I’m often referred to as a bluesman, and the style of music I play is broadly defined as blues-folk, but that’s really only half the story. I love the folk tradition of telling stories inside songs, and that side of my music – the sheer craft of songwriting – is something that is more important to me than anything else. However, I’m also a guitar obsessive, so when I play live, you hear a lot of guitar work. I am, broadly speaking, an acoustic player, but when I go out live I loop a lot of layers and build grooves and walls of sound using various effects. It enables you to suck people into a song and really get them into it. And it enables me to have a tremendous amount of fun. Some of my shows can get pretty raucous!
When it comes to the way I record, there are no limits. I go with what the song needs, and worry about the genre labels later. My latest record – the ‘Impossible to Pick Up’ EP – is basically blues-folk with added grooves and strangeness, and veers into psyche-folk here and there. For a supposedly acoustic record, there are a lot of synths!
I’m constantly working on ways to improve my sound and expand my show. I love collaboration, and I’m lucky enough to have worked with some amazing musicians. But I am a relentless honer of my own stuff, and the songs are always in flux, being added to, reworked, stripped back, or turned around. I love playing alternative versions of songs live; I can’t help but play about with them.
Playing live is one of the great joys of my life. I played about 75 gigs last year, and I like to stay busy. If there’s a willing audience, I’ll play just about anywhere.
I hope you enjoy my playlist of songs, and I hope you like my music. I’d like to thank .Tumorrow for giving me this opportunity to feature on their extremely cool site. If you use Twitter or Facebook, you can find me at these links:
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Dr John – Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya Dr. John’s music was introduced to me via one of my former bass players, and I was onboard right from the moment I heard the opening bars of this track. Even to this day, nothing sounds like Gris Gris. They don’t make them like this anymore, mainly because the way Dr. John made this involved a lot of highly illegal substances.
John Lee Hooker – Boogie Chillen JLH was amazing, full stop. Nobody sounded like him or played like him. His guitar style is absolutely unique, which is a recurring theme with me: I love people who don’t sound like anyone else. I’m always entranced by Hooker’s playing style and the sheer amount of movement and groove he generates in songs that sound deceptively simple, but very much aren’t.
Jimi Hendrix – Red House Hendrix. Need I say more? OK, I will. Like JLH he handles his guitar playing like no-one else. Hendrix just breathed and the music breathed with him. I could have put any one of about twenty Hendrix songs on this list but I love how totally effortless he makes this song seem.
Black Crowes – High Head Blues The Black Crowes were (and are) a huge influence on me and I’ve always loved the way they put their songs together, and the sheer amount of groove layered into the songs. At one point I was pretty obsessed with this song.
Led Zeppelin – Ramble On Again, I could have out any of two dozen Zep songs on this list. Robert Plant is still an amazing songwriter and I love his solo output too. But this song always sucks me in. It has such an amazing feel.
Nirvana – The Man Who Sold The World I’m cheating here, because this is a way to get 2 Bowie songs onto this list. I was deeply into Nirvana, and highly sceptical when they announced an Unplugged session for MTV. But what’s funny is that, even now, many players reference the ‘sound’ of this record as an influence, and a lot of that is down to Kurt’s playing, which was a genuinely big influence on me. He battered the crap out of his guitar and didn’t go in for anything fancy – he sort of pioneered the anti-solo – and at one time that was absolutely what I was into. I chose this song because I always loved this version, I thought they really brought something unique to it.
Bowie – Panic In Detroit I could go on and on about Bowie’s work and what it means to me, but so could most musicians. I chose this because you don’t hear it that much on the radio and I love it. The whole of Aladdin Sane is full of unbridled genius.
Radiohead – Just Radiohead defined the sound of a particular period of my life, and ‘Just’ completely blew my mind when I heard it for the first time – at exactly the right time. Innovative sounds, brilliant lyrics, and that astonishing guitar part – I still miss guitar-band Radiohead, even though I’ve enjoyed watching (and hearing) their evolution over the years.
PJ Harvey – A Place Called Home Speaking of Radiohead, I’m pretty sure that Thom Yorke is on backing vocals on this one. PJ Harvey is such a unique, vibrant, incredible songwriter. The album that this comes from (Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea) is arguably her best, but it’s a close call, because I adore pretty much everything she’s ever put out.
Nick Drake – Fly I discovered Nick Drake’s albums in the record collection of someone I was living in a flat share with. He would go out to work and I’d raid his CD collection. ‘Fly’ is an achingly beautiful song and Nick Drake just stops me in my tracks every time I hear this record. I love this song so much.
U2 – The Fly Two songs referencing a fly on this list! There was a time when U2 seemed to me to be the pinnacle of everything that a rock band should be, and Achtung Baby was a seminal record in my musical development. This is a legitimately great song that still sounds very cool to me.
Metallica – Enter Sandman Kirk Hammett’s guitar work was another big influence, once I got into ‘real’ solos over anti-solos. Enter Sandman is still a masterpiece as far as I’m concerned.
Rolling Stones – Can You Hear Me Knocking My love for classic-era Stones knows no bounds. I could have picked anything from Sticky Fingers, which I must have played a million times, but I particularly love the way this song builds to a beautiful full-band jam for the ages. (As an aside, I cannot tell you how much I love Goat’s Head Soup, which is one of their most underrated albums in my opinion).
Turin Brakes – Feeling Oblivion This was the first song I ever heard by the Turin Brakes, and they are one of my favourite bands to this day. I saw them live last year and they were astonishingly great. Their entire discography is well worth investigating – it’s packed full of gems.
Goldfrapp – Jo Alison Goldfrapp has a simply phenomenal back catalogue. I love that you never know what she’s going to put out next, and she oscillates between synth-heavy groove-packed records and folky, mellow, beautifully understated albums. This song is a sumptuous, lush, utterly stunning treat.
Quantic & Alice Russell – Look Around The Corner I’m cheating again here by featuring a collaboration between two artists I greatly admire, Alice Russell has a seriously underrated set of pipes, and I can tell you from personal experience that her voice is just as stunning in person at a gig as it is on record. And Will Holland, AKA Quantic, is a genius multi-instrumentalist and producer with a prodigiously great talent for mixing grooves and blending genres. The album this comes from is also, in my opinion, highly underrated.
Elbow – Leaders of the Free World Great song, great band. Again, they are amazing live, and I’ve always loved Guy Garvey’s way of phrasing things. This is such a good song, and I tend to believe that LOTFW is their best album!
The La’s – Son Of A Gun A brilliant song from a brilliant album. This sounds like nothing else.
Ray LaMontagne – Henry Nearly Killed Me Ray LaMontagne is a songwriter I admire and a singer I can’t stop listening to. He’s another artist whose entire discography has been very influential on me. I think he writes excellent songs, and his voice has a texture that I can’t get enough of.
Lenny Kravitz – Always On The Run Again, cheating. Lenny has been someone I’ve always admired – particularly on his funkiest album, 5 — but this song is built on such a groove-laden, brilliant guitar riff, and then is made all the sweeter by Slash’s guitar solo. Guns N Roses were another band I always loved, particularly when I was a teen, so it’s great to finish with a song that puts two people I think are seriously talented together!