CG & The Hammer’s place in the ‘sun’
Veteran Tel Aviv bluesmen Dov Hammer and Sagi Shorer took their band to Memphis’s legendary Sun Studios to record their latest album.
CG & The Hammer’s Photo: Courtesy
When local bluesman Dov Hammer and his longtime partner in music Sagi “CG” Shorer were chosen to represent Israel in 2005 at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, part of the festivities included a guided tour of the famed Sun Studios. The fabled home to recording sessions by seminal rock, country and blues pioneers from Howlin’ Wolf and BB King to Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, the studio had transitioned into a museum and still bore the vintage equipment and gritty ambiance tied to the birth of rock & roll.
“On the tour, the guide mentioned that at night it was still a working studio, and we looked at each other and said that we should record there,” said the harmonica-playing Hammer earlier this week.
He and Shorer, who form the backbone of the veteran blues band CG & The Hammer, didn’t forget that idea, and when they returned to Memphis in 2009 for another IBC showcase, they booked a night at the studio and recorded three songs.
“They came out great; it was the most fun we ever had in the studio,” said Hammer. “We walked around back in Israel for about a year with the tape in our pockets, not knowing what to do with the songs. We joked for a while that we have to go back to Memphis to record some more to finish an album, and after a while we figured why joke about? So we wrote a few more songs, booked a few more nights, and last year flew there and did it again.”
The result is CG & the Hammer’s fourth album, Something Good – The Memphis Sessions, which is being released next week with a live performance at Shabloul in Tel Aviv on January 24.
Featuring their trademark blend of blues, rock and country, with wailing harmonica and fiery guitar, the album also includes an authentic American rootsy sound, which Hammer attributed to the varied attributes of Sun Studios.
“Obviously, there’s a special atmosphere there, a vibe of being in a place where Elvis recorded his first songs, and Johnny Cash and Howlin’ Wolf recorded. The history of American music was made there,” he said. “And the equipment was amazing – I played the harmonica through a 1962 Gibson amp. You don’t see those anywhere. They also put microphones in all the corners, to pick up the room sound. When we mixed the album, we didn’t need any reverb effect at all, we got it naturally.”
Working with the Sun Studio pros also proved to be an eye-opening experience for the Israeli band, whose music is closely associated with the style that emerged from the studio and the city.
“The fact is that we play American music, and in Israeli studios people don’t always understand exactly how to record us, so it can be a frustrating experience,” said Hammer. “At Sun, the stuff we do, they do every day of the year – that’s where it comes from! The technicians and sound engineers knew what we wanted before we did; that’s what made it so enjoyable.”
The band wasn’t the only satisfied party. According to Hammer, the Sun staff were pleasantly surprised by what they heard from their Israeli visitors.
“We were the first Israeli band they ever had,” he said. “And they were pretty impressed that we came for Israel and played the blues like that.”
So will anyone who turns up next Thursday when Shabloul is transformed into Sun Studios – Mideast branch.