Muscle Shoals Sessions Album: Meet the Amazing Band

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I love making records. It’s probably my favorite part of being a singer. Singing live is a blast and I love that too, but there’s something so special about getting a group of some of the best musicians around together for a few days with the one focus of making and recording music. Magic can happen and in my experience, does. I’m looking forward to making magic with these folks. Here’s the band for my new album, The Muscle Shoals Sessions. The core players will join me in Muscle Shoals and then we will record background vocals and horns in Nashville in February. Good times!

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 7.57.43 PMSpooner Oldham, Keys – Spooner is at the heart of this project. I met him a year and a half ago. My producer Lex Price had the idea of asking if he would join us for a one-day session we were doing at FAME. I’d wanted to record at FAME for a while because of my family connection to the area. Initially we were going to do a few songs for the “This Is Home” album, but once we finished recording in Nashville, realized that the new album was complete. That’s when I had the idea to record some classic Muscle Shoals songs and put out an EP. We were all in awe having Spooner there with us at FAME. He’s a legend. It was a treat to get to know him, hear many stories of the past, and hear him play the same Wurley that he played with Aretha (pictured above). We became friends and have stayed in touch since. I’m so glad to have him back for this album. His unique talent and special connection to Muscle Shoals past brings great authenticity to the project. And I just like the guy.

[SPOONER BIO] Spooner was an integral part of the Muscle Shoals studio bands of the late ’60s, as an organist he made a definite mark on the sound of soul music. Starting as a piano player in high school bands, when Oldham graduated and began studying at the University of North Alabama, he quickly found himself skipping classes in favor of hanging around Rick Hall’s FAME studios in nearby Florence, Al. After adding the ghostly organ sound on Percy Sledge’s runaway hit “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Oldham became a member of Rick Hall’s ace studio band alongside guitarist Jimmy Johnson, bassist Junior Lowe and drummer Roger Hawkins. Together the unit played on landmark albums by Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin among others. Defecting to Memphis in 1967, Oldham teamed up with singer Dan Penn at Chips Moman’s American Studios, and the duo developed into one of the best songwriting partnerships in music. Together the two wrote hits for Aretha Franklin (“Do Right Woman”) and the Box Tops (“Cry Like a Baby”) among others as well as having their songs appear as album cuts on artists such as Janis Joplin (“A Woman Left Lonely”). After the trailblazing days of southern soul came to an end, Oldham took his considerable talents elsewhere, adding piano and organ to such acts as Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne and the Everly Brothers. He remains a respected figure among music aficionados not only for his tasteful keyboard playing, but for his songwriting as well. (Source: ALL MUSIC)

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 7.57.56 PMWill Kimbrough, Guitars – Will and I met in 2013 when he worked on my “This Is Home” album in Nashville. I was very excited to work with him. I’d heard great things from a lot of folks, including Rodney Crowell. Will’s playing is crazy good and he is an excellent human too. I quickly became a huge fan. His playing is so soulful, creative and versatile. I love what he brings to the music as the lead guitarist. I had the pleasure to do some touring with him this year and to record a short EP of four songs at Muscle Shoals. There was no way I was doing this extended version of the project without Will. He da bomb diggy.

[BIO] Will Kimbrough is hungry. The youthful singer, songwriter, award-winning guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, producer, performer and bandleader has a voracious appetite for every aspect of music. Born and raised in the deep south of the Alabama Gulf Coast, he ingested eclectic FM radio sounds and the music of nearby New Orleans. In his quest to develop his musical capacities to their fullest, Will Kimbrough has become a modern-day Renaissance Man.

Kimbrough’s body of work reflects a lifetime of performing, writing and collaborating from more angles than Da Vinci’s protractor. True to his search for universal truths, his profound musical knowledge and expert creations reflect years of learning the intricacies of folk, blues, gospel, country, rock’n’roll, punk rock and jazz.

With songs recorded by Jimmy Buffett, Little Feat, Jack Ingram, Todd Snider and others, Kimbrough’s multidisciplinary approach has led to many desirable collaborations in the studio and on-stage with well-known artists, including Roseanne Cash, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Gomez, Emmylou Harris, the Jayhawks, Mark Knopfler, Buddy Miller, John Prine, Toumani Diabate, Kim Richey, Josh Rouse, Matthew Ryan, Billy Joe Shaver, Todd Snider, Mavis Staples, Garrison Starr, Adrienne Young, and others.

