Music man: King anchors Grammy 'Poole'
Anyone can dust off an old record, but for Faber resident Christopher King, the work doesn't stop there– in fact, that's where it all begins.
King, who won a Grammy in 2003 for his work on Charlie Patton: Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues, is nominated again this year in the category of Best Historical Album for You Ain't Talkin' To Me: Charlie Poole And The Roots Of Country Music.
As sound engineer, King was charged with taking the often damaged old recordings of the roots musician, most of them dating from the 1920s, and making them sound "as modern and clean as possible." He admits it was a big job.
"If you take a Charlie Poole 78 and put it on a regular old turntable, it's going to sound pretty awful," he says.
Using some 78-rpm recordings by Poole as well as by musicians who influenced or who were influenced by him– King and two other sound engineers slowly went about remastering the recordings.
"I have quite a few of my own techniques," explains King, 34, who has been doing record remastering professionally for only six years through his business, Long Gone Sound Productions.
While his interest in historical recordings began as a hobby in high school, King spent his 20s exploring careers, including a stint as an undertaker in his native Bath County.
"It was the best job available at the time," he says. Following some time in grad school studying philosophy and French, he finally decided to turn his passion for old records into a career. He hasn't looked back.
In addition to the Grammy nods, King's painstaking work has won him the respect of his music industry peers.
"They hear in his work that he understands how to finesse a sound out of these old records that has eluded most other people," says Hank Sapoznik, who as producer of the Poole compilation shares King's Grammy nomination.
"Even with all the technology available," Sapoznik adds, "Chris has something that technology can't supersede, which is taste, aesthetic, and insight. He did pretty much the impossible."
Despite such high praise, King is modest about his accomplishment.
"It's just an honor that the Charlie Poole set would even be nominated," says King, explaining that Poole has "been marginalized or ignored for 75 years."
And a nomination is one thing, he points out, but winning is another. In addition to the crowd-pleasing Complete Library Of Congress Recordings By Alan Lomax, King's work is also up against the Ray Charles and Johnny Cash box sets.
"The competition," says King, "is very, very stiff."
The Grammy Awards air February 6 at 8pm on CBS.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO