Published on November 8th, 2012 | by Ballard Lesemann0
Sadler Vaden’s Home Recordings Make an Impressive Debut
Songwriter Sadler Vaden’s new solo album Radio Road sounds pretty damn solid for a casual home recording. From the straight-up rock anthems to the delicately countrified pop tunes, the seven-song collection rolls together quite well.
Vaden grew up in Summerville and played for years in Charleston-based rock band Leslie before landing his latest gig with Drivin’ N’ Cryin’. Touing and studio work with the Atlanta-based quartet has kept Vaden occupied for most of 2012, but he managed to write, record, and mix some fine music of his own as well. In October, he released Radio Road on CD and online as a seven-song mini-album.
“I only pressed 100 hard copies of it so far,” Vaden says. “It’s like a little gift to myself. I chipped away at paying for it over the course of a year. It’s really just me being me. It’s a little rockin’, it’s a little rude, and it’s a little simple and pretty. You’ve got your pretty, pop-jangly songs and you’ve got your ass-kicking blues-rock songs.”
The cohesiveness and flow of Radio Road reflect Vaden’s newfound confidence both as a singer/songwriter and as a rookie studio engineer.
“I spent about eight months recording it,” Vaden says. “All of the songs started out as demos, and I would keep adding stuff and coming back to the songs I really liked. I was learning how to engineer things better, too — working in ProTools and learning about mic placement and EQ and all that stuff. The demos started to sound pretty good. I did all this work on them using home studio equipment, so I figured, ‘Why not put this out?'”
Radio Road leads off “Wolf,” a cover of the late Charleston group The Working Title’s original off of their disc Bone Island. A slightly demented two-chord intro starts it up with Vaden singing, “I’ve found it/Believe me, I’ve cut it out” over the top. It builds momentum as the drums and bass sneak in, and it starts stomping like mad by the time a wild slide fuzz guitar joins the fray.
The Petty-esque title track is probably the most straightforward rock song of the set, with bright, jangly power chords, dual guitar interplay. The dramatic “Everyone’s Runnin'” is a mid-tempo riff-rocker, punched up with additional organ and terrific guitar tones. “High and Dri” (with that weird spelling) fits the trad-rock side of the collection well, too. With a four-on-the-floor drum beat, it rocks with D’N’C-meets-AC/DC bombast.
There’s a country/folk side of Radio Road, too. The 12-string guitar of the upbeat “Come Back Home My Dear,’ an acoustic-based country roller, resembles the distinctive arpeggios of the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn. The soaring pedal steel enhances the airy feel of the tune. “Someplace New” is another acoustic country/folk number with plenty of tambourine, organ, and three-part harmonies. There’s a moving on theme to the lyrics. The strummy, slow-moving ballad “No Love” closes the album with a hint of handsome melancholy and subtle, Nashville-style hormones from Shovels & Rope.
“I like that it all starts with the track ‘Wolf,’ which is a cover of a buddy’s tune, although it sounds nothing like the actual version,” Vaden says of the album. “‘Radio Road’ made sense to put next in line, just to crank it up a little more. I wanted it to be a little roller coaster, up-down, up-down. I thought ‘No Love’ with the great harmonies from Cary Ann [Hearst] and Michael [Trent] would be a good spot to end it.”
Radio Road benefited greatly from mixing by engineer Scott Hardin and mastered by acclaimed producer Paul Ebersold, who previously worked with Vaden and Leslie at Ardent Studios in Memphis. The studio wizards applied the polish, but all of Radio Road‘s tones and grooves were initially captured by Vaden on his own turf.
“All I was doing was basically what I’ve learned,” Vaden says. “I’ll never be the guy to raise my hand to produce somebody’s record. For me, it was just a moment of doing what I wanted to do without any outside input at all. It all started with me in my room, and that’s where I usually do my best stuff.”
Radio Road is available on CD, iTunes, and other digital delivery platforms. Check out the music at sadlervaden.bandcamp.com.
Sadler Vaden and the One Night Only’s perform at the Pour House on Fri. Nov. 23 at 9 p.m. Admission is $7 at the door, $5 in advance.
Top photo by Ballard Lesemann
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