Sessions Archive

Phil Cook, Live Session #128

by Shirk on June 1, 2016

Phil Cook and his kickass band came through in March and delivered a soulful session full of smiles and laughs.  I first met Phil when he came through for a session with Megafaun back in 2010.  It was a pleasure to have him back, talk shop and learn about the process of making his latest solo album.   Southland Mission, was released in fall of 2015 and it was one of our favorites of the year.  Here’s the first cut from the session titled “Great Tide”.  Tight scheduling has prevented me from getting the entire session finished so I figure I’ll release videos and audio files as they are completed.  Stay tuned!  Phil will be at the Newport Folk Festival as well as Eaux Claires Music Festival this summer, followed by a string of UK dates in August.  Special thanks go out to friends, Chris Hershman and McKenzie Hanson, for lending their video talents on this session.


Rayland Baxter, Live Session #127

by Shirk on January 13, 2016


I was pretty excited to have Rayland Baxter and his band in for a HearYa Live session as it was the first full-band session we’ve cut since recording the Strand of Oaks session back in August of 2014. 2015 was our busiest year yet at SHIRK studios and we just haven’t had time to do as many live sessions as we used to.  It is my hope that we can squeeze a few in throughout 2016.

In talking with Rayland, I learned that he did his very first tour back in 2010 opening for our friend, and HearYa Live Session alumni, Joe Pug. Since that time Rayland put out an EP, a pair of excellent albums, toured with the likes of Jason Isbell, The Civil Wars, Grace Potter, among many others, received accolades from American Songwriter and the Tennessean, signed to ATO records and managed to put together one of the best damn backing bands I’ve had the privilege of recording.  I’m a big fan of Rayland’s latest album, Imaginary Man. However, some of these songs really come to life and spread their wings in a live situation with Mr. Jimmy Rowland (keys), Matt Musty (drums), Tyler Osmond (bass) and Jaan Cohan (guitar) supporting their structure.  For example, this live version of “Young Man” shows a particularly dark and heavy side that I didn’t feel as much on the album. It gets angry in there and by the four minute mark the band is on fire.  The version of Mr. Rodriguez they gave us has a much more fluid and laid back groove as compared to the more rigid album version.  It feels great and gives a strong nod to the influence the Grateful Dead had on Rayland during the early part of his career.  “My Captain” has a more haunting yet soulful quality to it. I really feel that this band brings Rayland’s songs to the next level. Be sure to check their 2016 tour schedule that begins next week.

We cut this session straight to 16 track 2″ tape.  It was thrilling to lean on this format for tone and embrace it’s limitations.  I could’t be more pleased with the way the tracks turned out. George Stearns (Stearns Media Productions) returned to Chicago once again to lend his talents on video production duties.  Justin Edwards and Peter Hongisto also contributed behind the lens.  Thanks go out to all involved.

Exclusive: Rayland Baxter – Mr. Rodriguez

Exclusive: Rayland Baxter – My Captain

Exclusive: Rayland Baxter – Young Man

Exclusive: Rayland Baxter – Yellow Eyes

Download the Rayland Baxter Live Session as a zip file.

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Andrew Bryant, Live Session #126

by Shirk on July 10, 2015


Andrew Bryant released his sixth solo album entitled This Is the Life in early 2015 on Sleep Recordings. Grab it here. Andrew is one-third of HearYa favorite, Water Liars.  We’ve followed the growth of Water Liars for a few years now and hosted a HearYa Live Session with them back in 2013.  So when the opportunity arose to have Andrew in for a stripped down solo set, I jumped at the chance.

