Project image
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$4,296
pledged of $65,000pledged of $65,000 goal
55
backers
9days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Thu, August 1 2019 4:59 AM UTC +00:00.

$4,296
pledged of $65,000pledged of $65,000 goal
55
backers
9days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Thu, August 1 2019 4:59 AM UTC +00:00.

About

Overview           

My name is Matt Brown. As its executive producer, I am raising money for an album featuring Chess Records artist and legendary St. Louis soul & blues singer Barbara Carr. On this recording, Barbara will be accompanied by the Chicago band On Big Shoulders. Under the direction of GRAMMY-nominated producer Liam Davis and associate producer Gerald Dowd, the album will be recorded in Chicago in the fall of 2019 with a target release in the spring of 2020. Our goal is to make the album Barbara wants to make, filled entirely with songs she loves. She is already teaching us a bunch of material she picked out that she's really excited about, and we have three originals (by Steve Dawson, Gerald Dowd, and GRAMMY-nominee Robbie Fulks) that we've shared with her to consider.

Barbara & On Big Shoulders rehearsing for a show together at SPACE in Evanston, Illinois (June 2019)
Barbara & On Big Shoulders rehearsing for a show together at SPACE in Evanston, Illinois (June 2019)

The Story

One day in July 2017, a cell phone rang at I.V. Lab Studios in Chicago. It was during the making of the album On Big Shoulders, and we were stuck. We were trying to track our own rendition of the Chess Records deep cut "Shake Your Head," which Barbara Carr recorded for Chess in the 1960s, but we couldn't quite figure out all of the words to the song. Just as I thought we were out of options (even Google had failed us), our drummer, Gerald Dowd, somehow managed to get Barbara Carr on the phone. After introducing himself and explaining our project and our quandary, Gerald asked for Barbara's help. She agreed, but asked if she could call us back in a few minutes. 

That ringing phone was Gerald's. He answered. It was Barbara returning his call, so Gerald put her on speakerphone. In the background, we could hear the iconic recording of her younger self belting out "Shake Your Head." In the foreground, Barbara sang along, an octave lower & decades older, filling in all the lyrical gaps for us with a rich voice that has lost nothing in the intervening years. She graciously ensured that we had everything we needed, then we ended the call. After several minutes in the studio celebrating our good fortune and her remarkable generosity, we settled down enough to begin recording our own version of the song

Fast forward to the fall of 2018. Gerald texts me, asking me to make time for a phone call. Turns out, Barbara dug our cover of her song as well as the rest album, which he had mailed to her upon its completion. In fact, Barbara was enjoying On Big Shoulders so much that she asked if we were having an album release party, because she wanted to come up from St. Louis to attend it. We said we were and she could, and so of course Gerald then asked Barbara if she'd be willing to join us onstage as a special guest at the concert. She readily agreed. When the fateful night arrived, Barbara Carr sang "Shake Your Head," trading lines with our singer, Keely Vasquez. Then she stayed onstage to deliver this fiery performance of "Your Good Thing" which earned her an enthusiastic standing ovation: 

The joy of sharing the stage with her that December night at the Old Town School of Folk Music extended through the days that followed. Upon hearing me describe Barbara's presence in the show, my friend, colleague, and mentor Brian Deck suggested that my next step should be to make an album featuring her with On Big Shoulders as the backup band. I first checked in with Liam and Gerald, then we asked Barbara. They all liked the idea. So, we  booked our first full-length show together (June 15, 2019 at SPACE in Evanston, Illinois) to test out some of the songs she wants to record with us. Then, we want to make the album. But in order to do so, we need your help.

Making an album and getting it out into the world takes a lot of talented people, each of whom needs to be paid fairly for their efforts. The $65,000 budget for this album covers the cost of:

  • Barbara's time, lodging & transportation
  • the musicians' time
  • the producers' time
  • a week in the recording studio (at Brian Deck's Narwhal Music)
  • the recording engineers (including Shane Hendrickson, who recorded On Big Shoulders)
  • the designers (Zerobird Studio, who designed On Big Shoulders)
  • a photographer & videographer
  • a publicist
  • a radio promoter
  • manufacturing the CDs
  • an entertainment lawyer 
  • lunch each day we are in the studio
  • writers' fees (e.g. the incredible Mary Katherine Aldin will write the liner notes essay!)
  • Kickstarter's fees

Please donate at whatever level feels comfortable. Please know that you can always pledge more than the amount listed for the reward you select if you want to kick in a little something extra. Or, if you want to contribute without receiving a reward, that is an option.

