Manchester-based indie music stalwart Harry Stafford presents his new single ‘Painted Ocean’, inspired by the musings of such Jazz and blues stalwarts as Mose Allison and Hoagy Carmichael. Painted Ocean’ is a smokey, barroom piano-blues, lament.
“Inside this great box of water inside this bucket of trash”, ‘But despite the trash and the plastic and the pollution I’ll take it all because . . . I still have you . . .’ aww. “There’s only you.”
“This is a message that riffs on a sublime ‘painted’ ocean, which, while once was a heaving beautiful living thing, is now a dump!” says Harry Stafford.
This is the second taste of his forthcoming album ‘Gothic Urban Blues’ with Guitar Shaped Hammers. 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.
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. In January, Stafford released the lead track ‘She Just Blew Me Away’.
Led by Harry Stafford, best known as founder, guitarist and vocalist of post-punk gothic rockers Inca Babies, the band’s core includes drummer Rob Haynes (The Membranes, Inca Babies), trumpeter Kevin Davy (Lamb, Cymande), guitarist Andy Mills, 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’, released in December 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, out in March 2020, 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.”
As of February 28, ‘Painted Ocean’ will be available as a digital single. The ‘Gothic Urban Blues’ LP will be released on March 27 via Black Lagoon Records on both vinyl and CD. Already available to order via the artist’s Bandcamp, it will also be available digitally everywhere, including iTunes and Spotify.
The launch party for ‘Gothic Urban Blues’ will take place on Saturday, April 4 at The Fitzgerald in Stevenson Square, Manchester. Harry Stafford will be joined by Guitar Shaped Hammers.
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