Tag Archives: americana

‘Voice on Shellac’ – the stunning new live show from Laughing With The Raindrops – 10th June

Led by songwriter and performer Virginie Lacour-Puiboube , Laughing With The Raindrops bring the highly-acclaimed new album, Voice On Shellac, to a live setting with two dates announced for a stunning multi-media show: Impact Community Arts, Perivale, Ealing – Friday 10th June

“Modern jazz that crackles with the vintage vinyl tones of and vivid vintage imagery summoned in the sepia tones of the soulful story of Virginie Lacour-Puiboube.”Yack Magazine

“Laughing with the Raindrops’ music never ceases to amaze me.  What I noticed about their latest work is that it is very cerebral, yet vulnerable and relatable. If you are in London (UK) area, make sure to catch Laughing with the Raindrops at one, or all, of these upcoming live dates:”- Lakisha Skinner, Klef Notes

“And what a fine storyteller Virginie Lacour-Puiboube is.” – Jane Mann – London Jazz News

The Voice on Shellac show is a live performance of the album’s songs, synchronised to a black and white silent movie: Faded Prints. Inspired by Virginie Lacour-Puiboube’s family photo album, the songs evoke the lives and true stories of those displayed in the album.  With the film’s cast made up entirely of children, the show can be enjoyed by people of all ages and makes for captivating family entertainment.

YouTube trailer:

The silent movie’s narrative develops in tandem with the songs: Two young girls discover memorabilia in their attic. They rummage through suitcases and play games related to their findings. Starting with a “peculiar” camera that “captures memories in colour”, the girls investigate the song characters’ past, through photos, letters and a record collection that contains a recording of Virginie’s grandmother’s voice on a shellac disc.

The girls also ponder about how they will use a large sum of money they have discovered in one of the suitcases. This fortune takes them on a long journey in search of the girl in the black and white dress, from the photo album. The storyline takes the audience back and forth in time, as the girls refer to the time when they first found the memorabilia two years earlier, and to how their new, now more mature understanding sheds light on the song characters’ past through decades of love, betrayal, divorce, war, travel, life…

Live show:

Friday 10th June 2022, 7.15 pm: Impact Community Arts Centre, Perivale UB6 8GP. This show forms part of an evening of eclectic live music performances featuring women songwriter-storytellers. Ticket link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/original-eclectic-an-evening-with-women-songwriter-storytellers-tickets-292480526127

Support:

Support comes from Lutfia, a 21-year-old BIMM student and her all-girl band promoting their recently-released EP, So Much For Summer. The EP which has been described as a ‘sophisticated collection of pop songs’ incorporates a variety of different styles, including alternative pop, pop-rock, funk and dance. Each song is unique and different from the rest but her powerful mezzo-soprano voice and deeply personal lyrics make the project seamlessly cohesive. Lutfia tells stories of teenage love, mental health struggles and nostalgia, each song recounting an impactful emotion, person or place in her life.

The evening also features Little Lore, a London based, Indie-Americana singer-storyteller whose songs are both charmingly accessible and yet beguilingly challenging. In her songs Little Lore brings together an affection for the heart and heritage of Americana music, with an intelligence and maturity of storytelling that can sweep you away into new and unexpected emotional worlds. Following acclaimed work with her previous dup, Little Lore’s debut solo EP was released in 2021 to glowing reviews

About Virginie Lacour-Puiboube:

Virginie founded Laughing with The Raindrops in 2013, and their eponymous debut album was released in 2016. More recently, as she studied for an MMus in Music performance at London College of Music, Virginie focussed on the creation of narratives in song and explored the use of visual art as a combined story-telling device. Voice On Shellac was the resulting album (released on vinyl this year) and live show.

Hailing from Paris, Virginie has contributed to music projects in the UK since the late 1980s, from playing guitar in all-girl Reggae band Just Desserts and a Serge Gainsbourg tribute trio to being active on the London Jazz scene in the 90s, alongside bassist Alexander Keen and pianist Gabriel Keen, co-leading 13-piece experimental Jazz group Piano Di Lavoro, performing in London venues such as the Barbican Foyer, The Bull’s Head (Barnes), former jazz club The Bass Clef. In the mid-90s, Virginie also founded Baton Rouge, a vocal-led septet showcasing her song writing.

Laughing with The Raindrops have played at Toulouse Lautrec Jazz bar (Kennington), Map Cafe (Kentish Town), Kentish Town Arts Club, Babel Art House (Stoke Newington), London festivals, and recently premiered the show at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden.

Laughing With The Raindrops – the musicians:

Drums – David Ingamells

Bass – Alexander Keen

Piano/Keyboards – Gabriel Keen

Trumpet/Flugel – Paul Higgs

Tenor Saxophone – Theo Travis

Lead Vocal – Virginie Lacour-Puiboube

Guitar – Neil McBennett

Website: https://laughingwiththeraindrops.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laughingwiththeraindrops

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/LaughRaindrops

Shallow: the new single from UK Americana singer-storyteller, Little Lore

Released: 29 April 2022

“I was thinking about how so many men in power can let us down, whether that be politicians, princes, CEOs or the men that we trust and love”

London-based Americana singer-storyteller, Little Lore, won many, many plaudits, bags of airplay and glowing reviews for her debut EP as a solo artist last December.

