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Todd Harrold and Dan Mowan deliver Further From Yesterday
A tough year yields a great album
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Music fans who have caught a performance by drummer/vocalist (and radio show host) Todd Harrold or have heard one of his albums know what to look forward to — a sort of R&B/jazz fusion with soulful vocals.
His latest album, a collaboration with guitarist Dan Mowan called Further From Yesterday, is a bit of a departure. The result of what Harrold describes as a difficult year, the album still contains the jazz and R&B influences, and the playing is as proficient as ever, but the overall sound is rawer, looser, less produced and clean. And that’s exactly what Harrold was looking for. “It’s kind of weird, because I didn’t argue with anybody about anything on this album, right down to the miking of the drums,” Harrold says. “I knew exactly what kind of drum sound I wanted, which was going to be way different than in the past. It wasn’t going to be like a Steely Dan record. It was going to be much more open.”
The duo started writing songs and rehearsing together last year, and around Christmas had a well-received gig opening for The Wailhounds and Moser Woods. They started recording at Monastic Chambers back in February. In a single day, they recorded four or five songs that eventually made it on to Further From Yesterday, so they decided to keep going.
Mowan and Harrold imposed some strict rules on the sessions. For one, it was just going to be the two of them in the studio, and everything was going to be recorded live. If they weren’t happy with a sing, they could re-do it, but there would be no overdubs. “I didn’t want it to be so that I could add all this crap later,” says Harrold, who made six albums before this one. “That’s kinda what I do. I want to polish it all up. But I didn’t want to do that this time. I wanted it to be real raw and just have that energy to it.”
Some songs they re-recorded four or five times, but one track, “Priestess,” seemed to come together with very little effort at all. “It was actually a warm up tune,” says Dan Mowan. “Normally, we do a warm-up tune when we’re in the studio before we lay down the other tracks, but it ended up sounding so good we just kept it on the album.”
“People have really responded to that one,” Mowan adds. “A lot of people have heard it on my myspace page, and they request it when they come out to the shows. I think people like it because it’s a different sound for Todd. It’s a little darker and has a lot of space to it. I also kind of a different sound than what’s happening in the Fort Wayne music scene. It’s a sound people aren’t used to.”
For a duo, Harrold and Mowan come up with a pretty rich, melodic sound on Further From Yesterday. Harrold attributes that to Mowan’s skill on the Wes Lambe eight string guitar — the top three strings are bass, the bottom five are guitar. “Dan has a lot of great ideas, and a lot of times I’m going ‘what do you think?’” Harrold says. “ He’s got a wonderful melodic sense. I just really enjoy the way he plays.”
Mowan says he picked up the eight string guitar when he saw a video of jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter playing an eight string. “I’d been taking classical guitar lessons. The idea of two different voices on the same instrument comes up a lot in classical guitar, and I thought it looked like something I could do,” Mowan says.
“When I played it for my friend Brian Lemert in Stone Soup, he said it sounded a little to him like a hip-hop record,” Harrold adds. “It just sounded like Dan was organizing samples underneath my vocal.”
The album also features four covers, including a Jeff Buckley tune and a Cuban-flavored take on Traffic’s “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.” The covers feature the same loose, organic feel of the rest of Further From Yesterday. “It was an amazingly easy process, the one thing that was easy in the last year,” says Harrold. “Working as a duo, it just opens things up where you can’t really categorize it, and I think that’s cool.”
Further From Yesterday is out now. For more information, go to www.toddharrold.com or www.myspace.com/danmowan