Words from T-Byrd (Tom):
Carissia and Company’s latest CD project, “Too Wild For the Blues” was conceived and executed totally at TomCar Studio in the Upper Cumberland Plateau area of Tennessee. The 15-song CD was mastered by Michael St. Leon at Switchyard Studio in Nashville, TN. Several of the songs feature the bass playing virtuosity of Regi Wooten.
There are three "live", un-retouched, cuts on this CD. "No More" and "Living for the Road" were recorded live in 1999 at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Club in Nashville, Tennessee on their system. The theme song for educational program, "Live Music in America," was recorded in 2002 at the now defunct, Mars Music Store also located in Nashville, Tennessee by their technical staff. These three cuts were taken directly to Michael in two track stereo form, and he just bumped them up a little bit and equalized them to fit in the format of the CD.
TomCar Studio is actually Carissia's and Tom’s rehearsal space nestled in the Upper Cumberland of Tennessee. When we finally decided to record these 14 original songs, we set up two long folding tables, and loaded them up with pieces of our “live” gear. The one exception is “Dr. Zoom” aided by his/her hip-hop partner, Zoom SB-246, which belonged to our daughter, Kristin Nicole. Kristin identified our operation as "a real caveman operation" teetering on the edges of “backward recording”. But, she provided us her blessings and a musical beat track for "Only You."
The heart and soul of “Too Wild for the Blues” is our great and forgiving friend, Dr Zoom, a Zoom HD-8 hard disc recorder, with 8 tracks, but you can only record a max of two at a time. Once Carissia and I had settled on the lyrics, melody, and chord progression (and sometimes that was a painful metamorphosis) then it was one by one except for “Where Were You” and “Real Love” where we had to put down the opening or closing guitar/vocal line at the same time.
The next, and perhaps the most critical step, was to take a long piece of blank white paper and make a chart of the song, a chart not as in the Nashville Number System or in traditional notation, but containing a small, separate block for each and every measure of the song which I then numbered from 1 to the last measure. Inside each block along with its number was the chord to be played and the number of the drum pattern used for that particular measure.
The basis of the tracks was the sampled drum patterns gleaned either internally from the HD-8, or from the Zoom SB-246, or in some cases, from both. I “used” these tools as impersonating “live” drummers as opposed to cycling drum loops. These patterns were then painstakingly pieced together, notated on the chart, and then entered one by one into the HD-8.
Next, I usually put down the principal rhythm guitar, because this was the most cohesive harmonic sound of the song that I was familiar with. (If Carissia and I were doing a duo, this would be the main part I would play on guitar). Contrary to current guitar recording lore, I didn’t use an amplifier and went straight through a Korg AX-100G, a Zoom 505II, and a Digitech RP-80 into the HD-8. All guitar parts are electric and were played with either a Warmouth Strat with Dimarzio and Bill Lawrence pickups, a Cort Matt Murphy with Dimarzio and Ibanez pickups, an Epiphone Joe Pass with Gibson pickups, or a Daion 335 with 3 Tom Holmes pickups.
The electric bass was the hardest track to lay down for me since I’m not a “real” bass player. I used an old Peavy Precision copy I’ve had laying around for years, and I played with a pick and hoped for the best (those 4 strings are mighty damn big and painful after a while). Sometimes I spent the whole day sweating out a bass part to one of the songs. I plugged the Peavey directly into the HD-8 unprocessed. On two tracks, "Too Wild for the Blues" and "Riding That Bass", I put down the bass tracks, but since the material required a lot more than I could give it, we packed up Dr. Zoom and took it down to a real pro, our friend, Regi Wooten. After setting it up in his rehearsal area and letting him hear the tracks a couple of times -- about two times to be exact, Regi proceeded to masterfully burn while being prodded on by Carissia. The end result was so hot, that I had to slink back up to TomCar Studio and re-group on a couple of guitar parts to even fit in the final mix. Thank you so much, Mr. Wooten for doing your usual great thing and anointing two of our best cuts.
After these three things were put down ,it was time for a try at the vocal, and if what Carissia heard at this point didn’t please "The Empress", it was totally back to the drawing board. If we agreed enough to make a run at it, she put on the headphones and sang her part into an Audio-Technica AT2020 that we talked our daughter out of and plugged it directly into the HD-8. The end result of all this direct business was that we ended up with 8 totally clean tracks with no bleed and no outside noise.
Although she loves to listen to recorded music, Carissia is not a fan of recording studios -- not at all. She is truly a one or maybe two, but no more than three "recording take" artist. Carissia studies her words for feeling. Then she gives three chances for the engineer (me) to get it down, and that is it. So precision on getting the mechanics and the music down is a must....Seriously, Carissia will not do more. Her words, "let's go...Cool...I am through!"
If all of this was a success, then I went back and laid down secondary rhythm guitar tracks, sometimes using an “organ” patch, and finally the lead guitar track which was usually call and response with the vocal.
When we finally finished all 8 tracks on all 12 tunes plus the 3 live tracks, we made a DVD of the whole thing and shipped it to Michael St. Leon at Switchyard Studio, and we think he did an amazing job cleaning up and bringing out the various music tracks. (It ,of course, helped that he himself is an excellent guitar player).
So what’s up in the future for TomCar Studio? Well, for starters, between Carissia and myself, we have probably 20 or 30 more originals in various stages of completion. Hey, who knows? If we have some taste of financial success with "Too Wild for the Blues/Live Music in America", we might be able to introduce Dr. Zoom to his big brother, the HD-16. Then, we could actually put down 16 tracks at once! That would be dangerous to unleash on the general public!
Presently, we are back at it trying to clean up our act in the studio moving stuff around so the place looks more like an actual stage so we can make a decent video of the dueling duo in action ( I often wondered what happened to just hitting the Chitlin Circuit -- those were the days). Also we are working on a dynamite new song entitled "Music" which is our first foray into the all out Santana sound. Our daughter also repossessed her beat machine, so now we have to look for another SB-246 or possibly a Boss. We're open to suggestions.
Tune in later for updates on the happenings at TomCar Studio emanating from the Upper Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee via directly through online ventures. You can reach Tom or Carissia at firstname.lastname@example.org.