Even if it wasn’t a rollicking, 10-song collection of country-tinged rock ‘n’ roll full of cranked guitars, honky-tonk piano, and unvarnished real-world lyrics (with a couple of hushed, intimate ballads for good measure), the new Amigo album would still sound like a hell of a good time. The album, called “Amigo & Friends,” augments the core trio of singer/guitarist Slade Baird, bassist Thomas Alverson, and drummer Adam Phillips with a studio full of friends and collaborators, including producer/engineer Mitch Easter (R.E.M.), pedal-steel player Nathan Golub, keyboardist Jay Shirley, mandolin and fiddle player John Teer (from Chatham County Line), and guitarist Eddie Garcia.
The effect is that of a big ol’ party in the studio, a warmly produced record with great gang-vocal harmonies, horns, and gritty guitar solos all over the place. Golub’s crying pedal steel is a highlight, particularly on the slower songs, and Shirley brings a distinctive touch, especially on organ, but everyone involved seems to be having a blast.
Baird says that the band planned to bring in a big group of musicians from the beginning, before they even headed into Fideltorium Recordings in Kernersville, N.C., to make the album.
“I think we pretty much knew when the songs were being written,” he says. “Certain songs had these vibes that spoke to me from some of my favorite records. So if a song called for a ’70s L.A. kind of sound with pedal steel and a whole bunch of instrumentation, then that’s what we were going to do. Some songs are simple guitar songs, and some we wanted everybody playing on to make it sound as big as possible.”
The band already knew that Shirley would be involved, because he provided the keys on Amigo’s first album, “Might Could.” The rest of the cast was brought in as the sessions progressed.
“Jay just has a real sense of whatever we need at the time,” Baird says. “His instincts are perfect. We knew he was in from the beginning. We ended up getting John Teer on mandolin and fiddle because he happened not to be on the road at the time and lived pretty close to where we were recording. Nathan Golub was close by, too. So we were just lucky.”
Even people who didn’t plan to be on the record ended up being part of “Amigo & Friends.” “There’s one story that really plays into this idea of making a record with your friends,” Baird says. “My friend Eddie plays guitar on the album; he was coming to Kernersville just to hang out with some pizza and beer. And I told him that if he was gonna come by, he had to bring his guitar, too, because he was gonna play.”
Beyond the satisfaction of working with a group of great musicians, another reason that the album sounds so joyful is that Amigo, who will play an album-release show this Saturday at the Radio Room with guests Shaun Williams and The Excons, felt a lot more sure-footed this time.
“The first record, we had just gotten the studio time booked and we lost our bass player,” Baird says. “A friend of ours from the band Sinners & Saints was able to jump in and do the recording with us. And then we found Thomas after the record came out. Just having all that time on the road with a consistent group, playing two or three years before going into the studio, we were ready. We’d made these songs and written this stuff together. I hear that when I listen to it. We’d just evolved and gelled as a group.”
Amigo (album release show) w/ Shaun Williams and The Excons
When: Saturday, Feb. 3, 8 p.m.
Where: Radio Room, 110 Poinsett Highway, Greenville
Info: 864-609-4441, http://www.radioroomgreenville.com/