The last few days of 2014 may well have been the best of the year. Actually, the were the best, and–with my fingers tightly crossed–I hope they’re the map for 2015. I spent these days laying down the basic tracks for the new album, love & blood.

2014 was as sad year as I’ve known. In January, I divorced from my husband and collaborator of many years, Charles. In December, he died from alcoholism, having finished the job he started quite a long time ago. In between, we were in each others’ lives every few days, either in person or on the phone.He stayed with me for a period last spring to detox before moving up to New York to spend what became his last months with family.

In the end, everyone, including Charles, did the best they could under complex, awful, and  all too common circumstances. love & blood tries to acknowledge some of that, as honestly as I know how.

Austin is a very small, big city. Word of Charles’ death took no time in spreading. There was a big celebration of his life at One-2-One bar a few days before Christmas. And people came out of the woodwork to take really good care of me.

Dan Barrett, my producer, was one of them. He heard the news and reached out. We met to talk a week or so before we were set to start. How was I doing? Did I want to postpone recording? What could he do to make it all better?

I didn’t want to delay. Though I’d spent recent weeks deeply depressed, I wanted to record more than anything. I heard Charles’ voice telling me, “Get on with it, you got this, girl.”

Dan asked how we could invite Charles into the room. What a superb question. Charles had produced all my previous albums. He’d heard every song, at least in draft form, and had given them a thumbs up (brave, since the subject matter is him, me, and whiskey). He’d even argued for a time that he should produce; when I made it clear that he wouldn’t be touching this set of songs, he finally relented, saying, “Oh, well. I’d have overproduced ’em anyway.”

Charles was most definitely welcomed into the studio. As we started work on the 29th, his favorite hat sat on top of a rack in the studio. I brought in the Oblique Strategies deck I’d made for Charles, and we relished using it. A wedding photo was next to my capos, thumb picks, and tea.

I was most definitely welcomed into the studio, too. I don’t know, maybe Dan does this for all his clients, but I wasn’t expecting to see these:

Talk about a way to make me feel welcome... thanks, Dan.
Talk about a way to make me feel welcome… thanks, Dan.

 

It was the best two days of the year. It really was. We did it just right and will probably end up using the scratch vocals on almost all of the songs (a first for me). Were they perfect performances? No, they were perfectly imperfect, and maybe that was Charles’ gift to me. He was, after all, fond of reminding me that “perfection is boring.”

 

Day 1 wraps up with (left to right), me, Dan Barrett (producer), Rick Richards (drums), and Eric Holden (bass).
Day 1 wraps up with (left to right), me, Dan Barrett (producer), Rick Richards (drums), and Eric Holden (bass).

Huge love not just to Dan but also to: Eric Holden who plays upright and hollow-body electric bass on all the tracks; Rick Richards who played drums on day 1 tracks; my good, good friend Misty Conn who played drums and percussion on day 2 tracks; and, Jeremy Walden who made everyone’s life in the studio incredibly easy (and made some fine coffee, too).

It was a supreme reminder to me of what I may have known but had forgotten: Show up to do the work you love, and you’ll get all the support you need–and then some.

Can’t wait to share the results with the world.