My girl has inspired me to get blogging about my craft. Here we go …
Raymond, Mississippi is the home of AVA Entertainment, a recording studio owned and operated by Tom Easley. In June of 2021 Debbie and I landed there for a week of recording four of my songs. It was a blast! Let me tell you how we ended up there.
A good friend of mine is the Mississippi Soul Man, Danny Brooks. When he and his wife, Lil’ Miss Debbie went to record their recent album The Mississippi Sessions, they were directed to Tom Easley because of his years of experience with live sound and in the studio. In fact, Tom engineered at the famous MALACO Records in Jackson, MS for a number of years.
Listening to the recording, and trusting Danny’s choice for who to work with, I contacted Tom and immediately hit it off. We were on the same page musically. When I mentioned that my style involved Native American flute his ears perked up and he encouraged me to come down.
My original intent was to do one song just to see what it would sound like. We ended up doing four songs with the idea that an album is worth shooting for. The project quickly expanded when the musicians showed up. It was like meeting my new “old friends”. I wanted a “band sound”, cutting the tracks together so the groove would be solid, and that’s exactly what we got.
Tom’s choice of musicians was right on for my sound. Geri O’Neil, the bassist, is also the sound engineer. Sam Brady brought in his keys and a Leslie! (I liked him immediately). Vince Barranco came in ready to tune up the drums and do some very creative drumming. With me doing the guitar and vocals, that rounded out the foundation for tracking. In one day we laid it down and honed it in. These guys certainly breathed life into my songs.
I was so encouraged by quality of, not only the musicianship, but also the down-home friendliness that I asked Tom about a singer to join in the fun. He mentioned three ladies, two of which had been associated with MALACO “back in the day”, and another lady who sings with them. I quickly forgot about my budget and gave him the go ahead. He called, they were available and showed up ready to take my babies to new heights.
Jewell Bass is one of the great voices of MALACO’s golden years. She even had success with her rendition of “Mr. Big Stuff”.Tomisene Anderson also recorded background vocals at MALACO, and came in ready to sing. Rounding out the trio is Jewell’s niece, Monica T. Shepherd, who has a successful singing career of her own.
Lastly, Monica’s dad, Malcolm Shepherd, added his touch on congas and bongos.
Tom’s AVA Entertainment is a wonderful place to record. Designed by the legendary Claude Hill, the studio boasts a stationary location and a mixing room that doubles as a live rig. Presonus Studio One is the DAW of choice here and the sound they get is stellar. In fact, it’s been labeled “New Vintage”. you’ll see why when I release the rest of the recordings. To date, “Back Country Fun” is out and doing well. Take a listen if you haven’t already, and let me know if you hear that vintage vibe.
Tom Easley and Howie Campbell
AVA Entertainment in Raymond, MS