Diablo Dimes “Memoirs of a Poor Balladeer” Album

Production and Recording | April 25th, 2009

Diablo Dimes is seriously old-school, an amalgam of ’30′s swamp blues, ’40′s boogie-woogie, classic country and Dylan unplugged. He uses antique instruments almost exclusively and he prefers the old analogue tape machines to high-power digital processors.

Diablo Dimes 'Memoirs of a Poor Balladeer' volume one disc cover

Recently, eight normal biased, K-Mart cassettes came in my box, sent up from the deep, Deep South. Diablo Dimes had recorded twenty-three masterfully crafted, artfully arraigned songs onto them. He sent me these raw tracks to mix and master into a two-volume album, “Memoirs of a Poor Balladeer,” which is available from Mr. Dimes on his website.

Until this record, my production craft has mostly been of the hard-edged variety: Punk; Metal; Industrial and so forth. So when the opportunity to apply my own personal tastes for old rhythm and blues, rockabilly and country came in the form of those cassettes, I jumped at the chance. It was all very exiting and personally rewarding.

Here is “Ragtail”, from the second volume. The first few measures come directly from the raw, unprocessed recording, with each individual track set at zero gain. You’ll hear the finished product when the sound jumps, so beware and turn it down.

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Production Notes

Most four-track cassette machines are designed for convenience and compactness, not sophistication. The bells and whistles are few and minimal; they were primarily designed for demo work.

Diablo Dimes used this four track to demo some songs that he had written for a future fully produced album, but someone must have convinced him that these sessions would make a great album as it was, without all of the big-name studio embellishments. And I would have told him the same thing.

Because my ancient four-track has only two outputs, I had to digitize the session two tracks at a time. Mechanical devices almost never run at the exact same speed; there are always very slight, yet significant, speed variations each time it is run, so I did some extensive ‘cut and paste’ editing to sync the tracks together (correct too many errors, tighten up the accompaniment too much and you lose the feel, the emotional impact of these mostly melancholy songs).

Once the individual tracks were digitized, synced, and cleansed of the more onerous tape noise, the mixing went very smoothly; he had recorded the levels as he thought they should have been mixed (instead of running everything at their peaks and mixing in post). When they were cleansed, equalized and mixed, I added a microscopic amount of my room ambiance technique to the master. I deliberately mastered the record slightly quieter than most post-Y2K recordings, because at loud levels, over compressed, hyper loud CD’s sound like crap.

So there it is. You may purchase the two volume set at Diablo Dimes

One Comment

  1. Dixie Dimesey says:

    Thank ya’ sir, oh’ so kindly, you is one in a million!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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