Manchester-based indie music stalwart Harry Stafford presents his new single ‘Black Rain’, written by Phil Shoenfelt. The video fittingly captures the track’s meaning and mood. He also offers insight into his new long-play ‘Gothic Urban Blues’ in a new video offering intriguing track-by-track commentary on this album.
This is an album about the Metropolis, the naked city, the urban sprawl and the need to get back to the ripped back streets when you’re far away. If there are a million stories in the naked city, here are a few to keep you warm.
This album was previewed by singles ‘She Just Blew Me Away’ and ‘Painted Ocean’, a smokey, barroom piano-blues lament that is “a message that riffs on a sublime ‘painted’ ocean, which, while once was a heaving beautiful living thing, is now a dump!”.
Mixed and engineered by Ding Archer (The Fall, PJ Harvey) at his 6Db Studio in Salford, this album was co-produced by Archer and Harry Stafford and was Inspired by the musings of such jazz and blues stalwarts as Mose Allison and Hoagy Carmichael.
Harry Stafford is best known as founder, guitarist and vocalist of post-punk gothic rockers Inca Babies. His band Guitar Shaped Hammers includes drummer Rob Haynes (The Membranes, Inca Babies), trumpeter Kevin Davy (Lamb, Cymande), guitarist Nick Brown (The Membranes) and Vincent O’Brien on Weisseborn slide guitar.
Formed in the early 1980s, Inca Babies released four albums and multiple singles and Peel sessions. Much of his musical career has been spent with Inca Babies, playing across Europe and the world but in 2015, after 35 years with Inca Babies, Stafford decided to release untamed solo material that echoes his love of blues piano and barroom ballads.
The new album ‘Gothic Urban Blues’ and debut solo album ‘Guitar Shaped Hammers’ (2017), are the inevitable result, reflecting a multitude of ideas around a driving yet lilting punk-piano blues. The idea was for Stafford to leave his noisy electric guitar behind – abandoning everything he held and cherished – to make some new music with a piano and a head full of ideas.
The new album features a more defined sound of a band finding its stride. The band is hereforth called Guitar Shaped Hammers to reflect this cohesion of musical unity – with more guitars from Vincent O’Brien, and an additional layered sonic blast from Nick Brown (The Membranes). With intense percussion from Rob Haynes and a truly masterful trumpet contribution from jazz supremo Kevin Davy, the result is very much the soundtrack of a basement radio station stumbling across a new genre they’ve tagged Gothic Urban Blues.
“It was important to reassemble these musicians again as there was a lot of ground we hadn’t covered. I had about fourteen songs and selected ten to be on the record. They were songs I had been playing around the bars of Manchester in order to hone into a neat arrangement,” says Harry Stafford.
“I rehearsed with Rob and Vincent and we laid down a foundation, allowing Nick and Kevin to add their unique elements. Their parts were there to compete and yet complement each other. Kevin is a hugely in-demand jazz musician, who graces the funk of Cymande and the smooth grooves of Lamb, not to mention his jazz workshops in London. I wanted Kevin to radiate his love of Miles Davis and send a wave of goosebumps and steely soul through the spine of this sound. Nick, with a guitar born of jagged punk and sinister drones, was to create a brittle edge to balance the beauty.”
The ‘Gothic Urban Blues’ LP is out now via Black Lagoon Records and is available everywhere, including iTunes and Spotify. It can be ordered on vinyl and CD via Bandcamp. The physical release will occur in summer, along with a launch performance by Harry Stafford and Guitar Shaped Hammers, to be announced at a later date.
Harry Stafford: Piano, keys, guitar and vocals
Rob Haynes: Drums, percussion
Vincent O’Brien: Slide guitar, lap blues slide and guitar
Nick Brown: bass and guitar
Kevin Davy: Horns
Written by Harry Stafford
Mixed and engineered by Ding Archer at 6Db Studio
Produced by Ding Archer and Harry Stafford
Mastered by Stephan at Oxygene Music
Released by Black Lagoon Records through Cargo UK BLRCD/LP0054
Photos by Richard Davis
Stafford’s new output is a welcome addition to our listening palette and recommended to fans of blues and raw honest independent music alike – this is gutsy and relevant with a high level of production thanks to legendary sound engineer Ding Archer” – The Spill Magazine
“Rural blues staggard swagger… An almost quirky blend of gritty guitar and raspy horns underlying slightly gritty vocal stylings… a dark stompy serenade for the disenchanted” – Jammerzine
“Winds with assured ease, stepping with a staccato pace and cut with sharply angular guitars. The horns add a warm blast to a cool track that features Stafford’s (dis)passionate vocal exclamations… This is actual, this is relatable, this is great music” – The Big Takeover
“Piano-based blues music along with evocative urban goth storytelling that brings to mind everyone from Nick Cave to Gavin Friday. His sneaky precision on “She Blew Me Away” suggests the Blue Valentine period of Tom Waits” – Stereo Embers Magazine