Why has Jonathan Edwards decided to record his first studio album in 16 years down on Casco Street at the Studio? Well, for one thing, he lives here, and it's close by. But, mostly, "it's been a really lucky find," says the folk legend, who was laying down a bass track on his Fender, right in the control room with engineer Jim Begley, when I walked in.
BACK IN THE STUDIO Jonathan Edwards.
"A friend of mine had me come in to record a vocal on a song he wrote, and I heard the place and met Jim and saw what was going on here and there was just an instant comfort level when I walked in the door," Edwards says.
"Yeah," says Begley, "and now he's moved in," gesturing to backpacks and instrument cases and jackets and hats.
"Hell," says Edwards, "they get cable in here and I'm staying for good."
Currently, Edwards is about six weeks into recording what he's calling My Love Will Keep, which will be his first studio release since 1994's One Day Closer (there have been a few live albums and soundtrack contributions in the meantime). Six tracks are mixed, mastered, and in the can. Another six or seven are getting pretty close. Edwards hopes to have the love-themed album done in time for a Valentine's Day release.
That bass track is meant to just about finish off "Surrounded," a bluegrassy tune with Duke Levine on mandola, Esperanza's Dylan Blanchard on congas, and International Bluegrass Music Association vocalist of 2010 Claire Lynch on backing vocals (yes, Edwards is putting some local players in some pretty awesome company). The song is organized like an A-frame, arcing up to a beautiful ascending vocal harmony, accentuated by that thrumming bass. Fiddle phenom Mike Barnett lends a lead in the second half that's pretty dang old-timey for a young kid.
Coolest of all, though, is watching Edwards lay down vocal tracks for "Lightkeeper," a song he wrote for The Lightkeepers, an indie film with Richard Dreyfuss and Blythe Danner that came out last year.
His friend the producer (Edwards apparently has lots of interesting friends) asked him originally to do the whole soundtrack, but Edwards demurred. He didn't have the time. But he said he'd love to write a song.
"So months went by," he remembers, "and I'm in Shaw's, getting groceries, and it's my friend: 'You still want to write that song?' I say, 'Yep.' He says, 'hold on, Richard Dreyfuss wants to give you some notes.'
"So, I'm like, 'Hi Dick.' I mean, what do you call him?" Dreyfuss starts talking and Edwards has to borrow a pen and some paper from the meat department to get it all down.
"I still have the piece of paper with notes on it," Edwards laughs. "And on the other side it says, 'Sirloin. $4.99 a pound.'"
The result is a haunting and rustic sea shanty of a song that's about 90 percent done, needing only lead vocals from Edwards. Already, the chorus is in place, a brilliant group of harmonies with Edwards and Devonsquare's Tom Dean and Alana MacDonald, both of whom have doubled their tracks so that the chorus is mammoth.