:: Sheryl Crow Hallmark Christmas CD 2008 - String Session at Capital Records - The Inside Story ::

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by George "Geebz" del Barrio


How do I start this but saying what a hell of a session! Legendary producer Bill Bottrell called on my father (Jorge del Barrio) again to do a very cool project - Sheryl Crows Hallmark Christmas CD.

Every time that phone rings and it's Bill, Dad gets a huge smile. Not because of getting the gig, but because Bill is very creative with his production and that presents challenges that my Dad thrives on.

First, the songs. Though being mostly covers, they where arranged very organically. Raw musicianship and arrangements made for a very creative sonic canvas for dad to play off of. So after a few calls to Bill to get the vibe, it was time to put pencil to paper for a tight deadline and a LONG session to come.

Of all the years I have been Hanging over my Dads shoulder as his protégé, it was a blast to watch him work on this particular project. He was pretty burnt from back to back film projects as an orchestrator and conductor and getting to work with Bill refreshed his creativity with youth like energy.

Like usual, Dad toiled with direction and style of his arrangements for Sheryl, but he seemed to really nail it after the first track; he was in the groove. A few weeks later the charts to all 8 songs were were ready and we were off to Capital Records in Hollywood to do a one day TRIPLE SESSION!



Bill Bottrell, Jorge del Barrio, Mimi Parker & Kenny Gruberman (standing).


Yea, very unheard of in the record business these days is a session like that unless it's classically oriented; but for a mainstream artist, NEVER (unless you're a MAJOR artist like Sheryl Crow)!

The session started out real mellow. Bill and Dad never missed a step in their relationship and communications in the studio so the session had a solid energy to it. Personally I have to say that Bill is one of the most "at ease" producers I have met and creates a cool environment for his sessions.

Then after the lunch break, Dad got a bit queasy from something he ate and he threw me into the fire. The song up on the podium was White Christmas. It was my turn - time to conduct the A-List Hollywood string section.

After a few rehearsals with the string section and a one-pass recording to listen, Bill called me into the control room and we went over the changes. Then it was game on for me. What an experience to be with Dad in front of conducting in a place where I use to be a snot nosed kid running up and down the halls in the 60's.

You see, this was the first time that Dad passed the baton to me during one of his sessions so it was all eyes on me. Funny, no real nerves hit me even though Dad was watching me from the control room along with Bill and one of the best string sections in Hollywood. Dammit, no pictures because I was the one with the camera. Anyhow.....



Composer/Conductor Jorge del Barrio At Capital Records String Date for
Sheryl Crow's Hallmark Christmas CD Session


After I was done with that track, Dad smiled, nodded and bounced back and in double step to nail the rest of the session. To this day after watching Dad for so many year, he still blows my mind on how he manages the things that pop up during session. He just gets bolder as he gets older!

At the end of the session it was apparent that Bill and Dad were very happy about the string arrangements and how they were performed by the session players. After a few minutes of saying good-byes, Bill, myself and Dad went back to life as usual until......

After hearing the string arrangements Dad did, Sheryl deiced at the 11th hour she wanted to do one more track. So it was full fire again. We get the track and away we go to be ready in 2 days for a session that started in the morning and had to be up for mixing that night to make the CD deadline.

One of the hardest workers during both dates was Kenny Gruberman who was not only the copyist for the session but the contractor. Kenny is a very long-time, trusted and dedicated industry presence that has worked many of Dads session and is considered one of the best.



Bill Bottrell, Jorge del Barrio, George "Geebz" del Barrio


So, Kenny and Dad kicked ass and it was delivered in time for the start of the session but this one was a bit of work. The whole track was robato (orchestrating term for "without tempo"). The challenge arose during the session and it was conquered!

Bill's recording engineer Mimi Parker kept the technical session on point and was all time working it under the gun. She's truly a talent to keep an eye on in the future. Mimi put the final touches on the session and it was done.

Wrapped and delivered, I couldn't help but feel like there would not be many more of these types of sessions (live strings dates) due to the condition of the music industry and recording budgets shrinking. ::::sigh::::

This CD is going to be great not because of any other reason than Sheryl and Bill keeping it real and organic. A real project that still speaks to the soul of what the holidays means with production and performance to equal.

As for me and Dad, it was an amazing experience to have him call me up on one of his gigs to conduct. To actually stand in front of a few of those musicians that have playing for my dad for 30+ years was mind boggling.

For this experience, Sheryl Crows Hallmark Christmas CD will be one that will have a special place in my family's musical history. So to that I say thank you Dad, Bill, Kenny and the whole string section that day, and yes, Sheryl for being the artist she is to want live strings!



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