Dubbed an Alien performer as a way to explain his masterful performance on the guitar, Kimbrough was recognized in 2004 as the Instrumentalist of the Year by the Americana Music Association – an award that had previously been awarded three years in a row to Dobro ace Jerry Douglas. (from Will’s website)

His most recent solo album is “Sideshow Love.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 7.57.50 PMLex Price, Producer, Mixer and Bass – I met Lex several years ago when I was looking for a producer in Nashville. I met with him and several other guys and was drawn to him the most. When I asked what he felt he could bring to my recorded music, he said that he would like to dirty up the sound a bit. That intrigued me and as I dug dig deeper it was clear that this was the guy I wanted to work with for “This Is Home.” He also is a killer bass player (among other instruments) and played on the album. He did an amazing job on that album and the Muscle Shoals EP. I’m so glad to be working with him once again. Oh, and he has a super cool beard. : )

[BIO] Since arriving in Nashville in 1998, multi-instrumentalist and producer Lex Price has quietly become one of the most respected all-around musicians in the city’s rapidly evolving scene. His contributions on stage, on the road and in the studio have bolstered some of today’s most intriguing and uncompromising artists, including k.d. lang, Mindy Smith, Peter Bradley Adams, Sarah Siskind, Bruce Robison, Kelly Willis, Matthew Ryan, Kate York and Grant Lee Phillips. In Price, they have found a musician long on craft and experience but also one with impeccable taste and restraint. He makes the most of every gesture, and he pares away the inessential until all that remains is integrity and beauty. Lex has produced acclaimed albums for artists including Mindy Smith, Robby Hecht, Peter Bradley Adams, Amy Black, The Westies. Price is currently k.d. lang’s bassist.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 7.58.06 PMBryan Owings, Drums & Percussion – This will be my first time working with Bryan, but I can’t wait. He plays with some of my favorite folks (see below). I love a killer drummer who knows how to lay down a groove I can move to and I know I have one for this session. Bryan’s credits are very impressive and the word on the street is that he’s a great guy. Uber talented and super nice. What a great combo!

[BIO] Drummer Bryan Owings is a Mississippi native who has called Nashville home since the late 1980s. He has played with Buddy and Julie Miller, Wanda Jackson, Delbert McClinton, Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams, Shelby Lynne and recently played with Alicia Keys on music recorded for the acclaimed Muscle Shoals documentary.

Ann and Regina McCrary, Background Vocals Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 7.58.12 PM– Oh man. I’m pretty fired up about these ladies saying yes to joining this project. I’m a great admirer of their singing. The first time I heard them was on Buddy Miller’s “Universal House of Prayer.” Wow. They bring the soul and the fire to any project they work on. They are are going to be a huge part of the soulful experience I want listeners to have when listening to this album. I met Ann through my publicist Karen Leipziger and after a great time at coffee we discussed the project and she and Regina agreed to come on board. We will do their vocals in Nashville in February. Can’t wait!

[BIO] For The McCrary Sisters, the daughters of the late Rev. Samuel McCrary — one of the original members of the legendary gospel quartet The Fairfield Four. The daughters were raised in harmony, singing at home and at their father’s church.

Ann traveled and sang with the Fairfield Four from the age of 3 until she was 6. She sung with various gospel groups on the weekends until she began singing and traveling with the BCM Mass Choir (Baptist, Catholic, and Methodist) as one of their soloist. Ann has performed with the who’s who of contemporary gospel music, including The Winans, Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams, and many more. Ann has recorded 2 CD’s: “What Is This,” produced by Cedric, and Victor Caldwell, recorded on ATF records; and the self-titled “Ann McCrary,” produced by Steve Crawford, on Vital records. Ann was also a member of Bobby Jones’s Nashville Super Choir for 12 years.

