Regional band, local producer record live at The Coffee Mill

The Clayton News-Star

Studio 415 producer Paul Barton slips on his headset and turns one of the many knobs on his console, nodding his head to the music being recorded.

“Listen to this,” he said. “Sounds clean, doesn’t it? I’m getting chills just thinking of the possibilities once I get back to my studio.”

Barton and Chapel Hill area band Partners In Crime teamed up to record between 15—20 songs live at The Coffee Mill in downtown Clayton Friday night. Barton hopes to have a CD ready for distribution in about a month’s time.

“There’s no better place in the Triangle to record live music,” Barton said. “We appreciate (Coffee Mill owners) Cliff (Morgan) and Jodi (Sager) letting us do this.”

From left, Benjie McKellar, Debbie Price and Steve Broome, the Chapel Hill group Partners In Crime Partners In Crime (Benjie McKellar on guitar and vocals, Debbie Price on harmony vocals and Steve Broome on guitar and mandolin) have been in existence for 10 years, but the current lineup has been together for two years. PIC has played throughout the Triangle in recent months, including open mic night at The Mill and the establishment’s music and arts festival, Millstock.

Because the band members all have day jobs (they are respiratory therapists in the medical field), getting together with Barton at his studio proved to be an arduous task.

“We thought this was the best way for all of us to be together at the same time,” said McKellar, who writes PIC’s songs. “This was a one-shot deal and we figured it’s the best way to get it (recording) done.”

PIC’s music is best described as acoustic music with influences ranging from folk and blues to country and rock. “We wanted to have a well-done recording of what we do,” said Broome.

McKellar said his original songs are rooted in whatever inspires him. “You have to have an inspiration, or else the song can’t be written,” he said.

Barton said recording live was a way to feature the group in its best element, playing in front of people.

“I believe they are a little studio shy,” he said. “They’re more comfortable in a live environment. They are one of the most fun groups I’ve ever worked with, because with them, what you see is what you get. They are a perfect blend of country, mountain music and old rock and roll with influences as diverse as Earl Scruggs and The Rolling Stones.”

Barton said he knew he wanted to work with the group when the first song he ever heard PIC play was the Stones’ classic Dead Flowers.

“They do a mountain music version that’s to die for,” Barton said.

Barton recorded the basic tracks over a two-hour live session on Friday. He will then even out the sound levels once he gets back to his studio, but insists there won’t be any overdubs.

“They have a straightforward style, and I want that to come through on the CD,” he said.

The goal, Barton added, is to create a CD that sounds like the band live. “When you listen to this, it will be like you were there live,” he said.

Barton recorded the tunes on an ADAT machine, which translates well into all digital and computerized formats. Barton transfers the tapes to digital format, cleans them up and then creates the final CD.

Though the environment is live, crowd noise will not be on the tapes. “The way they were miked makes the crowd noise minimal,” he said.

The main aspect of recording live is the possibility of feedback. “That’s the only thing you can’t take out,” Barton said, listening to McKellar’s indentifiable voice.

McKellar hopes the recording will help make Partners In Crime an even more recognizable name in the Triangle music scene.

“We would like to get this CD out and use the recordings as promos so we can get more gigs,” he said.

Article and photo by Jim Green, Staff Writer