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Cirque Du Soleil
(Cirque Du Soleil)
[listen] [buy] [download]

Patricia Barber
(Blue Note)
[listen] [buy]

Cirque Du Soleil
(Cirque Du Soleil)
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Jim Pearce
“Why I Haven't Got You”
Prairie Dog Ballet
(Oak Avenue Publishing)
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Andy Timmons Band
“Gone (9/11/01)”
(Favored Nations)
[listen] [buy]

Ralph Towner
Time Line
(ECM Records)
[listen] [buy]

Anoushka Shankar

Amos Lee
"Arms Of A Woman"
Amos Lee
(Blue Note)

Julius Curcio
"American Pie"
Alligator Shoes
(Electric Roots)
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"Come Alive"
Changing Into Me
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Feature [Issue #9]
Mark Neill: Southern Culture In Southern California: An Interview With Mark Neill, Soil Of The South Music Production
By Mel Spinella

In the 1950s, the home of rockabilly music was clearly Memphis, Tennessee and the studio of Sam Phillips’ Sun Records. Inspired by Sam’s vision of merging white hillbilly music with black gospel and blues, legends were created. Elvis, Jerry Lee, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Charlie Rich are just some of the famous artists birthed at Sun.

So where is the home of rockabilly music today? Soil of The South Music Production in La Mesa, California. So how could rockabilly, with its deep Southern roots, emerge in Southern California?

Two words - Mark Neill

“My dream is that one day American Southern music will be recognized for its importance to the development of American culture,” states Neill as he passionately explains the focus of his career since the late 1970s when he opened up his first project studio with a pair of old tube tape machines with the intention of making some demos.

“My family moved us all around the country when I was young, but my home is Valdosta, Georgia where I grew up as a poor farm boy,” explains Neill. “My parents gave me their 45s of Gospel, R&B, early Rock n’ Roll, and Rockabilly music when the LP record became popular. Those 45s were my world as a young man and I decided then that music would be my life.”

Passion - the word defines Mark’s commitment to Southern music and particularly rockabilly music. In an age of materialism, Neill has foregone the glitter of riches to create lasting, authentic music - music that is timeless.

“I try to record as much of the music live as possible. There is no way that you can create the same tension and inspiration when the musicians are in separate rooms or recording to a track with headphones on. I overdub selectively and only when absolutely necessary.”

That approach has created some of the most popular rockabilly CDs recorded in the past two decades. Ask any rockabilly fan which is the defining rockabilly record of the past twenty years and they will tell you “On The Go” by Big Sandy and The Fly-Rite Trio. The record has sold more copies than any other modern rockabilly record and is the epitome of Neill’s approach to production.

“After the rockabilly scene in LA fell apart in the late1980s, I packed up my studio and moved back to Valdosta, Georgia.” Neill explains, “I had recorded many of the LA rockabilly and retro artists including James Intveld, The Paladins, The Forgiven, Johnny Meeks, Tell Tale Hearts, The Forbidden Pigs, and Ricky Nelson. I encouraged many young rockabilly artists to record. In 1992, Robert Williams and his band came down to Georgia and we cut ‘On The Go’ live to mono.”

Soon every sincere rockabilly artist wanted to get that timeless sound produced by Mark with his 1950s/60s equipment and perfectly designed studio.

“It’s not that I was into buying “vintage” equipment back in the 1970s, it’s just that it was all I could afford. It was only after I figured out how to get the sound on the equipment that I realized the inferiority of 24-track studio recordings and the superior sound produced by two-track tape machines. The sound was so much bigger than the commercial studios and had such great clarity.”

Neill does not use any digital effects in his studio. No Pro Tools, no Autotune, no computer gear, and especially no digital reverb (“Digital reverb is evil,” quotes Mark). So what gear does he use?
“It’s a typical array of 1950s/60s mics: Telefunken, Neumann U47, RCA 77, 639b Altec, various old Electrovoice dynamic mics, older Shure dynamics, and Neumann condensers. I use Studer tape machines, an Ampex 300 tape machine, Studer classical music console, Studer power amp, and Tannoy speakers. That’s about it.”

The acoustics of the studio are based on those of Owen Bradley’s Nashville Studio where rockabilly classics such as “Be Bop A Lula” were recorded.

“Rockabilly and Southern music should receive more attention like the focus on the Blues. It’s authentic music produced by talented and inspired musicians and needs to be preserved. That’s my dream.”

A recent survey of today’s youth found that “authenticity” is their most sought after ideal. With the resurgence of interest in roots music and authentic performances by musicians, Mark Neill just might realize his dream and in the process help us realize our own.

Contact Details:
Soil of the South Music Production
La Mesa, California
Phone: 619-460-0958
Email: info@soilsouth.com

Some examples of Mark Neill’s work:
Big Sandy and The Fly-Rite Trio “On The Go”
Deke Dickerson “Number One Hit Record”, “More Million Sellers”, “Rhyme, Rhythm & Truth”
Josie Kreuzer “Beggin’ Me Back”
Los Straitjackets “SuperSonic Guitars in 3D”
The Paladins “Slippin’ In”, “Palvoline #7”
Rip Carson “Box Set: The Singles Collection”
Rockin’ Ryan and The Real Goners “Caged Heat ”


Southern Culture In Southern California: An Interview With Mark Neill, Soil Of The South Music Production Mark Neill

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