This Is The Life, is an excellent album that has grown heavily on me.  When not on tour with Water Liars, Bryant self produced and recorded the album entirely in his home studio.  He performed all of the parts on the record with the exception of bass guitar (covered by Matt Patton of Drive-By Truckers) and steel guitar (played by Kell Kellum). The album starts off with three excellent songs in “Do What You Love”, “Losing My Shit” and “Keep It Together”. However it doesn’t stop there.  The album takes you on a nice ride, dancing between rockers like “Friendly Cops” to down-tempo ballads like “The Free”. I find myself listening to this album from front to back (something I rarely get to do in my distracted life.)  Andrew gave me a vinyl copy of the album when he came by for the session and it’s managed to stay in the short stack of 3-4 albums right next to the turntable for a few months now.  I play it regularly when guests are hanging in the studio and it always gets the nod of approval.

The session features two songs from This Is The Life as well as a new (unreleased) song that Andrew is working on called, “Pay Your Rent”. The performances are all solo.  Just Andrew on piano or acoustic guitar.  Take a listen then go catch Andrew on tour with Water Liars.  Then buy him a cold can of Busch beer.

Exclusive: Andrew Bryant – Keep It Together

Exclusive: Andrew Bryant – Pay Your Rent

Exclusive: Andrew Bryant – Losing My Shit

Download the Andrew Bryant Live Session as a zip file.


Strand of Oaks, Live Session #125 Pt 3

by Shirk on January 13, 2015

Here is the final installment from our HearYa session with Strand of Oaks.  With pounding drums, chugging guitar and bass and some ripping arpeggiated organ, “For Me” rounds out the session with some meaty fuzz.  2014 was a big year for Tim Showalter and company.  HEAL garnered rave reviews and earned itself top placement on many “best of 2014” lists including the ever prestigious #1 position on HearYa’s list of top 50 albums of 2014.  Strand of Oaks is touring all over the United States the first half of 2015.  As summer rolls in, they will be performing at Governors Ball followed by Bonnaroo.  Catch them this Saturday, January 17th at Lincoln Hall during the Tomorrow Never Knows Festival.

Exclusive: Strand of Oaks – Introduction

Exclusive: Strand of Oaks – Woke Up To The Light

Exclusive: Strand of Oaks – Shut In

Exclusive: Strand of Oaks – For Me


Strand Of Oaks, Live Session #125 Pt 2

December 1, 2014

Here is the second segment of our recent session with Strand of Oaks.  After my first listen through to HEAL earlier this summer, “Shut In” was an immediate standout.  In fact I just dug up the text I sent to Tim minutes after finishing my first pass: Just got a first listen to HEAL in […]

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Strand of Oaks, Live Session #125

November 12, 2014

Tim Showalter and his Strand of Oaks project has been near and dear to all of us at HearYa since we first heard his debut Leave Ruin back in 2009.  We’ve cut two HearYa sessions (Session 1 and Session 2) since then and I always enjoy spending time with Tim.  He’s one of those guys […]

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Minor Characters, Live Session #124

October 14, 2014

I first learned about Minor Characters through friend and photographer, Chris Hershman, who’s talent behind the camera brought some of my favorite HearYa sessions to your eyes. When I first got in touch with Chris about shooting a live session for me sometime back in 2011, we decided that we better do a test run […]

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The Deep Dark Woods, Live Session #122

May 6, 2014

While working on the video edits, I came to the realization that this session with The Deep Dark Woods encapsulated everything I ever wanted out of a HearYa Live Session. 1) A great band with contemplative songs 2) Musicianship that delivers a performance that is not only a pleasure to record and listen to, but […]

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Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, Live Session #121

February 6, 2014

Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers visited SHIRK studios for a session this past fall.  As I sit here looking out the window at heaps of snow and feel the chill of single digit temps drafting from behind the floorboards, that sunny and 65 day last September feels like forever ago.  Yes, it’s  taken me four […]

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The Love Language, Live Session #120

December 16, 2013

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of The Love Language over here.  After a couple HearYa Live Sessions together (session 1, session 2), SXSW showcases and plenty of drinks after Chicago shows, The Love Language feels kind of like part of the HearYa family.  We’ve grown up together but not in the same place.  […]

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