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In honor of the record I’m working on this week with Nate Sabin, I think the feature album for this time around should be one that he’s produced. My favorite in that category is a Minneapolis native named Michael Olson’s debut album called Long Arm Of Love. Overall, the record is definitely a Nashville, “Contemporary Christian” vibe, and yet there’s an artistic integrity that most CCM records don’t quite capture.
First of all, Olson has a killer voice. If you like a great vocal performance, then this is the record for you. After that, the songwriting is wonderful. Great arrangements, thoughtful lyrics, and catchy melodies. But like I said, the real draw to this record for me is the production, which is just dripping with cool tones and ideas. Odd time bars that still feel good, unorthodox instrumentation and parts, and lots of smart but abrupt left turns make the record feel at once like a great pop album AND an art concept.
All that being said, the real reason that I first listened this album was the drummer. Steve Brewster has been an A-list studio guy in Nashville for decades, and his playing on this album is SO GREAT. His sounds, his feel, his ideas… they are all top notch and very inspiring. I learn something every time I listen to his playing on this record. In fact, the Brewster’s performance on this record is what prompted me to write the post about the “less is more” concept. See… he plays a lot of notes, but it doesn’t FEEL like he plays a lot of notes, and how those two things coexist is amazing to me. His patterns often take strange turns and his fills are very big and full, yet you would never accuse him of overplaying. Awesome.
Also, I should note that I learned something really important from Steve Brewster… via my friend Aaron Fabbrini. Aaron was sitting in on a Brewster drum session down at Dark Horse studios in Nashville. He came back and told me that Brewster always uses some kind of sock (or washcloth or something) on the hihats. Yep, just drapes it across the hats and then hits on top of it. The towel dampens a little of the brash high end that make the hihat every engineer’s bitter enemy. Hats will normally bleed into all the other drum mics and make it difficult to mix levels properly, but the towel decreases that effect quite a bit. I’ve been using a towel on my hats in the studio for about a year now, and it works great. All you drummers… try it for yourself.
So, check out Michael Olson’s Long Arm Of Love and I promise you’ll like it. (Actually, click that link and also check out the new website I found with VERY cheap prices on discs.)