Stuart Warburton and Jamie Fildes previously worked together in the 1980s as members of the excellent Rhythmaires. When that band broke up, each went their separate ways; Fildes enjoying some minor success with the band Buchanan (who had an 8/10 album review by AUK back in 2010) and Warburton performing as a solo artist. Now they have reunited as the joint songwriters and front men of the newly formed Grain Electric. The Peer Hat, located in Manchester’s artistic Northern Quarter, is an established venue for new bands to find their feet, so it was a natural choice for the band to play only their second gig. Manchester folk are famously not unfamiliar with a drop of rain but this weekend’s deluge made even the hardiest of Mancunians think twice before pulling that old waterproof out of the cupboard.
Warburton began then by thanking a decent sized and enthusiastic crowd for turning out on such a wretched evening before the band opened with ‘What Have We Got to Lose?’ the opening track of Stuart Warburton’s 2012 album ‘Telemark’ followed by a Fildes’ composition, the stomping ‘Cold Hard Moon’ written in his Buchanan days. Thus, the formula for the evening was set as the band wound through songs from each writer, mixing old favourites with new compositions. The concept of ‘British Americana’ is paradoxical to some. Certainly, there are more bad examples than good. However, it’s at it’s best when it adds something to the genre, rather than just imitating it. Peter Bruntnell and Danny Wilson being perhaps the best examples. As they moved effortlessly through their set, it’s apparent that Grain Electric are clearly putting their tally on the right side of that line. The sound is American country, but the words are unmistakably British. The dry humour, the wry wit, the ironic, the sardonic and the plain tongue-in-cheek set them apart from the clichéd copyists and imitators. The aforementioned ‘What Have We Got to Lose?’ is a song of mid-life longing “so you’ve got the odd grey hair, just look at these wrinkles honey, I could say they’re laughter lines, but let’s face it, nothings quite that funny”
Another set highlight was ‘Three Chords and The Truth’, Warburton’s reflection on a life spent playing and performing in bands “I soon found out I didn’t fit down at the local mill, most of my friends got married – some are married still” is quintessentially northern. It’s this ability to successfully marry American music with real life experiences that places Grain Electric amongst a small number of British Americana acts that sound both unique and authentic. Not many bands can engage the quiet listener whilst simultaneously knocking out damned fine tunes that get many of their audience up and dancing. Grain Electric pull it off with ease.
Jamie Fildes’ songs offer balance and contrast to Warburton’s. ‘I Know My Way Around the Sky’and new song ‘Beautiful’ were stand outs. Additionally, Fildes’ song ‘Nothing at All’ has been recorded by Texas songwriter, Rick Broussard and it’s not hard to see why. His economic guitar work also defines the band’s overall sound, embellishing, rather than dominating the songs. The rhythm section of Iain Veitch on bass and Dave Wells on drums impressively hold everything together.
As the evening drew toward curfew time when live music gives way to the ubiquitous club night, Grain Electric finished with a crowd favourite ‘Delores’. The song deals with Warburton’s reaction to an ex who turns up wanting to give their relationship another try. The great singalong chorus of “Delores – You Know Where the Door is” left everyone smiling as they filed out into the gloomy Manchester night. The band have just started to record their debut album but don’t yet have a release date. Tonight, certainly whetted the appetite for it. Whilst waiting for its release, it’s certainly worth tracking down a copy of Stuart Warburton’s criminally ignored ‘Telemark’ album. You’ll be hard pushed to find a better example of British Americana.