I don't know where to start in recounting the last few days, but I'll try and keep it short.
The recording session went nearly flawlessly. Some of the rhythm tracks (bass and drums) need a little tightening up, but not much at all. It was one of the most satisfying musical experiences I have had, seeing everything come together so quickly. I wrote the final song for the session on the subway going to Queens, and for another hour in Astoria Park. Sort of a Randy Newman vibe that the rest of the record does not entirely share. It's a song about a conflicted sense of disenchantment with city life, something which almost every New Yorker I have ever been friends with has had to deal with at some point. The guys learned it in 15 minutes and nailed it in two takes. It will close out the album, I think.
As for the record as a whole, I don't mean to be hyperbolic, but for me it is an artistic breakthrough, regardless of how it gets released or received by people familiar with my music, and I think will stand up over time to any music in a similar vein. Gray Lodge Wisdom was sort of treading water for me musically, I think because my energy levels and my thought processes had been so decimated by the cancer treatment. Those changes were largely temporary, thank god, and I'm really happy with how that album came out, especially because it brought me some closure and took my music to new emotional places. It also was a freeing album because I outsourced a lot of the arrangement work to some extremely capable friends. This new, as-yet untitled album will be freeing, too, but due to different configuration. Partly it is the new instrumentation, helped along by the very capable session work of Sean Walsh on drums and Roy Williams on bass, both seasoned musicians in countless genres. Interestingly, both Roy and Sean are primarily guitarists, and among many other things they play together in the band that Sean fronts, The National Reserve. Neither of them were terribly familiar with the tunes when we started the recording process, and this was by design on my part--I wanted to capture the spark of successive revisions in each take that was recorded, and to also be able to go back and emphasize certain spontaneous and organic elements. That sense of discovery and realization is apparent on all of the songs to an extent. Maybe more importantly, having a rhythm section has lent my songs a depth that they have never had on earlier albums.
It's also important to note that the direction that the recordings took had a lot to do with how Roy and Sean clicked as much as it had to do with the structure of the songs. Sean drew on a lot of Spanish, Central and South American rhythms in his drumming, and Roy's bass playing was taking some cues from 70's power pop and a little funk. Those influences took on a life of their own on several songs, and when combined with the sometimes overbearing intricacy of my guitar parts, ended up being something unique and flexible.
I am really going to enjoy refining the sounds that we got and deciding on how things are going to be arranged. And I have really enjoyed doing all of the engineering myself so far. The studio where I work, The Buddy Project in Astoria, is such a satisfying and efficient environment because of its small size--everything in its right place. I can't wait to finish this thing and let you guys hear it. I don't know how long it will be, but it will be worth it.