Honestly, the last thing I expected for this CD was “on time and on budget,” (whatever that means?) But here we are, and OK, GnG, I’ll admit it… I’m a bit in shock. I have to say, though, the challenges of recording in multiple cities with completely separate recording systems and engineers is, even as I write this, still daunting. But I want to believe we’re actually almost very nearly ever-so-close-to-being done, so dammit, we are… that is, IF we find all the missing elements we’ve recorded over these past 9 months. Bizarrely, certain “inconsequential” things seem now to be somehow missing from the compiled “masters,” scattered among 6 different recording studios between Nashville and Santa Barbara/Ojai!

Where the heck could all that stuff be? (No big deal, really. I’m just talking about a few trivial things, like my lead-frickin’-vocal on “Feelin’ Brave,” or Scott Bernard’s new guitar solo on “Dream, or all of Gary and Georgia’s unimportant background vocals on “How’s That Workin’ For Ya?” No reason to get all worked up, right? Aaargh!)

OK. Let’s back up. For the uninitiated among you, I’ll do an oversimplified explanation of our recording process. (Please note: This is NOT how most acts record these days, but we wanted this CD to feel as “live” as possible, especially since we can recreate our sound live on stage, so…) Our music is recorded in stages:

First comes a “basic track,” played live-in-studio by a drummer, bassist, a guitar player or 3, a keys player (on a few songs), and we may even sing live vocals with them whenever possible. (Ironically, few studios are set up to do all that many things live at once.)

After that, individual elements, such as percussion, other vocals, guitar solos, slide-guitar solos, harmonica, dobro, pedal steel guitar, some extra keyboards, stuff like that are added on one at a time in far flung (apparently) locations, to later be pieced all together by the Clark Kents of the process, the recording engineers/Pro-Tools specialists. (Pro-Tools is the “recording machine” standard of the industry these days, though arguably.)

Once all the elements of a song are recorded, in a perfect world they’re all “mixed” together by the “mix-down engineer.” God willing… if he can find them.

So I’m saying my bed-time prayers twice a night lately. But I must admit, I have a lot of faith in Jesse Siebenberg too, our Associate Producer, and in his ProTools sleuthing abilities.

Let me add here that Jesse’s also one hell of a multi-talented musician! Jesse Siebenberg may remain The Riders’ un-sung hero, our “secret weapon” if you will, but when you look a bit closer at the CD credits, you’ll find his fingerprints all over this record. (I still call ‘em “records.” After all, we’re still surrounded by Recording Studios and Record Companies, aren’t we? What do they make or sell, pizzas?)

Born in London, Jesse’s the wunderkind son of Bob Siebenberg, the drummer of 70’s super-band, Supertramp. (Now that Jesse’s over 30 years old, I refer to him as the ex-child-prodigy.) Even though he’s a Berklee School of Music grad, he’s actually self-taught on drums, most percussion, all guitars including most notably on our CD, the lap-slide guitar, electric and upright basses, he’s a very adequate keyboard, synth, piano, pump-organ, Hammond Organ manipulator, and as if that’s not scary enough… he’s a damn fine singer. (He’s been one of the lead singers of Supertramp since he was 20 years old!)

Oh yeah, and did I mention he’s a wiz-kid with the Pro-Tools too?

Ya’ might say he’s a “Studio-in-a-box,” and between the two of us, we “get-‘er-done.” (Ya might say that.) All I know is, whenever I’m in the studio with Jesse, I know something cool is about to happen.

In the tradition of so many “George Martin-type 5th Beatles” over the history of rock n roll, when it comes to this new Blue Sky Riders CD, from his bat-cave in Ojai he calls Brotheryn Studios, Jesse has quietly, powerfully helped shape the Blue Sky Riders’ sound. I’m proud to be able to share my “little bro” with Gary and Georgia, and we are graced by his generosity and way-too-intimidating talent. No… really. (Now get back to work and find those missing tracks!)

So here’s one of my favorite picture’s of Jesse at work, playing one of his “rare E-Bay finds,” a unique 12-string acoustic/electric dobro, slip-sliding his way through the solo of “You’re Not the Boss of Me.”

As you can see, he does not know “The Band” broke up years ago, as he still emulates their look, but I’d appreciate it if no one tells him. Let’s just let that be our little secret. The news could rock his world, and I don’t want to mess with perfection. He’s on shaky ground as it is.

For the past 5 years, through almost 4 projects including this one, I’ve considered Jesse my own personal “secret weapon” too, but after this CD comes out I suspect that secret will be harder to keep.

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