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Visiting the yellow DOG

by: Cody Starr

The studio is a place where art and tech cross paths. Taking a song birthed from raw creativity and figuring out how to best capture its essence and onto a medium, whether it be vinyl or digital bits to be streamed over the ether, is an art form in and of itself.

To most of us looking from the outside, our minds equate the recording process to a band jam session in a padded room with somebody hitting the record button to catch it all. And while that does happen on occasion, it’s only of one of many ways the sausage is made. In reality, it’s indeed sausage, a confluence of meaty bits – instruments, vocals, effects, ambient noises all processed and combined; and if done well, it tastes pretty damn good. It’s also organic and messy, we usually never know which parts made it in one take or were meticulous combined from ten different takes. Happy accidents are mistaken for conscious brilliance and sometimes the person you think is playing on the record isn’t playing at all.

I was pretty excited to get an unsolicited invite to yellow DOG Studios to sit in with Tahlequah, Oklahoma’s own DocFell & Co. as they began production on their latest project, “Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma”. I’ll get to the band and their album in a minute, but let’s first set the scene.

You may have heard of yellow DOG, owned by the longtime producer, engineer, and musician Dave Percefull. Dave, who started his studio in Tulsa in 1996, was right in the middle of the Texas/Red Dirt explosion. Back then he was no stranger to The Farm or The Yellow House, working with legends like Tom Skinner, Bob Childers, and even some bar recordings with Garth. In 2007 he journeyed south to Austin where he could attract a wider variety of artists and projects. And while Austin did help amass some impressive clientele, it got prohibitively expensive not only for yellow DOG, (who occupied a building in downtown on Congress) but also for the artists. Bands were devouring 30%-40% of their recording budget on food and lodging, not to mention the distractions that accompany a town like Austin that can derail projects in a hurry.

So in 2014 Percefull got out of the rat race and simplified. He and fellow resident producer Adam Odor (BadTruth podcast anyone?) found 30+ acres with Blanco River frontage just 45 minutes south in the artsy small town of Wimberley. The 100-year-old farmhouse sitting on the property was converted to a working studio with views of the river. There are complimentary bunkhouses on premises and even full-sized cabins at a neighboring guest ranch. It’s a musician’s retreat, allowing bands to save some coin and disconnect so they can put their energy towards creating the best record possible.

Percefull and Odor were successful, pulling up to the yellow DOG house feels very unassuming in that weekend Texas lakehouse kind of way. Lucy Jean, the unofficial mascot, was quick to welcome me. It was late and everyone was on the back porch around the firepit, decompressing from the day, wine flowing and philosophy commencing. Through the front door, a piano sits in the middle of what used to be the living room, now a gathering place with all sorts of vintage instruments. Your eyes scan the room, trying to take inventory of it all but eventually failing to organize it. Off the living room are the control room and one of two studio spaces; one is set up for recording drums and the other pretty much everything else.

That leads us to the purpose of my trip, to see DocFell & Co. at work on “Heaven, Hell, or Oklahoma”. Percefull is producing and engineering the project. By the time I got there, the band had already been at work for a couple of days laying down drum, vocal, and rhythm guitar tracks. My day was spent largely with Adam Miller composing and putting down bass lines. It’s a meticulous and at times mechanical process, taking what’s created by the right brain and converting it into a left brain activity. But in the end, it really doesn’t matter how it’s done if the music feeds your soul.

Obviously, it’s all still coming together but the album dabbles in the existential themes of life, death and beyond the grave. Talking with John Fell, several of the tracks were written just after attending funerals, which sounds morbid but it’s those types of events that often get us thinking about the big picture. There are other songs inspired by family members, like “Mean Marie”, loosely based on tales about his grandmother-in-law and “Radio is Dead”, inspired by his son. Fell also pays tribute to Willie Nelson with his song “Three Chords”, but my favorite track thus far is “Beulah Land”. It’s inspired by an old pilgrim hymnal about heaven and marches along as if you are approaching the Pearly Gates. As with their previous albums, Scissor Tail and Dust Bowl Heart, Fell and the band intend to stay true to their established folk-country sound. However, I expect Percefull will likely add a touch of 70’s Waylon Jennings to give the project a voice of its own.

