ecorded at the historic Sam Phillips Recording Studios in Memphis, Tenn., the album was produced by acclaimed Memphis recording engineer and producer Matt Ross-Spang. “It's probably the least-country record I’ve ever made,” Mead says, “but at the same time, it’s really a country record.” Mead has been upending expectations and walking the line between hardcore country music and raucous rock ’n’ roll for the better part of 25 years. As a member of the alternative country music quintet BR5-49 in the early 1990s, Mead fused rock ’n’ roll excitement with the soul of the Music City’s honky tonk heritage, sparking the rebirth of Nashville’s Lower Broadway music scene. Over the course of the late ’90s and the early 21st Century, he recorded seven albums with BR5-49 and spread the gospel of neo-traditional country music around the world, garnering the band a CMA Award for Best International Touring Act and three Grammy nominations.
Mead subsequently released three well-received solo albums and served as the Musical Director/Supervisor/Producer of the hit Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet, as well as the companion CMT dramatic series, Sun Records. The time he spent in Memphis during the production of the TV series led to Mead’s change of recording venue for his new album. By the time Mead was ready to record, Ross-Spang had earned a reputation as one of the top engineers and producers in the Americana and roots music scene, and had moved from Sun to Sam Phillips Recording, the Memphis studio built by Sun Records head Phillips in 1960. Ross-Spang, hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the most trusted arbiters of the modern Memphis sound,” has worked with a who’s-who of roots artists, among them 61st Grammy Award nominees John Prine, Jason Isbell and Margo Price. Grinding traditional musical forms together and watching the sparks fly was an integral of Phillips’ genius and the “Memphis Sound.” The process led him to create transcendent and transformative records from Howlin’ Wolf, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and many others, a tradition continued by producer Ross-Spang. The opening track of Close to Home — the grungy, hillbilly rocker “Big Bear in the Sky” — exemplifies one of those unexpected directions. It’s a song Mead describes as “Johnny Horton fronting the Sonics."
“The song is based on a Miꞌkmaq Indian folk legend about the Ursa Major constellation,” Mead says. “I wanted it to be a Johnny Horton-style history ballad. I had recorded an earlier version for an anniversary album for the German reissue label Bear Family Records, but it wasn’t quite where I wanted it. I wanted to rock it out in the studio and Matt pushed me to take it to an entirely new level.” Then there’s the title track, which Mead allows is “pretty heady for a country song,” explaining that “it’s about those weird instances where you think of a person or mention them and suddenly they present themselves. Or maybe you’re experiencing some sort of event in your life and suddenly there is a book or a song or movie that lines up perfectly with the situation. It's not quite synchronicity … But it’s something that makes it seem there’s some cosmic frequency that we're all on and the possibility that there is some sort of order to the universe.”
HEAR NOW: Rolling Stone Country premiered the title track: http://bit.ly/2OrOwV3
For more information about Chuck Mead’s Close to Home, please contact Conqueroo:
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