Octave Records’ Artist Clandestine Amigo Returns with Pinnacle

Octave Records’ Artist Clandestine Amigo Returns with Pinnacle

Written by Frank Doris

Octave Records' Clandestine Amigo has released their third album, Pinnacle, showcasing the vocal, piano and songwriting talents of Jessica Carson. The new album, available on SACD/CD and high-resolution download formats, features a richly-textured production and wide musical variety, and utilizes Octave Records’ Pure DSD recording process to deliver extraordinary sound that provides a deep emotional connection to the music.

Jessica Carson noted, “This album, for me, marks the beginning of something new. I’m in a happier time in my life now, and Pinnacle feels like it has a more conversational style between myself and people who will be listening to the album.”

Pinnacle features Jessica on acoustic and electric piano and vocals, accompanied by electric and acoustic bass, drums, electric, acoustic and pedal steel guitars, mandolin, trumpet, organ, accordion, and a string section. Pinnacle was recorded in pure DSD 64 at Animal Lane Studios in Lyons, Colorado, Cinder Sound in Longmont, CO and Octave Studios in Boulder, CO. The album was recorded and mixed by Jay Elliott, with assistance from Giselle Collazo, and mastered by Gus Skinas.

The album opens with the up-tempo “That Deep Blue,” about contemplating an unknown future, but one with the promise of dreams fulfilled. “Anything for Your Love” combines romantic lyrics with a piano-driven groove, while songs like “Promise” and “Dualities” showcase the album’s more intimate side with crystalline acoustic guitars, mandolins and other stringed instruments, and vocal harmonies. “Maggie” features the inimitable accordion of Octave Records artist Alicia Jo Straka in a song that would not be out of place in a Gypsy-jazz club. Pinnacle’s closer, the gospel-infused “Found My Faith,” ends the album on an uplifting and inspiring note: “So sweep me up and carry me away/If God is love, then I found my faith.”

Pinnacle features Octave’s premium gold disc formulation, and the disc is playable on any SACD, CD, DVD, or Blu-ray player. It also has a high-resolution DSD layer that is accessible by using any SACD player or a PS Audio SACD transport. In addition, the master DSD and PCM files are available for purchase and download, including DSD 64, DSDDirect Mastered 352.8 kHz/24-bit, 192 kHz/24-bit, 96 kHz/24-bit, 44.1 kHz/24-bit, and 44.1 kHz/16-bit PCM. (SRP: $19 – $39, depending on format.)

We spoke to Jessica Carson about the making of Pinnacle.

Jessica Carson.
Jessica Carson.

Frank Doris: Why did you name the album Pinnacle? It’s not the name of any of the songs on the album, and there aren’t any obvious lyrical references to any of the songs.

Jessica Carson: I actually really struggled with it. But the song that begins the album, “That Deep Blue,” marked an end of a chapter in my life and the beginning of something new. That's why I put that song first. It sort of felt like I wanted to find something that described what that song means to me. Pinnacle was the word that came to mind.

FD: The songs on this album feel like they’re more direct than the last two Clandestine Amigo records. I’m wondering if you just felt like, I'm going to say what I'm going to say this time. I’m not going to veil it.

JC: I think there's a little bit of that. I would definitely say that it's my happiest subject matter. (laughs) It's not so much poetry as it is journaling and conversation, if that makes sense.

FD: You have a family now.

JC: In “That Deep Blue” there's [a line] about eternity and gravity and the concept of – when you have a kid, you're passing on the line; whatever genes and DNA you have, they keep going. You're kind of creating eternity. In “Anything for Your Love” there's another line about eternity. So, yeah, there are some places in those songs that I am thinking about how happy I am with my partner and that we're gonna have a child. (laughs). How weighty that can be, such an intentional decision.

FD: Pinnacle has more of a “produced” sound and a pop sound than the previous Clandestine Amigo albums. Was that a conscious decision or it just came…

JC: Out that way? It made sense to me for this one to be the most produced for a few reasons. Temporary Circumstances was going to just be a piano and vocal album, and then we added things to it. Things Worth Remembering is a little more produced. But this one – you know, I I've been in this business of making albums (laughs) for a few years now. And not just my own, but other people's, and helping them get session players and coordinating it all. And I felt like this might be my last album for a little while because I'm so busy, you know, with a kid, and to the point where I'm really not writing new songs right now.

Knowing that intuitively as I was making it, I thought, I feel like this is some of my best songwriting. Which it should be; the longer you do something, ideally the better you get at it. I felt like I really wanted to fill them out and get the best players that I’ve worked with, from [trumpeter] Gabriel Mervine and [multi-instrumentalist] Tom Amend to [guitarist] Eben Grace, who's also a producer. Deborah Scmit-Lobis wrote the string parts and I had a string quartet of really fantastic players on three songs.

After working with so many musicians for Octave Records, I know which ones are gonna come prepared. (laughs) And the ones who don’t need to come prepared. They'll listen to the songs a few times and they’re so good they can just improvise something.

FD: Let’s focus on some of the individual songs. “Maggie,” is that about a real person?

JC: No. I personified my house. It’s on a street called Maggie Street. Before my partner and I got together I had my own house. He was in an apartment and we decided to get a house together. And that song is about the idea of getting a house with this person that I love. Inevitably, when you get with a person and you're vulnerable with them, they see the worst parts of you and they see the best parts of you. And that's sort of that idea – do you really want to see which one I will turn out to be tomorrow? It's sort of a light and fun take on a heavy subject.

FD: There’s a little bit of stylistic diversity on the record. Is that deliberate, or did the songs evolve?

JC: I didn't want this to be just a continuation of the other two albums. And so for a song like “Promise,” I hired players that I don't normally play with. For “Ain't No Going Back Home” I hired a totally different band. And there are certain things that you just can't, um, you can't achieve if you just use the exact same players every time.

FD: “Found My Faith” almost feels like something I had heard before. It sounds like an instant classic. If you got Meghan Trainor or somebody like that to cover that, it could be a huge hit.

JC: Well, if you know somebody like that, put them in touch with me!

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