On August 10 the Magpie Salute, a rock band formed by former Black Crowes guitarist and founding member Rich Robinson in 2016, released the studio album High Water I. Drumming on Magpie’s first proper studio album (following last year’s self-titled live-in-the-studio release) is Joe Magistro, who’s been playing with Robinson for more than ten years.

Throughout the effort, which was recorded at Nashville’s Dark Horse Recording studio, Magistro’s drum tones shine. On “High Water,” his set swims smooth and steady beneath a driving acoustic guitar and Robinson’s cutting yet soothing melodies. “I actually had the snares off on that song,” Magistro explains. “But that drum’s strainer was on the fritz, so when I laid into it, there was still a little rattling contact. And we had two mics set up in a loft about fifteen feet above the drum room, which provided a nice roomy sound when there was space in the song for it.” Magistro adds that he played a 3-ply mahogany/poplar/mahogany set throughout the session, which featured a 14×22 bass drum, a 9×13 rack tom, and a 16×16 floor tom, along with a mixture of Brady and Ludwig snares and mostly Zildjian cymbals.

On the opening groove of the 12/8 meditation “Sister Moon,” Magistro coaxes a mix of soft ghost notes, cutting backbeats, and delicate buzzes from his snare, with a wide dynamic contrast between each stroke. In the studio, the drummer dove right into this track cold. “That [take] was actually the first run-through of the song after John [Hogg, vocals], Rich, and I talked through the form,” he says. “It was just pure instinct, with no thought involved. The drums have snap but aren’t bludgeoned. So all of that inside stuff comes from the fingers and wrists. You can’t have a death grip on the sticks.”

During “You Found Me,” Magistro draws a gorgeous brush groove out of a 5×15 1920s Ludwig nickel-over-brass snare that the drummer says is outfitted with Black Beauty-style edges. “That’s my go-to drum for that kind of thing, full-stop,” he says. “We also used a killer ’50s Gefell small-diaphragm tube condenser mic as an overhead. I only get to play brushes about twenty minutes a year, but I always carry them, just in case.”

Magistro has maintained a strong musical relationship with Robinson since the songwriter’s 2004 solo debut, Paper. “Rich and I hit it off right away musically,” the drummer explains. “We have a lot of the same musical references. I’m told that when we’re in the studio together, we speak in a lot of half sentences. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but apparently it can annoy the shit out of some people. [laughs] But a good tip to maintaining relationships—in addition to having talent and being the right fit—is to try not to be a complete asshole. Seems obvious.”

Joe Magistro plays C&C drums and uses Promark sticks and Evans drumheads.


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