Prolific power pop band and Beat Surrender favourites Dropkick are back with their new album Homeward that’s set for release on April 19th, the album will be released digitally, on CD and on lovely 180g vinyl too this time – you can pre-order from a number of options at Bandcamp now – expect more irresistible melodies, a little melancholy, chiming guitars and a smattering of pedal steel.
Back in May of 2010 I wrote some supportive words on Westerner the debut full length album by The Wynntown Marshals and now I’ve got my hands on a copy of their follow-up album I’m pleased to report that’s its another cracking release from the Scottish band.
In the intervening years there have being a few changes to the bands personnel,the current line-up features the talents of Keith Benzie (Lead Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica), Iain Sloan (Pedal Steel Guitar, Guitars, Backing Vocals), Murdo MacLeod (Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals), Kenny McCabe (Drums, Backing Vocals) and Richie Noble (Keyboards), The Long Haul was created by the Edinburgh-based band over a period of three months in the band’s rehearsal room above The Blind Poet in the city using a Tascam portastudio for both recording and mixing which was handled by Beat Surrender favourite Dropkicks‘ Andrew Taylor who also plays keyboards, banjo and mandolin on the album, Dolly Varden’s Diane Christiansen another Beat Surrender favourite also makes a guest appearance adding harmony and backing vocals to the album closer Change of Heart one of the albums many highlights.
With the change of line up a more collaborative approach has being adopted by the band in both the writing and arranging, the result is an evolution to the bands sounds as it stretches the boundaries of the alt-country roots rock template of Westerner, there’s some great keyboard work, Mellotron, banjos, mandolins and on a couple of tracks some well-worked strings arrangements too, all of it combining very nicely indeed with the chiming guitars, Rickenbacker 12-string and twang of the steel.
My favourite track, that’s a tough one, opening number Driveaway gets things moving perfectly and I love the guitars on it, but if push comes to shove I’d plum for Low Country Comedown a track that takes it’s inspiration from the band’s frequent trips to the continent. The bands last album featured high in my favourite albums of 2010 and having spent a little time with this one lately I’m pretty confident this will find it’s ways onto this years top choices – essential listening
You can get in on the act with a pre-order discount of 15% from the CD if you sign up to the bands mailing list at their website before the July 15th release date – what you waiting for.
I asked the Iain Sloan from the band a few questions and he was kind enough to humour me – this is what he had to say.
Q: Why ‘The Long Haul’ ?
Since we recorded our previous album “Westerner” back in 2009, there have been numerous line-up changes in the band – we’ve ‘lost’ a drummer, a bassist and TWO lead guitarists!
As our profile started to raise following the release of “Westerner”, we picked up a European agent and this led to several trips and offers for shows in Germany and Holland, as well as up and down the UK. Sadly, some members’ work and family commitments meant that we were finding it more and more difficult to collectively find a happy balance between time and energy spent with band, work and families. So, sadly, we parted company with a few members until we arrived at the core line-up that recorded the new album.
With all the line-up changes, uncertainty and trips overseas, the upshot was that a lot of time had passed between releasing “Westerner” and us being able to commit some time to putting a new record together.
Between Keith (Benzie – frontman), Murdoch (bass) and myself, once we found a new drummer (Kenny McCabe), the sheer momentum and energy the new line-up had made us feel our stubbornness and persistence had been vindicated and, on the lyric booklet for the new album, we included the various dictionary definitions of the phrase “The Long Haul” so that people could see the numerous interpretations
1. a journey over a long distance;
2. the act of travelling from one place to another;
3. a period of time sufficient for factors to work themselves out.
Given what we’ve been through emotionally, the line-up upheavals and all the brilliant touring adventures we’ve had over the past 3 years or so, it just seemed like such a perfect album title. It’s also of the key phrases from the closing song “Change of Heart”.
Q: As the bands ‘steel’ player, who’s your favourite exponent of the instrument?
Perhaps surprisingly, although I tip my hat to the sheer technical brilliance of many of the legendary steelies, I’ve never had a strong desire to play in a more ‘trad’ country style, although some songs (principally “The Submariner” and “Change of Heart” on the new record) have called for that.
The principle guys who drew me to the instrument (after 25 years of playing 6-string) were Bruce Kaphan (from American Music Club/Jellyfish/Black Crowes/David Byrne) and the legendary BJ Cole, who I saw playing with Bjork once upon a time. Both of these guys are at the more ‘experimental’ end of steel guitaring and I love their use of effects to create otherworldly textures and a certain melancholic dreaminess in their approaches.
