Jim Mathis

Monday, March 16, 2009

Recording session

This weekend I worked a recording session. I don’t think anybody, particularly me, was overly excited with my performance. When I expressed my frustration to my wife, she was not surprised. She reminded me that I am an entertainer, not a studio musician. Session musician and entertainer are on the opposite ends of the personality spectrum for musicians. This has nothing to do with musical skills and everything to do with personality type.

I am at my best in front of an audience. I get energy from the crowd. Playing with people that I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing music with, doing a song I’ve done a hundred times, in front of a full house is the best. Sitting in a sound proof room with headphones on, playing a song I’ve only played a couple of times, is no fun at all.

That is why big time recording artists use studio musicians to record and take another band on the road. They are two different types of people. Great studio musicians generally lack stage presence or are uncomfortable on stage, and entertainer types are uncomfortable or lack energy, at best, in a studio.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Las Vegas

About 35 years ago my wife and I were in Las Vegas. We happened to notice in the local paper that B.B. King was playing in the lounge at the Holiday Inn. We went down and for a few dollars, spent a couple of hours with the “King of the Blues” at the very height of his career. Since then I had just assumed that the best music in Vegas was in the lounges and that the big rooms were for the likes of Barry Manalow and Cher.

Last week I was in Las Vegas and saw where a duo was playing in the hotel lounge. As I approached I heard what sounded like an eight-piece band playing old Motown, Stax, and Chess tunes, you know, ‘60’s R&B. When I looked in, I was surprised to see two guys singing along to tracks. I am sorry, but the subtle differences between singing cover tunes to tracks and Karaoke is lost on me. I am glad I had not paid any money to get in.

The next day I went to a Beach Boys concert. Mike Love and Bruce Johnston were as good as ever, backed by five wonderful musicians, who I am sure were not born when the Beach Boys were formed in 1961. Which brings up the question, when does a band become a “tribute band” to themselves? When the last original member is gone? Or is a band not a tribute band (impersonators) as long as there is a direct link to the original?

I’ve been listening to http://www.rockabillyradio.net lately and loving it. That early rock and roll is just good time music. As a result Sky Blue http://www.skyblueband.net/ has been taking on a little more of a “rockabilly” flavor. I think this is a good thing. It sort of makes me wish I still had my 1950’s Gibson ES-125, the one with the single P-90 pickup. I traded it for a 1961 Thunderbird in 1967, but that’s another story.