Photo diary of Blake Dantier’s “Dry season” studio sessions

A rising name in the Australian country ranks, Blake Dantier recently released his first longplayer titled “Dry Season”.

A record that began life a month before the pandemic hit, “Dry Season” has all the hallmarks of a classic honky-tonk project recorded at a backlot studio in Nashville.

There are tales of lonely drinking, reflecting on mortality, love gone wrong, and bittersweet ballads across the 11 tracks, which Blake wrote himself (apart from a co-writing with Michael Carpenter).

Married to fellow country artist Cass Hopetoun, Blake even caught the eye of Adam Harvey who duets on “You Don’t Mix Whiskey.”

“Some songs are autobiographical, others are almost entirely made up,” says Dantier.

“My only focus for this album was country songs that really sound like country songs – something I don’t think there are enough of these days.”

“Dry Season” was recorded with producer Simon Johnson of Hillbilly Hut Studios with a crew of “the most skilled players in the land” to create the vibe of a bygone era.

“I wanted to combine that 70s outlaw vibe and attitude with the 90s musicianship of Alan Jackson and Brooks and Dunn.”

Currently on the road on tour with his next stop at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, Blake shares some photos here along with some stories from the recording sessions for the album.

“We started following ‘Dry Season’ on Monday, February 3, 2020. Back when I was still bothering to put on some pants and tuck in my shirt. This is me about to drop a voice guide.

“The space we’re in is Hillbilly Hut. It’s a studio built inside a large metal hangar, at the back of the property of Simon Johnson (the album’s producer and engineer) .

“Simon and I met at the Tamworth Country Music Festival two weeks before to discuss how we would do that day – I insisted on following with a live band.

Studio 2

“So here’s Simon doing his thing. If you look really close, behind the computer screen, you can see Brad Bergen’s head in the next room. He’s got a knock on the drums.

“There’s a camera set up in the middle of the room because Michael Carpenter is running somewhere, filming everyone. We used his footage to make the music video for ‘I’d Do It Again’.

“They call me One-take Blake, but this must be the rare occasion I need a second take… This little cave is where the acoustic guitars were recorded and all the vocals.

Workshop 3

“On the first tracking day in February, we did 6 of the 11 songs on the album. It wasn’t until August of the same year that we got together and did the last five.

“Rod Motbey followed the acoustics in February, but Shane Nicholson did it in the August session.

“Splitting up sessions like this has always been the plan – to ease the financial burden. But I didn’t expect to be sitting at home with no work all this time…thanks COVID.

“In all honesty though, I had a great time in those months in between (after finding out there was government support; phew). It was a break I didn’t know I needed and it’s really allowed me to focus on what’s important in my life, as I’m sure many do.

“So with all this time writing and polishing songs, I ended up with a slightly different album than I had anticipated.

“That day we recorded the vocals for Ash and Dust. I had almost completely rewritten the lyrics and changed the structure of the song, since we recorded in February. Ok, so maybe I had TOO much free time.

Workshop 3
“Here’s Duncan Toombs layering guitar parts. Very serious stuff on the face of it.

“The sound I wanted on this album was a mix between Waylon/70s country and Alan Jackson/90s country.

“Although I love playing guitar, I knew that if we were going to have killer performances (like on the Alan Jackson records) we would need killer players.

“So I was more than happy to take a back seat and watch these guys work their magic. I guess I ended up finding a little more confidence in myself, because I followed the electric guitars during the August sessions.

Workshop 5

“The whole team. At the end of the follow-up in February. Just a group of guys in blue jeans…standing around…trying not to look embarrassed…unsuccessfully. Left to right : Simon Johnson, Rod Motbey, me, Brad Bergen, Duncan Toombs.

“Fun fact: those doors behind us lead to a small bedroom, where Cass (my fiancée and whoever took all these photos) and I spent a few nights this week.

Workshop 6

“And now we are in August. It is the central equipment in this photo.

“What you can’t tell from this photo is that to my right is Duncan, also with a guitar in his hand. He couldn’t make it to the session the day before, where we recorded live with the band, so I filled in on electric guitar.

“We all liked what was going on, so when Dunc came along the next day, we left my rig set up and recorded together. That led to a whole bunch of harmonized guitar parts in the title track of the album. .

“The album wasn’t finished until February of the following year, 2021. I guess we stopped taking pictures because, well, it’s long to follow an album, I think.

“There was more rewriting and re-tracking of vocals. Lots of musicians were adding their instruments remotely, like pedal steel, fiddle, accordion, mandolin, dobro, keyboards… the list goes on. If it’s country, it’s on this record.”

Blake Dantier 2022 Tour Dates

Thu 21 April – Tamworth Country Music Festival 50th Anniversary Concert
Fri 22 Apr – Big Golden Guitar (Tamworth)
Thu April 28 – The Malt Shovel Taphouse (Sunshine Coast)*
Fri 29 Apr – Bay Tavern (Hervey Bay)*
Sat 30 April – Racehorse Hotel (Ipswich)*
Thu June 9 – The Vanguard (Sydney)
Thu 4 August – Hallam Hotel (Melbourne)*
Fri 5 August – Gateway Hotel (Geelong)*

*support Jayne Denham

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