Last night I dropped by Superman Ranch studio, where several new developments were going down at once: James Godwin was recording his first full-length album with his band James and the Ultrasounds. Also breaking new ground was the album’s producer, Mark Edgar Stuart, who is adding producer to his ponderous musical résumé.
These sessions — engineered by Curry Weber — represent a major move forward for Godwin, whose first recordings were done at home.
“It was just an EP,” Godwin said. “I recorded that on my four-track. For that one, I didn’t have a band yet. So I recorded it all by myself. We finally got everybody together and learned those songs. So these are songs that were written after we’d been playing a bunch. Most of what would be on the new record are songs that we’ve played live a handful of times, just to work them out. It’s been just over a year.”
Godwin has wracked up some serious Memphis credentials as a sideman for Jack Oblivian and for John Paul Keith. His work with the New Mary Jane garnered love and attention, if not traction. He formed the Ultrasounds with guitarist Luke White, bassist David Johnson, and drummer John Argroves. Flyer writer J.D. Reager picked the band as a likely highlight of 2014. Judging from the tracks I heard, he’s right.
Stuart threw down a major gauntlet in securing an original Hofner bass. The sound is unmistakably McCartney, and is only one variable in a lively, original-sounding piece of music. Argroves is rock solid, and his kit is rendered beautifully. Above the bass and drums are blended guitars that assume their own form: a wall of harmonies that lift Godwin’s all-in vocal performance. I look forward to hearing this record.
As for Stuart, he’s enjoying his environment at Superman Ranch and the new role.
“When Jeff from Star & Micey broke his hand and I did some gigs with them playing bass, they gave me all of their demos,” Stuart said. “I said damn this sounds good. Where’d you record it? They said, ‘Our practice space. Curry did it.’ That’s how I got hip to it. I thought it would be good for James.”
Godwin has enjoyed the transition from working at home to the relaxed feel at Superman Ranch.
“It’s the perfect level of intimidation,” Godwin said.
Look out for this record.