Sleeper: band without manifesto
honest about stuff. really. What I find irritating is that they seem to think it‘s a contrived thing that I‘ve intended: to he outspoken or controversial. l've never called ruyself that. ever. and they sic/e on it and say "That must be how you‘re representing yourself to get attention“. which I find really irritating.‘
Sleeper had no agenda beyond making good indie pop records. ‘We knew the kind of music we wanted to make. btrt we weren‘t a hand with a manifesto or anything like that. I don‘t like bands that go out and tell people how to behave or how to think.‘
‘l)elicious‘ was Sleeper"s first (.ireat Moment —- and it took no time at all for them to come tip with a second. ‘lnbetweener‘. an absurdly catchy prt'r‘ls‘ of Wener‘s formative years in suburbia tllford. to he precise) shot into the Top 30. ‘l couldn‘t wait to get out.‘ she says. while admitting a nostalgic fondness for that 'cosy~ suburban way of life. These days. she lives in the heart of London. a confirmed city person.
‘I really love it. because the countryside scares rue a bit. I really like cities much more than anything else. 1 like to be able to look out the window and there‘ll be people around and people going through it as well. going through life. I hate looking out and seeing great big open spaces and no one around - at least .\'()T any longer than a weekend!‘
Sleeper play The (fa/ace. (ilasgmr on Mon lJ‘ aml 'l’la’ ll'ma'. lftlr‘nlmrg/r on Tue [4. The alluim. Smart. is released on Mon [3.
Crossing the borders
Kenny Mathieson chews the fat with Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown.
Like Louis ‘Satchelmouth‘ Armstrong.
the unorthodox blues-country-Cajun- jazzman Clarence ‘(iaternouth‘ Brown
picked tip a nickname which clearly has '
something to do with either the size or rapidity of his mouth. Right now. though. he isn‘t telling the story ofjust how he came by it.
'Yeah. l got the nickname Gatemouth when l was a kid. and I‘ve had it ever since. but I can‘t tell you that story just yet. because it‘s coming out in a book pretty soon. so you're gonna have to wait until the book comes out and explains it..
What the Louisiana-born. Texas-bred
singer. fiddler and guitarist (it's hard to
describe anything much about Brown
without it turning into a list) is happy to
confirm is that his early musical training came at a tender age from his father. who was never a professional musician. but laid the foundation of his son‘s later eclecticistn.
‘Yeah. that's where I learned to play. from my daddy. He learned that Cajun music from Lousiana and he played it. and that‘s where I got it from. Before I ever played blues and jazz. I played Cajun. country and bluegrass. If you know how to play them. they'll work together real well ‘— blues is where country music comes from anyway.‘
He was playing guitar at live. and had taken tip fiddle and mandolin by the time he was ten. but rntrclr of his early
work as a musician was as a drummer. a role which he filled ‘all told for about ten or twelve years‘. He made his solo debut in I945 when he stood in for guitarist T—Bone Walker iii a llouslon nightclub. and made such a powerful impression that its owner. agent Don Rohey. offered to manage him. By l()-l(l he was on the road with his own big band. an early indication of his love for both jazz and the big band format.
‘I had a big band way back then. because [just love the sound of horns. and I still do today. but it‘s real hard to carry a big band nowadays. because it costs way too much. I‘m real big band- orientated. though. and l have a liking forjazz that goes back to the days of Count Basie. Duke Ellington. Woody Herman. all those people.‘
Brown brought a fresh approach to the i
Texas blues guitar sound. both in his own phrasing and in his willingness to introduce country and bluegrass instruments and idioms into blues and
jazz settings. a synthesis which crossed racial boundaries as well as musical
ones. ‘That‘s right. I got a lot of resistance for that. but [just said to hell with that. I‘ll play what I wanna play. It‘s my knowledge that I've gotta prolong. and
«it... 0.5. Zia;
Clarence Catemouth Brown: blues cowboy not theirs. so l kept going and eventually I made them believe it. and they finally accepted rne.‘
Now approaching his 71st birthday. Brown has just issued a new album on Verve. The Man. which pretty much encapsulates all of the foregoing. and he will be appearing with his band as a special guest on Eric Clapton‘s current UK tour. Major label recognition has been late in coming. btrt he has no regrets.
‘No. that didn‘t bother me — I couldn't care less. hi the first place. before I'd sell myself out and do what other people wanted me to do. I‘d quit playing. lfl had signed with a big company in the 50s. they would have tried to push me in one direction or another. instead of letting me do what I wanted to do — and no one else does what l do.
‘That‘s why so many people are stuck in that one mould — a lot of artists I know. they just can‘t get out of it. They were forced into where they are now.
T and they can‘t change. they can't grow.
they‘re still playing the same thing they were playing back in the 50s.‘ Clare/ire ‘(r‘aremoullz' Brown plays a! [/18 SICCC. Glasgow on Wed 15, as
support to [:‘I'a' Clapton.
‘I suppose it’s obvious where our influences come from,’ explains Smalltalk’s Stuart Morison. ’The
instrumental drive from The Tannahill
Weavers — both lain and myself spent
. years in that band - and Cssian’s
lyricism in the songs. Billy was their
Their eponymous CD reveals the band’s gently compelling core sound of Stuart’s fiddle and Iain Maclnnes’s bellows-blown Scottish smallpipes, usually playing in unison, and widened
7. by whistle, cittern, bodhran and Billy
Boss’s effective use of acoustic guitar
harmony and occasional rhythmic . dulcimer. Among the up-tempo dance tunes, the march, ‘lfeights 0f Cassino’,
is given a dreamin relaxed treatment,
and the slow air ‘Over The Sea To . lreland’, popular in Cape Breton, is here given a delicate, expressive
rendering. Medium-paced songs suit Billy’s
3 much admired voice and delivery, as in O the moving Gaelic lament ‘Fil 0 80’.
The three share a perception of their
l l i
v. ‘ "1“x‘
.. , ‘V A musical direction. Stuart expresses it. ‘We want the songs to come through — the meaning of them - so we don’t want to over-arrange them. And on the instrumental side lain and I want to develop that tight sound between the smallpipes and the fiddle, exploring the rhythms in the tunes.
‘We enjoy performing and we’re doing more and more now, but we don’t see ourselves as a headlining band at the festivals. We don’t present our music that way. We’re not loud and dangerous, and probably not what the public, en masse, generally wants just
Smalltalk: ‘not loud or dangerous' now.’
The Orkney and Cirvan festivals have already signed them up, and a trip to a festival in Budapest is scheduled for the end of March, so public taste seems already to be moving in their direction.
The final word is Billy’s. ‘I would like to think that we simply have good tunes and songs, played well. And no bongos or bean tubes!’ (Norman Chalmers)
Smalltalk play Navaar House Hotel, Penicuik on Tue 14 and New Dawn Folk Club, Glasgow on Thurs 16.
The List l()-23 Feb NOS 35