“It is clear every word and every note is well thought out. The pedal steel swoons beneath Duffy’s vocals” – Maverick magazine on the Little Lore EP

The eponymously-titled Little Lore EP followed two well-received releases as part of her previous musical outfit – the duo, Duffy & Bird.

Now, Little Lore, (aka Tricia Duffy) returns with a brand-new single. ‘Shallow’ channels the spirit of Kurt Cobain, throws in some classic Neil Young influences and marries them up with Little Lore’s trademark vocals and thought-provoking lyrics to produce an exhilarating slice of Americana that really swings. 

Little Lore: “I wrote this song during that big news week when it was all coming out about how Boris had attended parties at Downing Street while people were dying alone, and also that Prince Andrew was trying to avoid his day in court with Virginia Giuffre. I was thinking about how so many men in power can let us down, whether that be politicians, princes, CEOs or the men that we trust and love. So I decided to juxtapose the idea of being let down by people in power with heartbreak and this song is the result. It is probably a bit on the opaque side from a political point of view… but there are a few lines that give us some clues. When I talk about eating lies with dinner, I’m really thinking about the Six O’Clock news when so many people sit down to watch the headlines over their evening meal – we ate Bojo’s lies with our dinner. “There’s no truth, no-one remembers who said what to the man on the yacht” – we know that only a very small subsection of society can afford even a day on a yacht so that was directly inspired by Andrew (formerly known as Prince).”

“Finally, I had been reading a lot of Jeanette Winterson. In Sexing The Cherry she wrote about the impact it has on society when the King is executed. In her story, Charles II is beheaded and she describes how the entire country goes into freefall. Everything they could predict and understand is derailed in one instant – life becomes very unpredictable. The same thing has been happening in this country for a while now, with Brexit, the pandemic, the uncertainty of political power, it is impossible to predict so many things, to see the future clearly. I write: “The King is dead, and with his head futures altered, wounds are salted.” The whole song is designed to make use of a subtext style with the use of triplets where the last line is the realisation comment.”

Once again, Little Lore’s emotive vocals and compelling storytelling is complemented by stunning production and beautiful instrumentation from producer and multi-instrumentalist, Oli Deakin.

Little Lore: “Musically, I had a swing vibe in my head when I came to record the guide track for Oli to work with. He really enjoyed that idea and built on it. I hadn’t realised it at the time, but the song has no minor chords in it at all, so we discussed allowing ourselves to be influenced by Kurt Cobain as he famously rarely used any minor chords in his writing. Couple that grit with my Americana style and a bit of Neil Young influence thrown in, too, and I think we have a driving, swinging song that tells a story of the shallow coward that let everyone down.”

Released on 29 April, the single is available in all the main digital formats via from https://littlelore.uk or https://littlelore.bandcamp.com 

About Little Lore:

Little Lore is a London based, Indie-Americana singer-storyteller whose songs are both charmingly accessible and yet beguilingly challenging. You’ll want to listen twice. When you combine British wit and wordplay with cherished Americana roots, musical magic starts to happen.

Based in Chiswick, west London and originally hailing from Portsmouth, Tricia Duffy started her singing career in a live covers band performing popular rock classics. Over time, however, a strong desire emerged to begin writing and performing her own material and she formed an acoustic Americana duo with fellow musician, Al Bird. Duffy & Bird released a well-received album ‘5 Lines’ in 2017 and a follow-up EP ‘Spirit Level’ in 2019. While Al subsequently decided to take a back seat from recording and performing, Tricia was keen to take things a step further. Little Lore was born. Her debut solo EP, Little Lore, was released in 2021 to glowing reviews. In her songs Little Lore brings together an affection for the heart and heritage of Americana music, with an intelligence and maturity of storytelling that can sweep you away into new and unexpected emotional worlds.

Release information:

Produced by Oli Deakin (Lowpines), vocals recorded in his home studio in Ealing London. Artwork created by Afiya Paice a West London-based artist and designer.

Website: https://littlelore.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/littleloremusic

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/littleloremusic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/littleloremusic/

Related post:

Little Lore: the magical new project from UK Americana singer-storyteller Tricia Duffy

This week’s featured artist: singer-songwriter Owen Moore – new sixteen-track compilation out

Based in Bournemouth on England’s south coast, Owen Moore is an Irish-born singer-songwriter. I reviewed his 2021 album Fireside Songs last year and Owen has kindly sent me his latest: Sixteen Easy Songs For Voice & Guitar.

A prolific songwriter with an extensive back catalogue, this latest album is actually a compilation with highlights drawn from Owen’s ten previous albums which span the period 2011-2021.

