Week 10: Alpenglow – “Mountain Man”

Brian Laidlaw and Ashley Hanson wowed me with their debut concert as Alpenglow a couple months ago. So I was excited to get this talented acoustic duo over to record “Mountain Man”. We even have a music video this week, courtesy of Jeffrey Schwinghammer.

Audio MP3

Mountain Man
By Alpenglow

Right click here to download the mp3.

It isn’t safe for a sailor boy to live far from the ocean
His lungs will start to dry out if he doesn’t get his quotient
He’s in his happiest state
When his fingers are calloused
And he’s ferrying freight
To provide his own ballast


Give him something old to love, give him something new to covet
If he’s seen it before, then I know he’s likely to love it

When it’s worse to live inland than to die on a reef,
When he’s not beside the ocean, he’s beside himself with grief

It isn’t safe for a mountain man to live far from the highland
Whatever voice of god he used to hear will soon fall silent
But when his spirit is battened
To the top of a glacier
He’ll never be flattened
By the force of erasure


Give him something old to love, give him something new to covet
If he’s seen it before, then I know he’s likely to love it

Now walking through the flatlands is a flatline postmortem
When he’s not beside the ocean he’s beside himself with boredom

It isn’t safe for your lover to be miles from where your home is
Wherever he should lay his head he’s sure to feel homeless
Now he’s far from the bedroom
Where your moves are the cleverest
But he’s looking for headroom
From Manhattan to Everest


Give him something old to love, give him something new to covet
If he’s seen it before, then I know he’s likely to love it

Now the cities are empty and the landscape is haunting
When he’s not beside his lover he’s beside himself with wanting


Give him something old to love, give him something new to covet
If he’s seen it before, then I know he’s likely to love it

Behind the Video

Jeff upped the production value by at least 47% with his new slider

We ended up tracking the song AND shooting the music video in one night! We shot it right out on our Halloweeny porch (thanks to Mitchell Johnson). Brian and Ashley stuck out the cold weather for about three hours as Jeff filmed shot after awesome shot. You should probably start subscribing and/or following Jeff on YouTube and Twitter.

It turned out to be a great way to meet our uptown neighbors. A couple guys about our age dug the music and came out and invited us to play pool. An older Native American guy came up to us and wanted to go on camera to say that he’s the “most dangerous Indian you’ll ever meet.” It was hard to tell if he was joking. Another one of our neighbors from across the street came out and said he was having a horrible day until he heard Brian and Ashley playing. You would think playing any sort of music on our porch at midnight would get the police called on us. I think it’s a sign that Alpenglow is destined for fame.

Behind the Mix

Ashley and Brian have so much chemistry in their live performances, we considered recording everything simultaneously (vocals, guitar, ukelele, and drums). But we decided to track it all individually to give me more control over the mix.

When I record acoustic/electric guitars, I generally only mix in a little bit of the direct output, since putting stereo mics in front of the guitar tends to sound much better. But Brian’s guitar sounded really good plugged directly in, so I mixed that in at about the same volume as my mics.

For Ashley’s electric ukelele, I used some tricks I usually use with electric guitars. I plugged it directly into my mixer and also recorded her picking with a mic. Then I played it back through her amp and re-recorded that sound. When you want an electric guitar to have some natural amp distortion but you might still use the clean signal, this is the way to go. I actually didn’t end up using Ashley’s amp sound at all (it sounded slightly muddy in the mix), so I’m glad I recorded the clean, direct in sound.

Brian’s kick drum, as awesomely unique as it sounds in real life, didn’t sound very awesome at all in the recording I got, even though I placed four different mics around it. Since it’s stuffed with a pillow, the recording sounded like a really dead knocking sound. Here’s the original kick:

Audio MP3

So I had to get a little creative with this one. I added four different effects to it to give it more oomph and a little more sustain. It sounds a little strange on its own, but mixed in it works pretty well. In this sample, you’ll hear each of the four effects on their own, then the composite of all of them, then the kick drum mixed into the song:

Audio MP3

Four effects I created for Brian's kick drum in Ableton Live. The right side shows the EQ "tuning" I did to it.

What’s going on here?

  1. The first sound is close to the original kick, but with compression and some EQing to get the tambourine out of this track.
  2. For the second sound, I used EQ to bring out a tone in the drum. Since the song is in E Major the whole time, I essentially “tuned” the kick to the note E.
  3. The third sound uses an Ableton Live grain delay effect. It’s also tuned like the second effect, but it has a little more low end and a little more grunge.
  4. The fourth sound is a noise effect that sounds a little like rushing air. It makes the drum sound more soft and pillow-like. To be honest I happened upon this effect by chance. I put a vocorder effect on it and just toyed with the settings until something cool came out of it.

It was a pleasure working with Ashley and Brian. They have a whole collection of great songs not yet recorded, so if you’re in the twin cities area, you should check out an Alpenglow show – facebook.com/alpenglowmusic. Brian is also having a solo CD release show on November 17th at the Turf Club. Visit facebook.com/brianlaidlawmusic to get a preview of his album Wolf Wolf Wolf.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.