In 2008, well before he knew about the cancer that would ultimately take his life, Tim Krekel convened in a Nashville studio to make a record with some old friends. More than friends, really. He considered them family.
The album was nearing completion when Krekel, one of Louisville’s favorite sons, was laid up by a particularly aggressive cancer that made it difficult for him to work. A few loose ends were left dangling when Krekel passed away three years ago this month, but keyboardist, producer and engineer Michael Webb has tied them into a neat bow that is pure, vintage Krekel.
“Sings Up the Sun” will be released Saturday, and is being celebrated with a radio performance at noon today on “Live Lunch” on WFPK (91.9-FM), and a full-blown concert Saturday at the Rudyard Kipling, one of Krekel’s favorite haunts.
“Sings Up the Sun” was made primarily with Webb, bassist Tom Comet, drummer Craig Wright and percussionist Fred Eltringham. Webb and Comet performed with Krekel beginning in the 1980s, as members of The Sluggers, and Wright was a longtime friend.
To help fill out the handful of unfinished tracks, Webb worked with Sam Bush, Matraca Berg, Jeff Hanna, Marshall Chapman, Bill Lloyd, Danny Flowers and a number of friends, family and fellow Louisville musicians, including son Jason Krekel and all of Krekel’s last band, TKO (Tim Krekel Orchestra).
“He wanted this album to be a little more laid-back,” Webb said. “He wanted it to be a little nod to his past, an earthier, more relaxed album.”
Webb and Krekel had discussed most of the work that would be done after his friend’s death, so there was no second guessing, Webb said. That didn’t make it easy, however. When recording was finished and Webb sat down last April to do the final mix, he found himself paralyzed. In tears, he called Mark Germino, a longtime friend and collaborator with both himself and Krekel, and told him that he couldn’t do the work.
“I was all alone, and at first I thought that I was all right, that I really was beyond it,” Webb said. “Then it just hit me: He’s never going to hear this.”
Webb said that he would love to know what Krekel thinks of the songs that unexpectedly changed. When some of Krekel’s rough vocals on a demo of “She Thinks He Sings Up the Sun” were unusable, for instance, Berg’s background vocals were upgraded to a duet. And “State of Grace” was fleshed out with singing from a long list of friends and family, including children Jason, Anna and Katy Krekel.
“Once I got over my initial emotional reaction, I was able to be pretty objective about it because I knew how he wanted it to sound. ... I knew what he was going for as well as anyone could,” Webb said. “I wish he had been able to hear everyone else’s parts, but other than that I think it came out like Tim wanted.”
Webb, Jason Krekel, Ami Worthen and John Mann will be the core band at the Rudyard Kipling, but expect several guests to show up. Krekel was always big on friends getting up on stage.
“Like all good parties, this one seems to be gaining momentum,” Webb said. “There’s no telling what’s going to happen.”