Rising Stars [Issue
Pickin’ in the Parlor By
9th Ward Pickin’Parlor
Best known for his
1998 hit single Lullaby and his work with singer-songwriter supergroup
The Thorns, Atlanta-based Shawn Mullins has returned to his indie roots.
Forsaking the headaches
of major labels, Mullins is releasing the rootsy, stripped-down 9th Ward Pickin
Parlor on Vanguard records. Named for the New Orleans studio where much of it
was recorded, the album was made with music fans, not Top 40 radio, in mind. ONE
WAY recently caught up with Mullins for a phone interview.
After tiring of creative differences with his former label, Sony/BMG, Mullins
ended up at Vanguard after searching for, as Mullins puts it, somebody whos
not concentrating on taking me to number one or top 40, because Im too old
for that. Im just ready to get back to some real music,
he continues, I think I was in such a rut in making a certain type of records.
To me, if you are being honest as a songwriter and a recording artist in
the end, youre fans will connect with that, Mullins says. Thats
what I learned in the beginning, and I think Im relearning it again.
Mullins updated his sound by a using minimalist approach on Parlor, a Southern
gothic record which features a slew of country-tinged folk tunes, some raw blues-inspired
tracks, and even a Johnny Cash-style murder ballad called Cold Black Heart.
One of his secret weapons on the record was the Parlors owner, musician/engineer
Mike West, who has previously worked with Mullins. Wests New Orleans studio
was tragically destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, but he has since relocated to Lawrence,
Kansas. In the wake of Katrina, Mullins decided to tip his hat to the Crescent
City on his take of the traditional House of the Rising Sun, which
closes the album.
Most of the acoustic tracks were recorded with Mullins and West sittin
face to face in the studio, Mullins fondly recalls. A lot of that
stuff got tracked live, he continues, If theres a little mistake
here and there, we left it if the overall track was good instead of trying to
replace with some type of computerized fix. We just decided to leave things be.
The neighborhood itself was a trip, Mullins says of the studios
location. There were tons of kids everywhere, kids on miniature motorcycles
flying up and down the street, occasional gunshots in the distance. For the most
part though, it was just a really sweet neighborhood, really friendly and family
oriented. But it is the 9th Ward, so its also tough. I think it had a lot
to do with the sound of the record recording there, not only with Mike but just
the atmosphere there. It was really a kind of brutal but honest approach to recording.
The busy singer-songwriter hits the road again this spring, and is playing the
Troubadour in Los Angeles on March 16.
9th Ward Pickin’Parlor