Category Archives: Guitars

Two of Us (Behind the scenes)

On October 3, 2019 a version of the song Two of Us was released as a joint project between Barley Station and Minneapolis band Radio Drive (Two of Us is from The Beatles Let It Be album)  You can now find it on most digital retail outlets.

And THIS is a little behind the scenes story on how this composition was formed. It is a fitting release considering it is the 50th anniversary of when The Beatles actually finished the final version of this song – which was during the Jan. 31, 1969 session.

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Now, when you sing harmony with someone you really have to be a good listener not just a good singer. You need to hear all the nuances of the other person’s voice. Which is why sometimes people will say to an artist “you sing like siblings”. And usually it is people who have been singing together a long time.

Or in our case, listening in the studio over and over until our voices match properly since we were doing this as a distance project. So making music isn’t just about playing it, it is about listening and feeling it. If you are a musician, producer, or songwriter/arranger, etc., you might be interested in how the rest was put together.

I sent the finished vocals over to Kevin and we were very pleased with how that part turned out and we had lots of comments of how our voices blended so well.  That part was easy enough.

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Kevin Gullickson

One of the biggest challenges of the song, was trying to find the right arrangement. The first idea was to make it a bit contemporary alternative rock. That didn’t work.  Sonically, it was like the song demanded a simpler arrangement. So I went back in time and dug up what was going on when the Beatles were working it up. And not to my surprise, they had tried something similar but it ended up being what Paul McCartney phrased as “too chunky”. I knew exactly what he meant. It was too chunky.

At its core this is a folk song. I believe if you look up the genre of the original on iTunes it is classified as folk/rock.  Keeping to that original concept and also making it into something new would prove to be challenging but we didn’t know it when we started on it.  My approach has always been “let your ears guide you”, as the Beatles’ producer George Martin might say.

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Randy Wayne Belt

I listened to the original and dug up outtakes, including an outtake of the song, recorded on 24 January 1969, which was released on Anthology 3 in 1996. The chief difference to me was whether the bass lines were more ascending or descending but it was clear; those lines were important to the song and oddly enough to its integrity. With the basic rhythm track finally decided upon and liked by both Kevin and myself, I had to shelf the song again until the rest of the arrangement came the way it needed to.

There had to be a way to keep it a simple arrangement but add our own flavor. So I experimented. For months and months I would go back to it to try different things. By the last time I came back to it, it finally hit me. It needed to be mixed similar to what a 4 or 8 track recording would do and it needed a guitar part on the electric end to give it more body but not interfere with the melody or the overall feel.

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And then, the bass guitar part was really crucial to keep the songs integrity. In the album version, The Beatles’ George Harrison played the bass lines on a Fender Telecaster. No one knows exactly why but it could have been done on Sir Paul’s Hofner bass just as easily, but since he was playing acoustic guitar, to keep it with a live feel, George ends up doing bass parts. Imagining being there and knowing a bit how the Beatles worked, I would guess that George picked up his Telecaster and doodled along making bass notes to fill the song out and John and Paul said “lets keep it like that, it sounds cool”. And if anyone would do something of that kind of unusual nature, it would be The Beatles.

So when I lay down bass tracks, I went to my own Viola Bass, the same style McCartney used in the Revolver/Rubber Soul mid sixties era and it was definitely what the song was lacking for its low end.

Then the bongos were scaled back. In fact, everything was scaled back to make it simpler. At one point Kevin even had a Rhodes keyboard track if I remember correctly. And slowly we brought everything back in to see what fit right. The decision was finally made that Kevin’s crunchier electric guitar track would be brought in panned far to the right or left and my tremolo guitar would be far the opposite leaving the basic rhythm and vocal in the middle.

The easiest part to do whatever we wanted with was the double bridge “you and I have memories…”, probably because that part was more “open” and easier to experiment with without messing things up.  The tremolo guitar and the crunchy electric are allowed to stand out more there with the simpler rhythm and bass line.  I think that’s probably the part where you hear our input more – along with the original ideas that probably emanated from the brain of Sir Paul McCartney.

The final result was a balanced non chunky semi-rock version but keeping the song’s original integrity. After all, this is the Beatles. There has to be musical integrity mixed with experimentation. I think that’s how they’d have done it.

Listen on YouTube: https://youtu.be/BPZoxP8E2WU

Listen to Two of Us on Spotify

Buy it on iTunes

Buy on CDBaby

Two of Us by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Copyright Sony/ATV Tunes LLC dba ATV o/b/o ATV (Northern Songs Catalog)

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Breaking Out

Review of  Verity White’s album: Breaking Out

reviewed by Randy Wayne Belt
April 16, 2018

I remember how relieved a lot of people were when rock made a bit of a comeback in the 90s and I recall a lot of people saying how they felt they could listen to new music again instead of just regurgitated classics.

With rock’s decline in the late 90s and taking a backseat on major charts like Billboards, the dance and electro music chiefly took over pop radio and totally dominated by 2009. However, a pop/rock resurgence has occurred as led by the electro rock of groups like Imagine Dragons. It is almost like a cycle where pop/rock declines – then rock declines then pop/rock resurges – then rock resurges thereafter.

