David Bowie once said, “Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being. Go a little bit out of your depth and when you don’t feel your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting”. This is often how I feel since I started writing for Americana UK, it’s exciting but I also feel somewhat out of my depth surrounded by colleagues all of whom seem to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of music. This meant when asked to write this feature, which allows writers to advocate for an artist that they feel should be more widely recognised, I had to rack my brains. A few sentences on Steve Earle, Laura Cantrell or many of my other favourite americana performers weren’t going to fit the bill.
In April 2022, at the Ramblin’ Roots festival in High Wycombe, I stumbled upon Pete Gow accompanied by the Siren Soul Orchestra giving a late night, 30 minute preview of his album ‘Leo’ which had been released that day. In May 2019, Gow had called time on his previous outfit Case Hardin and decided to go solo. He’s released three excellent and beautifully arranged solo albums over the past four years, which are filled with characters ruminating on lost love or the challenging situations they find themselves in.
I’ve long held the view that for the past decade or so there’s been a deficit of good brass sections in popular music. The horn infused songs on ‘Leo’ had me hooked, it’s got some of the best brass parts I’ve heard since Dexys Midnight Runners’ ‘Searching For The Young Soul Rebels’ and The Redskins’ ‘Neither Washington Nor Moscow’. ‘Leonard’s Bar’, the seven and half minute epic, which forms the album’s centrepiece, is a tale of characters trapped by circumstance with their fates seemingly mapped out. The same is true of ‘Side III Of London Calling’, which relates the story of a washed up, cynical musician who ends up being “just about as popular as side five of Sandinista”.
Gow has a full time job working as a producer at CBS News and a young family, which means live outings are few and far between. Last May, on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the Wood Festival, I had the pleasure of seeing Gow plus a four piece string section, two horn players, together with Tristan Tipping on bass, Joe Bennett on keyboards and Fin Kenny on drums cram themselves on to a small stage and deliver a perfect set. So if you see a Pete Gow And The Siren Soul Orchestra gig advertised, don’t hesitate to go along, you never know how long you’ll have to wait until you’ll get the chance to see them again.