"Words come first," says singer and guitarist Scott Law about his newest CD, "Black Mountain." "But sometimes the melodies come first, and sometimes the chords come first."
The Portland-based musician's newest album — which he self-produced — features acoustic Americana music heavily influenced by Appalachian string bands and fiddle music.
Law, along with fiddler Luke Price and mandolin player Jack Dwyer, will perform songs from "Black Mountain" at 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 4, at The Applegate Lodge, 15100 Highway 238, Applegate.
Who: Scott Law Trio
When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 4
Where: The Applegate Lodge, 15100 Highway 238, Applegate
While previous albums from Law had more of a blues sound, the string band influence came from his work with fiddle player Darol Anger, a member of the David Grisman Quintet who performed fiddle on "Black Mountain."
"I worked with Darol for five or six years and became absorbed in this fiddle-driven music," Law says. "I was in that old-time Appalachian fiddle tune kind of world and being in that mode was sort of what generated the sound and content of the tunes. I also was going back to my personal musical roots, to the music I was exposed to in my early childhood."
Law also used the songs on "Black Mountain" as a way for him to improve his flatpicking, a style of guitar playing popularized by guitarists Doc Watson, Clarence White and Tony Rice.
Melody was a key component of the songs for "Black Mountain." Songs, both instrumental — such as "Bells of Unity" — and lyrical, range from alt-country and bluegrass to improvisational jam tunes in the spirit of bands such as The Grateful Dead.
"I named 'Bells' after a town in Maine where I heard these clock tower bells ringing so sublimely one late afternoon," Law says. "The melody evolved from both that feeling I had, as well as the sound of the bells."
Law says the song is a connection to something much older than what we normally experience in this country.
"I had that melody going, and I had that experience of New England," Law says. "My family is Scottish on my dad's side, so I kind of ran with the Celticness. I had all these parts lying on the garage floor, and I just had to figure out how to put them together."
Songs were, for the most part, recorded live in the studio to 2-inch tape.
"There were some overdubs here and there," Law says. "I'd usually do my vocals separate. Basically, we wanted the best sound out of everything."
Law prefers to record on tape because the workflow is different than with digital recording. Songs are generally complete before he heads into the studio with occasional on-the-fly arrangement changes in the studio.
"We're not relying on an editing process," Law says. "We're relying on 'Hey, let's play it good and record it.' It's not a value judgement. It's a different way of doing things. Rehearse more, edit less."
Law says that he loves to play with Price and Dwyer, both of whom teach music at Lewis & Clark College in Portland and perform with various groups around the city.
"It's going to be some hot pickin' and sweet harmony singin'." Law says.
"Black Mountain" is available to stream in its entirety at www.scottlawmusic.com.