There has been more activity downtown at the former home of the historic Herzog recording studios than there has been since the studio’s heyday in the ’40s, when legendary songs were recorded by everyone from Flatt and Scruggs and Patti Page to The Delmore Brothers and Hank Williams. (For some background on Herzog, check out this CityBeat feature by Rick Bird.) This week sees a double dose of activity relating to the Herzog legacy.
• The Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation is, fittingly, headquartered in the former Herzog space (on the second floor of 811 Race St.) and has hosted numerous Herzog-related events over the past few years. Late last year, CUMHF presented “Come Play the Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams,” inspired by last year’s Lost Notebooks compilation project, which featured various top-name artists bringing to life lyrics Williams had left behind.
The Foundation invited several local musicians to gather at the studio and record some of those songs last year. The jam — which included noted players like David Rhodes Brown, Ed Cunningham, Marvin Hawkins and Mark Utley, among others — was recorded and, this Thursday, Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation will issue its first official release, a four-track EP culled from the sessions. Come Play The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams At Herzog is a digital release with a visual art component — small, signed-and-numbered prints by artist Keith Neltner (pictured).
Thursday at the 811 Race St. space, the limited-edition digital EP/art package of Come Play The Lost Notebooks will be available for $20. (You can pre-order the EP, the proceeds from which go to CUMHF, here). Admission to the 7 p.m. shindig is a $5 donation to CUMHF (or free if you purchase an EP). The event will also include a screening of video chronicling the entire “Guitar Army” event last summer on Fountain Square, where numerous local guitarists paid tribute to the Rock & Roll standard, “Train Kept A-Rollin’ ” (the original was recorded at the King Records' facility on Brewster Ave. and the event celebrated the recording’s 60th anniversary).
Here's the original version of a song remade for CUMHF's Lost Notebooks EP, Alan Jackson doing "You've Been Lonesome, Too." On the EP, Mark Utley and Renee Frye of Magnolia Mountain provide the vocals.
• Local musician Kelly Thomas spent many years organizing ambitious benefit concerts. That ambitious approach returns in a new form with her latest creative project, “Sacred Harp Sessions,” a series of videos that will chronicle the source of much of the singer’s inspiration — the rich musical climate of Greater Cincinnati.
Thomas is collaborating with 12 of her favorite local bands on 12 songs, with a video documenting each session (plus an introduction “sharing some of the great things happening in our music community,” Thomas says) becoming the monthly series installment. Thomas plans to unveil one Sacred Heart Session episode each month for a year, then release the songs as an LP. A limited number of free downloads of the songs will be made available after the videos post.
The first Sacred Harp Sessions video premieres Saturday at kellythomasonline.com and on Thomas’ YouTube channel (KellyThomasMusic). In the debut episode, Thomas talks about the legacy of King Records and the Herzog studio. Then, cameras follow her as she records “Lost Highway” by Herzog’s most famous client, Hank Williams, in the actual Herzog space along with great local Roots troupe Arlo McKinley and The Lonesome Sound.
Saturday, Thomas and her Fabulous Pickups and McKinley and Co. will help launch the series with a concert at Covington’s Madison Theater. The Great Depression (featuring the Lonesome Sound’s Tim Carr and Jeremy Pinnell of Jeremy Pinnell and the 55s) will reteam for a rare performance; rockin’ Roots crew The Sleepin’ Dogs rounds out the bill. Cover is $6 and the 9 p.m. concert is open to all ages.
Here's Hank Williams' version of "Lost Highway."