It’s been a few of months now since Folk Soul Revival invited me into the studio to record their third album, “Prompting the Dapperness.” The memory of this session is fresh on my mind – especially since I just received the master tracks that lend perspective to what the guys have been working on since they began this project.

Earlier this year, Folk Soul Revival launched a successful Kickstarter campaign which generated an amazing $18,810 in donations from fans and the “congregation” to make this project a reality.

The name of the album is a tribute to Allun Cormier, a gifted songwriter who died tragically in a house fire just after the release of the second record on New Year’s Eve of 2011. Allun helped build the following of Folk Soul Revival and will forever be a part of the band’s DNA.

According to bassist Brandon Sturgill, one of the guys in the band showed up in a suit. Cormier asked “What’s prompting the dapperness?” The story is recited like it was yesterday and they all agreed at the time the response was worthy of an album title.

After the KickStarter fundraiser ended, Charles Fontaine, the band’s manager immediately put the sessions in motion.

For me, a message arrived via Facebook to lay down some tracks on keyboards. It wasn’t long after that I received several rough recordings from vocalist Daniel Davis’s living room.

The first recording date was set for Friday, March 16th at Classic Studios in Bristol, VA.

Classic Recording Studios is landmark studio located near the Birthplace of Country Music where Jimmy Rogers first recorded in 1925.

Purchased by guitar legend Chet Atkins, the studio has served as the launchpad for many players including country music favorite Kenny Chesney.

The band had rented the entire studio for three days and invited engineer/producer Chad Brown, a former Bristol, VA native, several other talented musicians and a photographer/video crew to capture the experience which included a live performance at Bristol Motor Speedway during the 2012 Food City 500.

After a busy morning at the office I drove to studio, parked the car on sixth street and the band was outside eating lunch on the curb. Sandwiches and bacon-chocolate chip cookies were passed around while some of the new songs were swirling into the street from the control room.

Within a few minutes, I was seated at the Baldwin grand piano in a warm, sound-proof room recording the piano parts to the title track – “Prompting The Dapperness.”

My buddy Kevin Jackson was joining me for the sessions. He’s a talented fiddle player and you’ll see his name on many recordings around the region. Kevin currently plays with Wolf Creek and he’s always telling great stories, but soon after I finished the tracks we were standing on the street talking about recording.

Leaning toward me, holding his cigarette he asked, “You know what I love so much about recording?”

“What I asked?” – somewhat expecting his usual punch line.

“As a musician, the best thing about recording is…it’s timeless – it lasts forever.”

I’ll probably never forget that line. In fact, there are many tales etched in the catacombs that involve Jackson.

Back in the studio, I was amazed how organized everything became once the headphones were on, the doors were closed and the recording light was on. One might imagine there would be a lot of goofing off around the music, but this session was quite different. Instead, it was comfortably focused due in large part to the band’s manager Charles Fontaine and producer Chad Brown.

Chad Brown worked the studio throughout the weekend like a mad man amped up on Red Bull. He had an infectious  enthusiasm and that never ran out of steam. He has a distinct understanding of all the sliders and knobs, knows his music and has an innate sense as what compliments the essence of the Folk Soul sound.

Together, these two pros know their stuff. I’ve often said Fontaine is probably the best band manager I’ve seen in East Tennessee. He handles all the bookings, promotion, legal, social media, media contacts and everything from sushi to drinks for the business of Folk Soul.

While in the studio, a few things became apparent about this band. The first regards the unique talents each bring to their brotherhood and the other is how they approach their fans, their music and their relationships with focus and humility.

We were all in the studio creating the songs (to a large part) that come from Daniel Davis and Justin Venable.

Davis is a reflective sage who crafts lyric and voice into a collection of memorable and personal songs. Underneath the baseball cap, behind the t-shirt and the formidable beard (that comes and goes these days), Daniel has penned some terrific songs including ‘Gun’ and one of my favorites ‘This Old Flame.’

In fact, the Folk Soul discography includes several of Daniel’s memetic songs and when you see people at shows singing back to the stage – it’s easy to understand why this band has been embraced by their congregation.

Justin Venable is the deputy frontman for the band when they play live. He connects well with the fans and offstage his personna offstage is the same in front of one or thousands. He’s got a swagger when he walks and a voice that instantly sounds like he could be a country crooner. His words resonate with an accent and deep baritone style on several new songs.

On ‘Whiskey and Gin,’it’s hard not to compare his voice to some of country music’s most enduring voices like George Jones, Merle Haggard and others.

He’s no one-trick pony though. ‘Whiskey’ could easily be a honky tonk standard, but one of the record’s deepest ballads is a Venable original. ‘Queen City’ is intimate and symphonic in the final mix and exhibits the rich layers of Justin’s abilities.

