Tuesday, October 09, 2007


We have dulcified the record.

As a connoisseur of Rich Mullins's music, my appreciation for a hammered dulcimer in a song goes without saying. Each of my records has a dulcimer on it somewhere, mainly to satisfy my personal jones for that bright rhythmic sound, but also because it reminds me of the music that changed me so many years ago.

If I had been wrecked into a spiritual awakening by Bob Dylan's music, chances are you'd hear a harmonica on every album; if it had been Zeppelin, you'd probably hear several songs with electric riffs in 5/8 time. But the music that pulled me out of whatever bland complacency I was slogging through in the early nineties was the intensely personal, musically dramatic songwriting of Rich Mullins.

I remember with embarrassment that when we were recording "Rise and Shine" on my first label record, everyone in the studio knew that we were copping Mullins. It was the elephant in the room. I didn't really care, to be honest. Rich had died about a year prior, I was still grieving (or whatever you call it when you never knew someone but you wish you had) and I wanted the song to remind me of him. It worked.

Years earlier, when I first started playing with my old buddy Gabe Scott (now known to the public ironically as "the guy who plays all those instruments with Bebo"), he played the hammered dulcimer on a few songs. (I tried to play it, but being deficient in the ways of time-keeping, I left it to people more capable than I.)

My second record just needed some dulcimer on "No More Faith", and Gabe was the man to deliver it. The third required it on "High Noon", and Gabe brought it again, as well as on "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" from the Christmas album.

Then Ben stepped out from behind the piano and played dulcimer on "Mystery of Mercy" from The Far Country--it was a really difficult part, and I was plumb amazed that he did it so well.

Tonight we had the blessing of working with a third dulcimer player: Marcus Myers. I find it remarkable that I know not one but three excellent players of such a relatively obscure (and difficult) instrument. With all these guys around, why not put dulcimer on every record?

Marcus spent the last three hours working on dulcimer parts for "Hosanna", "The Good Confession", and "All Things New", and he knocked it out of the park. He's a really great fiddle player (he's the guy playing on the instrumentals on Behold the Lamb), can hold his own on the bass guitar, and whacks his hammered dulcimer so hard he used to break strings all the time in his old band (Silers Bald). Because of the profusion of dulcimer-ists in my life, we haven't recorded Marcus playing it before, so I didn't know what to expect. He learned the parts quickly, had lots of his own ideas, and played in time.

It was a fun evening.

So tomorrow we're bringing back good ol' Matt Pierson, the bass player. One of the songs was sped up several clicks, and another needed a key change, which rendered Matt's tracks on those songs obsolete. We were able to use all the drums, but everything else had to be re-recorded. Matt's fine playing is nearly all that remains on these two songs ("Hosanna" and "All Things New").

Folks, we're getting close to being finished with the recording of this album.

That's the news from Lake Wobegon. In case you're feeling movie-deprived, hang in there. As soon as things slow down a bit we have quite a lot of footage to edit into some disposable entertainment, like our string quartet session, Stuart Duncan, and tonight's foray with Marcus.

Stay tuned.


Zach Delph said...

nice Garrison Keillor reference there...

lyndsay said...

woohoo! marcus! i miss silars bald. i've been known to throw their cds in the player every now and again. his musical abilities astound me.

the record is almost finished!! (with recording, at least) that deserves another WOOHOO!! :)

Tree Newt said...

Three dulcified songs on the new AP?!!! I can harldy wait! This blog is like watching Paula Deens cooking show: by the time you get finished watching, you just want to get up and eat a whole stick of butter. I can't wait for this record!

Scribbling Suit said...

Before my husband knew what it was called he referred to the dulcimer as the "Rich Mullins instrument." Can't wait for the finished record. Been listening to Behold this week to go along with a sermon series at our church.

eiszoe said...

There's a really cool dulcimer store over in Black Mountain, NC. It was very tempting to drop the credit card and get one when we visited. But, other than money holding me back, it almost felt blasphemous to buy one when I knew nothing about how to play it. Almost like its angelic sound requires that only the divinely talented may touch it. I think that way about the instrument because of Mullins' legacy.

Shadowphone said...

I've always appreciated your inclination toward using the h. dulcimer on each album, and I'm glad to see it continuing here.

So was that Marcus playing on the third City on a Hill album? I assume he was still with SB back then...

Unknown said...

Great news. I spent the majority of my flight from Tucson to Chicago today listening to non-stop AP and was wondering, just a few hours ago, if there'd be any HD. Glad there is

chart said...

More cow bell! Oh, I mean more hammer dulcimer! WooHoo! Can't ever have too much hammer dulcimer.

lyndsay said...

but eiszoe, you're never going to know how to play it if you don't buy one!! i LOVE black mountain - song of the wood is where a dear friend buys all his dulcimers. yes, "all" - he has multiple. http://www.danlandrum.com/

Rebekah Mitchell said...

LOVE hammered dulcimer. Always makes me think of Rich's "Calling Out Your Name" which is my favorite song of his, EVER. ;)

I think I may have said this before, but, um: Can't WAIT to hear this record!