I grew up near a magical town in the foothills of California called Nevada City. Back when I was in high school we'd see Jonathan Richman walking down the street or Gary Snyder reading his poetry, and the town was full of musicians, artists and interesting people. My friends and I learned to DJ at the public radio station, and enjoyed nature in the tall pines and cool rivers. It was a special place for me. In recent years I've met and heard of a number of younger musicians that have come from this town, and I'm not surprised that many are unique and special. Alela Diane is the songwriting, singing and finger-picking daughter of local musician Tom Menig, and her father played on and recorded most of To Be Still as well as her previous album, The Pirate's Gospel. What's amazing to me is compared to her first work, To Be Still comes across as much more mature, with her singing pulling away from a more affected "old time" sound to a comfortable voice that sounds older than her 26 years and much more natural. I really have to admit that this record has captivated me for days, something that rarely happens to a jaded hack like me. And it reminds me of where I grew up some 30 years ago, before Alela was even born. -LC

It turns out that To Be Still was mixed here at The Hangar by Tape Op contributor Thom Monahan. I thought I'd talk to the two T(h)oms about recording and mixing the album. Tom had this to say about the tracking: "All of the drums except on "Every Path" were recorded at the Type Foundry in Portland, OR. We ended up redoing 90 percent of the vocals and acoustic guitar in my studio, Sundial Studio in Nevada City. We also recorded all of the overdubs at my place - cello, pedal steel, violin, mandolin, second guitar parts, etc. I recorded everything on my PC with Steinberg's Nuendo. Pretty much everything was recorded with some newer Neumann U87s through a UA LA-610. For the stereo acoustic I ran the second U87 through a Presonus Eureka Channel. The guitar we used on 90 percent of the record is a 1946 Gibson LG-2. Alela insisted that I pull the baffles out of the windows in the studio so she could look out at nature for inspiration while recording. Alela is a big fan of the late folk singer/songwriter, Kate Wolf, so she was excited to have Kate's long-time guitar player, Nina Gerber, an old friend of mine, play on a few songs. We also had my good friend and pedal steel master Pete Grant, who played with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, play on a few songs. Alela's violin teacher from when she was five years old ,Rondi Soule, played on a few songs as well." Next Tom brought the tracks to Thom here at the Hangar. Thom recalled the mixing fondly: "Tom so totally rules, we had a lovely time working together. The mix was pretty straightforward once we got rolling. Tom had roughs that he had made that were killer, but we knew they could go further. On one hand it was easy, but on the other tough, because we always had to beat the rough mix. After the first day, I had Tom bring in his computer because we found there was no steadfast rule as to whether we needed his tracks with or without effects printed. Sometimes I found I wanted to use or hear his reverbs and/or compression and EQ settings as the song needed those to work. We mixed to the ATR 102 1/2" at 15 ips with a roll of 499 that I had lying around and would just transfer in through the UA 2192 as soon as we were done. I'd run stems digitally after that. There were about 5 songs that we revisited and I went back and remixed from the stems and then ran to tape later. For reverb we used a lot of the EMT-140, some AKG BX-10, and some BX-20. Most of the time, I automated the send into the plate on her vocals and just rode it word by word. It helped keep the reverb from getting too strong, that way I could keep it up louder, but you wouldn't notice it as much. I have really fond memories of Tom's 'super stoked'-ness every day. He was just in love with the whole process and Alela's really sweet and very focused." Finally, the digital files were mastered by JJ Golden at Golden Mastering in Ventura, CA. www.aleladiane.com, www.beggarsgroupusa.com -JB

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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