Acton baby

Showcasing a new full band sound, Case Hardin’s latest album Colours Simple is a collection of kicked around, country-rock songs populated by prostitutes, drinkers, lost souls and losers.

I invited the group’s singer-songwriter, Pete Gow, down the pub to tell me more…

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Colours Simple – the superb new album from West London alt-country act Case Hardin – is a record that sounds like it’s been on a late night drinking session in the heart of the city, hung out in some casinos and massage parlours, talking to the lost and lonely, and then staggered off home in the wee small hours, as the sun rises over Acton.

To find out more about the record, I met up with the band’s singer-songwriter and frontman Pete Gow in a North London boozer…

I want to talk about the stunning, eight-minute album opener Poets Corner, which sounds like something Springsteen would’ve written if he’d lived in Acton, rather then New Jersey…

Like a lot of this album, it has a big, full band sound – there’s some serious rock guitar from Jim Maving in places…

Pete Gow: As it was coming together in my head, I couldn’t get away from that backstreets feel. I wanted to write something in a longer form and I’d decided it was going to be more of a guitar-based record…

Poets Corner is old school Springsteen and I knew I wanted that Phil Spector ‘bom-bom-bom’.

The title Poets Corner comes from the name of a place near where you live in Acton, West London. There’s an area called the Poets Corner Community Garden, where one freezing cold January afternoon you sat on a bench and turned some of your songs into this album… Can you elaborate on that?

Poets Corner is also mentioned on another track on the album – High Rollers. What’s so special about that place?

PG: I write for an album. If we’re going to do a new record, I will go off and write for three months. I’ve usually also got one or two songs hanging around… I don’t write all the time, or carry a notebook around.

But on this occasion [after making the last Case Hardin album PM ] I just carried on writing – I’d just moved to West London and I was writing without consequence. I didn’t think I was writing for another record, as we’d just recorded one, but the songs just kept on coming.

Poets Corner – the place – is nothing and it’s everything. It’s tiny – it’s where two houses intersect. It’s jam-packed full of plants and there’s a mural that the local school kids painted. It’s a piece of communal ground and there’s something quite quaint about it…

So, is this album your Acton baby?

PG: I guess it is [he laughs].

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It sounds like a record that has been hanging out in bars, visited some gambling dens, stayed up all night talking to some lost and lonely characters and then walked home in the early hours of the morning…

PG: It feels like a city album, because I moved into one. I lived in Berkshire before. The writing of Colours Simple coincided with my move to London. I was absorbing stuff and hanging out in different places.

Before I moved to Acton, I lived in Brixton for six months. The song The Streets Are Where The Bars Are (The Bars Are Where The Girls Will Be) was written in Brixton, where I felt wide-eyed and touristy. It was a welcome to the jungle kind of thing.

That track is a good, old-fashioned rock and roll song, isn’t it?

PG: It’s just a good night out – I can’t remember how much of it is made up and how much of it actually happened.

Which is usually the sign of a good night out, to be fair…

There are lots of stories and characters in your lyrics. How many of them are based on real life and how many of them are fiction?

PG: Some of it is made up…. but for a song like Champeen [off the PM album] I had to take a journalistic approach and do some research, so there’s some kind of factual correctness.

High Rollers [on the new album] is an extension of the Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt story song, but with a Nick Cave twist to it – everything always goes wrong.

The album’s liner notes, which were written by journalist Mark Phillips (the senior foreign correspondent for CBS News), mention your day job as a TV news producer.

He writes that you keep your two lives separate, because you’re happier playing songs about imaginary bad women who’ve done your wrong, rather than bad people who caused actual death and destruction… But do any of the things that you see in your day job end up in your songs?

PG: I don’t travel as much as I used to, but some of the work I’ve done in the past would’ve been an easy route into political writing, but that’s not something that I’d ever wanted to do – I don’t have a huge amount of confidence in my own politics. I’ve used those experiences – it would’ve been negligent as a writer not to – but they come out in a more visual sense.

Cheap Streaks From A Bottle – the first single from the album – features The Reservoir Dogs brass section. It’s rollicking country-soul. What were you going for with that track?

PG: The record was recorded at [producer] Chris Clarke’s Reservoir Studios in North London. He’s the bass player in Danny & The Champions of the World and he’s been a record producer for many new years. He’s one of the cornerstones of the North London music circuit and he was in The Rockingbirds.

He came up with the idea of brass for that song. We knew there was something missing. If you like Case Hardin’s first three albums, then Cheap Streaks From A Bottle and Poets Corner are worth your ten pounds to see where we can take it… We try and branch out.

There are also some classic, ‘traditional’ stripped-down Case Hardin country songs on the new album – High Rollers, with Hana Piranha’s violin – and A Mention In Dispatches, which also features Hana…

PG: Both of those tracks could have sat on our PM record.

Fiction Writer is one of my favourite songs on the new album. It reminds me of some of those great early Ryan Adams tracks, circa Heartbreaker and Gold, when he was making his best solo stuff, rather than wasting his time doing soft rock or Taylor Swift covers…

PG: I’ll take that as a comparison – right up to – and including his album 29 – Ryan Adams was kind of the key figure that prompted me to go and write something, or, if I was in the process of writing, to try and write better.

Jesus Christ Tomorrow Morning has a real raw, ragged, country-rock sound. It sounds like a song that’s been lived-in and kicked around…

PG: It’s one of those songs that I’d had a hook for a long time ago, but I’d never liked the lyric. I found it in an old lyric book and I rewrote it. It comes in at just under two and a half minutes and if it didn’t have ‘Jesus Christ’ in it six times, it might even be a single…

There are some wonderful lines in Another Toytown Morning – the closing track on the album.

I particularly love the phrase, ‘open up these scars with pedal steel guitars – lost to the lonesome and high’. 

It’s as if you’ve summed up country music in a nutshell.

There’s some great imagery: ‘an airless room and a bottle of wine, a turntable and some old Patsy Cline….’

Tennessee Williams’ ghost puts in an appearance, too…

PG: That’s why we all do this – because we can be driven to tears by sticking on an old Patsy Cline record. I’m sure I picked Patsy Cline becomes it rhymes with wine. You try and find a drink that rhymes with Kristofferson…

 

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Colours Simple – the new album from Case Hardin – will be released on Clubhouse Records on September 18.

For more information: http://www.casehardin.com

 

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