Doing exactly what it says on the tin, Sixteen Easy Songs For Voice & Guitar serves as a welcome introduction to anyone wanting to familiarise themselves with Owen Moore’s work. It’s just Owen, his voice, his songs and his guitar but it makes for a fine album.

Serving up folk-infused acoustic Americana, Moore’s wistful, easy-going delivery and thoughtful, introspective lyrics are allied with instantly catchy melodies that owe something towards pop sensibilities, too.  

The full track listing for Sixteen Easy Songs For Voice & Guitar is as follows:

  1. Round And Round
  2. She’s Still Wearing Blue
  3. Hang Around With You
  4. The Blue Notes
  5. Walking With That Girl Of Mine
  6. Voices In My Head
  7. All The Time In The World
  8. Home In The Rain
  9. I Don’t Play My Guitar On A Sunday
  10. Night Lights
  11. One Sweet Day
  12. Cruel Imagination
  13. In A Song
  14. Somewhere Near
  15. Unfaithful Moonlight
  16. Riverbank

Released: September 2021

The album, and others, are available via Owen Moore’s website in CD and digital formats.

http://www.owenmooremusic.com/

Related post:

Album review – Owen Moore ‘Fireside Songs’

Little Lore: the magical new project from UK Americana singer-storyteller Tricia Duffy

Six-track EP ‘Little Lore’ released 3rd December 2021

“It is clear every word and every note is well thought out. The pedal steel swoons beneath Duffy’s vocals”Maverick magazine

Little Lore is the new alter-ego, creative endeavour and debut solo EP from Indie-Americana singer-storyteller, Tricia Duffy. Tricia rapidly caught the attention of the Americana world as one half of the duo Duffy & Bird. The duo’s debut album and follow-up EP attracted a slew of glowing reviews, with Maverick magazine heaping praise on Tricia’s vocal ability as “simply breathtaking.”

Now she sets out on a compelling new journey as Little Lore, with an EP of six newly-written, beautifully-crafted songs. Storytelling is always at the heart of Little Lore’s song-writing and her songs are both charmingly accessible and yet beguilingly challenging.

Little Lore: “It actually felt like a natural progression to start working on solo project, I am immensely proud of everything we achieved with Duffy & Bird but my confidence as a writer has definitely grown and I felt ready to take more creative control over this record.”

When you combine British wit and wordplay with cherished Americana roots, musical magic starts to happen. In her songs Little Lore brings together an affection for the heart and heritage of Americana music, with an intelligence and maturity of storytelling that can sweep you away into new and unexpected emotional worlds. While several of the songs are built around those familiar Americana themes of love, heartache and relationships, two of the songs on this new EP grapple with the complexity of climate change and our responsibilities as humans to one another and to the planet.

Little Lore’s captivating vocals and beguiling storytelling is complemented by stunning production and beautiful instrumentation from producer and multi-instrumentalist, Oli Deakin.

Little Lore: “In some ways, 18 months of isolation and lock downs has opened up huge opportunity for me as a writer, I’ve known Oli for over a decade and realising we didn’t need to be in the same country to collaborate was genuinely inspiring. He is an incredibly gifted producer and musician and he knows my taste and sensibilities in music really well, so we were very creatively aligned right from the start which made the whole process a complete joy. He is also extremely patient and has an uncanny knack of translating my ideas into reality.”

The EP will be released on 3rd December in CD and digital formats, available from https://littlelore.uk or https://littlelore.bandcamp.com 

About Little Lore:

Based in Chiswick, west London and originally hailing from Portsmouth, Tricia Duffy started her singing career in a live covers band performing popular rock classics. Over time, however, a strong desire emerged to begin writing and performing her own material and she formed an acoustic Americana duo with fellow musician Al Bird. Her trip to Nashville for a writing workshop in 2017, with songwriter Verlon Thompson and others, meant she came back with new inspiration and a clutch of new songs. Duffy & Bird released a well-received album ‘5 Lines’ in 2017 and a follow-up EP ‘Spirit Level’ in 2019. While Al subsequently decided to take a back seat from recording and performing, Tricia was keen to take things a step further with a new solo direction. Little Lore was born.

Little Lore EP – track by track:

Thief: When I originally set out to write the songs for this record, I had the notion of writing an entire album on the topic of climate change – it turns out that was pretty difficult to do! This song came about, as I tried to think about what the character of the industrial revolution would be if they were personified. In this instance as the unwitting thief. I took inspiration from the likes of Sheryl Crow who is an absolute master of mixing songs with a point with a great melody. It has a folky upbeat vibe to it. Musically I was inspired by the likes of First Aid Kit who I adore. It is a little shining star of a song in my opinion – it has turned out so much better than I could ever have imagined.

