CraigGore Redfield: There Is Always Hope

By Traci Nubalo

Reprinted courtesy of Palais SL Magazine)

One of the things that I have always found interesting about music is that often we don’t really know why we like - or don’t like - a particular piece of music. A number of years ago I had the great pleasure of helping a young band from Virginia put together their first record for a large label. The band came to the project with a lot of music already in the can, and then spent several more weeks in the studio recording the basic tracks for the disk.

At some point pretty close to the end of the project we got word that the owner of the record label was unhappy. It turns out that he wanted a specific song removed from the record. I was flabbergasted not only at the late date (and the huge expense of making such a change) but also at the fact that the piece in question was one that the whole team (including some other executives at the label) agreed was the strongest song of the lot.

Despite our begging and pleading the owner of the label held his ground and we sadly watched this song go down the drain. And that was that.

Or so we thought.

Quite a number of months later I was in a nail salon when a familiar-sounding tune came over the radio. It was that very piece of music! Written by a wonderful songwriter named Julie Gold, the song was called “From A Distance”. Turns out that Bette Midler had apparently loved the piece as much as we did since she had decided to record the track, also. Bette’s version the proceeded to win a Grammy later that year!

One could, of course, make this little vignette into a cautionary tale about the spurious nature of the record business. But I prefer to adapt a more educational approach in telling the tale.

As I mentioned earlier, much of the time we don’t specifically know exactly why we like a piece of music. There are certain measurable indicators - time signatures, key changes, lyrical patterns that we might point to. But at the end of the day, sometimes we just don’t know! There’s a lot of subjectivity that goes into the process. This fact creates lots of controversy and leads to musical arguments galore.

The same can be true when it comes time to discuss what we enjoy (or don’t enjoy) about certain musical groups, composers, albums, etc. Clearly, some groups or writers just get in my face, flat out, from the word “Go”. I just can’t deal with them and nothing is about to change that. The inverse - for me - would be that there are just some artists who I simply adore no matter what they write or record. I call this the “Springsteen effect”. I just like the guy. And I like his records. End of story.

But usually the water is quite a bit more murky. There are songs (or records) which can take a little time (and a lot of listens) before they truly reveal themselves. A number of releases from The Beatles were in this category for me (think “Sgt. Pepper”). After the initial listen I would swear that I really disliked it, only to find the thing living on my turntable exclusively for the next month, titillating both mind and heart.

Yet, paradoxically, it turns out that these were (and are) the very pieces of music that I have ended up loving the most!

CraigGore Redfield’s release “True” is very deeply within this category for me. When I first took a listen (after having been positively impressed by Craig’s live SL show) I was a bit taken aback in that I was just not knocked out! I mean, I liked it, but it just didn’t hit me in that “deeply-satisfied” sweet spot. But a week later there I was, listening again and again and appreciating and digging the tracks more each time! In fact, it wasn’t until I received a “We Miss You” note from some of the other pieces of music in my collection that I realized the depth of enjoyment that I was getting from this sparkling new project! I was truly beginning to understand why iTunes had named “True” to it’s “New and Noteworthy” list. One I “got it” this record had me body, mind and soul.

The only explanation I have is that “True” is a deceptively subtle song collection. In those first couple of listens I seem to have missed some things that were revealed later, as I went deeper and deeper into the disk. To begin with Redfield - a Tennessee boy - started off with some damn fine songs for this project. There had been no denying this from the start. And the compositions seem to have been very well-treated during the recording process by the stellar collection of musicians that Craig chose for the studio. He makes excellent use of the pedal-steel-driven acoustic sound delivered by members of the great kd lang’s band. They produce a sonic signature which has, of course, served lang very well over the years, and they help create a unique Redfield sound on the new release, which we brought up in the interview.

