|Wentus Blues Band in Woodstock. On the back Kim Vikman, Niko Riippa, Clas Yngstrom
(producer), Pekka Grohn. In front Robban Hagnas, Juho Kinaret, Mikael Axelqvist.
|14 September 2010 Photo gallery
Wentus Blues Band Recorded in Woodstock
A well-known fact: the USA is not the easiest of places to conquer for
European artists and bands. Even if there were demand for gigs, the
paperwork with employment authorization and all, often turn out too big an
obstacle. But why not travel there and cut a record? That is what was done by
Wentus Blues Band, a group from small-town mid-western Finland.
The six-man band, together with their Swedish producer Clas Yngstrom, arrived
in New York City in late August. Before long they took the 110-mile trip up north,
to Woodstock, which is home to a popular place to record songs -- legendary
musician Levon Helm's studios.
The Wentus Blues Band spent nearly two weeks in upstate New York. For four
days they played as a band, and on the fifth, Juho Kinaret recorded some vocals
and percussion. The producer and some members of the band stayed for a
couple of days more to mix the newly-canned tracks.
The band agreed on the fact that the earthy atmosphere and excellent personnel
of Levon Helm Studios are surely going to have an effect on the final outcome of
the sessions. Rural environment, natural building materials, the immeasurable
traditions of American music -- the combination should inspire any musician.
A whole bunch of new songs were created in these picturesque surroundings.
The new material represents a wide spectrum of styles.
- Traveling is one of the main themes. Our lives are all about traveling and
touring. The intention is to make music with an open mind, singer-percussionist
Juho Kinaret points out.
He added that some lyrics are somewhat historical: a song or two tell stories
about Finland's mid-western women of the years past, who moved abroad and
left their men home, licking their wounds. In addition to local history, even social
networks are covered. One of the new tracks is called "Facebook Blues"!
The album will contain exclusively new, original material. The songs are composed
by Niko Riippa, Robert "Robban" Hagnas, Pekka Grohn, and Kinaret. Plus,
Yngstrom wrote one.
- Variety of styles has always been our thing. This time also, our music varies
from clear-cut blues to something completely different. Certainly you could play
an album full of blues; but those kind of records have been so many times made
and heard, drummer Mikael Axelqvist says.
- Furthermore, our songs are very organic. Sometimes the final version of a song
differs completely from the original idea.
Pete Brown's input brings another interesting aspect to Wentus Blues Band's
new repertoire. Brown, an old friend of Yngstrom's, wrote several lyrics for the
new album. And he is not any old lyricist: he is the man behind the words to
Cream's immortal songs such as "Sunshine of Your Love" and "White Room".
|Guitarist Niko Riippa (above) emphasizes, despite new quality material, that
everything cannot be fitted on the forthcoming album.
- There is more than an album's worth of songs. The important thing to do now is
to select a batch of songs that best suits the big picture, he says.
More Than Recording
A number of Finnish bands have made records at Levon Helm Studios. For
keyboardist Pekka Grohn, the Woodstock trip was the second one, as he played
there with Eero Raittinen's and Ninni Poijarvi's bands three years ago.
- Last time our schedule was even tighter. We cut two albums in four days. This
time the studio was even more ideal for a keyboard player: I got to play the
Hammond B3 and also a very rare model of the Wurlitzer piano.
|Pekka Grohn and Juho Kinaret playing at Levon Helm Studios.
|Woodstock was not only about playing music. It was much more. The Wentus
Blues Band, or some members of the group, visited the Woodstock Festival site in
Bethel, Albert Grossman's music center in Bearsville, and The Band's old home,
the Big Pink. Some of the guys also attended a service in a Baptist church.
Last but not least, the whole group was present at Saturday night's Midnight
Ramble session at the studio, starring The Levon Helm Band. The band played
an excellent concert, although, after last year's vocal cord operation, Levon's
voice is far from its best.
Man in a Bathrobe
The Wentus Blues Band were obviously impressed by their days in Woodstock.
The musicians understood and respected the importance of the studio as well as
the town and its surroundings.
But it was not all fun and games. Hot and humid weather combined with
aggressively air-conditioned indoor spaces was too much for some: runny noses
and sore throats were all around.
On the other hand, the overall sound at Levon Helm Studios was different from
what some of the guys were used to. Moreover, only one of Niko Riippa's two
guitars arrived in the USA in time.
- I did not exactly get the guitar sound I wanted, as a matter of fact. In America,
they have their own idea about how a guitar should sound. Maybe my guitar
sounds something like that on the new album, Niko said.
In addition to the Midnight Ramble, the Wentus Blues Band had a brief contact
with Levon Helm. One day the guys heard loud noises from the stairs (Helm lives
in the same house). It was the drummer legend's dogs, Muddy and Lucy, making
their way back to the house. And there he was himself, too – dressed in a
- Hi guys! Welcome to Woodstock, he said in a kind and gravely voice, complete
with a wide, all-American smile.
Links: Wentus Blues Band website and MySpace, Levon Helm Studios
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