Local musician Cody Tinnin digs the vintage. The bass player of local roots-bluegrass trio Stillhouse Junkies is into old clothes and old music, things that were created long before he was born and things that likely will be around long after he’s gone.
It’s an interest that will carry over to the recording of his new record – “Perennial” is his solo debut featuring Tinnin on clawhammer banjo and vocals, a 10-track release featuring seven Tinnin originals, a Don Stover cut and two traditionals pulled from the public domain. The record is being recorded and produced by Jon Atkinson, owner/operator and head engineer of Big Tone Records, a studio that specializes in analog recording and vintage gear preservation. “Perennial” will be a straight-to-tape recording, laid down in Tinnin’s living room and recorded via Atkinson’s mobile recording rig with ribbon microphones and decades-old, analog recording equipment.
“There are way better ways technology-wise to record music. But when you throw on an old recording from the ’40s and ’50s it has a different kind of sound,” Tinnin said. “You don’t equate that with being less good, you equate that with sounding old and classic, timeless. Kind of everlasting, which is also where the name of the record comes into play; ‘Perennial,’ something that will be around forever. It might not be the techiest thing, but it’s got that old-school, classic, everlasting kind of sound, and I thought that was super appropriate.”
It’s all about the genuine sound – Tinnin and Atkinson are trying to capture the sounds as they are when coming off the instruments and straight into your ear, sounds from decades-old music that should sound the same in 2020 as they did in 1920.
“That’s one of the things that I love about old-time music, and bluegrass and acoustic music in general, is the authenticity of it and being able to accurately represent what the music is when you’re recording,” he said. “To do a stripped-down record, recording it in my house, it’s going to be the most accurate representation of the tunes.”
Not only is this being recorded on tape, it’s being released on tape. Slightly behind the vinyl resurgence is the cassette resurgence. “Perennial” will see a digital release, but with collectors in mind, it will also drop on cassette tape.
“I don’t expect most people to even take the tape out of the shrink wrap, although I’ll have some cool artwork and cool liner notes and stuff on the inside,” Tinnin said. “Part of this project is the artistic expression of this physical media. But really, I thought it would be cool, and it’s going to have the warm tape sound, that lo-fi sound if you do have a tape player.”
There’s also a lesson in here. It’s important to note that while the genre of bluegrass and old-time music is made up of mostly white musicians, the banjo is an instrument with its roots in Africa. Tinnin wants to make this known.
“A lot of this music comes from Black musicians that were in Appalachia playing fiddle, playing banjo. The banjo itself originates in West Africa, and with the way things are right now, it’s really important to remember that, to honor those musicians that really had a tough time just surviving, but for whatever reason were inspired enough to play music, to help them feel better. That’s an important thing,” Tinnin said. “Ultimately for me, I just really try to remind people, you like banjo music, well, remember where the banjo comes from, think about that, learn about that and seek out Black musicians from those early recordings. It’s a cool thing.”
Funding for this record is coming from an already underway Kickstarter campaign, where Tinnin is attempting to raise a modest $4,500. The campaign ends Oct. 24.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.