Draw the Line
What happens when you combine the talents of an artist with years of songwriting and live performance experience with some of Nashville's most accomplished musicians? You get an album like 'Draw the Line' - a refreshing collection of eleven original modern country/pop songs from Nashville musician Scott Dorman. This disc is full of memorable melodies and smart lyrics with just enough twang to make you want to play it at your next Morton Building keg party (which is also known as the perfect venue for a wedding reception where Dorman comes from - and that's just fine by him): 'I really think one of the problems with today's country music is that few of the big shots on Music Row are really from the country. I mean when you're from a place where there's a coffee shop on the corner selling $3.50 lattes, you've got a different perspective than if you come from a place where you have to drive 10 miles an hour behind a mud-spewing tractor on your way to a tiny café where you get bacon, eggs, and toast - and a bottomless mug of asphalt-black coffee for a total bill of $3.50! When I think 'country music expert' I think of the people in that café or the people I know who drink Bud from a plastic cup (maybe from the bottle at the classy places) at any of a thousand honky-tonks, clubs, beer joints, and Morton Building parties I've played. The buck stops with those folks. Those are the country music experts - and I've played for tens of thousands of them 50 to 100 at a time over the last 15+ years.' Even though Dorman is in Nashville, he hasn't been chasing a major label deal. Instead he's forged ahead writing, performing, and producing a CD in his own way - on his own turf: 'With today's technology and reasonably priced pro-level equipment you can produce a really nice sounding project for a fraction of the cost of what the majors pay. The secret lies in having some technical recording knowledge and experience, but more importantly good songs and even better musicians. Fortunately, Nashville is overflowing with great musicians. Let them play your songs and welcome their ideas, try to create arrangements without too much crap getting in the way of the important stuff, then sing the songs on key and with some emotion and you're mostly there.' 'Draw the Line' was recorded in numerous places, but mostly by Dorman himself with basics going to a Roland VS-1680 recorder. Tracking for most of the songs began in drummer Steve Emahiser's garage/studio. The process typically worked like this: Dorman would cut a scratch guitar/vocal on the 1680 to which drummer Steve Emahiser and bassist Will Mandell would add their parts - usually at the same time: 'This CD was done using relatively low-end gear, but very talented and experienced musicians. I felt like I had enough experience recording that if I could work with the right musicians I could make it sound good, and it all started with a simply great drummer, Steve Emahiser. He's played in so many situations and so many styles from major label country artists to Broadway show orchestras - he understands the importance of playing to the song. Same thing with Will Mandell - he's toured with big artists and he doesn't try to be the flashiest bass player, but he always grooves and he has a great instinct for playing just the right part to complement the song - a very Glen Worf or McCartney type of attitude. These two guys are absolutely, positively the backbone of this record and they do it exceedingly well.' Next, Dorman enlisted the talents of some amazing instrumentalists. Guitarist Charlie Kelley leads the credits with his formidable guitar skills: 'Charlie came over and spent a few days laying down guitar parts for this record. He's brilliant. Some guitar players have great chops, but no 'song sense' and vice-versa, but Charlie is the real deal. He takes the time to figure out what the song needs and he has the chops to play it. He thinks in textures - best demonstrated in 'A Long Way From Home'. And his part on 'There's Always Something Stupid' is crazy good! He's a schooled musician - Berklee I believe - was nominated for a Grammy for producing, and he was in a band called The Buffalo Club that had major label deal and a big hit on country radio a few years ago. I feel very fortunate that he played on this album. It absolutely would not be what it is without him.' The other major players on the album are David Crow on fiddle and John Calzavara on pedal steel guitar: 'Fiddle and pedal steel are critical to the attitude and vibe of the project, and man oh man did these guys come through. David Crow put out a few CD's on the great bluegrass label, Pinecastle, and he played for years with the Osborne Brothers, one of the biggest acts in the Grand Ole Opry and in bluegrass. He brings so much to the record, and his ability to mesh with Charlie Kelley's guitar, as evidenced on 'There's Always Something Stupid' is simply breathtaking. John Calzavara brings to the project what to me is the classic sound of country in the pedal steel guitar. We didn't use it on every track, but where we did, John laid down the perfect part. John has a great career - playing for a number of major label artists like Rebecca Lynn Howard and Brady Seals. Again, it's just amazing to have musicians of this caliber playing on your CD!' These aren't the only great musicians who appear on the record. Others include Erik Halbig (guitar) from Sara Evan's band, Jay Weaver (bass) from Tanya Tucker and Dolly Parton's bands, and Beau Tackett (guitar) from Rebecca Lynn Howard and Trent Willmon's bands, and more. When it came time to round out the 11-song CD, Dorman looked to his catalog of older tunes and came up with the Iowa track... 'Pickup Truck'. 'Pickup Truck' was recorded maybe 10 years or more ago at Junior's Motel in Otho, IA. It's an incredible studio built on a farmstead and literally sitting 10 feet from a corn field. The guys that originally started it in the 70's got a record deal with Columbia and convinced the record company to give them a bunch of money to upgrade their 'chicken coop' recording studio so they could record their albums there instead of spending a bunch of money in New York or LA. So they ended up buying a bunch of top-quality studio stuff - a great 24-track tape machine, large console, Neumann mics, etc. Of course now all that stuff is vintage and that sound is really in demand. I've recorded over a hundred of my original songs there over the years, but this song was studio owner Kirk Kaufman's idea - he put the track together with a great multi-instrumentalist, Brad Heck, as well as some other studio friends. Kirk asked if I'd be interested in singing it. Although he invited me to share in the writer's credits, I don't think I contributed that much except maybe a few lines and some melodic ideas. Anyway, around that time too we were doing a lot of jingles that involved stacked harmonies - that was kind of our sound, so we thought we'd try something like that on 'Pickup Truck'. It turned out sort of like Merle Haggard meets the Beach Boys. It's a very interesting sound - country, but not traditional at all. Beau Tackett's lead guitar was overdubbed here in Nashville just prior to this release, as I always felt the track lacked a true guitar solo.' For most of the other tracks, once all the parts were recorded, Dorman transferred them from his Roland VS-1680 onto computer for mixdown in Sony Vegas 4.0. So while a little high-tech was used, make no mistake, this is absolutely 21st century cottage industry at it's best. Will it sell a million? Dorman has no illusions, but one gets the impression that's not necessarily Dorman's goal at this stage: 'Over the past 3 years I've been writing, raising a family, doing various production work, and averaging around 240 dates a year in clubs in Nashville - that's about 20 nights a month in a town where competition is so tough it's hard to find one steady gig. I hear back from a lot of people who've bought this CD saying that they like it as well as any big artist CD they have. That's flattering, and since to me they're the experts, that's what makes me happiest. I'm real proud of this CD, not just because it's got my name on it but because of all the great people who helped me make it. I'm just glad to be making a living doing what I love - making and playing music.'