Press release for “Under The Rushes”
This is a few weeks old but provides good insight into the making of my new record.
press release: donna beasley’s new album, under the rushes, set for August 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Donna Beasley’s sophomore effort reads like a who’s who of Nashville’s Americana/Alt-Country scene, including Chuck Mead, Elizabeth Cook, Tim Carroll, Phil Madeira, Kenny Vaughan and more.
NASHVILLE, July 10, 2010
Under The Rushes is set for release August 1, 2010. CDs will be available through CD Baby, Amazon, and www.donnabeasley.com. Downloads will be available through itunes, CD Baby, and Digstation. Rushes is self-released under the Strange Magic Recordings label.
Under The Rushes is Donna Beasley’s second collection of Appalachian-infused Americana music, rooted in country but encompassing a wide range of styles and influences. Rushes contains 11 original songs, eight written by Donna and three Donna co-wrote with her producer/guitarist/husband, Tom Spaulding. Like her 2007 “Good Samaritan” release, Under The Rushes was produced by Spaulding, with Donna sharing co-production credit this time out.
The approach to Rushes was the same: productions that serve the individual songs without being limited by genre considerations. Rely upon the strength of the writing and Donna’s distinct vocal sound as unifying elements. While the writing and production follow a journey around the musical horn, the voice is firmly planted in East Tennessee soil. The pop-tinged “Really That Good” could be considered the furthermost point in that journey. With it’s Aimee Mann feel, it is an ode to grown-up love without blinders: “No soft focus fuzzy candlelight, no superficial uber-thrill, this could be the real deal.”
“Tom emailed me an mp3 of this happy, pop sounding music. It was so different from anything I had written before. I took it as a challenge. Even though it was a stylistic leap, I still drew upon my own relationship experiences to write the lyric. Tom ended up recording some really inspired, intricate guitar parts. There was never a question of whether or not it would fit some ‘Appalachian image’ or fall outside the Americana realm. Be honest. Try to write a good song. Record it in a way that best delivers the message. Do it 10 or 11 times and you’ve got a record. That’s all I know to do.”
At the other end of the spectrum lies “Makin’ Love.” With its twin fiddles, pedal steel, and harmony vocals provided by Chuck Mead, it is straight-forward traditional country fare: “We’re building dreams, we’re drawing plans, we’ll form a life with our own hands; I think we’ve got the right stuff, sure does look like we’re makin’ love.” When it was merely a germ of an idea, Beasley had a clear vision for it.
“I would call ‘Makin’ Love’ the most rewarding track I’ve ever recorded. I was still struggling with the chorus, had no verses – it probably took me a year to write – but I was driven by the sound of the fiddles and steel in my head! There was never a doubt I would finish it. Chuck Mead was Tom’s idea and he came up with a great part. The initial demo we made for it left a lot to the imagination. So, I had my doubts! I call it the little track that could. I’m so proud of what it became!”
“Just What I’m Looking For” is a mix of styles melded into one track, with Scott Neubert’s funky banjo, Kenny Vaughan of Marty Stuart’s Fabulous Superlatives laying down some slinky electric guitar, and Elizabeth Cook and Tim Carroll doing their best “Monster Mash” impersonations…”aah-ooh” in the background. The song is about the thrill of attraction to someone promising nothing but trouble, it’s all wrong, but it’s alright: “you’re a bad man, just what I’m looking for.”
The heavier lyrical themes of Under The Rushes can be found in the title track and the record’s closer, “Mountain On My Back.” “Under The Rushes” spins a tale of small-town romance, pregnancy and betrayal, under a judgmental eye some would call unique to the deep Bible Belt South.
The song’s main character falls for “a boy she met at the social when the summer air’d turned cool.” After sneaking out of a spirited church service, they share one intimate evening. Time passes. The boy never returns. After months of hiding a condition for which she fears she would be ostracized, she returns to the scene of her night of passion, this time with a very different purpose: “she went to the banks alone and brought forth a baby son; she said ‘I’ll call him Moses and leave him here floating for when his deliverance comes.’” A different purpose, but the same end result – she lay down her love.
The final track on the record begins with a short, upbeat bluegrass-y instrumental called “Roaring Fork” which morphs into the foreboding drum, droning fiddle and banjo of “Mountain On My Back.” Beasley counts it among her favorite songs she’s written.
“I had spent the weekend in East Tennessee fixing up my mom’s old double-wide trailer. I was driving home to Nashville, thinking about how you can never really get above your raising. How there are some burdens you cannot leave behind. I was thinking about the commercialization of my hometown and how I sometimes wish I could gather up the beautiful parts and take them with me to a safe place where they could remain untouched. I was getting to that westerly spot where you get your last good look at the mountains before getting into Middle Tennessee. The sun was setting and I started writing ‘Mountain On My Back’ while looking in my rear view mirror for one last glimpse.”
The brilliant fiddle of Matt Combs hangs in the air as the final note, punctuating the sentiment of the chorus: “I can’t get out unmolested, I raise my voice to protest it, but secrets deep and ancient settle in the crack; I’m leaving here with a mountain on my back.” She is moving forward – but escaping nothing.
Basic tracks for Under The Rushes were recorded at the Black River Music Group Studio, dubbed “Ronnie’s Place” after former owner, Ronnie Milsap. Besides the aforementioned talents, Under The Rushes boasts Steve Cox, Michael Webb, and Phil Madeira sharing keyboard credits and Tony Paoletta on pedal steel. “You Wouldn’t Know Love,” has Bob Britt and Marco Giovino on guitar and drums, respectively, and was recorded at Tom’s home studio, dubbed Strange Magic.
Otherwise, the rhythm section consisted of Paul Griffith on drums, Steve Mackey on bass (all tracks), and Scott Neubert providing most of the acoustic guitar tracks, while also fulfilling banjo, dobro, and mandolin duties.
Over the year and a half spent overdubbing and mixing, vocals and various instrumental parts were recorded at Ronnie’s Place, Strange Magic Studio, and Anthony Aquilato’s Choctaw Ridge Studio. Michael Webb’s parts were recorded at a couple of long-forgotten stops on the road while Michael was playing and Tom was tech’ing for Leann Rimes’ band. Under The Rushes was mixed by Tom at Strange Magic and Steve Ledet at Subtrax Studio.
“I was blessed to be surrounded by such talented, loving people committed to making the record I wanted to make. It was a long journey from beginning to end. I can honestly say I feel it was worth the wait.”
For more information on Donna Beasley and Under The Rushes, visit www.donnabeasley.com. See website for links to Donna’s MySpace and Facebook pages.