A Record Producer’s Southern Roots Music Journey
A firsthand remembrance of the artists, engineers, crews, and settings that make roots music magical
From the 1980s through the early 2000s, a golden era for southern roots music, producer and three-time Grammy winner Scott Billington recorded many of the period’s most iconic artists. Working primarily in Louisiana for Boston-based Rounder Records, Billington produced such giants as Irma Thomas, Charlie Rich, Buckwheat Zydeco, Johnny Adams, Bobby Rush, Ruth Brown, Beau Jocque, and Solomon Burke. The loving and sometimes irreverent profiles in Making Tracks reveal the triumphs and frustrations of the recording process, and that obsessive quest to capture a transcendent performance.
Billington's long working relationships with the artists give him perspective to present them in their complexity—foibles, failures, and fabled feats—while providing a vivid look at the environs in which their music thrived. He tells about Boozoo Chavis’s early days as a musician, jockey, and bartender at his mother’s quarter horse track, and Ruth Brown’s reign as the most popular star in rhythm and blues, when the challenge of traveling on the “chitlin’ circuit” proved the antithesis of the glamour she exuded on stage.
In addition, Making Tracks provides a widely accessible study in the craft of recording. Details about the technology and psychology behind the sessions abound. Billington demonstrates varying ways of achieving the mutual goal of a great record. He also introduces the supporting cast of songwriters, musicians, and engineers crucial to the magic in each recording session. Making Tracks sings unforgettably like a "from the vault" discovery.
"Scott Billington has a wealth of experience to draw upon in American roots music and the music of New Orleans and Memphis, in particular. His intimate first-person accounts of the making of numerous valuable and historically important records make this book an essential resource for scholars of twentieth- and twenty-first-century American music. "- Kyle DeCoste, coauthor of Can't Be Faded: Twenty Years in the New Orleans Brass Band Game
"I am honored to be a part of Making Tracks. Scott has a wonderful way of telling the story of our working together. The book reads like a song in print, and I love the beauty of his memory."- Irma Thomas, blues vocalist and “Soul Queen of New Orleans”
"Making Tracks: A Record Producer’s Southern Roots Music Journey is a tour de force of interesting anecdotes on the record industry, driven by a relaxed and accessible style that engages the reader with detailed information while also providing valuable insight into the human relationships that make a successful recording possible. The sheer diversity of artists with whom the author has worked is in itself truly amazing. Anyone interested in American vernacular culture, New Orleans or zydeco music, or the workings of independent record labels will love this book."- Bruce Boyd Raeburn, curator emeritus at Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University, and author of New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History
"The book proves that he [Billington] has a great memory for details, is a terrific storyteller, and has worked with more than a few musicians of note over the past four-plus decades. . . . But the book isn’t just about music. Much of it passes as a beautifully written travelogue with detailed descriptions that give you a feeling of place and history."- Ed Symkus, artsfuse.org