One of the best things you can do to help us reach our goal is to share this campaign with anyone you think will want to chip in as well. I know we have a lot of money to raise, and it'll only be with the help of many friends, family, and Barbara Carr fans, that we can reach our goal. Thanks so much for your support! It means so much to Barbara, me, Liam, Gerald, and the band.

----

Barbara Carr

Barbara Carr is a legendary blues & soul singer from St. Louis, Missouri. Like many singers, she got her start singing in the church. She formed her first band, The Comets Combo, in the late 1950s, finding inspiration in popular female singers of the era including Faye Adams, LaVern Baker, Ruth Brown, and Etta James. In 1963, after moving back to St. Louis from Colorado, Barbara joined a vocal group called The Petites. In early 1965, bandleader Oliver Sain was looking for a female vocalist to replace Fontella Bass. Barbara got the job, and more than filled Bass's shoes, which was no easy feat. Sain was a gifted songwriter who had signed a recording contract with Chess Records. Beginning with her first session for Chess in February 1966, Barbara recorded "My Mama Told Me," "I Can't Stop Now," "My Good Loving," "Walk Away,""Somewhere Crying," "Shake Your Head," "Don't Knock Love," and "Think About It Baby," that latter a soul classic that features Barbara backed by The East St. Louis Gospelettes.

In the years since, Barbara has made numerous recordings on a variety of labels, including her signature piece, "Good Woman Go Bad." She has been honored twice with the Living Blues Readers Award as 'Female Blues Artist of the Year,' and in 2013 and 2014, she was nominated for a Blues Music Award in the 'Soul Blues Female Artist' category. To this day, she has an incredibly powerful presence onstage, commanding the audience's attention and directing the band with astonishing ease. 

photo by Tim Brown
photo by Tim Brown

On Big Shoulders

On Big Shoulders started as a grant-funded Americana album I co-produced with GRAMMY-nominee Liam Davis in the summer of 2017. The album was recorded at I.V. Lab Studios in Chicago and featured a dozen of the city's busiest musicians playing songs with links to Chicago. The core band comprised Steve Dawson (vocals & guitar), Brian Wilkie (pedal steel & guitar), Aaron Smith (bass), and Gerald Dowd (drums), with guest appearances from Elise Bergman (background vocals), Gia Margaret (lead & background vocals), Keely Vasquez (lead & background vocals), Liam Davis (lead vocals, piano & organ), Liz Chidester (background vocals), Anna (trumpet) & Evan (trombone) Jacobson, and me, Matt Brown (fiddle).

Each song on the album was written by a Chicagoland artist or was previously recorded in Chicago. Repertoire included "I'm Mississippi Bound" from Grand Ole Opry stars The Delmore Brothers (who recorded in Chicago in 1933), "Heavy Traffic Ahead" from the seminal formation of Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys that recorded in Chicago in 1946, the aforementioned "Shake Your Head" from Barbara Carr's Chess Records output, "Long Tall Mama" from Big Bill Broonzy, "It's Just That Simple" from Wilco, plus newer songs from Collin Moore, Steve Dawson, and Robbie Fulks (an exclusive commission). Thanks to a very successful Kickstarter campaign, that album was released on November 2, 2018.  

Now the core On Big Shoulders band of Steve, Brian, Aaron, and Gerald reconvenes with the welcome addition of keyboardist Scott Stevenson to accompany Barbara Carr on her dream album.