Regina began her singing career traveling with the BCM Mass Choir as one of the soloists at the age of 7, and was known throughout the choir’s travels for singing/recording “I Made A Vow” (the recording was nominated for a Grammy). Regina toured and performed for 6 years with the legendary songwriter Bob Dylan. She recorded three albums with Dylan: “Slow Train Coming”, “Saved”, and “Shot of Love”. Regina released her solo CD, “I Made A Vow”, in 2007. Regina also performed with Elvis and Stevie Wonder and has sung with Bobby Jones, and The New Life Singers, and The Nashville Super Choir

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 7.58.19 PMCharles Rose, Horn Arrangements and Trombone – Charles Rose is new to me, but he is not new to the music of Muscle Shoals. He’s a member of the Muscle Shoals Horns group and has played on some incredible music through the years. Having him on the project and at the helm of the horn arrangements gives me the confidence that we are going to make music that truly represents the legacy of Muscle Shoals.

[BIO] Charles Rose is a Shoals based trombonist who is an original member of the Muscle Shoals Horns. Charles has toured extensively with Elton John, Lyle Lovett and Waylon Jennings. He’s shared a stage or a studio with the likes of Delbert McClinton, Dobie Gray, Joe Cocker, James Brown, Jason Isbell, Millie Jackson, Johnny Nash, Dr. Hook, Levon Helm, Denise LaSalle, Clarence Carter, Kris Kristofferson, Freddie North, Court Pickett, Bobby Blue Bland, Canned Heat and Z.Z. Hill just to name a few.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 7.58.25 PMJim Hoke, Saxophone –  Jim is new to me too, but it seems like he’s got credits on pretty much every album I’ve listened to recently. He’s an excellent addition to the band and will bring the Muscle Shoals horn sound to life with his saxophone playing!

[BIO] Jim is Nashville’s premier “go to” guy on sax/woodwinds, harmonica, pedal steel, a plethora of other color instruments, plus horn and string arrangements for a virtual who’s who of artists of every musical category. Top artists in pop, country, Americana and many other styles respect Jim for the amazing level of artistry he brings to everything he does. Nashville is a town of musical specialists and Jim is a rarity – a specialist on a baffling number of instruments, and he plays each one as if it’s the only thing he does.  On sax, you hear the whole history of the saxophone coming through; warm luxuriant Lester Young, soulful tough King Curtis, suave and smart Stan Getz and much more, melding into Jim’s own style. When he plays blues/country harp, you hear plaintive Sonny Terry blues, raw Paul Butterfield urban energy, and so much more. On chromatic harmonica, there’s Stevie Wonder lyricism and Toots Thielemans innovation. Drawing so deeply from the well enables Jim to be the perfect stylist for any musical situation and this is the main reason for his success in the studio.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 7.58.36 PMSteve Herrmann, Trumpet –  Steve came highly recommended to me by my publicist and she knows her horns, so we took her advice. Turns out that Steve often works with Charles and Jim, so it all came together easily.

[BIO] Steve Herrman grew up in Hamilton, Ohio. Herrman began taking piano lessons in first grade, but ultimately quit because at the time he “was too immature to do technical drills.” Shortly thereafter, he found a trumpet lying around the house and decided to try and play it, and immediately found his voice. Still, Herrman never considered making music his life until, “[he] really started listening to jazz and then [he] heard Miles Davis.”

In his 20s Herrman began playing with a Mexican Cumbia band in Dallas when he got a call to fill in for Delbert McClinton’s trumpet player, who was taking a job in Japan and he stayed for 7 years. Through working with McClinton, Herrman met saxophonist Jim Horn and began a three year stint with Waylon Jennings, where he met Charles Rose, leader of the Muscle Shoals Horns. That friendship would lead to countless recording sessions, as well as a stint in the Lyle Lovett Band. Since then, Herrman has been freelancing and joined Kenny Chesney from 2007-2010. (source: Blues Rock Review)

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 7.58.29 PMJoe Costa, Sound Engineer – I got the chance to work with Joe in Nashville when I recorded “This Is Home” in Studio A (Ben Folds Studio). In addition to working with many other artists, Joe is Ben Fold’s longtime and highly trusted sound engineer. I was so impressed with his abilities and, not to mention, his awesome personality. He was an obvious addition to the team and we look forward to bringing him to Muscle Shoals. Oh, I did I mentioned that he’s originally from Massachusetts. Nice.

[BIO] – Joe is originally from Dartmouth, MA, He was a staff engineer at Synchro Sound Boston MA 1992-1993, Moved to Nashville in 1993 and has been a freelance Engineer from 1993-Present.

That’s the team. Because of them, we are going to have a killer album to share with you this year!

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