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Taken from Sentinel-Tribune (February 21, 2017)

Local music production team strikes a chord with Little Axe

by ROGER LAPOINTE, Sentinel-Tribune Staff Writer

Skip McDonald, known as Little Axe, performs on the Main Stage Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 during the Balck Swamp Arts Festivial.
Photo by Daniel Melograna/Sentinel-Tribune

Veteran guitarist Skip “Little Axe” McDonald has chosen Bowling Green for the whole package of production on his live album and newest videos. The production team built around the 12:10 record label are all Bowling Green State University graduates who have stayed in the area and worked on the album, “One Man-One Night.”

People may not realize it, but nearly everyone has heard McDonald’s music, as his work goes back decades. McDonald also played the Black Swamp Arts Festival this past summer.

“I was at the grocery store the other day and heard Skip’s Telecaster (guitar) on ‘Rapper’s Delight’ playing as the piped in background music,” said audio producer Walter McKeever, one of the BGSU grads on the production team.

The 67-year-old McDonald played those foundational hip-hop guitar licks, with Grand Master Flash, as the core house guitarist for Sugar Hill records with the group that was popularly referred to as The Sugar Hill Gang. He went on to play with Peter Wolf of the J. Geils Band, Tack Head, Sinead O’Connor and many others.

With the live “One Man-One Night,” McDonald wanted to showcase his blues roots infused with his personality, saying “All music is one music. You can’t separate blues from rock, jazz or funk. It’s all in the interpretation.”

McDonald is a Dayton native who is back after living in London, England. He said he was glad to be recording in his home state with a team of Bowling Green recording industry veterans that knows his style and knows him.

Steve Szirotnyak, (from left) Joshua Lightle, Walter "Mac" McKeever and Matt Donahue worked on the album "Little Axe: One Man, One Night"
Photo by Daniel Melograna/Sentinel-Tribune

12:10 Records owner Matthew Donahue said, “I’m a fan. I found Skip’s music years ago, when I worked at Boogie Records (in Toledo). I found this 10-inch album ‘The Wolf That House Built’ and then I kept meeting him at Adrian Sherwood’s label On-U Sound, in London. We hit it off.”

Locally, Donahue is known more for his position as a BGSU pop culture professor, but in the music world, he has done a good deal of work internationally. As Donahue’s label was put together, the appeal of working with the assembled specialists grew on McDonald, all of them experts in their respective fields: McKeever with audio engineering, Josh Lightle as videographer, Giles Cooper for photography and Steve Szirotnyak with layout and design. They all met through their common link with Donahue.

“One Man-One Night” was recorded live at Grounds For Thought on March 28, 2015.

“It’s a great record, especially if you’re driving to Cleveland or Cincy. It’s ‘One Man-One Night’ for a reason. Think about any of those African-American blues guys with a suitcase and a guitar, Robert Johnson style. That’s Skip,” McKeever said. “He’s one guy coming into town with a guitar and a sequencer, playing for an hour. It’s great.”

“Grinning In Your Face” is the second video released from the live album. McDonald turns the Son House a cappella blues classic into his own. While the original is accompanied only by House’s hand clapping, McDonald gives the song his “21st century blues treatment” without losing the spirit of the song. McKeever captures a “modern one man against the world” feel that McDonald lives in.

“Walt McKeever’s studio production welds Skip’s pre-recorded drums and bass that he controlled with foot pedals with the beautiful live expression of Skip’s guitar,” Donahue said. “Capturing that interplay, the dance, between the performer, Skip, and the live out-of-studio and then in-studio production work is rare.”

The video for “Seeing Red” was the first released from this live album. With a laid-back blues feel, the producers say it’s classically fresh with multiple meanings, some of them intentionally political.

“It’s a comment versus a protest. He’s not shaking his fist, seeing the conflict. It’s the way he’s wired. With both the songs, they’re not lovey-dovey songs,” Donahue said.

Lightle filmed and edited both videos.

“I knew that live visual of Skip’s playing at Grounds For Thought was outstanding. With only two cameras we could highlight the music, because of Skip’s history. I had no idea of his place in history during the recording, but I could see and hear it. I learned his history later,” Lightle said.

McKeever summed up the five BG friends’ collective response to their production effort by saying, “Music is made by groups of people celebrating.”

The new live versions of “Seeing Red” and “Grinning In Your Face” can be found on YouTube Mad45TV. The CD “One Man-One Night” can be found on Amazon.com and locally at Grounds For Thought.


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