 Steve Dawson, guitarist

photo by Tim Brown
photo by Tim Brown

Brian Wilkie, guitarist

photo by Tim Brown
photo by Tim Brown

Aaron Smith, bassist

photo by Tim Brown
photo by Tim Brown

Gerald Dowd, drummer & associate producer

photo by Tim Brown
photo by Tim Brown

Scott Stevenson, keyboardist

photo by Tim Brown
photo by Tim Brown

Liam Davis, producer

Liam Davis has been nominated for three GRAMMY awards as a producer, and is an integral part of On Big Shoulders. His singing, playing, arranging, editing, and mixing skills elevated our entire album. He even came up with the name On Big Shoulders! Now, Liam is working closely with Barbara Carr to select songs for her to record, and they're developing a strong rapport as they discuss how to make the album she's been wanting to make for the past 25 years.   

photo by Tim Brown
photo by Tim Brown

Matt Brown, executive producer

Matt Brown is a musician, teacher, and producer from West Chester, Pennsylvania who now lives near Denver, Colorado. From 2011-2019, he lived in Chicago, Illinois, where he taught fiddle, banjo, and guitar at the Old Town School of Folk Music. It was while living in Chicago that Matt had the idea for On Big Shoulders, and that project allowed him to bring together on one album eleven of his favorite musicians from The Windy City and its suburbs. 

photo by Tim Brown
photo by Tim Brown

Matt's fiddling is featured along with guitarist Greg Reish on the 2015 release Speed of the Plow, which was engineered and co-produced by GRAMMY-winner Dave Sinko (Punch Brothers, Béla Fleck, Hot Rize). Matt and Greg toured the country as a duo performing the album's collection of old-time duets. Matt has also toured as a soloist, with percussive dance ensembles Rhythm in Shoes and Footworks, and has made guest appearances with Tim O'Brien, The John Hartford Stringband, Uncle Earl, Special Consensus, and Della Mae. He played fiddle for three years in the Chicago band Big Sadie, and has performed twice with Mike Snider on the Grand Ole Opry. He has produced nine albums, three benefit concerts, two fiddle & banjo contests, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Matt's credits as a record producer:

  •  On Big Shoulders - Various Artists (2018)
  •  Speed of the Plow - Matt Brown & Greg Reish (2015)
  •  My Native Home - Matt Brown (2010)
  •  Barrier Falls - Annalivia (2010)
  •  Only Me - Kevin Neidig (2009)
  •  Falls of Richmond - Matt Brown (2008)
  •  Old-Time Fiddle Lesson, Vol. 1 - Matt Brown (2007)
  •  Lone Prairie - Matt Brown (2006)
  •  In The Moment - Jane Rothfield (2005)

Rewards

I am delighted that we have a slew of terrific rewards to offer, including these stunning photographs of three titans of American music. The first is an image of Muddy Waters, who was photographed by Bill Greensmith in Ann Arbor, Michigan in September 1972.

photo by Bill Greensmith
photo by Bill Greensmith

The second is a spooky portrait of Howlin' Wolf, also by Bill Greensmith in Ann Arbor, Michigan in September 1972. 

photo by Bill Greensmith
photo by Bill Greensmith

The third is a publicity photograph of a young Chuck Berry from Sept 1952. Photograph by Harry Davis.  Check out all of our rewards to find the right one for you!

photo by Harry Davis
photo by Harry Davis

Risks and challenges

We have a lot of money to raise, and it's not going to be easy. I was blown away by the generosity of the 233 backers who supported the On Big Shoulders Kickstarter campaign to the tune of $26,092. Seeing that level of support from folks all over the world was inspiring and gave me confidence about the quality of my initial idea. It was also wonderful to see the excitement about the cast of characters I had assembled. Donors were as excited about the project as I was.

If an On Big Shoulders album was a good idea, then a Barbara Carr album may be an even better one. I had not planned on launching another Kickstarter campaign, but Barbara is, as Steve Dawson put it so succinctly, "a classic singer from the classic soul era," and she is at the top of her game. After we met her and performed with her the first time, a friendship began to develop between Barbara and the band. Putting her in front of this band again is an obvious thing to do. The results are too good to ignore!

One challenge I face is donor fatigue. I don't want those who were so generous with last year's On Big Shoulders campaign to feel put upon when they encounter this second campaign. But my hope is that some of those folks will be kind enough to pass the link to this project on to a couple of friends who might want to chip in.

As a result, I will be looking for new donors in new communities who might not have even heard of On Big Shoulders. Barbara will share the fundraiser with her fans in St. Louis, and I will look to my friends in the blues community to find ways to spread the news about the project to blues fans around the world.

