Saturday, August 11, 2012

That's my Boy!

Jesse Aycock's new album draws in icons
Jesse Aycock rehearses in Church Studio while preparing his latest album, which was recorded in March. NEAL CASAL/Courtesy
Jesse Aycock rehearses in Church Studio while preparing his latest album, which was recorded in March. NEAL CASAL/Courtesy

By JENNIFER CHANCELLOR World Scene Writer



Related story: Guitarist finds time to help out Tulsan.

Tulsa singer-songwriter Jesse Aycock says there's sometimes a cosmic energy that brings things together exactly when they're supposed to.



"You can't plan this. I couldn't have planned this," he said recently.

Aycock is adding the finishing touches to an album he recorded at Church Studio earlier this year. It includes a constellation of stars - several of them his idols.

Two - multi-instrumentalist Neal Casal and drummer George Sluppick - are part of The Chris Robinson Brotherhood. That band makes its first appearance in Tulsa on Saturday at Cain's Ballroom.

Other guests on Aycock's album include Tulsa Sound icon and drummer Jimmy Karstein, Los Lobos guitarist David Hidalgo, Boondogs member Indy Grotto, longtime Tulsa bassist Eric Arndt and Little Rock studio wizard Jason Weinheimer.

Yes, the album's practically done. But it doesn't have a name, or a record label, or a distributor. Right now, he's OK with that, he said.

What's perhaps most impressive is how it all came together.

A somewhat peculiar incident put Aycock in touch with his idol Casal, "Way back when Myspace first came out," he said.

A woman from the Universal music group in London "contacted me after hearing my music and said I really needed to hear her friend Neal - Neal Casal," Aycock said. "I told her I loved his music. I had a bunch of his solo albums when I was a kid."

The woman sent Casal copies of Aycock's music.

In return, Casal wrote Aycock a letter.

"He said we should definitely do something, anything, sometime, anytime," he said. "He was working with Ryan Adams & The Cardinals at the time."

When that band came through Tulsa, "We hung out. We didn't do much, but we talked and talked."

Flash forward to an off-chance opportunity for Aycock to jam with drummer Sluppick through mutual friends in Little Rock. The pair became friends.

"Then, all this time later, I get a phone call from George. He said, 'Guess who I'm sitting with?' He was with Neal and said he'd just joined a band with Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes called the Chris Robinson Brotherhood."

Aycock stops, then explains, "The Black Crowes was one of the first live shows I ever went to as a kid."

Flash forward to early 2012. Aycock said he was driving around town, thinking about all the songs he'd been writing, "and I was wondering what I was going to do with them. When was I going to make an album? I was daydreaming about doing something with George and Neal and right while I'm thinking about that - my phone rang."

It was Sluppick.

"He said, 'I'm down to play some gigs or make a record, man, what'cha got?'"

Within weeks, the pair flew into Tulsa - and walked into the iconic Church Studio, the former recording home of many of their music idols, including former owner and Tulsa Sound founder Leon Russell. They're all big fans of the sound, one which Aycock also embodies - a blend of soul, country, blues, folk and straight-up rock 'n' roll.

About that time, a seemingly unrelated tour rolled through town - the Hendrix Experience Tour - which featured Los Lobos guitarist Hidalgo.

A friend of a friend of Hidalgo knew he'd be in Tulsa a day before the concert and picked him up to show him the world-famous Church Studio.

"I was recording in there and we'd just finished a bunch of stuff for the day. I didn't even know he was there," Aycock said.

"It was this amazing thing. David looked at me and asked, 'You care if I try something?' A hero of mine who just happened to show up went and got his custom guitar and we just had this huge jam session and hit record."

Aycock also regaled them all, especially Sluppick and Casal, with tales of Tulsa Sound musicians like J.J. Cale, Russell and Jimmy Karstein. "I told them Karstein still lived in town - that I should introduce them."

And he did. Next thing Aycock knows, Karstein wanted to play on the album, too. And he did.

"That's just one of those weird times that you can't ever plan for."

Sluppick and Casal were soon schooled by an original - Karstein - on the "good old days" at Church Studio, when Russell was at its helm.

"It's a lot different now than it was in the 1970s. There was the gorilla skin on the walls, the whole place was dark all the time, and sometimes Leon would wake everyone up at 5 a.m. to go in and track music. The vibe's still here, and they felt it. They really got into it. There's a lot of music history in these walls."

And though there's a lot of excitement and anticipation from everyone involved about this album, this "cosmic" coming together, Aycock said he's not in a particular rush to release the album.

"Before now, I've just released everything on my own. I've paid for everything myself," he said.

This time around, he's "shopping" the record, and hopes to get help with national and international promotion and distribution through record labels.

"Yes, this is an indie album - we did it all," he said. "I'm just not in a huge hurry to 'dump' it just to get it out there. I want this album to be heard."
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