Friday, May 30, 2014

Paul Kelly - Stealing In The Name Of The Lord (Happy Tiger 541)

Stealing In The Name Of The Lord

This is, quite simply, one of the greatest records of all-time. In addition to its ground-breaking subject matter (which certainly still rings true today), it just plain COOKS!

For some reason, in my mind, I always associated this song with Woodland Studios in Nashville, and thought that, very possibly, that was our hero Reggie Young on guitar. It sure sounds like, him doesn't it? Well, as fate would have it, I finally got the chance to ask Reggie point blank. "Not Me," he said. Hmmm... so what about the rest of my brilliant theory? Well, as it turns out, I was half-right.

If I had been paying attention, I might have noted that Sir Shambling, on his excellent Paul Kelly page, places this one squarely in Muscle Shoals. After asking around, no less an authority than David Hood confirmed that it was indeed recorded out there on the Jackson Highway, and listed the personnel as himself, Roger Hawkins, Clayton Ivey, Barry Beckett and Eddie Hinton.

Even though it is Duane Allman who gets all the press, Eddie Hinton was the go-to guitar player in Muscle Shoals for years. Although he (sadly) doesn't get mentioned in the otherwise excellent Muscle Shoals documentary (which is now streaming on Netflix!), Eddie was The Shoals' 'secret weapon', and his tasteful guitar chops show up in all kinds of unexpected places - like this one. How great is that churning Telecaster riff, man? With Clayton Ivey's piano taking things straight to Church, they just don't come much better than this, y'all.

So what about my Woodland Sound theory? Well, as it turns out, Buddy Killen had a secret weapon of his own, a young engineer who had come up listening to John R on WLAC, and knew how to forge 'that sound'. Ernie Winfrey had been the drummer for Nashville Frat-Rock band The Monarchs, and been around the block a couple of times before he got in on the ground floor at Woodland soon after they opened their doors in 1968. He cut his teeth, if you will, cutting great Gospel records for Shannon Williams on Creed and Nashboro, and straight ahead Blues and R&B on Excello (think Slim Harpo), A-Bet and Mankind.

Buddy Killen, who knew talent when he heard it, began using Winfrey exclusively around this time as the re-mix and overdub engineer on the Dial 45s he was recording on Joe Tex. After he had taken prodigal son Paul Kelly to Muscle Shoals in 1969 to cut the record they both knew could be a major hit, they brought it to Ernie at Woodland, who left no doubt that it would become one. Building Paul and his wife Juanita's 'mass-choir' background vocals, and adding percussion (like the 'slide-tom' he played himself), Winfrey helped Killen turn a good record into a great one. 'Stealing' spent three months on the charts in the Summer of 1970, rising as high as #14 R&B.

When Buddy built the fabled Soundshop Studio shortly after that, he took Ernie with him. His work with Killen's R&B roster continued, as he brought in old friends The Memphis Boys to record with folks like Annette Snell and King Floyd, in addition to continuing the work they had begun at American with Kelly and Joe Tex. As the reputation of the studio (and its topflight engineer) grew, clients lined up from far and wide to cut there.

Behind the board for everyone from Paul McCartney to Dolly Parton, to Millie Jackson, Grand Funk Railroad and everyone in between, Ernie Winfrey brought his unique touch to a massive body of work that cuts across all genres and, if this great 45 we have here is any indication, will live on forever. He is being honored this weekend with a well-deserved Audio Engineering Society Lifetime Achievement Award:

Sunday, June 1st - 2pm
Ford Theater
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
225 5th Ave South
Nashville, TN

The event is free and open to the public, and if I wasn't a thousand miles away, I'd be there! Congratulations Ernie, and Thank You!

A couple of years back, there was a report that Paul Kelly had left us. So far, I have been unable to confirm that. Paul, are you out there? Thanks... -red