© 2007 by Spider Robinson; all rights reserved.
I've been present at some extremely professional recording sessions, a few of them sublime. (I still have the pick Amos Garrett cracked cutting "Sleepwalk.") One thing they all had in common: they took time .
Bags of it, no matter how good the producer or expert the players. A preposterous amount of time setting up--then take after take--then endless hours of choosing and mixing and tweaking and fooling with the arrangement. I myself once spent over two months with a terrific producer and some of the best session musicians on the planet, recording four whole tracks. I listen closely to music, because I know how many hours of heartache lie behind each happy second.
Then this summer I drove up to Forbidden Plateau on Vancouver Island, and a straight-up miracle occurred before my very eyes and ears.
On that enticingly-named bit of Vancouver Island mountainside stands the Coastal Trek Health & Fitness Resort (www.coastaltrekresort.com), a spa of surpassing spiffiness and serenity, with a view of the Comox Valley and mainland BC in the far distance that is impressive even to someone who's seen Vancouver and Rio. Genial hosts Shayne and Andrea Stuchbery have the magical ability to take a pound or two a day off you while feeding you food to die for and good conversation.
And in the Great Room overlooking that panoramic view I witnessed magic of a different and equally extraordinary kind. On July 24, 2007, I sat quietly, a spider on the wall, while Doug Cox, Sam Hurrie and Miles Wilkinson cut an album in a day.
Not just an album, but one of the best and tightest and purest records in even their illustrious careers. Miles (www.mileswilkinson.com) recorded Ann Murray's "Snowbird," and nowadays records people like Willie, Dolly and Darrell Scott. He rolled in a pair of large trunks, opened them, and SHAZAM! a worldclass Mac-based recording studio appeared. Doug and Sam (www.windsweptmedia.ca/dougcoxandsamhurrie/) are simply two of the best and most accomplished acoustic roots musicians in North America, without a trace of the self-destructive personality associated with that lifestyle-choice. They wandered in, chatted with me and Miles awhile, opened up their cases, tuned up their axes, and took off their shoes and socks. And then, in no particular hurry, they recorded 13 perfect tracks in about 16 takes before dinnertime. If I'm lyin' I'm dyin'. Miles had it mixed by mid-afternoon next day. Magic: ask any musician.
Audio samples: Black Girl (mp3), Fishpond Holler (mp3), France Blues (mp3)
The source of the magic, of course, is what all three men brought to the room, and everything that brought them there together. Two veteran bluesmen who've been friends so long, telepathy is effortless by now--playing in a spot so beautiful and acoustically rich it reinspires them with what Buddhists call Beginner's Mind--captured live off the floor by a wandering wizard who likes to drive around the continent in search of Road Cool.
Result: lightning in a jar. The Real Deal on strings of steel. A perfect day at Coastal Trek Lodge on Forbidden Plateau--one that we can all revisit any time we need to. Thank you for that, Miles. Thank you Shayne and Andrea, for making it possible. And thank you Doug and Sam, for not even noticing how well you were playing until you both suddenly realized you were done.