June 2007

Work Of Art - Lift
Soundkeeper Recordings SR4001
Format: DVD
Released: 2006

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Former Atlantic Records engineer Barry Diament decided to form Soundkeeper Recordings because he felt that "what exits the microphones determines the largest part of the final sound quality." He eschews the use of sound booths and multitrack recording techniques for the more spontaneous sound of musicians playing together in the same room. Using a matched pair of Earthworks QTC-1 microphones and a homemade Jecklin disc-like baffle, he records to MIO Record Panel on his PowerBook and uses Peak Pro 5 for mastering. The results are available on a standard Red Book CD, a CD-R slow-burned from the hard-disk master, and -- for best fidelity -- a one-off 24-bit/96kHz DVD-R, which is the recording I received.

Soundkeeper's first recording artist is Art Halperin, the last artist the late, great John Hammond, Sr. signed to a contract. Halperin leads his band, Work of Art, through ten songs on Lift, his music a wonderful combination of folk, bluegrass and country. Lift sounds about as lifelike as any recording I've ever heard. The spacious, natural sound reminds me of that of both Dave Elias SACDs, except that Elias didn’t have an engineer of Diament’s skill at the controls. Be sure to wick up the volume some, as there is no compression, so soft sounds may get buried in your audio system's noise floor.

Artisan recordings are becoming more common, perhaps because the music industry is fragmenting and labels are looking to discover new niches. With albums like this one, audiophiles have real hope for the future.