True To Blues

On the eve of his Mayfest gig, Love and Money writer/singer James Grant denies a tag of being too bleak. Phil Trotter reports.

Glasgow Herald, April 30, 1994

He fronts a band whose songs have been described as bleak, and their writer as neurotic and introspective, not that Love and Money's James Grant is impressed by that critique.

"I take exception to that Dr. Doom stuff. I don't like myself and the band being compartmentalized like that, and anyway, I'm not sure that we ever appealed to that heartbroken student-in-a-garret-type."

The fact is that Grant is attracted to blues music in much the same way as millions of others, and for the same reasons--raw emotions that hit the mark hard. The only difference from the rest of us is that he also writes, plays and sings about them. "I'm trying to crystallize feelings into song, to share whatever has affected me enough to write in the first place," he says a little defensively, as if a defense was required. Somewhat world-wearied from previous record company hype, excess and downright bullying (deliver three hit singles a year, or else), he is refreshingly upbeat about the new album, littledeath, and single "Last Ship on the River" on Glasgow label Iona Records.

He's also well pleased with the freedom the Iona deal allows, and is already well on the way to completing enough material for a second album for Iona, due by the end of the year. A new rehearsal room has also reaped benefits.

"We like getting together up here in the flat and plugging everything into my stereo. It's helped to bind us together as a unit, and it suits our more acoustic sound." On the new album, that sound includes mandolin, fiddle, dobro and harmonica, on top of the band's two guitars, keyboards and drums format.

littledeath has quality stamped across its wide range of styles--from the languid blues "Without Her," through the weighty blast of "Sweet Black Luger" (a sketch for a "kinda novel" Grant is working on), to the swing of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken."*

"In the case of 'Last Ship on the River,' although it deals with urban decline in Glasgow and elsewhere, at the end of the day, the people are still there and still struggling on, despite everything that's thrown at them.

"They're the heroes really, the ordinary folk everywhere who refuse to be broken by the disasters life visits on them every day, that optimism under everything else."

As the rain batters away at the window pane, he looks out and without a trace of irony, says, "I love Glasgow; I wouldn't dream of moving."

So much so, the normally stage-shy Grant has decided the time is right to step back onto the boards for a rare appearance at this year's Mayfest.

He's come a long way on the rock'n'roller coaster since blasting out "Hey Joe" and "Honky Tonk Woman" in The Doune Castle as a 16-year-old, but he hasn't been forgotten if advance ticket sales are anything to go by--tomorrow's gig in the Beck's Tent in Glasgow Green is the fastest selling in the Mayfest programme. The affection he feels for his home will surely be returned.

* He's really talking about the "The Last Ship on the River" EP, not littledeath.

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