Looking for a way to “bring a little magic” to a new recording, co-producers Bo Sloan and Dan Baker enlisted the help of old friends.
The result is “Years Gone Bye,” a 12-track CD mostly written, performed, recorded and produced by area musicians and released in December.
“We talked about it, how can we do it, how can we make it interesting,” said Sloan. “Why not use some of these musicians and singers that we have up here, because they’re good, no doubt about that, so why not take advantage of that?”
Sloan is from Blairsville but has lived in Nashville, Tenn., since 1986, where he has played piano and guitar for country music legends such as Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn and Ronnie McDowell and briefly for Randy Travis.
He and Baker, of Blairsville, have been friends and written music together for many years, he said.
Featured on the CD in one way or another are: Brian Smith, Matt Baker, Lynn McCombs, Emil Herby, Dr. Bernie Scherer, Bill McAtee, Randy Torok, Tommy Steeves, Greg Persichetti, Dave Brozeski and Lisle Kunkle, all of Blairsville; Buddy Dee, of Brush Valley; Jacob Sloan, of Brenizer; Jim Fleming, of Pittsburgh; Mark and Joanne Sloan, of Duncansville; Mike McConnell, Greensburg; and Bob Hansel and Frank Gorton, of Ligonier.
The local-talent idea was Baker’s. He said he wanted something to keep the record from being “stale.”
“It just seemed to me that there were a lot of people from the local area who played music and had written music and performed and struggled for many years and really didn’t get much recognition,” he said. “I just thought, you know, it would be really cool if we could get that recognition for some of those people and get a little magic for the CD at the same time.”
Some of the musicians were people Baker played with in jam sessions or sung with in a church choir. Others were old friends or former members with Sloan in a band called Seneca Trail.
“We started out saying, ‘Who could we use that’s deserving, who would get a big kick out of it, who would enjoy it, who would we enjoy having on it, and all of a sudden the list got out of control,” Sloan said. “I’ve known these guys all my life.”
While the CD is a reunion of sorts, there wasn’t an actual reunion to record it. Sloan said he would record a song, then send it to Baker, who would record the parts by local people before sending it back to Sloan. At first they were burning tracks to discs and mailing them to one another, but later they moved to Dropbox, an Internet storage site. Then the files could be uploaded online and immediately downloaded at the other’s studio.
“That was a very cool thing,” Baker said.
Both men particularly wanted the finished product to avoid being boring. Both said it is difficult to pigeon-hole the genre: Sloan described it as a mix of country and rock.
“Hopefully each sounds a little different from the last one,” he said.
Having the different musicians participating also helped keep it interesting, Baker said.
“Everybody that we used really did bring something special to the recording,” he said. “They were just fantastic, the excitement that they brought, it was more a psychological magic.”
Some of the tracks have particular memories associated with them. One, “The Legend of Mike McConnell,” Sloan wrote to make fun of his friend’s beat-up music stand. Another, “Get into the Music,” Lisle Kunkle wrote for Sloan as he served in Vietnam.
“It’s about the music and it’s about the people,” Baker said. “I guess the biggest thing for me is a lot of the local guys got to play, because that really was something special that we wanted to include.”
The CD is available at Backstreet Records in Indiana; Blairsville Pharmacy and Brozeski’s Music, in Blairsville; and the CD Warehouses in Greensburg and Monroeville. It is also available on iTunes, Amazon.com, CD Baby and www.bosloanmusic.com.