Old State Line adds own touch to ‘Summertime’Written by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lots of artists have covered “Summertime,” but possibly none quite like Old State Line.
Using Doc Watson’s version as a model, the local group added a mandolin intro, used mandolin as the main rhythm instrument and ended the track with a “bluesy tag,” said drummer Larry Meyer.
The group learned the song for “Red, White & You,” a CD of summer songs by local artists benefiting the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio.
It took a little time to find the perfect song for the CD, Meyer said.
“It wasn’t easy. We tried several things. We sat down and had a little listening party. We had lots of different suggestions and tried a few things, but they just didn’t gel,” Meyer said. “We were looking for a song that both fit the theme and also would make sense in our repertoire. If we were going to learn and hopefully perfect a song, rather than just learning it for the CD we wanted something that would fit in with our live set and that we could continue to play.”
Once they decided on “Summertime,” the band listened to several different renditions before deciding how to make the song their own.
“Anyone who is familiar with this song at all knows there are hundreds of versions,” Meyer said. “We listened to Janis Joplin, Ella Fitzgerald and others before stumbling across the Doc Watson version and that really influenced how we performed. It was catchy, classy and it was Americana or roots-music-based and as a result it seemed to fit with our general style of music.”
Recording was a new experience for Old State Line, as the group typically performs live, Meyer said.
“That was just a wonderful experience,” Meyer said. “Kerry [Patrick Clark] welcomed us into the basement studio in his home and made us feel right at ease. It made it easy and fun. We have done some recording, but not a lot. We mostly do live so [recording] was still kind of a new and intimidating process for us and it was great to be able to record with a pro like Kerry.”
Meyer, an attorney, also worked with the CD’s executive producer, Toledo Free Press Editor in Chief Michael S. Miller, on song licensing. He did the same for Miller’s 2011 and 2012 “Holiday Wishes” CD projects benefiting Make-A-Wish Foundation, but this is the first time he’s participated as a musician.
“I’ve been involved behind the scenes so I know Michael’s commitment for the project and the quality of the finished project,” Meyer said. “The Red Cross is an easy thing to get behind and want to support. And of course I’d be lying if I didn’t recognize the publicity aspect for the band as well. So it was a classic win-win.
“When you look at the other projects and you see the sheer number and quality of people who have agreed to donate their time as well, that set a pretty high precedent,” Meyer said. “We were in good company.”
Old State Line describes its sound as “acoustic Americana” and counts among its influences Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead and Old Crow Medicine Show, Meyer said.
“You might say it’s too rock to be country and too country to be rock,” he said.
The group formed around 2009.
“It was a gradual thing that grew out of informal jam sessions in Old Orchard,” Meyer said. “One day we realized, ‘Hey, we’ve got a band here.’”
Other members are Ramsey Abu-Absi, on vocals, guitar and mandolin; Cindy Lipman on vocals, fiddle and guitar; Rayna Zacharias on bass; and David Gstalder on vocals, guitar and banjo. The group has a standing gig at 10 a.m. the first Saturday of every month at the Glass City Cafe’s Bluegrass Breakfast.
Meyer said Old State Line hasn’t played “Summertime” for many people yet — they didn’t want to spoil the impact when the CD is released —but they are excited to debut it live and to be part of the benefit CD.
“We’re just happy to be a part of it and glad when we can do something like this and help out,” Meyer said. “It’s great.”