Our NEW CD - Phase #1

A nice, long post to catch you up on the goings-on around Eighth Note Acres.

We are back! ...from our Christmas travels to Kansas, Missouri, and finally, Iowa again. It is good to be home... Not to say that we aren't extremely busy. We are. With our 5th Johnson Strings CD being recorded this month and next, our practice times have not decreased at all. On the contrary: they will be happening all the more often!

News flash: our new website ran into a few snags, so it will not be released until the end of January. This also means that you don’t get to see our new pictures for a while.  :(

This is the first of many posts, striving in a way to bring you along with us in the long journey through preparing, recording, producing and finally releasing a new CD. You’ll get the inside scoop.

Phase One in the CD making process:

We have decided on the list of songs we will be recording and have divided those into 3 sets for the 3 days we’ll be at the recording studio. The songs need to be grouped so that no one has two solos to several of their hardest numbers to record on the same day. All the singing must be recorded on the same day, and is done after the instrumental parts are recorded.

After we have the list of pieces we would like to include on our CD, we have to go through the very long and tedious process of tracking done all the copyrights, owners, composers, and arrangers in order to pay all the royalties. Some songs change hands so many times that it takes hours or even days to track down which publishing company administers the royalty rights, who we have to pay, how much, and anything else we need to do. Whew!!! What a job. It’s probably our least favorite step of the CD making process. All those royalties add up too.

The three studio recording dates are now set and the deposit paid. We like to schedule the dates a couple weeks apart so that we don’t have to get all the songs ready at the same time. That was learned the HARD way!!! Living close to a state-of-the-art studio is a huge blessing! Very little traveling, no hotel bills, and all the comforts of home – how can you beat that?

Basically every evening, we are practicing together as a group. During the day, we are practicing by ourselves. Soon, we will be having multiple group practices per day and keep building up until our recording date. It’s a lot of practicing. And yes, it does get old sometimes, but the result is worth it. Once we are in studio, we have to get it right - ALL AT THE SAME TIME – all eight of us. Challenging? Yes. Since we have to communicate visually with each other, we are all in the same room and each person’s sound bleeds into the next person’s mike. Picture this: it is the fourth take of a certain song. Five of us do a fantastic job and are thrilled. We want to keep the take. Then we hear that the other 3 of us made a mistake and the take isn’t usable. So, we start over. Take 5. Each “take” is important. It just might be the one to go onto the CD. Because of time constraints, we can usually only record a song up to about 5 times max. We better know it well. We better have done all our practicing at home. It is wonderful to finally listen to a good take and know that we did it. By the end of 5 hours, we are worn out mentally and physically and have hopefully recorded 1/3 of the songs for our new CD.

Pray for us!
At the Oak Tree Opry
Silas, a few months back when he was still on crutches. 

Sightseeing downtown before our concert.

I hope you have a wonderful day, praising the Lord for His goodness to us!
Until next time!

A day in the life of a performing family

~ Le Mars Bluegrass Festival, Le Mars, Iowa ~
After driving for several hours, we made a quick stop at Walmart before our first performance.

It's always good to arrive with plenty of time to spare beforehand! You never know what might happen on the road. Our van has over 230,000 miles on it. We are praying it holds out until we can get another vehicle!

Studying the performance schedules for the many different stages... 10, I think.

After lugging all the equipment across the field (We made it in ONE trip!!), through the people (hey! it's good promo!), to "back stage" behind this building before our first set, our next job is to get everything as ready as possible for a quick and smooth transition onto the main stage for our time slot.
At festivals, everything is timed and the more time spent setting up, the less time you get to play. Soooo... get ready to FLY! Everyone has a job, and things are set up in a jiffy.

After our first time slot, everything must be hauled all the way back to the van.
Then it's time for a watermelon break. :) Hot and tired, we rested for a while.

Then it's off to jam with some friends, listen to other musicians perform, and talk to many people - old friends and new.

 After jamming and talking, it's back to the van to grab the rest of the equipment before our second time slot. 
Pack up.

After that performance...
Daddy treated us to Culver's. Thank you!

Then it's back to the van to get the equipment, unpack, play, and pack up once more.

Then it's.... ice cream time!!!
 At Blue Bunny.
Le Mars is the ice cream capital of the world.

See that huge bowl of frigid goodness? If you can eat it all by yourself in 15 minutes, you have conquered the Goliath! (Plus, you get a free T-shirt.) Any takers? 

This is only SOME of the grand array of flavors they offer.
One of our family favorites is huckleberry, only available at ice cream parlors.

Need the time?

Talking to friends and fixing the world over ice cream.  :)

~ Back to the van for the hours of driving. ~

And we're home!
And that is one day in the life of a traveling musical family.
Come back next week to hear about more of our adventures. Life is never dull around here.

Rave Review of our latest CD, “Silhouette”

We were SO excited to receive the following email and review of our CD!

“Hello Johnson Strings
If you will go to the website just below this, you will see your record review as it appeared in the internet magazine "International Country Music" which emanates from Germany and goes all over Europe. Good job well done, see you”…
Bob Everhart
 “Country Music News International
THE JOHNSON STRINGS   Silhouette - It Is Not I That Live
La Rejouissance - Beaumont Rag - Written In Red - Dwelling In Beulah Land - There's A Peace In My Heart - The Merry Widow Waltz - We Believe - Power In The Blood - Lookin' For A City - The Old Rugged Cross - Mansion Over The Hilltop - Psalm 67 - Rock Of Ages - Gypsy Waltz - The Hallelujah Side - Fantomen - Near to The Heart Of God - This World Is Not My Home - Holy Holy Holy
This remarkable family is a wondrous musical group.  Violins, violas, upright bass, and keyboard is the majority, but expect the most remarkable sounds coming from these instruments, and much more.  "Beaumont Rag" to "Rock of Ages" is a transportation of the most remarkable kind.  Six children, a mom and a dad, make up the 'strings.'  I'm glad I had the chance to review this album when I did, because the Johnson Strings are going to make a very delightful appearance at the Oak Tree Opry in Anita, Iowa, on September 20th.  I'm also forwarding this CD to the Rural Roots Music Commission for 'instrumentalist' attention.  The entire project, and there are 19 great songs on this one, really allows the 'strings' to prevail and shine. They went to the Catamount Studios for the recording, and I have to admit this particular studio is producing some incredibly good music.  In the overall production, it's hard for me to find any negatives with a fine group like this.  I've listened to 'Beaumont Rag' played by old-time fiddlers so much, the Johnson's version seemed too slow to me.  Then I listened to it three or four more times, and the more I listened the more I liked it.  As a slower song it becomes quite beautiful.  The vocals throughout, harmony included are all wonderful presentations of a 'family' singing together, and there just isn't anyway this 'tightness' can be duplicated by the imitators.  "Old Rugged Cross" has an almost operatic approach, it is sad, deep, very classically adapted, for me it's a wonderful expression of originality.  "Gypsy Waltz" is another example of really good 'personality added' arrangement. "Fantomen" is also like this, a very beautiful 'Swedish' influence. If you've never heard the Johnson Strings, you should.  Their music is totally their own, and professionally and classically done, whether it's the Orange Blossom Special and the Beaumont Rag.....and to be sure, The Old Rugged Cross and The World Is Not My Home.
Bob Everhart, Reviewer www.ntcma.net

Thanks for the great review Bob! We appreciate it!