Peter Bruntnell’s “Normal For Bridgewater” turns 21

Call us gifted with foresight – or maybe it’s just a case of great minds thinking alike – but we had recent cause to feature Peter Bruntnell’s song ‘N.F.B.’ in our regular ‘Song for the Apocalypse’ feature, while ‘By the Time My Head Gets to Phoenix’ – also from the same album – was included in our recent article on ‘10 songs for lovers of great songwriting’.

Now comes the news that to celebrate 21 years of the release of this seminal and influential album on April 20th, Loose records are set to release a special vinyl edition of the record, while on the same day Peter Bruntnell will celebrate its anniversary by playing the album in full for the first time – and will be joined by the original NFB band line-up of James Walbourne on guitar (The Pretenders, The Pogues, The Rails), Mick Clews on drums and Peter Noone on bass.

In 1999 Peter Bruntnell signed to Warner Brothers imprint, Slowriver/Rykodisc and released ‘Normal For Bridgwater’. The album proved to be his biggest commercial success and a record that won him wider acclaim in North America. Upon hearing the album, Kathleen Edwards told her producer when recording her debut ‘Failer’ “I want to make an album like this”.

Peter struck up a friendship with Son Volt, which resulted in them touring together. It also saw the introduction to Peter’s band of James Walbourne, who was 17 years old at the time.

Released in June 1999, ‘Normal For Bridgwater’ was described by the NME as “a diabolic pact between Uncle Tupelo and The Eagles, fired by an inner roar that seems to propel the music beyond its ostensibly prosaic concerns”, whilst Mojo made the album Americana Album Of The Month saying, “I defy anyone not to be moved by the superb songwriting”, and The Independent said that “if this collection doesn’t get him widespread recognition, then the world’s an ugly place. A true and beautiful gem”. 

Special guest support for the live performance of ‘Normal For Bridgewater’ at the Bush Hall on April 20th will be Danny George Wilson (Grand Drive, Danny & The Champions Of The World, Bennett Wilson Poole), with Loose DJs spinning some ’90s alt-country beats between bands.

The album’s title track, ‘N.F.B’, is a sweet and gentle lament: supposedly based on doctor’s code – shorthand for Normal For Bridgwater, occasionally jotted down on medical reports in the cider-crazed Somerset town of the same name –  a practice still not unusual in GP surgeries. Similarly derogatory terms are rife in the lexicon of medical slang, although understandably frowned upon in the modern era – not something that can be said about the ‘Normal For Bridgewater’ album, which will be cherished for many years to come.

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