Russell Kunkel Comments
On Performing And Recording
With Judith Owen
Written by: Heather Smith; Photos: Kevin Albinder
Russell Kunkel (Lyle Lovett, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, etc) appeared with Judith Owen at NYC’s Slipper Room Wednesday night. An emotionally charged performance, the evening showcased new songs from Owen’s forthcoming CD Ebb & Flow, which will be released in the US on April 22nd. The CD reunites drummer Russell Kunkel, guitarist Waddy Wachtel and bassist Lee Sklar who have not recorded together for 15 years.
“Leland and I play a lot together on lots of different things,” stated Russell Kunkel, “lots of different sessions. He plays with Lyle [Lovett] from time to time so we work together a lot. But Waddy, Leland and I haven’t done anything together for awhile until we did this album with Judith. Being able to come out and do some of these live shows with her it’s just been terrific. It’s wonderful. Leland refers to it as putting on some old comfortable shoes and it’s exactly like that. We’ve got so much history playing music together that it just happens real quick. It just falls in and it’s just incredibly comfortable.”
The last time this super tight trio of musicians worked in the studio together was 15 years ago, but according to Kunkel “nothing’s ever going to replace human beings playing instruments together in a studio. I mean records are made in different ways now. A lot of things are done one at a time, but there is no plug-in that recreates the sound of five or six people being in a room playing together. It can’t be recreated.”
Working with and recording Ebb & Flow Kunkel describes as “a great process actually. There were no charts; there was an isolation room with Judith’s piano in it and we—Waddy, Leland and I—would go in with our tablets and she would play the song. We would make our own charts; then she’d play it a couple more times and she would let us know things that were important to her about what she needed and wanted from each of us. We would go sit on our instruments and she would play and we’d all jump in. That’s what the album is. She’s a great producer herself. She knows exactly what she wants and if we were doing something that was not quite in the direction that she wanted, she would direct us and guide us into the right place. It was very easy I don’t think there was ever more than one or two takes on every track.”
The group heads to the UK for two weeks of promotional dates including radio and TV. Judith Owen will be touring in May with Leland Sklar as vocal/piano and bass; dates here. Kunkel will be appearing with Lyle Lovett through the spring and summer. You can watch the new lyric video for “I’ve Never Been To Texas” from Owen’s album Ebb & Flow here.