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Will rock make another comeback? Or will it stay almost as a cult following like when it first started? No one knows for sure. But there is one thing that is for sure – Rock is not dead  – and The UK’s own Verity White will be in the leading edge of a comeback!

Influenced by the 90s rock/grunge scene and adding her own twist of pure rock, some electronic, and a touch of progressive, Verity White’s debut full length album Breaking Out continues to do just that (break out). It is a strong debut album that should lodge her foot in the door and kick it in just enough for the next one to break it down.  And Verity isn’t waiting around for some pie in the sky big label to do the work for her.  She is dong it herself!

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Not only do the lyrics ring true from the heart of life’s experiences, Verity effectively delivers her vocal performance to match the moods on each song. Each song has its own character and each character is easily slipped into. And that shouldn’t be surprising considering her background in theater. Whether a song or component within a song requires the growl of a wild cat or the purr of a kitten, Verity delivers. Power and grit with fire and wit – Purr and claw, she’s got it all.

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As Indie Music Mag put it ” A powerful vocalist with a soulful streak that is truly compelling” (indie music mag, May 2017) I think they are onto something here.

If Verity is the wild cat of this album, then Alex, the guitarist, is the tom cat and shows no mercy to the helpless mice as they are shredded by claws of wound string fret to fret. The rest of the band fills right in with the necessary ingredients to cook up a perfect musical meal.

The extra rich crunchy electric guitars lift this album to a new level. The Hughes and Kettner head and Blackstar cab with a Les Paul Custom guitar run through provided the perfect warm and crunchy sound for this album. No wimpy guitars here!

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The textured layers of music on each track create a unique atmosphere for each song and relate to the lyrics in some way. Each song sounds like it was approached with a unique perspective of what that song needed production-wise. Each song was carefully crafted and attention to details are obvious to a scrutinizing listener.

The opening and title track, Breaking Out, with its meaty introduction to the listener of a real rock experience, kicks things off. It’s a musical “scotch on the rocks” and has a message that you can interpret for yourself in the video. (Watch recently released video for the song)

The second track, Zeroes and Ones, starts things off with a taste of keyboard driven verses showing the artists diversity in taste and style and ultimately lead into crunchy rock chorus pieces that flow easily together while following the emotion of the lyrics.

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Demonstrating an understanding of the importance of the bridge of a song as a great reset point, it is clear Verity and her production team have taken great pains to finely tune each track.

The keyboard driven sounds of track two continue into track three and then reset back to the harder edged guitar based riff rock with edgy and attitude oriented vocals. Carefully placed vocal effects further demonstrate that the production ideas of this album were no mere accidents but were carefully planned.

The rock attitude comes out fully in the song I Don’t Care which is a total pure rock song that Joan Jett would have been proud to have written and has the perfect bridge providing contrast to the rest of the song.  The fifth song, See Through It, demonstrates that Verity is capable of utilizing her obviously very trained voice and her sense of melody to give the album a break and slight detour into a bit of electronic pop/rock feel that gives the perfect reset point while it lyrically delves deeper into personal struggles that are ultimately given a sense of hope to overcome by the last track, (which is aptly titled Overcome).

That ability to handle any type of vocal is what led me to be ever more curious of her talent and how this album would turn out.

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So impressed was I with her handling of a number of vocal formats that I asked her to provide the leading harmony vocals on a remake by my own band, Barley Station, of the old dance/pop Madonna song “Borderline” (from 1983/1984) changing its format to a more rock-oriented tune but with a male/female lead vocal. And Verity indeed delivered! (view article on that)

One of my favorite tracks on this album is the song Exhale“. So I wasn’t surprised this was pushed as a single from the album. Like some of the other songs presented in this collection of original songs, “Exhale” combines the cleaner sounds of keyboards and weaves them through the song with the crunchy guitar sounds, creating textures

The album concludes with another of my favorites, the creative and hypnotic track “Overcome“. By now as the album is about to conclude, you understand and have a clearer picture of the concept behind the album of overcoming many of the things we struggle with in life. And especially so the struggles of an artist in a world that imagines perfection is achievable and projects unrealistic demands on its inhabitants. Overcoming the struggles of depression and using music as an outlet and healing mechanism seems to be an underlying theme that is effectively delivered in this album.

The set up is all there for a follow up album to demonstrate that Verity White will be an artist to watch and take notice of and as I said earlier, kick that door in the rest of the way. Verity is always interacting with her fans, has great stage presence, and works her tail off writing, recording, and touring. There’s no reason not to belief that she cannot achieve whatever she sets her mind to. Rumor has it a new single is in the works, so watch for that!

WEBSITE : www.veritywhite.com
SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/album/7zF9Hwte3JZG8qLDZveCBM?si=V0ZITobGSDeBid2edOg75w
TWITTER : www.twitter.com/veebear
FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/VerityWhiteSinger
INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/Original_Verity
PATREON: www.patreon.com/VerityWhite

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Email: veebear@me.com