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Day #1: Old Woodstock '23

The Drive

We left northern Kentucky on a Saturday, planning to stop for the night somewhere in Pennsylvania. But my traveling companion had never been to New York City, and his excitement wouldn't let us sleep till Brooklyn. So we drove through the night and pulled into Woodstock as the sun was rising. And you know nights like that always demand a quick nap in the Walmart parking lot.

After a few hours of upright sleeping in a compact car, we ventured into Woodstock proper. People were setting up for the Sunday flea market, and my untraveled friend enjoyed the diversity on display. I think he fell in love with a purple-haired girl who was selling candles and essential oils. Within the hour, he had fallen in love with a young barista at Bread Alone (a Woodstock coffeehouse with some amazing Elliott Landy photos of Dylan and the Band). I fell in love with the coffee in my hand, and headed for the cemetery to pay my respects to Levon after a decade.

We couldn't check into the Airbnb until Sunday evening, so E Love and I killed some time between the town square, the monastery, and the Bearsville Theater compound. Plenty to show a Kentucky boy over the course of twelve hours. We met Devaney at the Airbnb just before sunset and sat on the back deck discussing song arrangements till the coffee ran out. In the morning, we'd be at Milan Hill Studios with Justin Guip and Larry Campbell. Twelve months of writing songs was about to be condensed into five days of recording them.

The Studio

When we got to the studio, Justin introduced me to Brandon Morrison, who would be playing bass on the album. He had just gotten back from a stint with Donald Fagan (Steely Dan) the day before, but had already charted and memorized the songs. For a guy in his early to mid thirties, the man is a consummate professional. And I knew we'd vibe well - when he opened the case to a vintage Hofner bass. A recent purchase, this would be his first opportunity to use the bass on a recording session. And suddenly everyone was giddy about the new toy.

That first day was mostly spent playing live together, feeling each other out musically, and discussing the overall sound of the record. We did manage to capture Long Way to the Bottom and Between Intent & Deed before calling it a night around 10 pm. And that became our schedule for the rest of the week: get there at 11:00am and hammer through the tunes till 10:00pm, stopping only for takeout around 6:00pm. At the end of the week, Larry smiled as he told me that he'd never recorded a full album in such a short amount of time. And I smiled back because that means it all clicked just as it should've.

I'm not a fan boy. I've been around successful artists since I was a kid, and I've never gotten caught up in the concept of fame. But I do recognize when I'm in the company of musical pedigree, and it wasn't lost on me that Larry has nurtured songs by some of the greatest songwriters in history. And that's not hyperbole. Dylan, Willie, and Paul Simon alone make up a short GOAT list. I knew who I was working with, and I was a very proud father to those ten songs we tracked that week. I wasn't awestruck to be there, but I was profoundly grateful that my songs had gotten the Larry Campbell treatment. Those kids deserve to wear nice clothes once in awhile.

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