The biggest challenge will be finding enough donors who want to and can afford to contribute. I believe wholeheartedly in this project, as do all of the musicians involved. Barbara is so excited to be singing these songs with this band. She is grateful for the opportunity to make this album. I hope that Barbara and the band, and the story of how we came to work together, will inspire you to help us get this album out into the world.

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    Digital Gratitude

    you'll receive a grateful email from executive producer Matt Brown, profusely thanking you for your support!

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    Pre-Release Digital Album

    you'll get an advance digital download of the album including the liner notes!

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    CD

    You'll get a copy of the album on CD, delivered to you a month before release day!

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    Studio Blog

    receive behind-the-scenes emails from Matt after each day in the studio. Missives will detail the progress, the jokes, and what everyone had for lunch. Includes exclusive photos but excludes obscure references.

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    Autographed CD

    You'll get a copy of the album on CD, signed by Barbara, delivered to you a month before release day!

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    Limited Edition Poster

    you'll get a screen-printed poster crafted in Chicago by Zerobird Studio, the design team behind the album art and layout (they also designed On Big Shoulders!).

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    Signed Portrait of Barbara Carr

    You'll receive a photograph of Barbara Carr signed by both Barbara Carr and photographer Bill Greensmith [fine arts printing suitable for framing]

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    Take a Bass Lesson with Aaron

    enjoy a one-hour lesson with On Big Shoulders bassist Aaron Smith! Scheduled at Aaron's discretion either in Chicago or online via Skype/FaceTime/MySpace.

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    • your choice of an advance copy of the CD or the digital download
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    Take a Songwriting Lesson with Steve

    Have a songwriting lesson/consult with veteran songwriter Steve Dawson either in Chicago or online via Skype/FaceTime/MySpace.

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    Howlin' Wolf photograph

    You'll receive a beautiful black & white photograph of Howlin' Wolf taken by photographer Bill Greensmith in 1972 [fine arts printing suitable for framing].

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    Muddy Waters photograph

    You'll receive a beautiful black & white photograph of Muddy Waters taken by photographer Bill Greensmith in 1972 [fine arts printing suitable for framing].

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    • your choice of an advance copy of the CD or the digital download
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    Chuck Berry publicity photograph

    You'll receive a beautiful black & white publicity photograph of a young Chuck Berry taken by photographer Harry Davis in September 1952 [fine arts printing suitable for framing].

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    enjoy lunch with Barbara in St. Louis!

    Enjoy an unforgettable lunch with Chess Records artist Barbara Carr and photographer & blues researcher Bill Greensmith at Robbie Montgomery's restaurant Sweetie Pie's Upper Crust in St. Louis, Missouri.

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    • lunch with Barbara
    • studio blog
    • pre-release copy of the CD
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    Signed & Numbered Photo Book

    You'll receive a limited edition, signed & numbered hardcover photo book replete with images by Bill Greensmith & Tim Brown of Barbara's rehearsals and recording with On Big Shoulders. Also included in the book will be vintage photographs of Barbara through the decades.

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    Visit the Studio

    Spend an hour in the control room watching the album being made in Chicago! While there, you can have your photo taken with Barbara, plus you'll receive a pre-release copy of the album on CD and Matt Brown's Daily Studio Report.

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    Choose a Song for the Set List

    pick a song for Barbara and the band to cover at the Chicago album release concert in 2020!

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    On Big Shoulders Writes You a Song

    On Big Shoulders will write you a song and perform it at the album release concert!

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    a private concert in your home!

    Barbara Carr and the band will play a private concert for you and your friends! This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is available to a fan in the Chicagoland area, and will be scheduled at a mutually agreeable time.

    Includes:
    • studio blog
    • limited edition poster
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    Sponsor the Release Concert

    Sponsor the Chicago album release concert and you'll receive 4 tickets to the show, a meet & greet with Barbara Carr and the band, and your name prominently displayed (if you chose) in the promotion of the concert and in the lobby the night of the show.

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    Autographed Bundle

    get an autographed copy of both the CD & the limited edition poster, a month before the album is released!

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    • limited edition poster
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    Take a Drum Lesson with Gerald

    spend an hour learning drums from On Big Shoulders drummer Gerald Dowd! Scheduled at Gerald's discretion either in Chicago or online via Skype/FaceTime/MySpace.

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    • drum lesson
    • your choice of an advance copy of the CD or the digital download
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