Since the last record, Folk Soul Revival have brought aboard two new talented players that compliment not only the music but the character of this regional success story.

Following Allun Cormier would have been a challenge for any musician, but Daniel Vanover is an appropriate choice for Folk Soul.

Vanover replaced Allun shortly after his death. A fresh young talent, Daniel works at Alpha Natural Resources and is a talented guitarist, harmonica player, slide guitarist and vocalist. His boyish good looks makes him appear to be one of the youngest members of the band and he also contributed one of the band’s new singles called “Holy Man.”

I’d first heard about Dan Witt from his father Wally Witt who used to have a automotive dealership in Norton, VA. Wally used to tell me about his son’s bands and I was surprised to share the stories with him.

Dan is the newest addition to the band replacing Aaron Faust on drums earlier in the year. His tall, athletic build is accented by tattoos on his arms and legs, but his steady rhythm and comfortable style is a fresh compliment to the band’s camraderie. He’s got a great sense of timing too and contributed great ideas on the new record.

As the songs continued to develop in the studio, it’s obvious that underneath the songs and the players, there’s another element to the band’s distinctive style that resonates well to their fans. The mood and pleasure principle of each of the songs are easy to sing and they’re complimented by rich voices accented in the production process with the help of Chad Brown.

One of the most memorable moments of our first night was the entrance of Brittany Carter in the studio. Dressed in a fashionable black skirt with her flame red hair, she comes to the band following her successful rise in the local music scene with her band “If Birds Could Fly.”

Another Southwest Virginia wildflower, Carter has a voice that could have easily been the offspring of Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. She’s got an angelic vibrato and bold mountain color that is certainly going to earn the respect of the industry. Her band has already garnered a recording contract and she’s only just begun at age 23.

Carter was invited to join in a duet with Daniel Davis on the song ‘This Old Flame’ and together they sing with such originality that fans will certainly be reciting the lyrics, “It’s the end of the month and love won’t pay the rent” for months to come.

The Friday session was complimented by sushi and wine from Inari wines in Bristol and the control room was shutdown around 2am. Even though the band had been in the studio for the 14 hours, this was only the beginning for the weekend session.

I didn’t have to play the Saturday sessions. While I took off on the Virginia Creeper trail (my regular Bristol Spring Race activity), the band had a busy schedule. They were back in the studio recording additional tracks in the afternoon, but the highlight for the day were a couple of performances at the Bristol Motor Speedway.

The first was an interview with ESPN’s Speedweek who were in town covering the race. Part of the interview was spent in the bed of a pick-up truck cruising the 36 degree banks of the race track while playing a song or two. It was amusing to hear the tale too because apparently there were a few moments when the guys almost fell out of the truck during the interview.

Later that evening, the video crew from Nashville joined the band for a performance before 5,000 fans at the Earhart Campground. The congregation was there too and from that performance came one of the best video shoots of the band’s career. “Jawbone Blues” a song titled after a red wine from Mountain Rose Vinyard in Wise, Virginia is featured in this excellent footage.

On Sunday, I returned to the studio in the afternoon to finish up several new tracks. In the studio for the afternoon sessions was Black Lillies steel guitarist Tom Pryor. Tom’s a distinctive and subtle steel player who brought a rich soundscape to several tracks include ‘Gun,’ ‘Whiskey and Gin; and ‘Holy Man.’

In between songs, the guys mingled on the streets to check Facebook, Twitter updates and cell phone calls. More important were the stories shared from the weekend’s events. Sessions, concerts, interviews and late night bars on State Street left volumes of memories that felt thrilling and exhaustive. It didn’t seem to affect the studio sessions though as each song began to take shape and by midnight, the basic tracks were in place.

Over the past few months, the songs made their way back to Nashville and Chad has been working hours on post-production subleties including harmonies, horn sections, tamborines and few other keyboard and instrumentalists including clarinets that make their way to the title track and “Puppet.”

They’re still a few weeks away from the release and as you might expect are a bit anxious. The band has been playing the new album at several concert dates throughout the Summer, so the congregation has had plenty of time to get used to the new material.

My hope is that when the final tracks are mixed and the album art is finished – a brand new Folk Soul Revival record will sell out in no time at all. At this point, the band expects an August release – just in time for the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Festival.

Like Kevin said – “recording is timeless.” Looking back at this amazing weekend, I’m very fortunate to have a spot on this recording. More important though, I appreciate any experience with the musicians in this band. I’m convinced that underneath the persona of fine musicians, there’s so much more to these young musicians with big hearts for their union and real appreciation for their fans.

Perhaps someday soon, I’ll get to wear a suit and perform with the band. I can only hope that I get the look and then the question – which we can now sing in unison – “What’s prompting the dapperness.”

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