For Eric Lindell, recording an album usually isn’t much more complicated than playing a live show.
But the blues guitarist took a vastly different approach to record his latest album, The Sun and the Sea, employing Pro Tools software and intricately mapping out each song “on a grid,” as Lindell describes it.
“All my other records, I’ve made 90 percent of them live on the spot, and then we’d add a little bit to it,” he said. “For this one, we actually went in with the songs I had and then constructed them in there. We got to actually work on the arrangements, take some guitar out, put some guitar in, and add some huge vocals.”
Much of the credit for the polished sound and feel of the finished album can be attributed to Sean Carey, a longtime Lindell collaborator who produced, mixed, engineered, mastered, sang, and played bass on the album.
“Sean’s very well versed in roots music and soul music and R&B,” Lindell said. “At the same time, he’s a little bit younger than me, and he’s into hip hop and he’s worked with Mannie Fresh and other hip hop guys. It’s kind of a nice marriage of our styles.”
Carey’s layered vocals add a depth and shine to the album that harkens back to doo-wop groups of the ’50s and ’60s, especially on the album’s title track.
For an artist whose career has relied heavily on retro grooves, throwing it even farther back down the timeline for fresh inspiration seems only fitting for Lindell.
“That’s just kind of where I’m at,” Lindell said. “That’s just kind of my wheelhouse, I think. That ’60s R&B, roots music, maybe even a little country or whatever, just that era. A lot of the early Wailers were influenced by the Impressions, which is one of my all-time favorite groups. Early Curtis Mayfield stuff with Jerry Butler, I just can’t get enough of that stuff. I just live it and breathe it.”
The album delves into running themes of heartache and loss on several tracks, including the laid back “I Lost You,” spacious “Wrong too Long,” and heart wrenching cover of George Strait’s “You Look so Good in Love,” on which Lindell’s grief stricken voice feels extra gritty over Carey’s smooth backing vocals.
“Milk and Honey,” which debuted on last year’s Live in Space album, feels like it gets a new treatment, especially coming just before the masterfully revamped longtime live show staple “This Love is Gonna Last,” but Lindell said the opposite is true.
“A year ago last May, we started the concept for this album, and ‘Milk and Honey’ was the first song of the record that we cut,” he said. “A few months later, I started playing it live, and then I ended up playing it on that Live in Space album to throw a new track in, but this album was actually recorded before that. It just didn’t come out until a year later.”
Timelines tend to be flexible at best when it comes to a current musician drawing so much inspiration from past eras, so the time-lapse journey of “Milk and Honey” seems like a fitting story woven through the center of The Sun and the Sea.
One way or another, Lindell definitely found a sound perfectly tailored to his retro evolution on this album, and fans of his will love joining him for a while on this journey.