Band: Harrison McInnis Album Release Party
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 19, 6 p.m.
Venue: The Merry Widow, 15 S. Conception St., www.themerrywidow.net
Tickets: $5 at the door
For years, singer-songwriter Harrison McInnis has entertained audiences with his own brand of homegrown Southern soul, whether performing with Slide Bayou or his Harrison McInnis Trio. Now McInnis is about to fulfill a dream that has literally been years in the making — the release of his debut album, “Love Remedy.”
Both McInnis and his fans have eagerly awaited the album’s release, and McInnis could not be more pleased with the realization of his dream.
“It’s out of this world, and it’s what I’ve always wanted,” McInnis said. “Nothing could actually reach that anticipation for me. Everything has gone right, and it sounds so good. It’s taken a long time, but it’s been absolutely worth it.”
Those who have experienced these songs in a live setting will be thrilled with the creative freedom, artistic support and keen production that has provided an impressive translation of McInnis’ repertoire. From the first song, “Love Remedy” demonstrates levels that take these songs far beyond the live versions.
McInnis’ mix of classic soul and Southern rock thrive with numerous instruments and voices that fill “Love Remedy.” While these songs may provide a new face for songs such as the title track and “Shiny Church Shoes,” one aspect of McInnis’ music remains unchanged: The singer-songwriter’s trademark vocals shine just as brightly in the studio as on the stage. The deep soul and warm gravel of McInnis’ lyrical delivery slides across each measure.
McInnis credits producer, local guitarist and Slide Bayou bandmate Lee Yankie with this collection of high-level studio reboots.
“It was going to be my debut album, so I wanted it to be perfect,” McInnis said. “Lee said, ‘I’ll make it perfect. I’ve got it and know how it’s supposed to sound.’ He did. He took my simple songs and turned them into masterpieces.”
Yankie is one of two credited by McInnis with bringing this album to life. In fact, McInnis says it was Yankie that originally pressured him to record a studio album.
Yankie had entered the studio with Andy Cloninger (Dancing Dog Recording Studio) and Trina Shoemaker, who handled the mix-down. McInnis says he fell in love with the production of Yankie’s final mixes. After McInnis complimented him on his tracks, Yankie said it was McInnis’ turn to enter Cloninger’s studio with Shoemaker’s skillful hand mixing the tracks. Yankie insisted that he himself take on the role of producer.
“Andy taught Lee while they were doing his album how to work the console and how to be able to control everything,” McInnis explained. “When we got in the studio together, I was the artist. Of course, it’s my songs and my heart, but he took the helm. He was producing from day one. He had it in his head how he wanted it to sound, and I trusted him. I’m glad I did, because it’s better than what I would’ve done.”
Over many Sunday brunch collaborations at the now-defunct Café 615, McInnis says Yankie had become an expert on his entire catalog of original material. With this in mind, McInnis confidently gave Yankie a great deal of creative freedom with his production.
Yankie created studio arrangements for the album and chose an impressive list of local talent that rotated from track to track. McInnis humbly admits that many of these artists would not have appeared on the album if not for Yankie.
From guitar to percussion, Yankie himself provided many of the instrumental tracks. Sean Peterson, Owen Finley and Kevin Scott provided bass. Greg DeLuca, Luther Harris and Winter Baynes laid down drums tracks. Chris Spies’ organ is prominent throughout “Love Remedy.” Jose Santiago donated his congas.
The album’s horn section consists of Blake Nolte, Shawn Wright and Christopher Spies. The vocal work of Donna Hall, Eric Erdman, Andy Cloninger, Ryan Balthrop and Emily Stuckey are also featured. Of all the featured artists, McInnis says his work with Stuckey on “Still Loving You” was the most memorable.
“I’ve done that song a thousand times and never had a female, super-caliber vocalist interpret it in her way and accompany me at the same time,” McInnis said. “That was magical, and she’s awesome. ‘Still Loving You’ might be the most flawless thing we got. It’s a perfect work of art, in my opinion.”
McInnis also credits Jeffrey and Suzanne Zimmer’s Baldwin County Public Records with the release of his debut album. McInnis describes these local music enthusiasts as individuals who “support local music, not only monetarily but also by being there.” A few years ago, Jeffrey Zimmer met McInnis at one of his shows at Fairhope Brewing Co. Their history together began with a handshake and introduction.
“I had no idea who he was,” McInnis admits. “He wasn’t doing Baldwin County Public Records back then. He was a lover of music. We had a nice conversation afterwards. I really didn’t think much of it, until almost a year later or more. He approached me and said, ‘Look, I’m starting this record label, and I want to help local artists who do not have debut CDs.’”
Zimmer went on to tell McInnis he was interested in helping him. McInnis says Baldwin County Public Records’ assistance could not have been better timed. At that time, McInnis says “Love Remedy” had reached a standstill. The foundation vocal and instrumental tracks had been recorded, but Shoemaker’s mixing, the vocal harmony tracks and the mastering had yet to happen. McInnis says that all changed after a meeting with Zimmer at Manci’s Antique Club.
“[Zimmer] said, ‘Let’s finish this album. I’m excited. Let’s do this. The world needs this,’” McInnis said. “I signed a contract, and he has done it. He made it come to fruition. With all the amazing people that are a part of it, it would’ve gone away if it wasn’t for Jeffrey. He made it possible [for the record] to be a finished product, instead of just a dream.”
The “Love Remedy” album release party will be the public’s first taste of McInnis’ dream. Naturally, copies of the album will be available for purchase.
McInnis says the evening’s live performance of the album’s tracks should also be memorable. He has gathered what he calls the “core band” from the album. Yankie will be on guitar, and Christopher Spies will provide saxophone. Sean Peterson will loan his bass sound to the mix, and Winter Bayne will keep the beat on drums. McInnis says Chris Spies will be on keys, if his busy schedule permits.
Ultimately, this show will be a chance for both those familiar and unfamiliar with McInnis’ work to witness a musical dream brought into reality.