Could this be Blowzabella musician Paul James' final farewell to Newbury?
‘Local boy’ Paul James is bringing his world-class band The Drowned Lovers to Arlington Arts on Thursday, May 26, ahead of some dates in Belgium. This really could be his final farewell to Newbury, he tells TRISH LEE
Paul James’ solo album The Drowned Lover and Other Dark Tales draws on his love of traditional folk songs with strong stories and his ability to bring all kinds of musicians and influences together in striking ways.
The band build on that, drawing on folklore, world music, indie rock, funk and jazz, to make a glorious sound that veers from quiet acoustic textures to full-blooded rock and electronica.
Live, they play everything on the album and a few surprising cover versions about life, death, joy and disappointment.
Best known as a member of the veteran folk band Blowzabella, with whom he has toured all over the world and made 12 albums, he’s “the only person in the world who has played on every Blowzabella album! An absolute privilege”, Paul formed The Drowned Lovers to play his solo material.
“I love the old folk songs and the kind of weirdness you find in countless folklore tales – and I do my best to bring these timeless tales alive for modern audiences, so yes, at one point I play a bit of concertina, but mostly we fuse samples, blistering rock, jazz and indie to interpret these songs about love, death – and even death caused by love.
“I always make a point of playing with musicians who are better than me and this line-up is no exception.”
Apart from Paul (vocals and saxophone) the band features Jo Wadeson – bass, Fiona Barrow – violin, Victor Nicholls – guitar, electronica and Emma Holbrook – drums.
“The band are so amazing that singing with them feels like flying! We are quite noisy – it’s more electric rock than acoustic folk – and although some of the themes in the songs are quite dark, we don’t ourselves at all seriously and always have a ball on stage and really enjoy the banter and laughter with the audience.”
A native of Newbury, Paul now lives in Belgium. “I’ve always played in Europe more than the UK, so when Brexit came to pass I made the decision to emigrate.
“My partner, the artist and filmmaker Rosalie Bosteels, is Flemish and we had to decide which side of the Channel we were going to live on. Frankly there are more opportunities in the EU than the UK in the creative industries – add to that the ability to travel, work and study in 27 European countries with no visa restrictions – and the decision to settle in Belgium was a no-brainer.”
“I love visiting England in general and Newbury in particular. I grew up there and have many friends around the area, some of whom I’ve known since I was at St Nic’s primary school.”
“This gig is really important to me. The people, history and landscape around Newbury have always been a big influence and pushed me towards a lifelong obsession with traditional folk music and the everyday lives of our predecessors. West Berkshire Museum and Newbury Library played a big part in my informal education growing up and I never forget that. However, living abroad means that this really could be my final farewell to Newbury.”
The support band on the 26th is HendrickxRoy “I’m delighted that Maia Hendrickx and Calum Roy agreed to join us for the gig.
“I’ve known Calum for most of my life and this duo really are a class act. I’m hoping they’ll let me onstage with them for one song!”
Thursday, May 26, 7.30pm
Paul James and the Drowned Lovers
at Arlington Arts, Snelsmore
Meet the band:
Paul James – vocals, saxophone, bagpipes, piano, concertina. Fiona Barrow – violin. Emma Holbrook – drums, percussion. Victor Nicholls – electric guitar, electronica. Jo Wadeson – bass guitar.
“Transcending time, culture and genre, Paul James and the Drowned Lovers stretch folk music to the edges of definition; fusing samples, blistering rock, jazz, indie ... and traditional song in a white-hot melting pot of songs about death, love – and death caused by love.” NWN (April 2019)
Paul’s solo album The Drowned Lover and Other Dark Tales draws on his love of traditional folk songs with strong stories and his ability to bring all kinds of musicians and influences together in striking ways. The band build on that, drawing on folklore, world music, indie rock, funk and jazz to make a glorious sound that veers from quiet acoustic textures to full-blooded rock and electronica. Live they play everything on the album and a few surprising cover versions about life, death, joy and disappointment.
Paul James, singer and musician, also plays with folk legends Blowzabella. He composed and performed the music for the critically acclaimed Comus at Shakepeare’s Globe theatre, London, in 2016 and you occasionally hear his music on TV and in film documentaries.
Fiona Barrow is a Bristol-based violinist who trained classically until she defected to follow her love of traditional and world music and theatre. She has worked as street performer across Europe with Tragic Roundabout, Fiasco di Casino and Swervy World and toured with the Doppelgänger Gypsy Orchestra. Her theatre work includes stints with Kneehigh Theatre, Travelling Lights award- winning show Into The West on Broadway and the critically acclaimed Comus at Shakepeare’s Globe with Paul James.
Emma Holbrook is a drummer, percussionist and filmmaker based in Bristol. Being passionate about all kinds of music, she plays everything from swing to funk, soul, blues, folk and flamenco. She also plays percussion and composes music for contemporary dance classes and performance.
Victor Nicholls plays improvised and experimental music on guitar and fretless bass. He anchored the fiery folk group Scarp (World Music Album of the Year winner in France), played Albert Ayler-influenced swamp jazz with saxophonist Tim Hill and electronic lounge-core improv with trombone/theremin player Harry Dawes in Big Hair. Victor has played with theatre orchestras, brass bands and post-punk groups. He is a member of Evening Star and a duo with jazz composer Martin Pyne.
Jo Wadeson began playing bass at the age of 14 in the pubs of Derbyshire. Since then she has gone on to perform and record with many international artists including The Waterboys, Grace Jones, Thea Gilmore and Beth Orton.