Recording the Blues…Live!

Last week (March, 2017) I had the unique task of recording an entire blues album in 3 days. The self inflicted parameters were: I would play just 2 guitars, 2 amps, do no overdubs and everything must be played and sung live in the room with bass, drums and keyboards. What really surprised me was how difficult that was! Sitting in a chair and wearing headphones is a lot different than a performance in front of an appreciative audience. And the constant temptation to analyze everything you just played is a demon that rears its ugly head way too often. Did I play that lick in the last song? Is that one just way too obvious? Too many cliches in this song?
I realize that the ornamentation of the style requires a tone, a feel and attitude that defines it as the blues. And with a personal directive that I didn’t need to be authentic or legitimate, only myself, I found that it was possible to get a good take only when I abandoned all the self doubt and just “went for it.”
It reminded me of a moment years ago in my early career when my band was playing a Monday “Guitar Night” at Donte’s, a prestigious jazz club in LA. I was having a tough night getting in tune and to make matters worse, Larry Carlton was in the front row. At the break I told him I was struggling and asked for some advice. What do you do when you’re having a bad night? He said, ” I forget about everything that’s bothering me and let the music take over.”
Years later I used that advice in the studio and it worked!