Originally Published: July 5, 2012 8:27 p.m.
"Hey, maybe we should make a record."
"You mean actually make a record? A record, record, record?"
-That Thing You Do!
There comes a time during the lifetime of just about every band that someone in it offers that suggestion.
Sometimes, it's with the hope that the record (nowadays, a compact disc or an MP3 file) will be played on the radio, an A&R guy at a major label will hear it, sign the band, and they'll rocket to superstardom.
Then there's Road 1 South.
The Chicago-style blues band based in Prescott has been playing together for nearly five years, but never really got around to recording anything.
Finally, enough fans asked about a CD that they figured they needed one. One night while playing at Coyote Joe's in Prescott, they mentioned it on stage and, said Gregson "Notes" Gordon, Road 1 South's harmonica player and vocalist, "the people actually stopped their conversations and just erupted into applause, some actually standing."
"We didn't know there was that much of a demand," he said, but that night sealed the deal.
Recording the CD wasn't a simple task, Gordon said, because the band had two seemingly incompatible goals.
"We wanted it to sound if it was recorded at a large, major-label studio. We actually worked so hard at getting the Road 1 South sound so it would satisfy an audiophile," Gordon said, "But the challenge was to capture the live energy, the spontaneity, the 'I want to get up and start dancing' inspiration that's our hallmark."
They worked on the album for about eight months at Sleepyhollow Studios in Chino Valley and Harley Recording Studios in Prescott Valley.
The band plays instruments through vintage amplifiers. "Most of these guys play amplifiers that were built in the '50s and '60s," Gordon said, and they wanted that special sound to translate faithfully to the recording.
They knew they had found that balance when a studio engineer spoke up during a recording session.
"'You cats have actually captured lightning in a bottle,' Gordon recounted, "and that was the 'a-ha' moment. That's the name of the CD, "Lightnin' in a Bottle."
One of the album's 12 tracks was recorded live at The Raven in Prescott, and two others were lucky breaks - they were recorded as the band practiced, and with a little engineering help, turned out to be perfect as played.
The album is a labor of love - it isn't intended to be Road 1 South's big break. "If we cover expenses (to make the album), we're happy," drummer Dwight D'Evelyn said. "None of us are getting rich off playing music."
This is not a band made up of kids; each member has his share of grey hair. That maturity, they agreed, helps explain their popularity and longevity in a world where bands seemingly come and go every 15 minutes.
"Any one of these guys could be the featured performer in their own band," Gordon said. "All of us know that about each other, and yet, there's no egotism."
The members of the band are each others' biggest fans, and work to make each other look and sound good during performances, said guitarist and vocalist Chris Russo.
"That's the kind of stuff you don't find in bands," Russo said, "and that what holds this band together."
The first song on the album "This Must Be Heaven," an original written by guitarist and vocalist John Wurtz, laments the current state of the economy. In the mode of traditional blues, it takes a subject of topical interest and turns that into the focus of a song.
That's what blues is all about, an attitude that, "despite what life has thrown at me, I can still sing," Gordon said, "and I still do."
Road 1 South will play a free show on Friday, July 13 at 6:30 p.m. on Prescott's Courthouse Square to celebrate the release of "Lightnin' in a Bottle."