Kenny Buttrey, Larrie Londin, Kenny Malone, Buddy Harmon, Henry Strzelecki, Tommy Cogbill, Mike Leech, Bob Moore, Reggie Young, Chip Young, Jimmy Capps, Wayne Moss, Buddy Spicher, Charlie McCoy, Weldon Myrick, Byrd Burton, Barry Beckett, David Briggs, Ralph Mooney (pictured below, with Mrs Moon), and so many others. A fascinating cast of characters. I was surrounded by greatness and I knew it. The combined resumés of these guys would take six months to read. I was always intimidated, and I always knew I would never be as good as they were. I was both starstruck, and determined to hold my own. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I failed miserably. But I always got up, dusted myself off, and got back in the ring. If anything I was determined. Looking back on it now, I realize that I had subconsciously put myself in a position where I was not going to be able to do anything for a living other than play music. I was going to be a musician. At that point I was the new guy. It spurred me on to keep trying, to keep practicing my musicianship. And also to think. I thought about what made these musicians so good. And what I gradually realized was that they were all masters of space and time.

They were masters of space in that they had learned that what was not played was just as important as the notes that were played. That was a true breakthrough moment for me. Recording music for me was now a binary world. A world of sound, but also of space. A world where spaces of time with no sound could be just as powerful as a stunning lick or a beautiful chord. Sometimes even more powerful. Finding the balance was the Holy Grail for me. I am still a pilgrim traveling on that path.  

The other piece was time. These musicians all had an unerring sense of time, of where the next beat should fall in the song. The power of placement. It could be slightly ahead of the beat, slightly behind, or right on it. Any way they played it, they played with passion, and it was solid as a rock. This was pre-drum machine, before the widespread use of computerized click tracks to lead the music. As a young musician I was too concerned about what I played to worry about how I played it. Too many other factors were in play. Which inversion sounded right? Which notes were right? How loud should I play? How soft? And always, the self-conscious “will they dig what I play?”

We recently finished recording the tracks (sans click) for the upcoming Gretchen Peters album - the follow-up to the critically acclaimed Hello Cruel World. Most of those tracks hold some of the sparsest playing I’ve ever done. Half a song might go by before I felt a need to step out and play a note. There are also two songs which we recorded with just piano and Gretchen’s vocal, as we’ve been doing live for many years. Some strings and other instruments were overdubbed later. But the basic tracks are just the two of us. I listen to those two songs now, and I hear space, and I hear the ebb and flow of time, in a good, natural way. It feels right. And I see the faces of all of those legendary Nashville musicians who showed me the way. And I’m so grateful I got to make music with them over the years. I was listening.


Ralph Mooney with Mrs Moon, circa 1987:


Peter Greer October 15, 2015 @11:56 am

Reading back my last comment , it is obvious that I must have had drink taken at the time. Evidently Barry and everyone else reading this . May be I'll get the chance to talk to the Professor after Gretchen's Belfast gig tomorrow night.

Peter Greer October 04, 2014 @02:35 pm

Interesting reflections from the good Professor Walsh . I have always thought that it is the spaces within the music that allow us to interpret and enjoy it in our own unique way. Someone once told me that it is the notes he leaves out more than those he plays that makes Clapton such a great guitarist. Look forward to seeing you and Gretchen next year when back in Belfast or Lisburn or wherever you decide to play. It's always a treat.

Scott King July 03, 2014 @09:33 am

Thank you, Barry, for this wonderful piece on the space between the notes. For me, too, it's the Holy Grail. I'm in my early 60s, and play bass in a couple of bands, and am learning pedal steel. I struggle with not playing too much...often it seems, when I am playing, that I am not playing near enough. Then, when I hear the playback, I'm amazed how much I wish I had laid out more. For me the challenge is closing that hear it while playing, as well as I do when listening to a recording.

Barry July 01, 2014 @10:03 pm

Yes, Steve (and Mike), we'd love to come back to the log house. I'm done with birthdays, however. I'm boycotting them in the future!

Steve DuLany July 01, 2014 @09:40 pm

I agree with everything Mike Zanger said. You have a true way with words, and I would also love to see you & Gretchen back at Mike's Log House. Maybe another birthday celebration for you?

Cat Covell July 01, 2014 @06:13 pm

Lovely post. Some good food for thought.

Kevin McClave July 01, 2014 @10:29 am

This is such a cool reflection. You wrote what you play and we're all the better for being able to hear it (and not).

Sam Allman July 01, 2014 @03:50 am

Didn't really understand the not playing being as immportant as the playing until someone pointed it out how Pink Floyd does it. I went back and really listened. I realized that in my hearing of the music, there really were spaces of rest. Where the listener's ears were treated to the longing for the next note; the bridge; the verse. Built drama and anticipation to the song-like waiting for the next ocean wave to build and build and then crest with brief snap and disolving to a gentle run to shore.

Paul Engleman July 01, 2014 @02:15 am

What fine reflections. And you've just helped me appreciate music a little bit more. Thanks. I'll listen for the spaces. (Like the little girl in the backseat in Gretchen's song Idlewild.) .

bowman June 30, 2014 @10:18 pm

Barry: You too have an impeccable resume; I'm always amazed to find out where you've laid down tracks over the years. Your resume was well earned because you were smart enough to learn from the masters rather try to show off. The lessons you write about can easily be an extension of life lessons for others. Where you learned to master space and time, professional service executives should understand the value of when to listen to their clients' needs (first) and when to talk about solutions (second). I appreciate that you remain humble: "I am still a pilgrim traveling on that path". I am pleased that the path has taken you here, contributing to another awesome Gretchen Peters album. bowman - - "Art will always be Art." - Goethe

Peter Mayne June 30, 2014 @03:15 pm

A great piece Barry. As a lifelong fan ot the East Street Band and their singer I was very taken by a documentary from the 80s or 90s where it was said they really understood the spaces in their music. And now you are saying the same thing! Less, truly, is often more.

David Pinkston June 30, 2014 @03:11 pm

Great perspective. You always play (or layout) with impeccable taste. You're one of the best.

Mike Zanger June 30, 2014 @02:12 pm

Beautifully written, Barry. p.s. We would still love to have you and Gretchen back for another concert at the Log House, anytime! Mike Zanger - Log House Concerts, Edwardsville, IL

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