and Joe Restivo.
Saving Abel‘s Scott Bartlett moved into Studio A with producer/engineer Jeff Powell and assistant Lucas Peterson, tracking some new material for a possible music service for film and TV. Bartlett called upon Powell to co-produce and cut the new songs he wrote “ole style” to 24 track 2″ analogue tape.
Bartlett handled all the guitar work, and called in some old friends to fill in the rest: Harry Peel on drums, Landon Moore on bass, Jeremy Stanfill on lead vocals and Reba Russell/Susan Marshall/Jackie Johnson on background vocals.
The next step for Bartlett and Powell is to master to vinyl, which Powell will cut on the original Stax record lathe here at LNix Mastering in the Ardent building.
In the picture: Scott Bartlett with producer/engineer Jeff Powell.
All-star engineer Jason Latshaw was recently back in the studio with Paul Crosby of Saliva, producing and engineering for a band called Star City Meltdown out of Johnson City, TN. They spent three days tracking and mixing in Studio A.
Paul and Jason were co-producers on this project, with Jason also mixing the project. It is the second session that Paul has brought to Ardent and Jason. Paul has been shopping the tracks around to major labels with some great response. Keep an eye out for more of Star City Meltdown!
In the photo: Star City Meltdown with engineer/co-producer Jason Latshaw and co-producer Paul Crosby in Studio A Control Room.
Texas singer Laura Pickett and her co-producer Taylor Pickett (who is also her husband, physician, and pilot) traveled from Texas for a little bit of Memphis in her first professional recording. Attracted by co-producer and engineer Jason Latshaw and a city known for its great players, they flew themselves up to Memphis to record a few soulful classics.
Her vocal style, described as a blend of Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin, lent itself well to songs that included Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine,” Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Dave Smith (Cat Power) on bass, Steve Selvidge (The Hold Steady, Big Ass Truck) on guitar, and James Robertson on drums rounded out the sound they needed to cut these 10 tracks.
Laura is another great example of what can happen when artist meets producer in a setting like Ardent Studios. From conception to full realization, Ardent is able to help with any and all steps in the recording process.
Stay tuned for further details on this very promising new artist!
In the picture, L to R: Taylor Pickett, Laura Pickett, James Robertson, Dave Smith, engineer Jason Latshaw, Steve Selvidge, and assistant Carter McHann.