Evolution of an album 

Writing a new record is like going on a trip someplace you've never been, with no map and no idea how long it will take to get there. As I said in a previous post, albums take on a life of their own and change direction the more you write. This continues to be true of this one. I wrote a new song on Friday night and while it's in keeping with the dark tone of this record, it's kind of a mountain ballad which will probably consist simply of vocals, guitar and banjo. That being said, there is also a murder ballad on this record that seems to be heading towards a more Eleanor Rigby-like sound with strings and piano.
It's going to be a widely varied mixture of sounds, styles and influences I've gathered in my 30 odd years of making music and in 45 days we'll see where that takes us. I'm really looking forward to the journey ahead.

The search for sullen sounds 

Don't let the title of the blog post fool you. I'm not that much of a drag to be around. That being said, this album I'm about to record is full of dark imagery and requires a certain atmosphere to bring these stories to life. I've been listening to a wide variety of music ranging from Nick Cave's 1996 album Murder Ballads, to underappreciated folk singer Vashti Bunyan to the soundtrack to the recent horror film The Witch. When I saw The Witch I was struck by the visceral, truly bone-chilling effects that composer Mark Korven was able to summon with instruments such as the Swedish nyckelharpa, which is a bowed instrument much like a violin, but also employs the use of keys which gives it a distinctive, percussive sound.

He also used a waterphone which is a is a type of 'inharmonic acoustic percussion instrument consisting of a stainless steel resonator bowl or pan with a cylindrical neck and bronze rods of different lengths and diameters around the rim of the bowl. The resonator may contain a small amount of water giving the waterphone a vibrant ethereal sound that has appeared in movie soundtracks, record albums, and live performances.'

I also really like the sombre tone of a harmonium, which is essentially a portable pump organ.

Below are images and links to sounds of all the aforementioned instruments. I doubt I'll be able to gain access to some of these for my record, but the sounds certainly inspired the direction for some of the songs on this album. Hope you enjoy them.

Swedish Nyckelharpa

Waterphone - starts getting creepy at the 1:02 mark.

Harmonium - starts at the 0:54 sec mark.

Shannon Smith - Photographer for Folklore 

For this album, I've enlisted the photographic talents of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Shannon Smith. Working with a photographer is a daunting task in that you're trying not to be too self-conscious; this is especially true when you're working with a photographer you don't know. You want to capture an image that aligns with the music you're putting forth. However, working with someone you know is a true advantage; they know you, they can be truly honest with you and help you to be honest with the camera.

Here are a couple of images from what is sure to be the first of several photo shoots for this record.

For more examples of Shannon's stellar photography, check out his online portfolio here.
© 2016 Shannon Smith

© 2016 Shannon Smith

August 26 - Folklore begins 

This is the date the wheels are set in motion. This album I've been writing for the last 2+ years will finally start on its path with my dear friend Dale Murray, producer and multi-instrumentalist, at the helm. Finally.

The initial plan for this record was to record an album of murder ballads, but as the writing progressed, I realised the album encompassed more themes than simply the traditional murder ballad. The material veers from lost love to a shipwreck to murder to demons, both real and imagined.

It's going to be one of the most collaborative albums I've ever done. My songwriting partner, Helena Berlin, and I wrote many songs together, several of which will appear on this record. My wife Christina wrote some incredibly powerful music for two brand new songs. Lastly, Dale Murray will help me create the sonic landscapes necessary to bring these dark and haunted stories to life.

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