When Hesperia singer-songwriter Luanne Hunt was looking for the best recording facility in the area to record her new CD, one name quickly surfaced: Eric Uglum's New Wine Studio.

Julie Wingfield, one of the Victor Valley's best-known musicians, told Hunt that the quality of veteran bluegrass musician Uglum's studio couldn't be beat. For Hunt, that fact was clearly demonstrated during the recording of her CD, "Breaking Through," which was released late last year.

"There is nothing like what he has to offer in this area," Hunt said. "For the price you pay, the service you get, and the quality, it's completely worth it. It's exciting to know that anything like that exists up here."

While Uglum may not be a household name, in bluegrass circles his reputation as a stellar musician and recording engineer is becoming legendary.

"Entering the studio, one is immediately impressed by the amount and range of recording gear, the isolated recording areas, the comfortable and acoustically superior control room, the pictures on the wall," wrote Chris Stuart of Bluegrass Now Magazine. "But that's not what makes this a great studio. What makes New Wine Studio great is the man sitting at the console, Eric Uglum."

Nickel Creek musician Sean Watkins, who has recorded and performed with Alison Krauss, also shouts Uglum's praises: "It was awesome working with you," he wrote. "You are are genius. Great tones."

Uglum's talents are so revered that Krauss, who many regard as perhaps the greatest female singer of her genre and winner of numerous awards, elected to sing as a guest artist on his recent CD, "Shenandoah Wind."

Uglum has been admiring the musical talents of Krauss, who is currently on tour with Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, for many years.

"I've known her since she was a teen, I guess. There's something paranormal with her. She's just off the chart."

TOURING MUSICIAN
Growing up in Huntington Beach, Uglum's musical journey began a rapid ascent in the early 1980s when he helped form the Weary Hearts Band with Ron Block, Mike Bub and Butch Baldassari. Block went on to play in Alison Krauss' band, leaving Uglum to form Copperline with banjo player Janet Beazley and musicians Marshall Andrews and Bud Bierhaus. The well-respected band released one album, "Long, Long Way." Next, in 1997, Uglum joined the Lost Highway band, which toured extensively both in the U.S. and the U.K.

But the life of a touring musician took its toll.

"It's grueling. You're gone months at a time."

So he moved to Hesperia - over the years he regularly visited the High Desert to hunt for fossils and enjoy his passion for astronomy - and opened a new recording facility he named New Wine. (A few years ago, he moved the studio to another Victor Valley location.).

Over the past decade, New Wine has become a musical laboratory where Uglum's experience as a guitarist, mandolin player and singer records artists ready for their big break, like Hunt, or mix and master the recordings of young unknowns, such as 15-year-old Rounder Records sensation Sierra Hull.

He's also nutured the talents of his two teen-age step-sons, Austin Ward, who plays acoustic bass, and Christian Ward, a fiddle player. The trio, which recorded an album of acoustic bluegrass, "The Old Road to Jerusalem," recently returned from a tour in Europe.

New Wine's success has come despite the proliferation of computer-based home recording studios. Not only does Uglum's facility have the look and comfort of a professional studio, it also has professional gear that few home recording enthusiasts could afford. The studio's equipment list includes high quality microphones made by Neumann, AKG, Audio-Technica and others, super low-impedence cables, high end digital-to-audio converters, four tracking rooms, and a separate control room with high-end monitors, mixing console and acoustical wall treatment. It also comes with guest quarters for out-of-the-area musicians.

"The environment's better for a more professional approach. The difference is subtle, but everything adds up to the best quality."

BLUEGRASS AESTHETICS
While his rock `n' roll counterparts certainly have to bring their best when recording their clients, for Uglum's bluegrass clients nothing but the best will do.

"In bluegrass the tradition is virtuosity first and popularity last."

That means a perfectionist's attention to detail.

"I've gotten into good recording habits. That's where my experience comes in handy."

While many engineers may know the in's and out's of psychoacoustics and other esoteric technical details, Uglum brings a wide berth of knowledge - and a rare musical sensibility. That means he can tell when a singer is slightly out of pitch. He knows when to fix pitch issues or when to leave them alone.

"He's very into pitch," Hunt said. "He taught me that when something is perfectly pitched the emotion is automatically there. It just made me more aware of my pitch."

But it's not only Uglum's expertise that makes recording at New Wine so enjoyable and meaningful.

"Eric's very honest," Hunt said. "He's very personable. He's willing to go the extra mile."

"I try to make everyone feel at home," Uglum said. "I'm going to make you feel this is fun and maybe have an experience of a lifetime."