I had known from the first time I saw him live that I was going to write this article. After all, I regard Redfield to be on of SL’s top composer/performers. But once we decided to actually get it done things got off to a very slow start. After a number of frustrating delays Craig and I were finally able to sit down for what turned into a delightful and most-informative discussion. We were joined by my gorgeous Mistress, the amazing Miss Linda Doune, who is also a member of Palais’ executive staff. On hand to document the event visually was the remarkable photographer Jami Mills who has been my photographic “partner in crime” for so many of these journalistic adventures. As is my habit, I opened the interview with some “tech talk”:

Traci Nubalo: Craig, my readers always seem to enjoy a little technical background. So I’d like to begin by asking you about the really crisp, clean live sound that we enjoy from you. What guitars are you using?
CraigGore Redfield: Thanks. I use an acoustic Gibson Hummingbird from the early nineties and I play into a nice condenser mic. I do not plug in. This is how acoustics sound best.
TN: Any effects?
CR: I stream though an audio program. There a little compression and reverb
TN: Awesome. How about vocals?
CR: I sing through a really awesome tube mic into a tube preamp. This is a studio quality setup; I can record a CD here in my little studio with guitar and vocals that would sound comparable to a CD.
TN: Using the same gear that you use live in SL?
CR: Yes. I made my first solo CD on this gear.
TN: Is that how you recorded "True"?
CR: No. I recorded “True” at the studio of the producer, using much more gear.
TN: I see. I want to talk about “True” a bit more but let’s stay with a different technical discussion for a bit. You have a fabulous guitar sound on the disk. Even though it's not out front in the mix, as it is in your live show, your right hand seems important to me.
CR: Somebody knows how to listen. *smile*
TN: Can we talk about that a bit? What's going on?
CR: With my right hand?
TN: Yes, the theme statements, etc.
CR: Sure. Upon writing this record I taught my self fingerstyle guitar. I decided that I needed a way to express myself differently.
TN: Aha. Bingo. Were you a flat picker?
CR: Yes. I was solely a flat picker; but it wasn’t working for me anymore.
TN: How long had you been picking?
CR: 20 years, Traci. And I've been playing fingerstyle for three years now. My current style is known as Travis picking. The bass line is played with the thumb.
TN: Yes, alternating.
CR: Yes, and it was murder to learn it. Then I thought I had learned it. But when I tried to sing at the same time I ended up having to learn it all over again with the vocalization in mind.
TN: But it’s well worth it both live and on the recording.
CR: Thank you. It is so rewarding. I have such a great time playing solo.
TN: To me, it's the "heart" of your current sound, Craig.
CR: Agreed. It really evoked a whole new kind of song, too.
TN: So, you reinvented yourself as a guitarist for this record. And you brought aboard a very special team of musicians.
CR: I am so lucky. Josh Grange agreed to produce -
TN: Yes!
CR: He is a noted "utility player" and producer. He plays for kd lang. In fact, he’s out on tour with her at the moment.
TN: Readers, a “utility player“ is one who plays lots of instruments, creating a variety of options that can be used in the mixing process to blend the perfect sound for a particular song.
CR: Lord, yes. He’s a genius. He really is one of the great players of my generation.
TN: Agreed.
CR: He plays pedal steel, banjo, acoustic guitar..
TN: Who has he worked with?
CR: Dixie Chicks, kd, Dwight Yoakum. So many…
TN: Any big names? LOL
CR: LOL He's still underrated. But so brilliant.
TN: He is the kd lang sound, in my opinion.
CR: He has contributed lots to her sure, for sure.
TN: Who else is on “True”?
CR: Bass - Ian Walker, who at the time was with kd and now is producing and writing with various artists. On drums, Mitch Marine, drummer for Dwight, Brave Combo, a great session guy...and Daniel Clarke on keyboards. He’s played with Ryan Adams, Dixie Chicks. He’s also out with kd now.
TN: To the new listener - on Craig’s disk you might recognize a little of that "kd sound" but the group has artfully managed to serve Craig's songs so well, and so originally.
CR: Well. Thanks. I think that we relate pedal steel to her sound. But what is different about mine is the fingerstyle guitar. But I agree the hi fi production quality is common to both.
TN: So you and Josh often play in amazing counterpoint to one another but you also stack the sounds very tightly at times. It’s a great, full sound.
CR: Thank you.

