Pat LaMountain's first solo CD well worth the wait.
It can take a long time to make a record, but for Pat LaMountain, who just released her first solo CD, it took a really long time. The Greenfield-based singer-songwriter started writing songs for the appropriately titled "A Few Miles Later" as far back as 1983 and started recording them in the early 1990s. However, she eventually shelved the project and focused on other endeavors.
LaMountain, who was raised in New Jersey and later moved to western Massachusetts, is best known for her work with her husband, Tex. The two have long been a popular staple on the Pioneer Valley music scene, recording and performing as Pat and Tex.
The couple first teamed up in 1974, when she was singing with the Sawmill River Band and he was a member of popular Pioneer Valley-based rock band Clean Living. They joined forces and were founding members of the folk rock group Bright Morning Star and later branched out on their own. The duo's most recent recording is "A Few Good Hits to the Heart" from a few years ago. The couple is also active as founding members of the Franklin County Musicians Cooperative and regularly perform at its COOP concerts at the Greenfield Energy Park.
LaMountain also holds down a part-time job as the finance director for the Connecticut River Watershed Council and she is the driving force behind the "Living Along the River Songwriting Contest," which just wrapped up its second year.
And now, after all this time, LaMountain can add "solo recording artist" to her impressive resume. LaMountain will hold a CD release party for "A Few Miles Later" on Sunday, December 6, at 7 p.m. at the Rendezvous, 78 Third St., Turners Falls. The evening will start off with a party at 6 p.m. and the music is slated to begin at 7 p.m. Jennie McAvoy of Deerfield, another Coop member, will open. There is no cover charge.
I asked LaMountain how it feels to finally have this project see the light of day.
"It's very interesting," she said. "But, I have been so busy with the songwriting contest that I kind of forgot about it for three months. And then it was like, "Wow! I have to focus on this!"
LaMountain started writing the 12 songs on the disc in the early 1980s in North Leverett and then, after 1983, in Greenfield. She started recording the songs in the early 1990s at Garden Gate Recordings, the studio she and her husband had in their home. Joe Podlesny was engineering the disc and a host of (then) local musicians played on it, including Podlesny on multiple instruments, Doug Plavin on drums, Steve Sienkiewicz on keyboards, Jonathan McClellan on bass, Lin Boehmer on drum machine and vocals, and Craig Manning on guitar.
The album was almost completed when LaMountain halted work on it.
"I can really remember the whole feeling at that time," recalled LaMountain. "I was just discouraged about my music. I felt like I couldn't play well enough and then Joe moved to Shelburne and started his studio and Steve moved to Florida, so the performing was switching gears and I just let it go."
As the years went on, LaMountain more or less forgot about the tapes as she moved forward with her life.
The couple were cleaning out Garden Gate studios in 2006 and came across the old tapes. Her husband convinced LaMountain that in order to safely preserve these old analog recordings, they needed to be transferred to digital format. So they rang up their old friend Podlesny, who was now well-established with his Avocet Studios in Shelburne Falls, and handed the tapes over to him.
After they were transferred to digital, the tapes ultimately ended up in the hands of engineer Barry Higgins. The LaMountains had recorded "A Few Good Hits to the Heart" with Higgins. It was a working relationship they wanted to continue, so when that album was near completion, LaMountain said, "Hey, I have those digital tapes from Joe -- maybe we could do something with those?"
Higgins went on to remix and master the tapes while Tex LaMountain, who was not involved with the initial recording at all, was brought in to provide some work on harmonies and guitar.
LaMountain admits it was a bit odd immersing herself in material that was written so many years ago.
"I couldn't play any of the songs and I had to relearn them," she said. We kept pretty good records when we were originally recording and I knew what tracks were there and who played on them. But I didn't really know the songs anymore."
LaMountain said she has always viewed herself more as a singer than a musician, having never been very confident in her ability to play guitar. "I could sing the melody and play the chords, but to actually play the song so that anybody would want to listen to it -- I really couldn't do that." It was a long process, but she is moving forward with her playing and will play guitar at the CD release show.
She didn't play guitar on any of the songs on the album. Instead, the 12 folk-based tracks showcase her sweet, crystalline vocals and her ear for a strong melody. From the opening track "Summer Rain," to the sassy blues of "Oh Papa" and the highly hummable "Good Thing," the disc will appeal to old Pat and Tex fans, but should win over some new listeners as well.
"These songs were edgy back then, but not now," she said. "Besides, everyone does 'edgy' now," she added with a laugh.
The CD release show will feature, for the first and possibly only time, musicians who recorded the music performing it together live. The band will include Tex LaMountain on guitar, Plavin on drums, John White on bass (who wasn't on the album) and Podlesny on guitar.
While LaMountain is happy to have the album out, she doesn't have any plans to launch even a part-time solo career.
"I don't really think I am that interested in that," she said without hesitation. "Tex and I have two or three more albums worth of songs and we have been waiting for a break. Now that he is retired, we are ready to get going on that."
Sheryl Hunter, "Sounds Local," The Recorder, Greenfield, MA December 3, 2009.