Three and a half years ago I went to the Rudyard Kipling in downtown Louisville, Ky. to work the door and support my friend Hambone, who was playing music full time.
At the time, Hambone was a one-man band, playing guitar, kick-drum and high-hat all at once while singing. That evening he shared the billing with two Nashville acts: “Quote” and Daniel Ellsworth.
Little did I know three and a half years later I’d make a record featuring all those artists.
Justin Tam, founder and co-writer of the band “Quote” was promoting the duo’s upcoming first CD that night, performing originals from it that captivated me immediately.
I instantly became a fan and kept in touch with him.
A week later, a friend of mine told me he had his own Nashville ambitions and was moving in with a guy named Justin from the band Quote.
This was right before I moved to Montana for the first time to stay with my parents and bartend for a summer in Big Sky. I’d just graduated from the University of Kentucky and wanted to take some time to enjoy life and freedom before jumping into a job.
With this mindset, I found myself identifying strongly with Tam’s song “The Pace of Our Feet,” the title track to their 130-page book album that featured local writers and local artists all inspired or based on the band’s 10 original songs.
“I’m quitting the opera, I’m done with this dramatic race. Let’s move to Montana for a five-minute break.”
My connection to this song and decision to venture out West dubbed me “Charlie Montana” to the Quote guys.
Although we only saw each other when I made trips out to Nashville. Over time, we became great friends, although we all started going different directions.
After recording their second album, “A Deeper Green,” Quote split up a to pursue what they were most passionate about. Jamie Bennett, the other member of the band, went back to school to become a social worker and Tam stayed in Nashville to make a career in music.
The stars aligned, as Tam now finds himself fronting Humming House, an Americana group making waves in the Nashville scene, recording an album produced by Vance Powell (The White Stripes, Buddy Guy) and Mitch Dane (Jars of Clay) due out in January.
Humming House consists of a fiddle player, a soulful background vocalist, a bass player that switches from electric to stand-up, mandolin and Tam on guitar, vocals and ukelele.
All but the mandolin player were featured on the seven-song album I recorded at Tam’s studio in East Nashville dubbed “The Toaster,” which Tam produced with audio engineer Taylor Grubbs.
Fall is a good time to record in The Toaster. You don’t have to worry about getting too cold or too hot when the air conditioning or heat has to be turned off during takes.
Tam and I had talked about making this album for about a year and a half. I knew some day it would happen, but with busy schedules it was important to make time for it to happen.
One time about six months before I took the trip to Nashville, we discussed the possibility and I went ahead and bought a plan ticket.
“Whoa. OK. We’re making a Charlie Montana record,” he said.
I got into Nashville on a Wednesday, still recovering from the God-awful virus that hit me on Tuesday. On Thursday, we began recording.
On Saturday, Hambone and his favorite drummer John Hayes came down to Nashville to record three tracks live.
Then, on Monday, Daniel Ellsworth came by to add piano to four tracks.
“Who is that playing guitar?” he asked while laying down piano on “Sing You Along.”
“Remember when you played the Rudyard Kipling with Quote?” I asked.
“Yeah, I do.”
“That’s Hambone, man.”
We all had a laugh about it.
Although the tracks are still in the process of mixing and mastering, I couldn’t be happier with the result.
Recording in Nashville was a rewarding and enlightening experience. It was also a great opportunity to make something special with friends, something that can make us all proud.
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