Photos by Ebet Roberts
Grammy Award-winning member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, musician and producer John McEuen will soon be releasing a new solo album on Chesky Records, Made in Brooklyn—not surprisingly, recorded in Brooklyn, NY. The album features the man-for-all seasons on guitar, mandolin, banjo, and fiddle, a few special appearances from David Bromberg, Steve Martin, David Amram, John Carter Cash, Martha Redbone, Andy Goessling and Jay Ungar to name a few.
We were privileged to stand by as McEuen and several of his friends who’d played on his upcoming Made In Brooklyn album shot a promotional video. The video will feature McEuen, Martha Redbone, Railroad Earth’s Andy Goessling and the venerable David Amram, but half the fun was McEuen’s enthusiasm for his latest project. Here’s a sampling of what he had to say:
David Amram and I have been playing together for the last 12 or 15 years, and we’ve been passing the same $50 bill back and forth. “Here’s some gas money.” Here’s a guy whose music was conducted by Leonard Bernstein. He was a guest conductor, he was at Pete Seeger’s deathbed, he played with Woody Guthrie, he was friends with Jack Kerouac. This is a piece of American history who knows how to play.
Warren Zevon wound up writing what is essentially a new Bluegrass song, “Excitable Boy.” David Bromberg’s wife said, “I hate this song. Your voice is perfect for it,” and David Bromberg wound up singing a Warren Zevon song.
Made in Brooklyn is all first-take type of recording. Roy Acuff came into the recording studio when we were doing the Circle session, and he said, “Now boys, you better do it right the first time, because every time you do it over it’s going to lose something.”
This is the first time Steve Martin was called in as a musician. Steve and I grew up together. We met at Disneyland, working at Tomorrowland, and we were both trying to get a job at the Magic Shop. It was really fun to have Steve do this, as a musician.
We were doing “I Rose Up”…that was a big gathering…I think we had all 12 people, and it just really rocked the house. in this special Chesky recording process, which was in a church in Brooklyn, and it was absolutely fitting. The sound was incredible. When you stopped, you could hear the room—you don’t have to add the dual echo, or anything.
People have been asking me, How do you describe this process?. Have you ever dropped your keys, or heard a bird chirping in the tree? You can tell if it’s coming from above or behind even if your eyes are shut. A normal stereo record is mixed right to left, and you have two speakers. But you are not addressing the fact that when people are playing it’s covering the whole room. Here, it sounds like you are surrounded by the musicians, and you are part of the band. I hope people start checking it out just for the audio quality.