Inpired by the Alan Lomax Archive: The Black Gold Sessions

Inpired by the Alan Lomax Archive: The Black Gold Sessions

The archive of music historian Alan Lomax is a source of inspiration for many music lovers, and one of them is Rawand “Ray” Baziany who got inspired to start an unique Roots and Blues project. Hailin’ from the Black Forrest in Germany a group of musician started recording songs from Alan Lomax’ archive like it was 60 years ago  in Ray’s Studio under the name Black and Gold Sessions.

blackgoldsessions_vinyl_logoRay started the Black Shack Recording Studio in Calw, Germany in 2012. Over the years they  made a name for itself by producing authentic music in the style of the 40s, 50s and 60s. Now they started The Black Gold Sessions. A few weeks ago I spoke with Rawand “Ray” Baziany about the Black and Gold Sessions, the Black Shack Recording Studio and the Black Gold Vinyl Cutting Shop

Where does the love for the roots
Genre come from?

Mainly from the influence of my father, digging through his cassette
collections with music from the sixties to the seventies, I found a lot of old rhythm&blues and soul records. I loved the solid groove and rhythm that these recordings had. Later when I started my first bands, we did hip hop music, which is mainly based on digging through old records from B.B. king to Solomon Burke, sampling, chopping and reusing this stuff in a creative manner to use it in your own songs. Like this, the roots music became an evident part of my music aswell, even before starting dedicated roots bands, that cover these songs. This experience connected me irrevocably to the American roots genres, which all had a lot of emotional content and at the same time, featured sounds, that couldn’t be heard in today’s modern age of virtual instruments. Till today, I still can not get enough of that big and ever evolving genre. So I thought it might be the best way to support young and active songwriters and to give them the opportunity to work in a professional environment to develop further.

 

So I thought it might be the best way to support young and active songwriters and to give them the opportunity to work in a professional environment to develop further.

What are the Black Gold Sessions?

Many people complain about the death of the music industry and that there is no more budget for producers and musicians. I totally get this, although I developed most of my professional career in these times and don’t know it differently, so I kinda live with it. But I have the feeling, that if I, if we and the music scene around us wants to develop, it is absolutely essential to support each other. So I thought it might be the best way to support young and active songwriters and to give them the opportunity to work in a professional environment to develop further. With the aim of producing 2 songs, I actually accompany the artists through some weeks of work, where we do pre-production meetings, rehearsals, songwriting or just listen to music. When we settled all of this, we go to the studio and produce these songs in two days, with a backing band, that I have compiled out of close friends and fellow musicians. We have an analog based studio, so we go all straight to tape, with no editing or tuning done. At the same time music videos of the two songs are shot, also as tracking shots, so with no editing at all.

So I thought it might be the best way to support young and active songwriters and to give them the opportunity to work in a professional environment to develop further. With the aim of producing 2 songs, I actually accompany the artists through some weeks of work, where we do pre-production meetings, rehearsals, songwriting or just listen to music. When we settled all of this, we go to the studio and produce these songs in two days, with a backing band, that I have compiled out of close friends and fellow musicians. We have an analog based studio, so we go all straight to tape, with no editing or tuning done. At the same time music videos of the two songs are shot, also as tracking shots, so with no editing at all.

At the same time music videos of the two songs are shot, also as tracking shots, so with no editing at all. Afterwards the two songs are released on 33 limited edition vinyl Kiernan Shipka singles, very similar to the way small labels used to publish records back in the forties or fifties. But in comparison to that, we cut all the 33 records by hand, using our cutting lathe.

We also collaborate with some fine, local graphic artists, that give beach of the singles their own appearance. So I cannot say, that Black Gold Sessions is just a limited edition vinyl project, it is actually more of a cultural promotion project, that yields to foster new and upcoming artists.

blackgoldsessions_vinyl_logo

What Was the starting point for the black gold sessions?

I am a big admirer of Mr. Lomax’s work and the big effort he made
to preserve a whole lot of the American and worldwide folk history.
So listening to his archives and other publications, I kept thinking about a way to bring this archive, that had been opened to the public in 2011 via the ACE homepage, even closer to the younger musicians, who perhaps don’t know about Woodie Guthrie or Leadbelly at all. So in my head, the thought grew to confront young and upcoming songwriters with this material to see what happens. I was interested

So in my head, the thought grew to confront young and upcoming songwriters with this material to see what happens. I was interested to learn, what kind of material out of this huge archive would appeal to them and how would the choice of a song, influence the interpretation of their own, genuine material. As our studio was developing further and we finally also got the vinyl cutter, all the fragmental ideas fell into place and built the bigger
idea of the Black Gold Sessions.

Next to the Black Gold Sessions, you also participate in Black Shack Recordings and Black Gold Vinyl cutting company. What connects the three projects you’ve been working on?

