From  2012 Midpoint Music Fest Program.

Kelly Thomas has been the first lady of Cincinnati Country for the better part of a decade; founder of the charitable Rivertown Music Club and member of an impossible number of bands and projects, including Second Sister, the Tammy WhyNots, the Hayseed Tabernacle Choir, her solo work and her duo with 500 Miles to Memphis’ Ryan Malott. But perhaps her purest Country pursuit is her work with the Fabulous Pickups, which has been honky tonking up area joints since 2005, and which only hit the studio for the first time last year to create Fly, the Pickups’ debut recording and, amazingly, the first time Thomas has done a full album of her own songs (okay, “Beast of Burden” wasn’t hers, but she totally owned it). Not surprisingly, Thomas and the Pickups reeled in a CEA nomination for Best Country Artist, but then the first lady of Cincinnati Country should get used to being recognized as the best. Dig: Rosanne Cash and Tammy Wynette lag cue balls for the privilege of kicking Garth Brooks’ ass. (BB)

A new adventure!  My first try as a producer!
Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound

      If you know me, you know I’ll be halfway through one beloved project when I start getting a new idea for the next thing I want to dive into.  This has been happening for about ten years, and honestly, I hope it never goes away.  It definitely forces me to make an effort to stand still and enjoy the present moment, but I’m pretty aware of that, so I do.  I’m sure that most creative people feel like me and there is this underlying dread that at some point creative nudges will dry up.  So, even though it’s kind of taxing when my mind is moving and racing on to the next thing, I love it and hope it’s always this way.
     From about July to December of last year I was submerged in the music of Hank Williams and I had the great honor to record the 8 songs he recorded here in Cincinnati with Arlo McKinley (Timmy Carr), Tyler Lockard, Moriah Lawson, Sarah Davis and Sylvia Mitchell.  I don’t know that I ever felt such a connection and good vibes with a group as I did with these folks.  I’ve recorded 8 albums (6 full length, 2 EPs) in the past, not to mention my recent Sacred Harp Sessions and annual Christmas recordings.  Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time in the studio and I’ve learned a lot of truths about tracking songs and making records.  About halfway through the Hank project I really started feeling this nudge to step out of the role of singer/artist and take a chance on using all that I’ve learned and help someone else get their music out.
     Timmy Carr is, without a doubt, one of the most talented singers and writers I’ve ever met.  I’ve gone to hear him and have left the gigs wishing I had some of the songs I heard to listen to at home.  Timmy is also, kind of subtle and laid back, with what’s going on with his musical life.  He’s not constantly chirping about a new song he’s written or his next gig.  It’s just not his way.  After getting to know him, and kind of watching him shine on the Hank project and building a great friendship through music, I found myself really mulling over offering up some help to get his debut album to the light of day.  Knowing we have a good working relationship after putting out the Spirits of Hank album together, and after too many Jamesons at the release in December, I blurted out to him, “Timmay!  I think I need to act as executive producer and help you get ya dang songs heard!”  We shook on it and 2 months later, there we were in The Revival Room at The Southgate House Revival (Newport, KY) recording that very album.
     When I had listened to Timmy’s songs, they had always been very spare with just Tyler on Bass on Brian Pumphrey playing drums and Sarah Davis occasionally adding harmonies.  I suggested adding Sylvia Mitchell on fiddle (and who knew what else. Sylvia plays about everything) and Zach Rowe (who plays with me in the Pickups) on guitars.  I felt strongly that Timmy’s music doesn’t need much and that it could actually get lost in a traditional recording session.  It’s hard to show restraint in the studio when you can start adding all kind of stuff and I thought that would be the kiss of death for these songs.  There’s something so sincere in the lyrics and just the feel of his music.  It’s kind of subtle and laid back too.  We had played a few times in The Revival Room and I’m always struck by the sound in there.  So we agreed, we’d track live in The Revival Room and see how many tunes we could get in a day.  We all got together 3 times to rehearse and work out arrangements and on a cold day in late February it was on!
      We called on Elton Clifton and Brian Jester to engineer the sessions.  (They had tracked the Hank album as well).  Got the blessing from Morrella and SGHR and we all met up at around 11 a.m. on a Sunday and got to work.  Elton and Brian put Timmy on the stage, facing the wall, stage left.  I kept giggling it reminded me of the last scene in The Blair Witch Project.  Brian was toward the back of the room, near where the sound board is, with chairs stacked around his kit with rugs thrown over them to absorb some of the bounce.  Tyler was on the floor a few feet up from Brian and Zach was across from him.  Zach’s amp (the precious Matchless) was in the adjacent bathroom with the door closed so we could mix the guitar sounds.  Sarah and her keyboards were by the double doors leading into the side room and poor Sylvia was in the Side Entrance as you come up the steps.  She had to be moved even further back into that little alcove because the fiddle was bleeding into the main mix too much.  She was a great sport and when she plays the harmonica on “I’ve Got Her” the echo is beautiful and a huge part of the sound!
     The set-up took a few hours and then we got to recording.  Brian, Elton and I were at the sound board which was set up in the side room.  My job was to listen and to catch any hiccups as we went.  All of the music was recorded live, so if anyone really clammed it up, we’d stop rather than waste time.  Unbelievably we only had to stop during one song and it was to tune!  Most songs were cut in two takes.  Timmy had 11 songs he wanted to try to record.  After about 5 hours we had 9.  “Waiting For Wild Horses” was number ten.  This song is an epic and Sylvia plays Viola and Tyler uses a bow on his upright bass.  Sometime during the second take of this tune it started to snow, a really soft, pretty snow.  After the last note was played there was complete silence for a few seconds and then I said something in the talk-back mic to the effect of “Uhhhh…Timmy I think that’s it.  That’s the album.”  We all agreed and you just don’t fuck with a moment like that. 
      I honestly can’t believe the album that was recorded.  We did it Ninja-style.  No holds barred, take-no-prisoners style and I think it really couldn’t have come out better.  I can’t wait for folks to hear it and fall in love with it!  Timmy and Sarah added a few additional harmonies at a session the following week with Elton and New Fidelity.  And boy, did Elton mix it to perfection!
  I’m just gonna go ahead and say this out-loud, in public (because that’s my way)…I think Timmy is gonna get a record deal from this album.  I really have a feeling about it.  See ya’ll April 19th at the release!
Spirits of Hank CD

Spirits of Hank CD


Recorded live at Herzog Studio Space by Arlo McKinley & Friends. The 8 songs Hank Williams recorded in Cincinnati 65 years ago with tall tales and historical narrative by Ed Vardiman.

Return to form

Join our mailing list for the latest news