It’s Time to Annie Up!

May 1, 2013 9:00 AM, Mix, By Barbara Schultz

Nashville Trio Bring Rock Attitude With a Country Vibe

Polls


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Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert

“Whenever Frank, Chuck and I do a record together, I’ll usually bring along a handful of extra guitars and amplifiers,” Worf says. “On some impulse, I had thrown my old Telecaster in the car this time. We knew that Randy used to play quite a bit of electric guitar in years gone by; maybe that seed was planted somewhere in my mind when I brought that guitar along. In any case, when we took our first look at recording [the first single] ‘Hush Hush,’ it occurred to me to ask Randy if he’d mind playing electric instead of acoustic. He plugged into my Bassman, and it was a true revelation! His part really became the bedrock that ‘Hush Hush’ was built upon.

“I figure Randy is one of those guys that only ever says maybe 200 words per year,” Worf continues. “But he showed his alter-ego when he picked up that Tele!”

“Randy just eagerly jumped at that guitar,” Ainlay recalls. “Suddenly, he turned into Keith Richards!”

During the main tracking sessions, Trapp’s various amps (Vox, Fender, other custom models) were miked with an SM57 and a Royer R-121 up close, and an ADK Custom Shop CS-47J out in the room.

On Scruggs’ acoustic guitars, Ainlay set up a several different options: a pair of DPA 4011s in an x-y, an Audio-Technica 4050ST mic, an AKG C12, and an AEA R88 stereo mic. “On different songs, I chose different things,” Ainlay explains. “Some were different combinations, like the DPAs with the AEA backed off a bit to give some room ambience. But I don’t think you can get a bad guitar sound out of Randy Scruggs.”

Ainlay is also a fan of co-producer Worf’s bass playing: “He’s one of the greatest bass players we have in the studio business,” he says. “On him we were using a Millennia TD-1 as the direct path, and I had a Teletronix LA-2A on that. Then we had an ADK Custom Shop CS-49J on the Ampeg, and an [EV] RE20 on the Bassman.”

Ashley Monroe

Ashley Monroe

Drum sounds on the record probably came less from any miking scheme than from that live loft space they used. “That room leant itself to a sound that I remember from when I first started in Nashville, when the drums were generally in a booth or a small room,” Ainlay recalls. “Drums weren’t given the space they’re given these days, and I think that kind of confined sound is interesting; it has a bit of a throwback quality to it.”

Ainlay mixed Annie Up on the SSL 9000 J in Backstage Studio, just across the alley—a room he’s no longer financially invested in, but still feels like home. “We mixed down to my ATR-100 1-inch machine that I run at 15 ips, and I just love that machine,” he says. “It so big and fat and warm-sounding. Fifteen ips retains the bottom end, but you get a bit of saturation. I mix almost everything to that, as well as back to Nuendo, but I’d say that 95 percent of the time, analog ends up winning at mastering.”

Like the technical approach Ainlay used in Ronnie’s Place, the Pistol Annies’ sound walks a line between throwback and modern. Annie Up has some real old-school twang and picking on tracks like “Damn Thing,” and vocal harmonies always take you back. But the album rocks, too, and has that awareness of decades of music that only comes with critical distance.

“There’s a traditional element to the group, but there’s no point in remaking a record that purely sounds dated,” Ainlay says. “We definitely were trying to represent the past, but make it as forward- and energetic-sounding as a modern record. We used a lot of compression that wouldn’t have been used back in the day. There’s a modern, expressive quality about their songwriting, and that has to be there sonically as well.”

“These young women share a wicked sense of humor, and there are some real tongue-in-cheek songs on both this album and their first one,” Worf says. “Some songs are quite irreverent, but some are heartbreakingly simple and beautiful. My hope is that our production, along with this sparse-yet-brilliant band, helped them capture their passion as well as their keen wit. We knew that these guys would play with a great knowledge of traditional country, but just like the girls, wouldn’t hesitate to dig for something new.”






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