Rural Forest is a country & western album from Austin-based indie rock band Royal Forest.

A lot of our production ideas stem from classic C&W and pop music from the early days of studio experimentation. All of us have moonlighted for country bands; this is our take on some of our favorite songs and recordings from that era. It’s meticulous, self-indulgent, a little psychedelic, and swings like Sonny Liston.

Production Notes

ernest tubb
Drivin’ Nails In My Coffin
Written by: Ernest Tubb
Performance we referenced: Ernest Tubb

Production notes:  Check out the great Buddy Emmons on the pedal steel in the link: his playing is impossibly effortless and still swings so hard. Justin played an Emmons pedal steel on the RF recording and tried to capture some of the jazz Buddy brings to the song. Blake noticed the drummer playing to the lyrics, so we went with that. The guitar rig we used was a 1940s Kay hollow-body through a small 1940s Montgomery Ward tube amp. Justin’s 3 year old daughter Loralai knows all the words to this song and sings it nightly.

Buck Owens
Before You Go
Written by: Buck Owens and Don Rich
Performance we referenced: Buck Owens and Don Rich

Production notes:  Buck Owens was a pioneer of the Bakersfield Sound: a reaction to the slick overproduced music of Nashville. We love how this is essentially two songs in one. Initially we sampled Buck saying “but darlin’” for the transition, but it was too hokey (and illegal) so Justin wound up saying it. Adding wurli to the choruses really tied the room together and supported those sexy harmonies – again lifted directly from the recording above.

International Submarine Band
Blue Eyes
Written by: Gram Parsons
Performance we referenced: International Submarine Band

Production notes: This is a great little song from Gram’s first and somewhat obscure band, the International Submarine Band. We really dig the honest simplicity of this song; it’s almost reminiscent of “Our House” by CSNY. The bass was played with a mute to make it rounder and bounce more, and Blake shuffles the absolute pants off this one. We decided since there are only 2 actual verses to stack the harmonies as the choruses progressed: no harmony in the first, 2 part in the second, and 3 part in the final chorus; not bringing in the snare until the 3 part hits at the end.

Conway Twitty
Dim Lights, Thick Smoke
Written by: Joe Maphis
Performances we referenced: Conway Twitty; Flatt and Scruggs

Production notes:  Joe Maphis was another Bakersfield transplant and one of the greatest multi-instrumentals in Western music. Check out this video; it’s ridiculous. This song has been extensively covered and has been a hit in every decade from 1953 through 2012. We decided to marry Conway Twitty’s electric version of the song (particularly the intro) with the harmonies and swagger of Flatt and Scruggs’ bluegrass rendition. We put the snare drum through an old analog echo box and distorted the echo to give it a little more swing and a touch of the psychedelic.

Johnny Darrell
Why You Been Gone So Long
Written by: Mickey Newbury
Performance we referenced: Johnny Darrell

Production notes: Mickey Newbury was an extremely prolific and fascinating writer; he’s even referenced in the song “Luckenbach, Texas”. The lyrics are fantastic, especially the last verse. This is the only song we tracked without pedal steel. The wurli we used in the chorus is a model 700 tube electric piano that distorts beautifully and really helped drive the song.

Lloyd Green
Green Velvet
Written by: Dorothy Edwards (nearest I can tell)
Performance we referenced: Lloyd Green

Production notes: This is our favorite instrumental pedal steel song. Lloyd Green is one of the most heard musician in history and a living legend on the steel guitar: he’s recorded with everyone from Johnny Cash to Paul McCartney and on 115 Billboard #1 hits. Let that sink in for a minute. We initially recorded a tube wurli at the same time (and in the same room) as the drums, but later took it out. However you can still hear it bleeding in the drum mics, particularly near the end, and lends some eerie color and dynamics to the track.

Del Reeves
A Dime At A Time
Written by: Jerry Chesnut
Performance we referenced: Del Reeves

Production notes: Del Reeves had a string of hits in the 60s, and we really dug his voice and approach to this tune. Honky-tonker JP Harris turned us on to this track. We put a slapback tape echo on the hi-hat mic to give the drums a little more jangle.The descending pedal steel lick at 0:40 is lifted directly from Wanda Jackson’s “My Big Iron Skillet”. Pretty proud of that one. Justin’s daughter knows all the words to this one too.

Merle Haggard
The Longer You Wait
Written by: Merle Haggard
Performance we referenced: Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard – The Longer You Wait by dstuck
Production notes: Cody found this one for us, and we loved this version on first listen. The vocals were extremely challenging to get just right – Merle’s voice is so emotive and effortless and the song is so simple we couldn’t cut any corners in recording. The vocals were tracked through an old ribbon mic run through a solid-state Echoplex from the 60s. Check out the guitar solo in the version above, it’s incredible.