Skin in the Game: I actually got the idea for this song when I was running along the river in 2019 and I saw someone reading a book with the title Skin in the Game. I think it is actually a book about cricket judging by the front cover! Clearly this is not a song about cricket … it’s an observational song about relationships and touches on the profound differences between men and women and what they want from relationships. There is also some quite significant inspiration from Bowie in the lyrics … prizes to anyone who spots the references. The production on this song is quite layered and dynamic and feels very accessible while holding on to the indie alternative americana vibe. It is good to get this one out there having sat on it for a couple of years.

Orbit: I was actually a little bit unsure about this song, I was trying to write a more typical love song which I struggle with as I feel I can tend towards cliches in the lyrics. I put this one in the mix when first starting to work with my producer Oli and it was him that said he thought it had great potential. It has a very typical Americana / country feel to it. Originally written in 4/4 time, Oli thought it sat better in 3. I have deliberately not shied away from writing songs in 3/4 or 6/8 on this record. Half the songs are in 3 and half in 4. The American vibe swings so nicely with the waltzy feel and the sentimental subject marries well with that feel.

Sleep Again: This song is really about what happens to people when they become truly informed about the horror of the climate emergency and how it will impact all of us. We saw it so clearly during the climate assembly in the UK earlier this year, when a hundred or so individuals from all walks of life were educated on the issues, and how they transformed their views and their behaviours accordingly. Once the genie is out of the bottle it can’t be put in and I liked the play on climate anxiety too – can you sleep again once you understand the impacts on so many innocent people from the rising temperatures? The production treatment we were aiming for is a lullaby feel I love the idea of taking pretty melodies with beautiful musical treatment on the bleakest of topics. I think this song has the most indie / alternative feel to it while holding on to the Americana roots.

Hyacinth: This is a song about choices, that we all make every day so that we can conform to social expectations. I guess there is a little bit of Hyacinth in all of us, and I am secretly enjoying my own boldness of the references to a certain 80s sitcom! It has a pretty strong rock- americana feel and it is really the chords and the groove that have made this song. I hope this is a song that anyone who likes a jog will put on their running list, it really zips along and can get the foot tapping.

Stars: I have wanted to write a song that touched on spirituality in some form for a while but couldn’t find a premise that suited my own truth. It seems that astrology is having a bit of a cult resurgence at the moment with apps like The Pattern coming onto the scene. And I got thinking about times in my life when I have read my stars and the stars of the people I care about even though I don’t actually believe in them – there is a desperation there. The idea that even though you don’t believe in the horoscopes yourself you are so desperate to learn anything about the person you are missing that you devour the mystic’s analysis of what they might be going through. Looking for clues. It is a really simple song that is very pretty melodically. It is one that I am particularly proud of, and it has gone down live really, really well. I absolutely love what Oli has done to bring my ideas to life – really soaring treatment.

Release information:

The vocals for the EP were recorded at Fiction Studio, London, with vocal engineering by Nathan Cooper.  All the instrumentation was recorded in Brooklyn, New York.

The album is produced by Oli Deakin. Oli is a musician and producer from Penrith, Cumbria now based in Brooklyn, NY. He records under the name Lowpines and has produced records for CMAT, Swimming Bell, Elanor Moss and Benjamin Francis Leftwich, with whom he also performs live. Oli can be heard playing the following EP: acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, high strung guitar, electric guitar, bass, piano, prophet synthesizer, Wurlitzer, strings synth, percussion, glockenspiel.

The artwork for the release was created by Afiya Paice a West London-based artist and designer. She undertakes illustration work to commission and in 2022 she will embark on a degree in Fashion Design at the world-leading fashion school, Institute Français de la Mode in Paris.

Website: https://littlelore.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/littleloremusic

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/littleloremusic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/littleloremusic

Americana: album review – Fine Lines ‘Deadbeat Lullabies’

Deadbeat Lullabies is the third album from UK seven-piece Americana outfit Fine Lines. Their first two albums received a slew of glowing reviews and they’ve been a popular draw on the circuit, although so far they seem to have eluded me. Hopefully, that will be rectified before too long as they are a quality band and Deadbeat Lullabies is a fine album.

Fine Lines are Zoe Blythe (vocals), David Boardman (vocals and guitar), Gary O’Brien (piano and Hammond organ), Emily Doggett (fiddle), Chris Lee (pedal steel and mandolin), Jim Broughton (bass) and Mark Radcliffe (drums and backing vocals).

Put together by singer-songwriter David Boardman back in 2016 there’s harmony vocals (courtesy Boardman and fellow singer Zoe Blythe) exquisite pedal steel, infectious fiddle, great melodies and heartfelt lyrics. The song-writing is a joint endeavour between Boardman, who cooked up the tunes and the band’s drummer, BBC presenter and all-round music maestro, Mark Radcliffe, who came up with the lyrics. Radcliffe proves himself to be a talented lyricist. His observational storytelling perfectly captures the overall mood that the album evokes.

Fans of late-period Byrds, early-period Eagles, Gram Parsons, Tom Petty and the Band will all find plenty to like here. The influences are never far away but the songs are totally fresh and original.

