For Mainers, Tim Sample barely needs an introduction. He’s been bringing his brand of homespun Maine humor to audiences and listeners for decades. His most recent effort is “Bert & I Rebooted,” a new collection of revamped, re-recorded Bert & I stories, those classic tales of Down East life, which originally were recorded by Bob Bryan and Marshall Dodge in the 1950s and 60s. Though Dodge died in the 80s, Bryan still has lots to say, and last year, he and Sample got a whole new collection of yarns — some brand new, some updated — committed to tape. Sample spoke to the BDN about the album and keeping the storytelling tradition alive.
Q. It’s been 30 years since you last recorded with Bob Bryan. Why did you want to “reboot” Bert & I now?
A. Bob Bryan is a truly remarkable man and one of my dearest friends. In the years since the release of our first album, “How to Talk Yankee,” we have kept in touch with one another making occasional radio and TV appearances and live shows. Following a benefit performance Bobby and I did [in summer 2012], I asked Bob if he’d ever thought about making another recording together. He said he’d love that. It was that simple. Bob is 82 and has some age-related mobility issues, but he’s a genuine living legend in terms of his work with Marshall Dodge on the early Bert & I records, and what he and I have done keeping the Bert & I brand alive.
Q. Tell us about the recording process for this album.
A. We started by spending a weekend at a Salmon Club in New Brunswick, brainstorming and recording versions of our favorite original and traditional stories. That rough tape generated more than enough raw material for an album. Using email, fax, snail mail, pretty much everything but Pony Express, we rewrote, refined, discarded, added and subtracted from the original body of material until we had enough to take into the studio. The basic tracks were laid down at The Studio on Casco Street in Portland, where I’ve been recording and mastering stuff all my professional life.
Over the next several months, I logged a few thousand miles driving back and forth from my home in Portland to Bob’s home in Quebec and his office in Ipswich, Mass. We recorded a bunch of “drop-ins” and alternate takes on my portable recording equipment and had a couple more sessions at what Bobby calls “The Boat House,” his part time office in Ipswich. The final mastering of the album was done over the course of two long days the living room of my home in Portland. Whew! Recounting that makes me realize what a true labor of love this project has been. We definitely sweat the details, and I think that comes across in the finished product.
Q. What’s “rebooted” about it?
A. Well, the world of New England dialect storytelling is a relatively small one. But, the impact of the Bert & I recordings that Bob Marshall and I have all contributed to over more than a half century can’t be underestimated. I came up with the title because I liked the play on words. Literally, it can mean that the two old salts got themselves some new boots so they can keep on working. Plus, when you download a bunch of software then “reboot” whatever gizmo you loaded into, you expect to get the same basic program you’re familiar with, except with a few updates. That’s how I see this album.
Q. Got a favorite story?
A. I couldn’t pick a favorite. I’m proud to have done as well as I did in writing the story “A Ride on the Bluebird II.” When producer Cherie Hoyt asked me to attempt a sequel to the original, I told her that was like being asked to write a sequel to the Gettysburg Address. But, when I read it to Bob before the recording session, he was so pleased. That was all the endorsement I needed. For some reason, I love the way Bob delivers his lines in the Perry’s Nut House story. Pure understated comic genius.