Austin, TX (July 21, 2009)–Bismeaux Studios was the site of the historic recording of Willie and the Wheel, featuring Willie Nelson with Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel. This critically acclaimed CD, released in February, was tracked and mixed using Lynx Aurora 16 converters.
According to willieandthewheel.com, “Jerry Wexler’s long-overdue concept album takes Willie Nelson back to his musical roots. Teamed up with Ray Benson and the master musicianship of Asleep at the Wheel, this instant classic celebrates the timeless appeal of a most unique and spirited American music genre. Fall in love with Western Swing…again.”
“Willie & the Wheel is a CD whose time has come,” says Ray Benson. “Jerry Wexler originally came up with this concept back when Willie was on the Atlantic label. But, before the record could be made, Willie left Atlantic for CBS records and so the idea was shelved.”
Recorded between February 2008 and February 2009, the project was primarily tracked and mixed at Benson’s Bismeaux Studios. Ray Benson and Jerry Wexler produced, in what was sadly Wexler’s last production. Adam Odor and Sam Seifert were the engineers.
We had a chance to talk with Sam Seifert about the project and Bismeaux Studio.
“We wanted Willie and the Wheel to sound period accurate, using the best of both vintage and current day equipment. On the vintage side, we have a lot of vintage ribbon microphones and our console was the old API console from RCA Studio B in Nashville. We counted on a lot of room sound and ambience instead of outboard reverbs. We did not want to use a lot of effects of any sort. For more current equipment, our recording system consists of an AMD processor equipped computer running Nuendo, with two Aurora 16s interfaced using the Lynx AES16 cards. We always use Aurora’s built-in SynchroLock clock as our master clock.
“The first step was to have the Wheel track their vocals and instruments at Bismeaux, where Paul Shafer also added tracks. Most of this was done in two long sessions. Then Willie added his vocals at a number of studios, including here. The CD was also mixed at Bismeaux using the Auroras.
“The CD was recorded in digital, then mixed to 1/4” analog tape to bring the vintage sound back in, while adding some tape compression as an effect. Kind of ass backwards, as many would say you need to record to tape then drop it into digital. But we have had a lot of good luck with the sound we get recording digitally then mixing analog to two track.
“Before we acquired the Aurora converters, we tested and compared them to the other pro level converters on the market. Our goal was to be able to hear back what the room sounded like and to properly hear the instruments. We wanted no coloration, either adding or subtracting. We wanted transparent sound, good imaging, and a nice clean representation of what we were trying to record. Once we switched to Aurora, what we noticed more than anything else was that we heard our room. We heard the room’s nuances and the funky things that we liked. We started to be able to see and hear a detail in our sound. That was a big thing for us, especially Ray.”
“With the Auroras, what you give em’, is what you get back. Big Bottom, Clean top, and the stability to record at whatever sample rate you want,” was how Benson characterized his Aurora converters. “Once you try em’, they’ll be in your rack for good.”
Seifert expanded on Benson’s comments: “Aurora is a very smooth sounding converter. We do not hear the harshness in the upper mids that we have heard with other converters. We like to have a lot of low end and a lot of warmth and we feel we get that in a very natural way with Aurora. The sound that you’re feeding the Aurora is what you get back, and that’s all you can ask for.”