A little while ago I mentioned that a band containing a pair of High School friends of mine had gone into the studio to record material for an album.
I subsequently commented that I had been enjoying the advance copy that I received, and that there would be more information at a later date.
That time has arrived. I have heard that CDs will be back from the duplicator next week. As soon as I find out information about how to purchase the album, I will give you the hard sell and try to convince as many of you reading this blog as possible to buy a copy. For now, however, it’s time to celebrate a project done well — the upcoming album Red Over Red by Trenchmouth.
There are two things I want to talk about, first how much I like the album, and secondly a little bit of what I know from sitting in on the recording process.
Why I Recommend This Album
It’s fun it’s, full of energy, and the songs are strong, what’s not to like.
I think it’s a successful blend of traditional and pop influences. As they say on their website, their repertoire is “Folk / Celtic / Punk” (with “Folk” including a number of Sea Shanties). All of the songs are traditional, but the performance style is contemporary. They come by both of those influences honestly. The two friends of mine have both spent a bunch of time working on tall ships, and singing Shanties (and I can personally say that I’ve rowed with them singing to keep time). At the same time, they’ve obviously been very influenced by the Pogues and Johnny Cash and those are good influences to have.
As someone who likes traditional music, I think there’s is a version of doing it right. They treat traditional music as a store of songs for anyone to sing, and they perform them they way they want to hear them. This seems like a completely healthy attitude to me. As a friend and I were commenting to each other, they aren’t folk archivists, they are part of the folk tradition.
They’re respectful of the songs, but not deferential to them.
How about some samples? Here are three songs from the album that I am posting with permission from the band.
First, one that will give you a sense of the band sound and their style of harmony
Secondly, one that shows a little more of their punk influences* (this is the hidden track on the CD because, while it was good take, the ending isn’t exactly what was intended. Zac forgot the last verse).
(I like, at the very end, when you can hear Jeremiah express his surprise at Zac’s sudden outburst, saying, “I thought you broke your face or something.”)
Finally a very nice a capella shanty, that’s one my favorite tracks on the album.
To give some sense of how much their style contrasts with traditional shanty singing, consider this version of Stormalong. I, personally, think that performance is awesome, but it’s much more self-consciously traditional in the style. It really sounds like something that was originally a work song. The tempo is slower, the style emphasizes repetition, and there’s less vocal ornamentation. **
* For another example of their punk influences, there’s this video fragment on their website from the show celebrating the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition. They’re clearly in “beat the heck out of the song mode” but I have to agree with the comment, “The video is incomplete but too funy *not* to post.” The sound quality is terribleon the video, however.
** That particular song is described as a capstan shanty, about which I find this note, “Capstan shanties were used for long repetitive tasks, that simply need a sustained rhythm. Raising or lowering the anchor while winding up the heavy anchor chain was their prime use. … Capstan shanties had steady rhythms and usually told stories because of the length of time (which could be hours) it took to raise the anchor.”
Notes About The Recording Process
I don’t think the album needs any excuses, I think it’s good, solid, and entertaining by any standard. I will say, however, that part of what makes me so happy about it, is that I think they were really well treated by the recording process.
In this case, I not only knew two members of the band, but also the person recording/producing the album (RS — who comments here occasionally) and the person who made the microphone that was used to record most of the tracks. So I am partial to the philosophy and decisions that were made on this project.
All of the tracks were recorded live with no overdubs, and no processing of the signal. Most of the tracks were recorded with a single (fancy) stereo mic, with balance and EQ accomplished by how people were positioned around the mic.
On of RS’s interests in recording is trying to help people avoid the experience that is very common of people who have played music for a long time going into the studio and believing that they need to completely change the way they play music.
More or less none of the members of Trenchmouth had much experience recording. Dylan and Jeremiah had recorded a demo at one point and Zac recorded an album with a previous band, but they were also interested in having the recording reflect their normal music style.
I can vouch for the fact that the songs were performed the way that would perform them in concert — except with heighted attention and care. One thing that might not be obvious listening to the recording is that they were playing loud. There performance energy was very much connected to physical energy in the sound. Being in there tt was just shy of being loud enough to make my ears ring, which is notable for an acoustic trio.
In addition to that, I think they were also very well served by the sound of the recording itself. It’s very clear, it’s very detailed, it has a full dynamic range and all of that helps the energy of the performances come through.
Personally I really like clean recordings. For me, even though the performances aren’t perfect, I think it’s a more engaging and satisfying experience to be able to their moments of pushing themselves, triumphs, and occasional awkward moments than to do to much to try to “fix” that. It makes me happy.
Finally, if you’re curious listening to the tracks, all three of them sing and play instruments. Dylan plays the fiddle (which isn’t particular present on any of those specific tracks), Zac plays guitar, and Jeremiah plays a bodhrán, a type of hand drum.