While I’m writing this on a cold, dark evening in Hastings, these songs are just perfect for a chilled-out afternoon in the summer sun and I look forward to catching them at a festival at some point. We probably all need a bit more of Fine Lines in our lives at the moment.

Released: 25th October 2021

wearefinelines.com

Singer-songwriter: album review – Owen Moore ‘Fireside Songs’

Owen Moore is an Irish-born singer songwriter based in Dorset. Over the past ten years or so he’s put out a staggering ten solo albums of original songs, not to mention a handful live albums too. In fact, my delay in reviewing Fireside Songs since he kindly sent it to me back in the summer has meant he’s had time to put another album since – albeit a compilation of highlights from his previous ten albums.

While Owen tells me he’s had a lifetime of playing countless small gigs behind him, he’s keen to stress that his driving passion in recent years has been his song-writing.

There’s certainly plenty of evidence of quality writing on Fireside Songs. Owen Moore’s lyrics are highly personal, his warm and gentle vocals are consistently engaging and he has a real ear for a catchy melody that will leave you humming along, long after the album has finished.

His style falls into that well-trodden path between folk and Americana, and his songs are captivating and original enough to have plenty of appeal for fans of both. From the Byrds-like ‘Every Once In a While’ to the irresistibly catchy ‘It’s All About You’ to the more traditional big country ballad feel of ‘Diamond Ring’ the album is packed full of songs you want to play again and again. The album ends with ‘The Town of Tralee’, originally released as a single at the back end of 2020,which  is the Limerick-born singer’s affectionate paean to the Kerry town of Tralee where he spent  time as a young man.

An engaging singer-songwriter and a fine guitarist if you enjoy the folky-ish and the country-ish it’s well worth checking out Owen Moore’s Fireside Songs as well as other albums in his prolific back catalogue.

Released: June 2022

http://www.owenmooremusic.com/

Singer-songwriter: album review – Michael McGovern ‘Highfield Suite’

Highfield Suite is the debut album from Glasgow singer-songwriter Michael McGovern. At 25 he’s been writing songs since he was a teenager, Highfield Suite being the culmination of his work to date. He says the songs on the album very much reflect this period of his life, focusing on themes such as friendship, love, regret and reconciling with one’s own mistakes.  Citing the likes of Leonard Cohen, to Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Springsteen and Fleet Foxes as key inspirations McGovern traverses that folky, acoustic, Americana-flavoured vibe with confidence and there’s a real maturity to his song-writing, too.

McGovern had begun building a name for himself on the festival circuit but, like many musicians, once the pandemic struck and brought an end to life performances his focus turned to writing and recording. Taking the self-isolation route to its creative limits, McGovern ended up recording much of the album alone in a small wooden cabin in Galway, Ireland with a single microphone.

If that suggests a stark, minimalist feel to the album, then it’s a wrong impression. Dublin-based producer, Bill Shanley, worked alongside McGovern to flesh out the album and a range of additional musicians and backing vocalists were brought in on various tracks to add extra depth and texture. McGovern himself plays guitar, bass, piano and keyboards on the album with co-producer, Shanley, providing additional guitars, bass and vocals alongside assorted guests, including some wonderfully evocative pedal steel guitar from Connor Smith.

The result is a beautifully timeless album with heartfelt lyrics, lush gospel-tinged harmony vocals complementing McGovern’s own emotive voice and some gorgeous guitar. An impressive debut.

Released: June 2021

https://www.michaelmcgovern.co.uk/

Americana: album review – Beki Hemingway ‘Earth & Asphalt’

“We are two Americans living in Ireland doing original Americana which is folky and rocky at times.”

So stated the charming hand-written note that accompanied the CD and press release announcing Beki Hemingway’s latest album. Folky and rocky Americana does indeed sound just the sort of thing that Darren’s Music Blog should be investigating so I decided to find out more.

Working with her husband and musical partner, Randy Kerkman, since the mid-90s Hemingway has already released half a dozen albums, the last being Whins and Weather which came out in 2017. It was around that time, however, that the pair made some major changes to their lives. Leaving behind Denver, Colorado they emigrated to Ireland in late 2016, settling in Dundalk on Ireland’s east coast.

Channelling the spirit of the likes of Emmylou Harris, John Mellencamp and Hank Williams Earth & Asphalt serves up eleven tracks of gorgeous, sun-kissed, heart-felt Americana. And there is, indeed, some rocky bits. Kerkman is a greatly talented guitarist, whether turning in some achingly poignant guitar licks on the slower tracks like ‘Shape of My Face’ and ‘Hurricane’ or some Stonesy-type riffing on songs like ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’, not to mention bags of gorgeous-sounding, upbeat Americana on the rest.

Expressive and emotive as a singer and a great story-telling lyricist and melodious song-writer, Hemingway’s vocals are the perfect fit for her husband’s playing. Bass, drums and keyboards from a succession of supporting players round out the sound nicely and it’s extremely well-produced with some rich-sounding harmony vocals.