Overall, it was really cool to watch it all happen and I even got in a little jam session with Adam, Kyle Brown (guitar), and Phillip Tijerina (yellow DOG Studios, 2nd engineer).

Expect “Heaven, Hell, or Oklahoma” to hit during the first half of 2018. For more on DocFell & Co. check the usual outlets:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/docfellmusic/

Twitter – @drfeljo

Website: www.docfellmusic.com

yellow DOG Studios website: www.yellowdogstudios.com

Domino Theory

by: Heather Copeland

 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve heard about the recent controversy between up-and-comer Dalton Domino and a patron of his recent show at Hoot’s Pub in Amarillo. Much ado about smoking was made by the patron and the controversy sparked a trending hashtag on Twitter #LETDALTONSMOKE. To summarize the patron attended a show with a friend who has severe asthma. She claimed to have attended this show in particular because the venue recently became smoke free. During his set Dalton began smoking on stage. The patron and her posse quickly left the venue and received a refund at the door. The patron later posted on Domino’s Facebook page that the smoking rules applied to him as well and if he couldn’t follow the rules he shouldn’t play there. A week later Domino responded to the patron with, “Go Fuck Yourself.” The comments quickly escalated from there with Dalton calling the complaining patron every name under the sun. He went as far as posting a response video giving her the finger while pretending to masturbate. That video was actually some of the least of the offensive tirades posted by Domino himself.

 

Those of you in the music business probably feel one of two ways about this. You either agree that for the sake of his career he should have kept his mouth shut and just let it be or that he’s just a guy who has a right to say whatever the hell his artistic mind conjures up. After all, this is ‘MERICA, the land of the free and the home of the brave! And what about the point of view from the fans – the guys and gals who stand hours on end in the rain to see an artist like Domino light up the stage.

 

I fall into the latter. I’ve stood on top of a couch in my flip flops surrounded by 40,000 of my closest friends, 3 days post-surgery, to see artists just like Domino. I’ve straddled the fence about this exchange between Domino and the complaining patron and can tell you that artistic freedom of expression had not a damn thing to do with this exchange. Dalton claims he didn’t ask to be a role model and therefore is exempt from giving two shits about politely replying to her. In almost every instance I would defend an artist to the death.  God knows that riding around in a van living on gas station burritos for weeks at a time certainly takes a toll on a person. But in this case, I can’t even imagine fathoming a defense for this artist. Now before you go all post-apocalyptic, fuck you, on me – hear me out.

 

 

We currently live in a society full of complaining ass holes who bitch, moan and cry foul at every drop of the hat over the most trivial things. I’m so sick of listening to these whiny bitches who cry foul. If you want to change the world and the society we live in stop bitching on social media and actually do something. Protect the innocent, vote, enact legislation and for God’s sake if all you can do is bitch and moan please take a seat. Now I know most of you are saying AMEN… but that is exactly what this lady did… bitched and moaned. She made no change, just bitched and moaned on social media for attention. But here’s where you’re wrong; she affected the bottom line of this artist and his band and potentially the venue. By leaving the venue and requesting (and receiving) a refund she affected the bottom line, even if it was a meager sum. She did what she felt was right and stood her ground. She has the same rights as Domino but chose to exercise her free speech in a manner that the Neanderthal Domino could only dream of being classy enough to choose.

 

Like minded fans quickly jumped on the band-wagon to defend Domino by calling the patron, “pussy”, “inbred bitch” and a slew of other filthy words. One fan even implied she deserved to be raped by a cock so large it would shut her up. I’m all for freedom of speech and a strong back-bone but when did we become a society so ill equipped to debate that we resort to fear mongering and insulting hate speech? Oh right, I forgot, this is ‘MERICA. To put it in Dalton’s own words from his song “Corners”, “I blamed it on the devil when it was me this entire time.” You’re right Domino, it was you this entire time. The ironic hindsight here certainly 20/20.

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