Solo Sounds is a company that releases single-instrument renditions of recordings ranging from Beyonce’s Lemonade to George Jones.
“Jimbo Mathus [has] done a couple of these things for a company out of Brooklyn that produced a couple of records for him,” said Kellum.
Based on Jimbo’s referral, Solo Sounds sent Kellum a lengthy list of what music they were looking for.
“Some of it is very specific like top hits of 1962 or a record in its entirety,” said Kellum. “It was a really wide range . . . the record on the list that was the most [appealing to me] was the Wilco record. I bought it when it came out. It’s a record that’s been ingrained in me for a while. Wilco is a top five band for me and probably my favorite contemporary band.”
With the reference material chosen, Kellum had his work cut out for him in flipping A Ghost is Born to steel guitar.
“I knew it was going to take a lot of homework and I wouldn’t be able to play it exactly like the record,” said Kellum. “I started out with just listening to the record over and over, getting it real deep in there. Then listening with printed out lyrics and highlighting vocal phrases that I should hit the melody of to make it recognizable.”
With his notes ready he sat down to work out arrangements. Much of the album translated without much fuss, though a few did take some creative problem-solving.
“Some of them are pretty rock and roll songs,” said Kellum. “‘I’m a Wheel’ is one song where I drastically change the arrangement to more of a swing kind of thing. Then ‘Spiders (Kidsmoke)’ is a drawn out, avant-garde, schizophrenic kind of guitar playing and that one gave me the most trouble.”
Kellum recalled that a few years prior Wilco had done a tour that featured an acoustic portion where they played “Spiders (Kidsmoke).”
“They did a version that was a little more laid back,” said Kellum. “I went back to listen and based my version more on that.”
Jimbo Mathus produced the album at Bruce Watson’s Delta Sonic Sound studio in Memphis. The whole recording process took only an afternoon in April.
“It’s really chill music that you can have on in the background and forget it’s there,” said Kellum.
The album is available at End of All Music or Young Valley, The Great Dying, and Kell’s solo shows.