MacBook Pro running Mac OS X 10.5.3 and Digidesign Pro Tools LE 7.4.2 with Mbox 2 interface; Groove Tubes Supre mic preamp; Mackie 1402-VLZ3 mixer; Sterling ST55 and Shure KSM 109 mics; classical guitar, homemade no-name Dobro, Hohner harmonica, and plastic egg shaker.
Reviewed By: Marty Peters
Recording: Rick has delivered a stripped-down, mellow track here. Fans of J.J. Cale will be familiar with the style. Since there are advantages and disadvantages to such a naked approach, let’s see how Rick made out with “Water Moccasin”.
As most of you old-timers out there know, there was a time when most home/project studio setups were limited to four tracks, with eight tracks considered to be a real luxury. The advantage to this (on the surface) limitation was that preproduction and the song/tracking arrangement became extremely important. A premium was also placed on the quality of each performance. No cut and paste (aside from cutting the tape with a razor blade and pasting with splice tape), Auto-Tune or plug-ins, remember. Because of this, many of us learned some very fundamental skills such as mic selection/placement, drum tuning and other seemingly arcane tasks that sadly appear to be going the way of analog tape and cheap gas!
Ironically, many of what were considered advantages, i.e. the aforementioned preproduction, tuning etc.. have now been replaced by cut and paste, Beat Detective, Auto-Tune, and a myriad of plug-ins with unlimited track counts, and their impact on arrangement, tuning and timing. And the beat goes on, they say.
So how does this all relate to Ramblin Rick? Well, he seems to make the type of music that would probably not benefit a whole lot from the latter scenario. With a limited number of sound sources, he would however benefit greatly from a more “old school” approach.
Basing the main focus of his track around his Dobro, Rick’s results are somewhat mixed. The Dobro itself is fine, a bit on the dark side, but we’ll take that over bright and brittle any day. As for the other sound sources, we would liked to have heard a fuller/deeper shaker sound, or perhaps a combination of them. Yeah, we know it’s only a shaker, but it is serving the role of defacto drum as the main time keeper here, and that increases its role in our eyes (and ears). As for the other member of the rhythm section, we found the bass sound to be a bit muddy and uneven in spots. Checking Rick’s equipment list failed to reveal a source for the bass sound, but the problem remains regardless.
Suggestions: As we mentioned earlier, a track this minimal leaves not much room to hide. We would like to see Rick go back and re-track his shaker part with a much larger instrument than his shaker egg. A tomato or apple shaker would be a good starting point, and in combination could probably yield some solid results!
As for the bass, without knowing its origin we can only advise that (if it is indeed an actual acoustic instrument) Rick try double-miking it, high and low, or use a combination of a mic and pickup to gain some more clarity. A sensible dose of compression would also be advisable.
Summary: Nice and simple—the simple part is there, now we need to add nice.
Contact: Ramblin Rick, no permission given to publish contact data.