While most people spent this past Grammy night waiting for the Best Album of the Year upset that no one could have predicted, local resident Scott Shuman was focused elsewhere — on his own newly earned Grammy award.
Shuman won a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album for his production work on The Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards this year. The album, sponsored by the Blue Shoe Project, featured blues legends Henry Townsend, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins and David “Honeyboy” Edwards performing a concert in Dallas on October 16, 2004. At the time of the concert, the artists ranged from 89 to 94 years of age, and all had received the National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship Award, the highest honor in the United States for traditional arts.
Shuman’s involvement with the album came about through a long series of events stretching most of his lifetime, beginning with a lifelong friendship with Henry Townsend established in 1974, when Shuman was only 17 years old.
“Henry Townsend was my best friend. I initially learned to record through him in his recording studio in St. Louis. He’s always been a great boost to my career,” says Shuman.
Shuman moved to St. Louis in June 1975 to begin playing guitar with Townsend.
“Henry had a recording studio in his basement and we’d spend late nights recording and jamming with some of the best musicians in St. Louis.”
Throughout the course of his life, Shuman found himself inexplicably intertwined with Townsend and his career. When the opportunity came to participate on this album, Shuman could not refuse.
Shuman traveled with the four blues legends down to Dallas, playing guitar at the concert (his guitar work is featured on five tracks on the album). Shuman also co-wrote the track “It’s Got to End Somewhere” with Townsend, which appears on the record.
Shuman set up shop in Falls Church with Shuman Recording Studios nearly 12 years ago, as he describes Falls Church as a place with “a lot of creative, supportive people.” He mixed the Grammy award-winning album in his studio and was listed as producer of the album along with Jeff Dyson of the Blue Shoe Project. Knowing the massive undertaking he had in front of him, Shuman called his friend Paul Grupp, a reputable mixer from Los Angeles to help him out; both are credited as mixing and mastering the album.
“When I mixed this, I called Henry and I said, ‘Henry, we’re gonna get a Grammy for this.’ I knew this project was gonna get at least a nomination.”
Shuman is no one-trick pony however. Shuman keeps busy with as many projects as he can get his hands on.
“I work all the time. I get a good night’s sleep every night, and the rest of the time, I’m working,” he says.
Along with his work on the Grammy award-winning album, Shuman has mixed and mastered over 400 CDs, and is showing no signs of slowing down. He is currently working on the 50th Anniversary of Motown for Universal Records, and has worked extensively with all of the major record labels. Time Life Music, impressed by the quality of his work, hired him has a mastering engineer, and he continues working with them on a regular basis. In addition to being a recording and mixing engineer, Shuman is a record producer, and also directs and produces music television for Commonwealth Broadcasting Corporation.
His work is not limited to just auditory mediums, either. He created “BB Presents: The Best of the Blues,” which airs nationally each week through PBS affiliates. His largest undertaking currently is his management of Front Row Music Television, which creates music television for broadcasters, produces DVDs and music videos and distributes and downloads live music performances via the internet at www.frontrowmusic.tv. He also produces music video performances in 5.1 surround sound.
Despite the multiple future projects, Shuman recognizes that the work he did on the Last of the Mississippi Delta Bluesmen album was particularly special.
“This CD was really a labor of love to honor [the Bluesmen’s] life work and to honor their legacy. That’s really why we did it. It wasn’t about getting an award, it was about me saying thank you to Henry, my mentor and my best friend. When we won, it was really personal, because we won it for our friends. That’s what it was all about.”