What you won’t really find is much in the way of Celtic influences, however much they are soaking up the scenery and culture of their new lifestyle.

“It turns out that being here has only made us sound more American,” says Hemingway. I can’t disagree with that! Simply gorgeous.

Released this year Earth & Asphalt is available from: http://blog.bekihemingway.com/

Peter Donegan: interview with Americana singer-songwriter and son of skiffle legend, Lonnie Donegan

In the week of the sixty-seventh anniversary of the recording of Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Rock Island Line’ I talk to Peter Donegan about his father’s legacy, about his viral TV duet with Tom Jones and about his forthcoming album.

DJ: Firstly it’s a huge, huge pleasure to be talking to you. My own dad was a big, big Lonnie Donegan fan and I think he’d be very touched that I was interviewing his son. Growing up in the 1970s the Rolling Stones and Deep Purple and so on were always played a lot in our house but there was still always lots of Lonnie Donegan, too. So it was a big part of my childhood. But if we can start off going back to the very beginning then we’ll look at your more recent career. Elvis Presley recorded ‘That’s Alright’ and your father recorded ‘Rock Island Line’ in the very same month back in July 1954. It’s something Billy Bragg points out in his book on skiffle, and he called them ‘the first tremors of an earthquake that would shake the world’. Did that give you a good feeling seeing it put like that?

PD: Yes, definitely. Billy’s been a huge campaigner for the importance of what has become a kind of forgotten era – the skiffle era. I mean, Billy made another nice analogy which was that it was the nursery for British rock and roll. Because songs like ‘Rock Island Line’ – and that one in particular which changed the British music industry – it gave a new breath of life into what was, you know, a crooners’ market. And I don’t mean any disrespect to any artist up until my dad came out, obviously, but it did. It changed the nature of it. And it made music accessible. It meant that for people like Eric Clapton, for people like Van Morrison, for people like Jimmy Page – all these kind of people realised, ‘Ok, so I don’t have to be – number one – classically trained to play the guitar. I can learn the basic two/three chords – or one sometimes – and the lyrics and go for it.’ And, number two, it meant that you didn’t have to feel self-conscious singing a lot of these old American country and blues songs and feel self-conscious about it – especially a British white person as well.  You didn’t feel like you were false either. You could be ‘paying homage’ to, you know, and doing it in your own way. I mean that gave birth to, like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin who all started off in skiffle bands.

DJ: And it was a very British take. It wasn’t a straightforward adoption of an American culture was it?

PD: No, No. You could argue really that while skiffle was Americana music, as we call it now nowadays, it was definitely with a very British tint to it. It didn’t sound the same. They were the same songs, but they weren’t the same way. They were definitely distinct. Which is how ‘Rock Island Line’ went to number 8 in the States, you know – just before Johnny Cash recorded and released it. And the odd thing is, is that my dad had added that part of the tollgate which wasn’t in the Leadbelly original. And then Johnny Cash put out a version afterwards with the tollgate in it again – so you can argue that Johnny was listening to my dad’s version. Because it’s kind of like, he’s just taken dad’s version, slowed it down just a little bit. So there could be something there. There could be something there. You could argue really that the skiffle sessions – all that stuff for that period in time, that six years or whatever it was – was a little bit more British even than when the Stones came out. Because they were doing it much more per original blues… Definitely, much more modernised but it was arguably more towards the original than what Dad was doing.

DJ: In the true folk tradition he actually adapted it and added his own take on it and that’s now become the tradition.

PD: Yes, exactly. You know, it’s been fantastic. And, of course, Dad wrote his own things as well which we all know about. Most notably was the Tom Jones hit ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’. I mean, it wasn’t written for Tom to do. My dad went to release it because he loved the sounds that he was hearing coming from Ray Charles. Great gospel R&B singer, you know, and Dad thought, ‘That’s brilliant. I want to do something like that.’ Wrote ‘Never Fall In Love Again’ and the record label which was Pye at the time – who were trying to be true to their roots and wanting to be jazz, despite the fact of having Lonnie Donegan on the record label who was definitely not jazz anymore despite his origins of coming through with the Ken Colyer Jazzmen and then the Chris Barber Jazz Band – they insisted on there being a jazz version. So they recorded a jazz version and a more gospel version which Dad wanted to do. And insisted on releasing the jazz version – obviously, because that was their plan all along. And nothing happened with it – because it wasn’t what people expected. It wasn’t ‘Dad’ if you know what I mean. So, Tom picked up on it.

DJ: It was a few years gap wasn’t it between your dad releasing it and Tom Jones having a hit with it?

