Recording with Martha Scanlan & Dirk Powell…
So much has been happening at the studio in the past few months that I’ve been guilty of not keeping my blog up to date! I can only take solace knowing that I’m hardly the first would-be blogger who has found themselves falling behind.
There are a lot of stories to tell about the more than 20 shows we’ve hosted in the past few months, but I’ll start with the story of recording one of my favorite rootsy singers, Martha Scanlan. You may know Martha from her role as frontwoman for the Reeltime Travelers, where she first recorded her original tune, “Little Bird of Heaven.”
So as it turns out, prolific novelist Joyce Carol Oates liked Martha’s song so much that she decided to name a book after it. That seemed like an apt time to re-record the song, and so, together with her good friend Dirk Powell, Martha visited Empty Sea to lay down a new version.
Now as it happens, “Little Bird” is my favorite song from the Reeltime Travelers’ album Living Reeltime, Thinking Old-Time. So I will admit to being a bit star struck by seeing one of my favorite singers walk through the studio door to record one my favorite songs of hers! The recording took place the night before Dirk’s show with John Doyle (the first in our Folklife Masters concert series), so I was meeting Dirk for the first time as well.
To make a long story short, it took longer to set up mics and check levels than it did for these consummate musicians to record a killer version of the tune — in one take! The result was a new version of “Little Bird of Heaven” that is a bit older and wiser than the zeal and youth of the Reeltime Travelers recording. First-take serendipity was the name of the game here.
It was a real pleasure to work with Dirk and Martha to put this together. You can download “Little Bird of Heaven” here to enjoy it yourself!