Single: “Real Love”
Album: Little Honey
Date Recorded: January/February 2008
Producers: Eric Liljestrand, Tom Overby
Engineer: Eric Liljestrand
Mixer: Eric Liljestrand
Mastering Engineer: Gavin Lurssen
Other Projects: Liljestrand has produced two albums by Diamanda Galás, served as engineer on soundtracks including, Shortcuts and Kansas City, and has worked with artists including Ringo Starr and Elvis Costello with the Brodsky Quartet. He won a Grammy for Bill Frisell’s Unspeakable, and edited and mastered the Grammy-nominated Lenny Bruce box set, Let the Buyer Beware.
Single Songwriter: Lucinda Williams
Mix Monitors: Genelec 1032
Tracking Signal Chain [Lead Vocal]: Neumann U 47, Neve 1081 preamp, Universal Audio LA-2A
Recorder: Pro Tools|HD
Select Mix Plug-Ins: “I used zero plug-ins.” Since the breakthrough of 1998’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Lucinda Williams has recorded a succession of equally essential albums at a pace far exceeding the years preceding it. Eric Liljestrand, who recorded her previous album, West, and subsequent tracks for various benefit releases, assumed the co-producer title for Little Honey.
“Real Love,” to this listener, recalls the Rolling Stones in mid-tempo, countrified bliss, electric guitars calling and answering as a solid rhythm section propels the group. “I think of this more as Faces than Stones,” Liljestrand answers, though he acknowledges that “several people have called this her Exile on Main St. record. It’s pretty fun.”
“Real Love,” was recorded in the Neve 88R-equipped Studio D at the Village in West Los Angeles, and mixed next door in Studio B, immediately following installation of the studio’s second 88R, this from the defunct Sony Music Studios in New York.
Eric Liljestrand “Real Love” and the other 12 tracks on Little Honey were recorded to Pro Tools at 96k. “On West,” says Liljestrand, “I had wanted to go to 2-inch Dolby SR, and we never got the chance. This time I didn’t even bother and, although I love the sound of tape, it was the right decision, because it let us move more quickly. This record was so much about capturing the moment. Her vocal was cut live with the band on all but two songs. I did so little to it—maybe steal a word from somewhere. She’s a dream come true: She’s got that rough, untrained-sounding voice, but you can understand every word she says, and she’s always in tune. What could be better?”
“Real Love” was mixed to a modified tube 1-inch Studer 2-track, which was brought into Lurssen Mastering along with a modified 1-inch Ampex ATR 102. “We ended up mastering off the ATR,” Liljestrand confides. “I was a little dubious at first, but it gave the midrange of the music, especially her voice, a real solidity. And, of course, the tube 1-inch just sounds enormous.”
Lurssen, who also mastered West, “has such a light touch,” says Liljestrand, “at least with me and Lucinda. The stuff comes out sounding just like I wanted it, only better.”
Christopher Walsh is the recording editor for Pro Sound News and the associate editor of Pro Audio Review.