PD: It was early ‘60s for my dad. You’re looking at 62/63 whenever it was – and I think it was 67/68 when Tom released it. And Dad’s gag on stage was always, ‘What’s Tom Jones got that I haven’t got!’ It was always a good laugh. And then, of course, Elvis picked it up in the end because, you know, Elvis was permanently ‘on tour’ doing all the casinos in Vegas. As was Tom, so they were always going to see each other’s set at some point in time. And Elvis picked it up and did it, you know. And I think that was the last track on the last album that Elvis released.

Watch the full interview on YouTube here

DJ: And then, obviously, you had that wonderful emotional moment with Tom Jones on ‘The Voice’ two years ago. That must have been very, very special?

PD: It was! It was a big ‘pinch me’ moment because I was scouted by the show. They’d seen me at a country festival in London and they wanted that – because they knew that the country genre was really booming in the UK. And they wanted me to go and try out – so that was nice. And they said, ‘Don’t worry. It’s not like you’ve got to wait in the queue or anything. You can go straight to the producer so there’s no pressure.’ And that’s more pressure I think! So yeah.. sat there and did some original songs. That’s what they wanted. They said they wanted originals. And went through about another four rounds of auditions and they said, ‘Yep – we want you for the blinds.’ And I just thought well, if nothing else, this is just a bit of PR. You know, get a nice bit of high-quality PR footage [laughs] and have some fun while you’re there. And when it was Tom that turned, you know, it was an emotional relief that somebody turned. I was very nervous. I’d never done anything like that before and it was a very nice moment. And then when, obviously, Tom asked us to do that song and we did it – it was a shock, you know. There’s a video about me – because I did a video on YouTube talking about it which had about two million views.

DJ: Yes, I watched that. I still tear up every time I see the footage. It’s just so incredible!

PD: It was a lovely, lovely evening. It really was. I mean, bittersweet in some ways because obviously you realise it’s a TV show first and foremost before it’s a talent show – and it’s a very good one and I really enjoyed my experience on there. But, as a friend of mine who was there said, ‘That’s going to go viral.’ I said, ‘Do you think? Shit!’ He said, ‘Why?’. I said, ‘I peaked too soon in that case! It probably means I’m out next.’ And I was out next!

DJ: But no-one could take away that moment though.

PD: No! I have no regrets. I had great fun. And not many people get to do three songs in two shows – so it was good!

DJ: Has Tom been in touch since?

PD: No. I’ve tried but not got anything back though.

DJ: Ok. Ok. And just looking back – this week, it’s actually the 67th anniversary of ‘Rock Island Line’ being recorded.

PD: Yep. ‘54 it was recorded. ‘56 it became a hit. It was a track on the Chris Barber Jazz Band album and for whatever reason Decca released it two years later as a single and it was played on – I can’t remember the radio show – Dad didn’t know anything of it. Somebody said to him, ‘You know you’re number one!. He was like, ‘What?’ ‘Yeah check out the papers…’ And the rest is history, as they say.

DJ: And you did a special concert two years ago, to mark the 65th anniversary of it?

PD: We did, yes. We did one in 2018 just at the end because it all started off with Chas Hodges – God rest his soul. It was his initial idea because we were raising money for our son’s therapy for his autism and he said, ‘If you want to do a gig, me and Dave will get up and do something. We’ll do half an hour, you finish the gig off. I was like, well that’s lovely. Mentioned it to a couple of friends as I was talking and they we’re like, well I’ll do something and I’ll do something and someone said, ‘Well we haven’t done a night for your dad in a while. Why don’t we do that?’ So in 2018 we had Billy Bragg, Nora Guthrie, The Jive Aces, Mike Berry, Mike Read, Ralph McTell, Chris Difford from Squeeze, Chas McDevitt, Vince Eager and we did that at the Union Chapel in Islington. And Billy Bragg said, ‘Right, so what are we doing next year?’ And I was like, oh you’re kidding right. But I’d invited Van to do that one and he wasn’t available but then he followed up and said, ‘Are you doing another one?’ I said, ‘Well yes, next year’s the 65th anniversary of the recording of ‘Rock Island Line’. And then Mike Read said, ‘Well we need a blue plaque to commemorate that.’ So we did a blue plaque on the same day, on the morning and then we went and did the gig.

 DJ: You obviously grew up with music. Did you always want to be a musician?

Yeah. I did. There was never any other option, you know. And I had a great coach, obviously, in Dad and he always taught me that the best thing to do – the only way to make it in this industry is to write your own songs. And that’s why I’ve always done that. From becoming my dad’s piano player to then becoming the opening act for the set, I always did original material. And then, from then I kept doing it. It was difficult because, you know, every time a label said that we could do an album they would only include a maximum of one of my songs on it. Because they wanted to make easy money and just do another Lonnie Donegan tribute album which was, you know, getting frustrating to say the least. So, I decided to go independent and in 2017 released my ‘Superman’ EP which did quite well for my first independent thing and that’s what got me ‘Country To Country Festival’ which got me noted by the guys at ‘The Voice’ and then on with Tom Jones and then on from there. And then we did the live album after that which was recorded in 2019 in the Decca recording studios. In the same studio that Dad recorded ‘Rock Island Line’ – which now belongs to the English National Opera. But that was nice. It was good fun. And then since then I’ve released ‘Thank You Texas’ which was co-written with two Texans at the Buddy Holly song-writing retreat in Lubbock.