Rooted by this astonishing gathering of super players, the tracks unfold along their way with an organic, enjoyable feel. The true center of this release is in the writing, however, I was interested in Redfield’s inner process. So I asked him to give us a brief peek behind the “compositional curtain”:

TN: In terms of composition, did you write at all in the studio?
CR: No, Ma’am. All by myself at home. It just poured out of me.
TN: Tell us about that feeling, Craig. What’s it like when it really flows?
CR: It’s an urge; it’s like a hunger to describe my feelings and to express myself. I have it all the time - a craving. And when the notes and words come together it feels like elation. Like a drug.
TN: One of our favorites is “Tiny Bombs“. Can you talk about that a little? CR: Sure. It’s the story of a woman who is unheard. She’s afraid; captive to a life. And she plays herself like a character, while inwardly she longs for something different. She hurts. I think that’s pretty common, Traci. We all want the courage to live a full life - to be true to ourselves.
TN: Yes, it is a common theme in life, but your description is SO right on.
CR: Thanks.
TN: Craig, what you just described brings us to a central theme of this article. It's something that I noticed about “True”. There is a deep sense of subtlety; it’s like the disk demands several listens at least.
CR: Thank you. May I speak about that subtlety aspect?
TN: Please.
CR: Traci, I have worked and worked and worked and worked to be able to bring that to my writing. I try to make a song specific and universal so you are aware of it consciously, but not browbeat the listener with it. And if the listener would like to go deep they can go miles and yet still enjoy what they hear. So, you have no idea how much that comment honors me.

On “Diamonds”, one of my favorite tracks, Redfield reminds us to recognize the good that comes along with every situation in life. The group creates a hauntingly-open production feel that gives the listener an audio seat in the booth right alongside the players. In one of the CD’s tastier interactions Craig’s gorgeous voice cries, “Don’t forget the diamonds we find along the way,” while Josh Grange provides a chilling underpinning on pedal steel. One thing that really comes through is that this is a band that not only listens to one another - they hear one another!

I had noticed early on that with his newly-learned fingerstyle guitar work, Craig is able to state the central themes to his songs very powerfully on the recording. On disk these statements might often be found tucked back among the other excellent instruments in the sublime mix. In the live arena, however, these right-hand guitar figures become the entirety of Redfield’s ability to state his theme. This creates a wonderfully-powerful sense of presence and motion in the live tunes, especially in the ear of the listener who has already enjoyed the recorded version of “True”.

In his SL performances CraigGore Redfield’s fans will be treated to the most stripped-down possible delivery of his poetry. No loops, no tracks, no pedals - just that amazing right hand guitar work backing the sweetest voice possible. The message of the show carries a depth of bittersweetness rarely found on inworld stages, and the man delivers with the best of them. This is a guy who is coming into his own as both a player and a poet. He deserves to be listened to, and more than once if my experience is to teach a lesson.

We engaged Craig in a brief discussion of his excellent live work, and then took a peek into his future plans. Craig closed the interview with a sweet and loving message to his many SL fans, who show up at his gigs filled with love and admiration for the man in return.

TN: How are things going for you in the live SL scene? (I love your live show, by the way).
CR: Things are good Traci. Oh thanks. Its an extension of my writing - a present tense expression of my feelings, and a connection to my fellow man.
TN: This is why I mentioned your right hand work at the outset. If the listener has heard the disk first, they will be delighted with how your right hand work subtly states the themes on the recording, yet stands out in the live show. I love how you treat the listener to a second "vision" if they have already heard the disk.
CR: Right. Thanks. Traci, we all need love, myself included. And that’s what “live” is. It’s the connection; emoting together. I need them to complete it. We finish it together.
TN: And they love you live, Craig.
CR: Yes. It feels amazing. Every day someone approaches and says "I felt". That makes it all worth it. You know, people are so beautiful; all the differences. The colors of feelings; ideas; viewpoints. I get to swim in that. *BIG smile*
TN: Wow. Your happiness really shows in the live performance.
CR: Thanks.
TN: What's next for you?
CR: I am touring RL and doing more SL shows. And I am proud to announce
that I am writing two new records. One for me and one for a new trio I am starting. I met a RL record producer here that has become a brother to me and a female singer that has moved me so deeply that I have to make records with them.
TN: I know your fans will be eagerly awaiting both of those projects.
Well, Craig - speaking of your SL fans - this is where you get to speak directly to them.
CR: So glad to get a chance to do that.
TN: What would you like to say to the many Palais SL Magazine readers who are fans of yours?
CG: I love you so much and thank you from my depths for being with me here and being so generous with love and appreciation.

And - there is always hope.

So - Hope.

To contact CraigGore Redfield log on to or contact his wonderful inworld manager Katejupitar Rae. And support your SL musicians and venues.


Post a Comment

Free Blogger Templates Free Joomla TemplatesFree Blogger TemplatesFree Website TemplatesFree Wordpress Themes TemplatesFree CSS TemplatesFree Wordpress ThemesFree CSS Templates dreamweaver