I also have huge admiration for Paul Brainard from Richmond Fontaine and the awesome Greg Leisz. His playing on those seminal Matthew Sweet and Velvet Crush records is just jaw-dropping.
And Eric Heywood, Keith and I opened for Tift Merritt a few months ago and he is the best musician I have ever shared a stage with, absolutely mind-blowing and a proper gentleman too.
Q: Anything special planned for the release?
We’re putting the finishing touches on a UK tour right now. We’ve got confirmed shows in Glasgow (12 July at Broadcast), Edinburgh (13 July at Voodoo Rooms), Dinnet in Aberdeenshire on 26 July, Aberdeen (27 July at The Forum), and will be heading south of the border (offers TBC in Sheffield and Cardiff etc) for the first week in August.
For me, the most special thing about the Album Launch dates is that we have another new member to introduce to everyone – Richie Noble, a full-time keyboardist. Richie has fitted in brilliantly and is helping to recreate those lovely Hammond, piano and Mellotron parts from the new album and ensuring that my move on to guitar I the live setting doesn’t leave too big a hole where the steel parts once were!
Q: How did Diane Christiansen (Steve Dawson) end up recording vocals for the album ?
We toured the UK with Steve and Diane from Dolly Varden in February 2011 and instantly hit it off. They are such beautiful people and Steve is a wonderfully gifted songwriter. They song together so beautifully and are simply wonderful to be around. When we started to develop “Change of Heart”, it became clear that this song about an estranged but inseparable couple would work brilliantly as a conversational duet with a female vocal. There wasn’t a moment’s hesitation in asking Diane as we knew her gorgeous voice would work brilliantly alongside Keith’s.
If you don’t already know, Diane is also an amazing artist and, when she was invited to exhibit her work at the Edinburgh College of Art at the start of the year, Keith and I organised a duo double-bill show with them. I had the privilege of sitting in with the, on steel and guitar on a chunk of their set and we all got up onstage together to close a great evening with a world premiere of “Change of Heart”.
Q: I’ve not had the pleasure of a live show (yet), do you have any favourite cover versions that you play?
Probably the cover we’re best known for is a bit of a bizarre one… a few years back our old drummer Keith Jones was holidaying in the states and built up a relationship with a “Hair Metal DJ” who ran a show on Sirius – the biggest satellite radio network. They were putting together a compilation of covers of hair metal ‘classics’ (coughs…) such as Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, Skid Row and the likes, and asked us to contribute something with our own alt.country twist. With a few of us having ‘questionable’ listening preferences back I the late 80s/early 90s, this led to an almighty scrum of suggestions!
We ended up radically reworking an LA Guns tune called “Ballad of Jayne” with a heavy focus on pedal steel and some cracking B-bender Telecaster playing by our original guitarist Iain Barbour. Bizarrely, a copy of this found its way to Bob Harris and he played it half a dozen times on his BBC Radio 2 weekend show and invited us down to London to record a live session a short while afterwards! The rest is history… Pretty amazing how an unsigned Scottish alt.country band ended up getting national radio exposure from an old dodgy metal tune, huh?
Anyway, we still play “Ballad of Jayne” during most of our headline shows and it always goes down well. We’ve also been known to play “Powderfinger” by Neil Young and played the Gram Parsons’ classic “Brass Buttons” when we recorded our BBC Radio Scotland session for Ricky Ross 18 months or so ago.
Scotland’s prolific purveyors of melodic power pop are back with another album on July 16th, Beat Surrender favourite Dropkick release their new one Paper Trails officially on July 16th but you can listen to it right now on the widget below and pre-order at their website.
Bloodshot have a tempting offer for on a Jon Langford CD & Book, cut and paste job on the marketing bumf .
The starting point was his long unobtainable album Skull Orchard. For the CD available exclusively with this book, Langford returned to those lost recordings and radically revised them, enlisting as his accomplices theBurlington Welsh Male Chorus, who contribute a unique warmth to the material. Three new tracks have been added, making 18 in all.
Jon illustrated his lyrics for Skull Orchard, at once autobiographical and fanciful, in a set of “song paintings” created especially for this book, which also includes much more artwork, an A to Z of South Walian culture and history (both personal and general) by Jon’s brother, and acclaimed SF writer David Langford, photographs by their father, Denis Langford, and Jon’s first published story, a witty, dystopian tale about a whale and a dolphin.
Beat Surrender favourite Dropkick a “harmony-driven alt-country power-pop band from Scotland” have a new album out later this month, get yours here. The band’s website has a whole load of freebies, albums, demo’s and live cuts, more.
Being enjoying some Craig Finn videos this week, one from The Baseball Project collaboration mentioned here earlier this year and a couple of solo tracks.