For what it’s Haworth
Craig McLean fratemises with Mark Creswell of The Bronte Brothers.
Of the lilting, sparkling, spangling guitar exotica that colours their debut album, The Bronte Brothers’ frontman says: ‘I suppose you call it a highlife guitar, it‘s ajit guitar. It’s a style that comes from Africa. Zimbabwean bands use it a lot.‘ But a band from Leeds? Who‘ve written and recorded with Tanita Tikaram?-Who‘ve played with Gerry Rafferty? True. It might be a long way from Zimbabwe to Yorkshire, but Mark Creswell knows that the global village knows no perimeter fencing.
‘Maybe it‘s the climate or something,‘ muses the singer and songwriter, ‘but you tend to find that British musicians are uptight, quite clenched. I suppose punk came out of that uptightness. So you don‘t have the facility or the warmth to relax like American musicians, lay right back. African music does have this get-up-and-go feel.’
The Bronte Brothers are at home in Leeds, preparing to travel down to London to begin two days of rehearsals before heading out on their ﬁrst headlining national tour. Last year, in the run-up to the release of their debut album, August’s The Way Through The Woods, the foursome turned in support slots with everyone from Ian McNabb (a label-mate at This Way Up) and Indigo Girls to Buddy Guy and Hothouse Flowers. The sound they were punting was culled from a similar north-meets-south culture-clash to that which Paul Simon hit upon so successfully with Graceland and The Rhythm Of The Saints: exuberant, hot and taut guitars strung over jerky, jittery rhythms. Although in The Bronte Brothers‘ case the sounds are all home-grown. In Leeds, or thereabouts. ‘If you fiddle around with music for long enough and in enough ways,‘ Creswell explains, ‘there are so many close relationships. That sort of African style is not far removed from Irish jigs or Cajun.
‘I used to be in Brendan Croker And The Five O‘Clock Shadows, and that basically formed the direction I‘d been interested in. With that we were trying to mix a lot of things. Brendan was always interested in the old blues songs, quite traditionalist in his way, but very interested in eccentric sounds to go with it, like the African guitar. So that was quite a mix, and basically that was the music I wanted to do. Brendan went on to do this Notting Hillbillies thing with Mark Knopﬂer. And Tanita Tikaram started up about that time with her first album, and she’d got myself and Brendan to play on a track on that,
‘World Outside Your Window‘, ‘cos she‘d seen us playing live. She then phoned up and asked if I would go and play guitar on her tour. That‘s when I met Nic France, who plays drums with us. That was actually great fun - it was the first time I‘d made
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anything close to a living out of music.‘
All the while, Creswell was kicking around his own song ideas. Session playing and touring with Lloyd Cole’s twin sister was over, and those Five ()‘Clock Shadows were beginning to prickle. ‘Brendan was heading off on another route, he was more interested in becoming a singer/songwriter, the Nashville link, becoming almost a straight country artist. And he‘d be coming up with country songs, and I‘d be still trying to whang an African thing over it! So I was almost becoming a session player in that hand, your input wasn‘t required — understandably, because he was carving out his own thing.‘
In the summer of I992, Creswell played some demos to Andrew Lauder, the ex—boss of Silvertone (home of the Five O‘Clock Shadows) who was then in the throes of setting up This Way Up. Lauder was impressed with Creswell‘s unfettered, free-ranging writing style — a style that was as much Ry Cooder as it was Bhundu Boys as it was Bo Diddley. A roots sound that finds fertile soil wherever and however. Band and boss share vision and patience.
So the album appeared last summer, when no one
0N FOLLOWING PAGES: BUSSEL COWIESON O KRISTIN HERSH LP 0 EUENIUS LP
was looking. in the closed season. Now it‘s set to re- appear this rnonth, before the industry wakes up: re- promoted (on vinyl now. too) and trailed by a re- recorded single, ‘Live A Little More‘. Unable to jump through the hype hoopla — Creswell is, after all, a (deep breath) ‘good old-fashioned songwriter' — The Bronte Brothers and This Way Up have to strategise like military tacticians. Re-promoting, re- recording, re-Iaunching, capitalising on each new break and each open window. The Bronte Brothers might not — actually, realistically. will not — hit paydin with this tour and record. But next time, maybe. Or the next. This is the way, this is the slog, this is the steady drip drip drip of new, marginalised talent on the stone of a whim-obsessed record industry and music media.
This is The Bronte Brothers‘ first headlining national tour. Nervous, Mark? ‘l'm not nervous. Apprehensive . . .' The Bronte Brothers play King Tutis Wuh Wah Hut. Glasgow on Sat 22 and The Venue, Edinburgh on Sun 23.
The List l4—27 January I994 31