This post has been a few months coming.
Back in 2010 David Shultz and I put together the idea and game plan for the band/record: Ophelia. We gathered friends: Grant Hunnicutt and Willis Thompson to make up the the rest of the members, and somehow (I don’t quite remember how it went down) Grant ended up not only playing bass, piano, guitar, and singing on the record, but engineering the whole damn thing, i.e. making a riverhouse into a recording studio, using mattresses as sound buffers, putting up with immature antics of David and myself, overdubbing sessions at his house, and mixing all ten songs. Needless to say, Grant went above and beyond the call of duty.
It was during the weekend Ophelia sessions that I decided I wanted to gift Grant some songs in appreciation for his hard work. Initially I gave him some country songs I had in hand (Under the Gun)–thinking they’d make good bluegrass tunes. Later on I ended up sending him a handful of songs I had lyrics for (Oklahoma Rose, Bay Bridge, Son Song, Sutter’s Mill), but no music, as well as some older recordings from 2001 (‘Oh, Elizabeth aka Hillcrest,’ Philadelphia, and Jefferson).
Grant, being the stand-up guy that he is, turned this gesture of friendship into a return gesture of friendship. He took the songs I sent him, wrote music to them, added some new lyrics, rearranged some old ones, and told me he wanted to record an album in the tradition of Merle Haggard’s tributes to Bob Wills and Jimmy Rodgers. On these classic records, there are oftentimes songs written by the singer in addition to the tribute songs. Grant followed this tradition as he included a handful of his tunes (some of the best on the record: Plain & True, Lying There, Broken Down, Long Drive), and a cover written by David Shultz (Butcher) that we all used to play in Ophelia.
After assembling the songs, he gathered a small group for the recording sessions including Jared Poole on mandolin, Jessika Blanks on fiddle– and he didn’t have to ask me twice. I borrowed my wife’s Hohner and we all got together, (for the most part unrehearsed) on a summer Saturday at the Bellevue Theater (RVA Studios). We all sat in a circle and played songs all day. It was beautiful.
The result is an album that I’m mighty proud to be a part of. It was released on Triple Stamp Records last fall with a small pressing and wide digital distribution. Check out the Triple Stamp website and check out the album.
Grant’s next project is a promotions network for old-timey music. He’s constructing a site from scratch, and gathering a great roster of bands. Keep an eye out!
I had tea and coffee recently with my friend Curtis Patton. He described Grant as Richmond’s secret weapon. It’s true. He’s always got something up his sleeve that makes me proud to have made my home in Richmond, VA: e.g. The Golden Band, The Bill Mason Society, River City Band, River City Sacred Singers.
I’m a big fan!