I've been on the road, more often than not, since September 15, stopping in Oslo, Paris, London, Denver, and now Salina, Kansas. I'm not going to ask readers what these four cities have in common because it's absolutely nothing. Life doesn't get much different in the western world than the difference between London and Salina. However, when it comes to playing the Blues, none of the aforementioned cities can touch little Salina on this special weekend. This year marks the 17th annual Blues Masters at the Crossroads held at Blue Heaven Studios in Salina. The studio is an old church purchased many years ago by Acoustic Sounds. Touring BHS in this 100+ year old church was, by itself, worth the trip to Salina. Watching two evenings worth of great Blues music was over the top terrific.
Blue Heaven Studios was built long before people commonly used microphones and loudspeakers to boost the volume of their vocals. Thus, the church has an incredible acoustic quality not found in buildings of today. For example, I was watching the first day's soundcheck when Chad Kassem, Founder of Acoustic Sounds and Super HiRez, walked to the stage and asked the musicians to turn down their amplifiers. One musician said his volume was already set to 1 and it couldn't go any lower. The interesting part about this conversation between Chad and artist Marquise Knox was that I could hear the entire thing very clearly from a seat in the balcony. Neither man was talking loud. In fact Chad had his back to me and I could still hear him as if he was standing three feet away. Blue Heaven Studios is an acoustic gem to say the least.
Recording the event was engineer Gus Skinas from the Super Audio Center in Colorado. Many readers will recognize his name from his work on countless DSD
/SACD titles and his participation in several industry panels at shows such as Rocky mountain Audiofest. Gus used a Meitner analog to digital converter to accept the analog music feed directly from the recording console. The Meitner converted the music to digital and sent it via fiber optic link to a Sonoma portable workstation where Gus captured the entire event in DSD
. In addition to DSD
, other engineers also captured the event with analog tape, and Sony 4K Ultra HD
video cameras. Within a few weeks Acoustic Sounds hopes to offer the event as a DSD
download on its Super HiRez website.
The music was fantastic on both nights of the event. I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed by all the acts because I'm no student of the Blues genre. But, it's tough to beat an all-access pass to the event that enabled me to sit in the front row, walk backstage and talk to artists, and eat the fantastic food especially prepared by a Chef flown-in from Louisiana. The étouffée was delightful.
My favorite artist of the whole event was Marquise Knox. He sounds like he has been singing the Blues for 60 years even though he is only 24 years old. During his young career he has opened for B.B. King and performed with Towsend, Louisiana Red, Robert Lockwood Jr., and Honeyboy Edwards. Marquise started working with Acoustic Sounds around age 16, and has since recorded three albums at Blue Heaven Studios. If readers only check out one of the artists from this year's Blue Masters event, I highly recommend listening to Marquise Knox
In addition to the great music I had a chance to spend time with several employees of Acoustic Sounds and volunteers helping with the event. Everyone was so pleasant to talk with and so helpful. I really felt small town Salina at its best. On the ay back to the airport to catch a flight home, the folks at Acoustic Sounds connected me with Chad Kassem's friend named Garret whose flight back to Lafayette, Louisiana left around the same time as my flight. During the 1.5 hour drive to the Wichita airport, Garret and I had the best conversation about the Blues Masters event, music, and the important things in life. I'll never forget meeting Garret and want to offer a shout-out to him and thank him for the memorable ride to the airport. life is short, do what makes you happy Garret.