The Return of the Rockingbirds
As Wikipedia says, so cogently – “The Rockingbirds were a British country band, formed in London in 1990. They disbanded in 1995.”
Change the tense of that statement – they are back with us – to be fair, the Wikipedia entry does go on to mention the reformation, but that wouldn’t have been as effective an opening…
For those of you who don’t know, or have never heard of the band, they surfaced at a time when it was the most un-cool thing in the UK to acknowledge a preference for country music and despite having the charm of the outsider, they never really caught on, despite a small but committed following and rave reviews for their music by those who “got” them…
In 2008 the band reformed – originally as a one-off at a showpiece gig for Heavenly records and also to tie in with the 15th anniversary of their exquisite first album. Requests came in and a short tour followed, Glastonbury and other festivals booked them – and as a result the band are giving it another go. Since their initial demise, Alan Tyler the singer has been continuing to plough a country furrow with his Lost Sons of Littlefield group and also as the organiser of a “Come on down and meet the folks” Sunday residency in London. Guitarist Andy Hackett is a regular figure in Edwyn Collins’ band, as is keyboardist Sean Read. So, the new incarnation of the band is fitted in amongst other pulling interests, but the desire is strong to move it on – the morning after my band supported the Rockingbirds, Andy and Sean were off to Manchester airport to fly to Cologne to play a gig with Edwyn Collins, followed by trips to Japan and the USA – inbetween that, on the days off, the backing tracks for a new CD are going to be put down.
The band have released two albums – the re-release of their first album pulled together various B-sides and rarities and is a great starting point to get acquainted with the band. The second album appeared without much promotion and even now the band play very little from it – according to drummer Dave Morgan, they can’t remember many of the tracks on it! This set-list from a gig at Buckly Tivoli in North Wales reveals a mix of first and second CD tracks and covers –
The current set that the Rockingbirds played at our shared gig at The Rigger in Newcastle-under-Lyme on 20th February 2011 contained a fair proportion of the first album and almost half a set of sprightly new material – Sean Read takes on more keyboards than in the previous incarnation and Andy Hackett now ventures onto electric mandolin – the sublime pedal steel of Patrick Arbuthnot (an engineer by day – a musical genius by night) still pins it all together.
Let’s hope that the band have better luck this time – the new material is written and sounding fine and they’re even thinking of recreating the front of the old album cover for their third release, in front of the squat where the band were based. The only drawback to that is that drummer Dave hasn’t got his old leopard skin jacket that he wore on the cover…I’m sure Photoshop could do something about that…
Lone live the Rockingbirds!
Photos taken at The Rigger, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs – UK, 20th February 2011 by yours truly.
Video from their first reunion tour – “Jonathan Jonathan” – my recording –