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Shawn Mullins and Nathan Sheppard at Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, GA 11

Time:2016-11-27 09:47wine - Red wine life health Click:

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Shawn Mullins and Nathan Sheppard at Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, GA 11

Singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins began work on his latest album over a year ago in Atlanta. Last February, about halfway through the recording process, Mullins decided he needed a change of scenery and sounds. He called his old friend in New Orleans, Mike West, at his home studio, The 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor.

"Mike played all over my Soul's Core album, and I love the sounds he gets on his own records," Mullins said. "I wanted that same, raw, unpolished sound for my new project, and luckily Mike had a week open. So I packed my things and together with my tour manager and my dog Roadie, some guitars and dog food, we headed west on I-10. We hit the brakes at the corner of Jourdan and Dauphine, in the heart of the 9th Ward in New Orleans. The Pickin' Parlor stood about one block from the Industrial Canal in a 100-year-old shotgun house. I tracked about half the album there, mostly the acoustic cuts. And like the rest of the record, I aimed for that 'old school' vibe. No loops or samples, live instruments only. If a note isn't perfect but the overall performance is there, that's what we kept. Mike and Katie made us feel like part of their family while we were in New Orleans. We headed back to Atlanta inspired and rejuvenated from the time we'd spent at their studio."

Mike and his family were on the road with their band Truckstop Honeymoon when Hurricane Katrina blew through. Their dogs were rescued by a neighbor who refused to evacuate until relief workers agreed to take the dogs he'd saved as well. The Pickin' Parlor was destroyed by the storm and flooding. They've since relocated to Lawrence, Kansas, where the studio is up and running again.

Mullins produced 9th Ward Pickin' Parlor with the help of a close circle of friends including West on guitar, mandolin, banjo and banjolin (a banjo/mandolin hybrid), Gerry Hansen and Kenny Malone on drums and percussion, David Labruyere (John Mayer) on bass, and Peter Stroud (Sheryl Crow and Don Henley) on electric guitar. Chris Thile of Nickel Creek lays down a tasty mandolin on "Homemade Wine." "A lot of the acoustic songs were done with me and Mike sitting face to face in the Parlor, Mullins said. "On the songs that were arranged for a band, we tracked the drums at Gerry Hansen's Creekside Station studio. The rest of the band songs, for the most part, were cut at Orphan Studio by Glenn Matullo (my old roommate, and engineer of Soul's Core). He was the first cat in town to have Protools, and he recorded three live albums for me and every studio album I've made since '95. Besides his work with me, Glenn engineered several albums for Indigo Girls and Collective Soul over the last several years and has worked with everyone from Outkast to Pink to John Mayer."

9th Ward Pickin' Parlor serves up a diverse palette of sounds, but the arrangements are always true to the songs. "Blue As You," written with Matthew Sweet and Pete Droge, fellow band mates from The Thorns, opens the album with a vocal that's reminiscent of Guy Clark or John Prine. "Beautiful Wreck," the album's first single, co-written with Glenn Phillips (Toad The Wet Sprocket), Droge, and Marshall Altman, is a rocker that sardonically celebrates a self-destructive friend. "Cold Black Heart" is a murder ballad. "It's the kind of song I thought Johnny Cash might like to have sung," Mullins explains. The track features Mullins on Charango, (a 10-stringed Bolivian instrument), Mike West on banjo, and a wall of drums and percussion. "Lay Down Your Swords Boys" is a Woody Guthrie-style anti-war tune, delivered in Mullins' gravel-laced baritone. The sultry "Solitaire" is a simple love song that sounds like it could easily have been written in the 1940's. And the album closes with the classic, "House of the Rising Sun."

Shawn's love of music started before he can remember. "I just grew up around it," Mullins said. "My grandfather played upright bass and bass horns professionally for 50 years. When I was four years old, he bought me a scaled down drum kit. He'd play his bass fiddle along with me. I remember putting on Ike and Tina Turner's version of 'Proud Mary' and trying to play my little drums along with it. Talk about jumping into the deep end of the pool. A few years later my older brother Mark taught me some songs on the guitar. He and my sister could both play and sing, and my mom is a musician as well. She can make music on anything she picks up, pretty much. We had a wide range of popular music playing in the house as I was growing up. My dad worked for the railroad and moonlighted for the Rich's department store in downtown Atlanta where he bought discounted stereo equipment from the store's warehouse. We had a reel-to-reel player and a decent turntable. Dad had a peach crate full of great records; Isaac Hayes, the Jesus Christ Superstar Soundtrack, Little Richard, Janis Joplin, Soundtrack to 2001 Space Odyssey, The Beatles' White Album, James Taylor, and Kris Kristofferson."

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