Black Shack Recordings is actually my main business, that I launched
with my partner 6 years ago.  It is a vintage oriented studio, with a huge collection of American and German vintage gear from the 40s to the 60s. We are totally dedicated to this old stuff, the way it was manufactured, of course the sound it delivers and the way it changes how you approach music because it’s way different than
working with a computer. Nevertheless, I also consider myself a digital native and utilize a digital audio workstation in my studio

Nevertheless, I also consider myself a digital native and utilize a digital audio workstation in my studio aswell, where it makes sense. I produce a variety of genres there, from out main focus Rockabilly, to Delta Blues, Ragtime, Soul and even Rocksteady. Black Gold Vinyl Cutting is the vinyl cutting service of our studio, where you can order anything on original, durable and loudly cut vinyl. Starting from 1 piece to 10 pieces, this is a real handcraft, where each single record has to be cut in

Black Gold Vinyl Cutting is the vinyl cutting service of our studio, where you can order anything on original, durable and loudly cut vinyl. Starting from 1 piece to 10 pieces, this is a real handcraft, where each single record has to be cut in realtime. Our Black Gold Sessions were, as stated earlier, the logical  consequence of all these opportunities that were just there. I find it way more interesting and compelling, to cut vinyl for a project with such a commitment than to cut vinyl only for personal pleasure.

Where did you find the musicians who are participating in the Blac Gold Sessions?

I know most of the 3 lead-singers for a while, having worked on one or the other occasion with them. The funny story about f.e. Mary Gold is, that she is the daughter of a music shop owner and friend in the town where our studio is, but yet this was the first ever project, that we both did together. Florian Ehrmann was a colleague of mine for some time at a corporate sound company, where he often recorded voice for corporate stuff and was way underestimated I think.

Florian Ehrmann was a colleague of mine for some time at a corporate sound company, where he often recorded voice for corporate stuff and was way underestimated I think. Tabea Luisa used to be a student in one of my courses at the Music University in Trossingen and I happily witnessed her transition from a cover artist, so a songwriter and real devoted musician. All of them are on a good way I think. The backing musicians were, in one form or another, all old friends, who have recorded at my place and so I was able to

The backing musicians were, in one form or another, all old friends, who have recorded at my place and so I was able to tell, if they were able to adapt to the songs in such a short time. With some of them I am also in bands, like Dusty Dave & The Heartattacks for example, which is my own blues project,  we play  more rockin’ side of the blues in the tradition of heavy and loud bluesy rockabilly. I also asked my friend Oliver Utzt, a virtuous musician and producer to bring his musical intuition into the project and my friend Tim Heumesser, to engineer the sessions, while I was absent, playing bass on the songs.

What is the best part of making the Black Gold Sessions?

Well, that’s kind of a hard question, but if I am honest: it was
the enthusiastic and relieved feeling at our Black Gold Sessions release party. We had so much support from the music scene and fans in our town, for the first time, all of the musicians, that  fans participated were there in one place and best of all could hold their own vinyl records in their hands for the first time. This feeling was indescribably good.

How is the Roots and Blues scene in Germany?

I think Europe hasn’t a very big roots and blues scene, even since the 60ies, where the big blues revival happened. Still it is not the main focus in the music landscape here. I think the scene is lacking younger and older people. The young ones are totally interested in other genres and the older ones, most of them don’t know so much about American roots music, only a certain group of them. Perhaps
because it’s not part of their own history like it is for the American citizens. Anyhow I see a lot happening here in the blues scene, which is more under the radar, but still very important for its preservation.

Are the recordings available for sale?

You can buy every one of the Black Gold Vinyls at our onlineshop, if
you go to www.blackgoldvinylcutting.com  and enter the shop area. Especially if you’re looking for a very special, handmade present, this limited run of vinyls can’t be beaten in terms of originality. Of course the three artists will have some for sale at their future shows as well.

What are your future plans whit the Black Gold Sessions?

Well the main plan was to bring musicians together, create a good
atmosphere and document that. I think we have pretty much succeeded in this context. The next plan would be to raise the appreciation for music as an art form again, working against
the music industry crisis and the depreciation of musical recordings. Through this project we communicate the message, that music is not only a product, which can be had for very little or no money via streaming services, but is a creative process, an art form and of course a way to interact between each other as human beings. We are hoping to cover some of the costs of the production by selling the vinyl records, so we can look into the future and hopefully repeat and further develop this project with new musicians. We are of course open to touring musicians from outside the country as well, who can apply for a Black Gold Session by sending us an e-mail to  info@blackshackrecordings.com if they get in touch at least 6 months in advance.

Which musician(s) do you think we should follow?

I am sure all of the three featured musicians have their own interesting story to tell and would be good to follow. Tabea Luisa is currently in India,  playing their songs and also the one she wrote for the Black Gold Sessions, with a bunch of pretty talented musicians in India. She actually is preparing a tour there and is documenting everything she does in her Vlog. Florian Ehrmann is currently playing some small and nice concerts in southern Germany and is in the process of writing, in order to have enough material to produce a new EP in 2017 with a full band. Mary Gold is also playing concerts and constantly producing new music, which she shares on her soundcloud account, you should definitely check out her solo stuff.

It is great to see these ‘small’ projects in the blues and roots community. To me it proves this scene is bigger than you might think. But above all, this music will always be an inspiration for musicians and music lovers.

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