T Bone Burnett’s Liner Notes for No Better Than This

John's new album, No Better Than This, was produced, as was the 2008's Life Death Love and Freedom, by noted producer T Bone Burnett.  T Bone has produced dozens of critically acclaimed albums including Robert Plant & Alison Krauss' Raising Sand, Elvis Costello's "Secret, Profane & Sugarcane" as well as recent offerings from B.B. King, Willie Nelson and Jakob Dylan.  He won four Grammy's for his work on the soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou? which received the prestigious album of the year award. This year he received an Academy Award in the Best Original Song category for "The Weary Kind," written for the film Crazy Heart. His liner notes for No Better Than This would seem to stand on their own as poetry while serving to convey his thoughts about the unique circumstance of the album's recording:

"In the basement of the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia, there are about half inch holes drilled in the floor in the shape of diamonds. In the 1800’s, they were thought to have significance as African tribal symbols, but in fact, they were air holes for travelers on the Underground Railroad hiding in the sub-basement. Across Montgomery Street, in Franklin Square, there is a Whipping Tree. Spanish moss grows in every tree in Savannah, except that tree. The church is filled with history. The vibe in the church is profound. This was the place John Mellencamp chose to begin recording his twenty fifth record. During the sessions, John and Elaine Mellencamp got Baptized underneath the altar where we were recording.

We next met up in Memphis at 706 Union Avenue, the site where the great record maker and civil rights pioneer, Sam Phillips, recorded Howlin Wolf and Elvis Presley. Mr. Phillips had put black x’s on the linoleum floor where each of the musicians was placed for the historic sessions with Mr. Presley. We set up on those x’s and put a ribbon mic between them. As soon as the band hit the first note, the room came alive. John was standing about five feet from the microphone. The room is the perfect size to record a four-piece band. The room compresses the sound in a distinctive and exciting way. The band blended itself - there was no need to mix it.

We ended up in room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio where Robert Johnson first recorded. He recorded "Terraplane Blues" and "Dust My Broom" in that room. We set up as Don Law did - the recording equipment in one room and the microphone next door. We had heard that Mr. Johnson had sung into the corner, so John did the same. He sang into that corner like there was a hellhound on his trail. I have to say, that is one killer sounding corner.

All those ghosts. All those spirits. This is a haunted record." - T Bone Burnett, Summer 2010