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By Jean Bartlett

Pacifica Tribune Arts Correspondent

Posted:   03/19/2013 05:04:08 PM


Updated: 03/20/2013
08:58:41 AM PDT


Storytelling bluesman Doug MacLeod writes words to songs that make your heart nod "uh-huh." He's got an articulate baritone that chides and caresses like a river, and he plays a National Reso-Phonic M-1guitar, made expressly for him, with a genius literacy spoken directly between him and his guitar. All of this just from a listen to MacLeod's first track "Rosa Lee," on his recently released record "There's A Time," his first album for Reference Recordings. The CD's 13 songs, all written by MacLeod — who was joined by music statesmen Denny Croy on bass and Jimi Bott on drums — was recorded at Skywalker Sound in Marin County by RR chief engineer and technical director "Prof." Keith O. Johnson and RR's Sean Royce Martin.

The multi-Grammy nominated and three-time Grammy winning Reference Recordings has its offices in Pacifica. A small, independent classical and jazz audiophile record label, over its 37 years in business, RR has recorded such artists as the London Philharmonic, the Kronos Quartet, percussionist Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, and the Kansas City Symphony.

Its most recent Grammy was awarded in 2011 for Best Surround Sound Album "Britten's Orchestra" (RR-120SACD). RR was founded on the premise that most commercial records sound nothing like the live performance and they have dedicated their label to high quality sound in the service of great music.

Little big record label out of Pacifica records blues giant

Photo courtesy of artist Blues artist Doug MacLeod (Courtesy of artist)

MacLeod noted that the RR sessions were different from anything he has done in the past. "They put Jimi, Denny and me on this huge soundstage at Skywalker Sound and we sat around in a circle where we could see each other. We played live, no overdubs, just three guys playing some music together."

For the listener, this record is so clear that you feel like you are cheating, sneaking into some elite, top drawer concert where the ticket prices must be many times the cost of this compact digital masterpiece — where every note is drawn in then exhaled. MacLeod, whose compositions have been picked up and recorded by folks like Albert Collins, Albert King and Son Seals, and who has backed such headliners as Big Mama Thornton, Big Joe Turner and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, doesn't know his way around a bad lyric or a tired note. He knows inspired. The guess is, you're going to play "There's A Time" over and over, and each time, caught as if for the first time, in the pulse of MacLeod's authentic talking blues.

Doug MacLeod — "There's A Time" (RR-130HDCD). Producers: Doug MacLeod and Janice Mancuso (RR). Executive producers: Marcia Gordon Martin (RR) and Janice Mancuso (RR). Reference Recordings is in the Crespi Business District.