DJ: And that won an award didn’t it?

PD: It yes – at the ‘Texas Sounds Country Music Awards’ last year. Got Best Male Vocalist and Original Song.

‘Thank You Texas’ recorded at North London’s Mill Hill Music Complex

DJ: The Americana/country direction that you’ve taken as you wanted to pursue your own, as you say, independent career – was that a very conscious decision or did you just sort of evolve into that direction, musically?

PD: Well, obviously, when you consider the influences I was surrounded by with Dad’s record collection at home – which had everything, you know, from Fats Waller to Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, The Highway Men – all that kind of stuff. So I grew up with that plus – I was born in London but only because Dad was doing a West End thing at the time… We were living in California. So you know California, Florida, Spain. I didn’t grow up here, so I was surrounded by American music a lot of the time. And Dad was big into country. And then so was I. I’m a huge Waylon fan, Willie fan and later on, you know, I love now Chris Stapleton and Eric Church and the High Women if you’ve heard them… So it was a natural transition for me because I like to write stories, you know real-life events, that kind of stuff. And country music, Americana music in general really lends itself to that.

DJ: Well story telling is at the heart of those lyrics.

PD: Yeah. So it was a natural transition for me. And when you consider really where I came from musically with Dad, skiffle is what we call Americana now. Because Americana is country, with blues, folk. And it’s just Americana is the umbrella term. And underneath it you’ve got all these different genres.

DJ: So what’s next for you in terms of your solo career? Are you working on new music at the moment?

PD: I am yes. Again, written at the same retreat with a couple of great song-writers in America. With Sean Healen who’s from New Mexico and with Tessy Lou Williams – ‘It’s My Dreams’. We did a lockdown sessions version of it which you can find on YouTube but there will be a single version of it coming out. And it will be included on the new album which is currently being made.

There’ll be a couple more singles to come off that album as well… I think there’s some really cool tunes on there, especially with the new collaborations. Because I do like to co-write… the old adage two heads are better than one is true. Because there’s ideas that you come up with that you wouldn’t come up with unless you were sitting with somebody else. I’m not saying that maybe their idea is in the song, but they say something which sparks an idea in your head again, you know – and the other way around, too.

DJ: That approach to collaboration is very much part of the Americana scene isn’t it, I think?

PD: It is and there’s a feelgood sense within it as well. It’s a case of not quite as much competition as we’re in it together. So it’s more fun to drag these other people that you respect – if you’re not already friends – along with you and have that shared experience rather than try and keep it for yourself. And I like that feel. It’s much more relaxed… It’s a better experience. It’s less uptight.

Thank you so very much to Peter Donegan for talking to me. You can check his forthcoming live dates on his website here:

https://peterdonegan.com/home

Related posts:

Visit to the birthplace of British rock ‘n’ roll – the 2i’s coffee bar, Soho

Book review: ‘Roots, Radicals & Rockers – How Skiffle Changed the World’ by Billy Bragg

Folk/Americana: album review – Sons of the Never Wrong ‘Undertaker’s Songbook’

Formed in Chicago almost thirty years ago Sons of the Never Wrong are an alt-folk trio with a signature sound of soaring harmonies and lush acoustic arrangements built around  of thoughtful, witty song-writing.

Their ninth studio album, Undertaker’s Songbook is something of a celebratory release as  the band approach their 30th anniversary.

Founder members Bruce Roper (vocals, guitar) and Sue Demel (vocals, guitar, djembe, dulcimer) along with long-time member Deborah Lader (vocals, banjo, guitar, mandolin) who joined the trio in 1998, replacing original member Nancy Walker, are joined by a range of musical guests and spoken word collaborators for this special release. Guests include Marc Kelly Smith, Karen Savoca, Anne Harris and Pete Heitzman helping bring colourful texture to Sons of The Never Wrong’s trademark blend of folk, jazz, pop and rock influences.

Opening track, the gorgeous gospel-tinged, soul-flavoured ‘Muddy, Muddy River’ with guest, Bob Long, on organ and piano is clearly destined to be a centre-piece of future live performances and is a modern-day classic in the making – absolutely gorgeous.

Elsewhere on the album, the melancholic, ecologically-themed piano and vocals number ‘Shorebird’ is another stand-out track, along with the Indie-ish anthem ‘Om Not This Time’. Tracks like ‘Everyone’s In The House’, meanwhile, take us into more classic folk singer-songwriter territory, evoking the genre’s golden age.

Beautifully presented with hand-painted cover art from Lader, Undertaker’s Songbook is a fine album to mark the trio’s thirtieth anniversary.

Released: 1st June 2021

https://sonsoftheneverwrong.com/