The Question. May 4, 2013-by Jan. 

 
The question.

We started getting asked "the question" and that's great because it means that the asker likes your music. The question conversation goes something like this, "Do you have a CD?" And our answer was, "No" and their response was, "Oh....too bad." We knew we had to make a CD soon so we began talking about recording. The good thing was that we knew what studio we wanted to use.

Pete Weiss moved up to southern VT a few years before we did. But he didn't just buy a house, he also built himself a recording studio. Mike and I knew Pete from the Boston days. We had worked with him in the past and knew we wanted to work with him again. He is an easy guy to record with. Very relaxed, he'll make you feel right at home in the studio. He's also a fabulous musician. We booked time at Verdant Studio.

Another great thing was that we knew who would be doing the artwork and layout because Mike had asked Charlie Hunter if he would create the artwork for the CD a year ago. We recently got together at Popolo's and discussed it over lunch (which was excellent!). Charlie gave us a few ideas and then let us loose on his website to pick and choose from some of his fantastic art. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I mean, really! Have you seen his art? We selected 2 paintings, and Charlie describes things about the paintings we chose for the CD better then me below.

The hardest part was picking the songs so we decided to record a bunch of songs and then narrow down the list. We also asked my good friend and former band mate from my earliest band ever, to come up and play some cello for us. Ranee Duncan kindly agreed even though it meant digging out the cello, blowing off the dust, changing the strings and practicing a lot - she hadn't played it in over ten years! She graciously played on 5 songs, 3 of which made it onto the disc. One song will be used on the next CD, and one tune was completely rewritten and re-recorded sans cello.

Mike and I have talked on and off about working with a drummer. One, because drums would sound great on most of the songs and two, because it's fun! But what isn't fun is finding a drummer. Especially a good one. Enter Ben Carr! If you go out and enjoy local music, you've probably seen him. When he's not playing ukulele with the Ben Carr Project, he can be found playing drums for a few other lucky groups. It just so happened that we were asking him if he'd like to play drums with us while he was asking us if we needed a drummer - strange how things work out! We recorded 10 songs with drums and 8 are on the CD. We will use the others on the next CD.

Recording began in October and ended in March. The finished recordings were sent to Patch Hill Mastering for the final step in April. Peter Linnane mastered the CD and sent the files to us to listen to. After making a few critiques, Peter would make adjustments to the mastering and upload the songs again for us to check out. We did this a few times and Peter was very gracious and kind, as well as great to work with.

During the entire process there were crazy things to deal with like never ending colds, pneumonia, snowstorms and crazy rituals including fresh apple cider donuts and home brewed beer. And bananas, but that's Pete's story.

After putting all of this together we happily present to you The Milkhouse Heaters debut CD, Farmhands and Factory Girls. We really hope you enjoy it!


The contributors:

Charlie Hunter creates what he describes as "Drippy paintings of rotting American infrastructure." His work was the subject of recent features in PLEIN AIR and ARTSCOPE magazines, and he is the recipient of a number of national awards. His work is in numerous private collections, including those of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and New England Patriots lineman Logan Mankins. He is represented by West Branch Gallery in Stowe, VT and McLarry Fine Art in Santa Fe.

In the late 1980's Hunter was a designer of tour posters for acts such as The Clash, REM, The Jerry Garcia Band and literally hundreds of now-forgotten skinny-tie bands. in the 90's, Hunter was a music manager and created cd packages for artists such as Greg Brown, Shawn Colvin, Dar Williams, Chris Smither, Fred Eaglesmith, Mary Gauthier and over fifty other depressive folkies.

The two paintings featured on the cover of the Milkhouse Heaters cd were both painted "plein air" (outdoors, at one sitting). The cover depicts the Heaters' neighbor just-down-the-road Bart McGrath's Massey Ferguson tractor (which Bart claims "will start right up", but nobody believes him), with the interior gatefold showing a disused industrial building in Saranac Lake, NY.

Hunter's work is viewable online at www.hunter-studio.com

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Ranee Duncan has been playing cello off and on for years. She also played bass guitar and cello in one of Boston's first truly alternative bands, the wildly original We Saw The Wolf. Think folk music meets Celtic music meets Johnny Cash meets the Sex Pistols and you'll have an idea of just how original (and wonderful) they were. She has also played cello in orchestras for various Gilbert and Sullivan productions and has also played a role as part of the chorus. When not working, Ranee travels to exotic places to hike, camp, bird watch and create stunning photographs.

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Ben Carr grew up in the rolling farmland suburbs of Philadelphia that have since become the paved progress of America. His first instrument was the alto sax but he found his true love in a pair of bongos. From that moment on he’s been on a course of rhythmic exploration that continues to this day. He played around the East Coast with various groups, and in the late 1990's landed in New Orleans to pursue music full time.

In 2005, Ben relocated to Southern Vermont where he discovered the area’s wealth of great musicians and educators. Here he performs with a large number of regional New England bands including R&B/jazz artist Patty Carpenter, blues guitarist Sunny Lowdown and the original Vermont reggae outfit Mo Ambesa. In addition to these groups, Ben has shared the stage with the likes of Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown, Trumystic, Carlos Averhoff, Eugene Uman, Lou Erlanger, Ayizan Sannon, Page McConnell and Mike Gordon.

For more info please visit www.bencarrmusic.com

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Verdant, as in "surrounded by an abundance of lush greenery." Opened by Pete Weiss in the fall of 2004, the retreat-style studio has been hosting a steady stream of high quality, eclectic artists. The venerable 36-channel Neve console that had been custom ordered by the BBC in London in 1975, and moved to Boston's Zippah Studio in 1994, has now found a home in the Green Mountain State. In 2004 it was re-capped and re-commissioned at Verdant. After an ultrasonic cleaning procedure in 2010, it's working like a dream and sounds amazing. The recording space was designed by award-winning architectural firm Single Speed Design (operated by Jinhee Park and the Hong brothers, John and Andy.) Reports Weiss, "I'm just thrilled with the job they did designing the space; it sounds great and co-exists with its surroundings beautifully. It's an incredibly pleasant place in which to make music. The new studio's main room is an open-concept space which combines the control room "area" with the live room "area" and is roughly 40 x 25 feet with pitched ceilings as high as 18 feet. The floors are brick-red dyed concrete with radiant floor heating, while the walls and ceilings are local pine and hemlock. The room is especially conducive to tracking with a "natural" feel. The engineer and artist are in the same space; there's no talkback mic, no glass, no confusion. Of course when separation is needed, there are auxilliary recording spaces, including a classic vocal/amp booth, a 25 x 20 foot lounge which can double as a tracking room, and some remarkably heavy-duty wheeled gobos with double-pane windows (you definitely don't want one of these to fall on you...)"

For more info on Verdant Studios please visit wwww.verdantstudio.com

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Patch Hill Mastering / Peter Linnane

Mastering is the final step of the music production process. It is the last chance to make your recordings sound as good as they possibly can. The mastering process involves a series of adjustments that can add polish, depth, detail and impact. This final step can help communicate and reinforce the message and emotion of your music.

For more info please visit www.patchhillmastering.com