Thursday, November 13, 2014

I've Been Mostly Awake - Produced by Jon Weisberger with Various Artists - CD Review

Jon Weisberger has produced (with Dan Keen) a remarkable album of new songs co-written by him and a variety of singer/songwriters.  I've Been Mostly Awake  is the humorous phrase attendees at the IBMA's annual trade show World of Bluegrass and festival Wide Open Bluegrass say is really what IBMA means. Those who've had the pleasure of attending this annual extravaganza  can only smile knowledgeably when they hear the acronym. Featuring a backup band of fine musicians (Jesse Brock,Andy  Falco, Jeremy Garrett, Ned Luberecki, and Weisberger himself) the CD, available as a digital download from Amazon ($8.99). The physical CD is available through the album's Facebook Page.  All profits from this tuneful, varied collection will be donated to IBMA in support of its various programs.

Each of the songs in I've Been Mostly Awake, is written and features a top musician, most of whom are also noted as composers of at least some of their own work. The songs are filled with melody and thoughtful lyrics. Presented in a mostly bluegrass format, they nevertheless present songs that work well as country, pop, or jazzy swing songs, depending strongly on the influences creating the unique sound of each artist. These songs access a wide variety of hints and shades of bluegrass without becoming stereotyped. A listener can picture Claire Lynch leaning against a piano in a lounge singing her song One Mistake at a Time, while Tim O'Brien's Things that Still Remain capture his unique ability to capture direct emotion in his singing. Shawn Camp and Pam Tillis each contribute songs that fit well into the sub-genre that's now being called "real country." Never Go Back by the Gibson Brothers contains their characteristic thoughtful look at the future while examining their past in a song filled with determination to keep growing and becoming. Dale Ann Bradley's contribution celebrates the contribution of Momma and Daddy to the fulfillment of dreams in the present in Now and Then, which is filled with nostalgia.

Weisberger emerges here not for his own brilliance, but for his ability to work with individual performers to help them realize their own unique musical selves. Each song on the album captures the signature sound of a song the featured singer would write. There doesn't seem to be any hint that Jon seeks to dominate or impose his own sound or vision on the song. Rather, his work functions to help each writer capture and maintain a characteristic self. This makes him either a genius at helping people find their own voice or a chameleon without a signature sound of his own. I prefer the former. Eric Gibson remarks, "We have written a few times with Jon and were struck by how comfortable the process was. Each song was a true co-write with good give and take. Jon is a pro."  Other songs in I've Been Mostly Awake were co-written with Jeremy Garrett, Sara Siskind, Stephen Mougin, Kim Richey & Thomas Jutz, Jim Lauderdale, Sierra Hull, and Chris Jones. These major performers are supported by some of the best singers in the business singing harmony, including Steve Gulley, Del McCoury, Carl Jackson, Patty Mitchell, Thomas Jutz, Sally Jones, and Darren Vincent. The project was engineered and mixed by Ben Surratt at Compass Records studio, who also is listed as Associate Producer.

Jon  Weisberger - Executive Producer

  Jon Weisberger, during his busy career in music, has worn many hats. As a writer, he's won IBMA awards for Print Media Person of the Year (2000), Liner Notes of the Year (2001) and Bluegrass Song Writer of the Year (2012) He co-hosts, with Del McCoury a program of traditional music on Xm/Sirius radio called "Hand Picked with Del McCoury. He plays bass with Chris Jones & the Night Drivers. He is a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts and currently serves as Chairman of the Board of IBMA. The present CD is the first production of Wise Kings Global Entertainment, in which Jon is a partner with Dan Keen, former ASCAP Vice-President and current professor at Belmont College in Nashville, .

Dan Keen - Co-Executive Producer

Dan Keen commented, "Our company is really a Publishing company. We decided to launch it with a benefit project for the IBMA based on several things. One is the First Fruits doctrine in the Scriptures. The idea is that you don't wait until you're successful and then give to God and others. You do that up front, trusting that your efforts will be blessed and you will be fine. 
In addition, Bluegrass music and the IBMA have been the creative center of our lives and we want to give back. Humbly, we are trying to set an example for others, encouraging them to think about things like this that they could do to contribute to and support the IBMA." Dan's major role in the current production was "to seek funding and other donations. Compass gave us lots of great advice and FREE use of their fantastic studio for example. I also am doing most of the Admin work such as licensing and permissions."

Jon Weisberger & Dan Keen

This is truly a fine production benefiting a worthy cause and will make a fine addition to your Holiday gift list.