Last week Marlborough’s Barrelhouse covered over yet another bit of dusty space on the increasingly crowded trophy shelf when Gloucestershire radio station Severn FM’s audience voted them band of the year 2020.
This follows the recent success of their new album – ‘Mainline Voodoo’ breaking in to the UK’s national Blues Top 40
Locally based but gaining National following Barrelhouse ‘sort of came together’ six years ago three local musicians met at a rehearsal studio with the idea that they may form a band – there was no particular purpose or goal other than having fun. It’s always the best that start with no design.
The three were Tim Harvey, a guitarist who builds his own guitars, using cigar boxes and antique warming pans in addition to more traditional guitar making materials, Dan Collins a local blues harmonica player and a drummer called Dave Growcott, all of whom had previous success within the music scene, recording and touring with a range of bands, we excited by how they sounded and instantly jelled. It worked and Barrelhouse started to take shape.
But to make it work properly they needed a good vocalist who could turn his voice to almost any type of blues and a decent bass player.
They found a vocalist. Martin Hands, a young and impressive blues influenced, vocalist who had been turning out with Wiltshire Blues Sessions once a month to learn his craft was snapped up quickly. Miraculously Wilshire Blues Sessions also delivered a bass player, two in fact – Nick Beere and Stuart Whant.
Nick is a bit more than just a bass player. He has his own recording studio (Mooncalf) where he engineers and produces.
Stuart a bassist and song writer who despite playing in three bands at the time accepted the invitation to audition with the guys and subsequently joined.
They named themselves Barrelhouse after the US Juke Joints and Illegal drinking establishments (very Marlborough….) and became a local gigging band and were happy with that.
In time Dan moved on due to the demands and growing success of his other band – Poplar Jake and the Electric Delta and so Nick Beere was invited to join as permanent blues harp player.
Three years ago in 2017 they recorded their first album, Mooncalf Blues at Nick’s studio and launched it via CD Baby and sending it out to the UK independent radio stations more in hope than anything else. To their astonishment it got a great deal of airplay and made the independent blues top 40 chart where is stayed for three months reaching the top 20.
Their reputation started to build, but not just locally. Playing several local festivals including the Swindon Old Town Festival, Marlborough Jazz Festival and Mantonfest as well as many other gigs they set about writing their next album.
They starting with the title track – Mainline Voodoo a song about a dancer spotted at a free festival in New Orleans. The album was recorded over a weekend at Nick’s studio in late 2019 and launched via CD Baby to the world at large and once again to the UK independent blues stations. This second album sub titled ‘a collection of bluesicana’ marked the development of the bands unique take on their ‘hard edge groove’ upbeat blues style.
Again the album charted in the independent blues chart and UK airplay followed including some local promotion via Devizes station Fantasy FM. Airplay spread far and wide across many countries from Morocco to Brazil.
But, with the COVID lockdown the much awaited album launch gig didn’t happen until Halloween (nor did the plane tickets to Brazil and Morocco) and was much scaled down but it was a rare opportunity for the band to play live to an unusually sedate, seated and table served audience. Local musician Eddie Witcomb was also invited to launch his EP entitled The Pen at the same gig.
As for just about every other band 2020 was pretty barren for live performances. Rust, lots of it but little chance to get that polished off in front of real crowds.
They did manage to fit an acoustic outdoor gig in at the Oddfellows Manton’s live lounge events which provided dinner with accompanying music just before the recent lockdown and before shutting up shop for Christmas. There will be more live lounges just as soon as conditions allow.
Hi Meanwhile, one supportive radio station – Gloucestershire Severn FM nominated Barrelhouse amongst the 13 candidates for their band of the year awards 2020 – a publicly voted award. On the 12 January 2021 the station put on a three hour show to name the winners and runners up of several categories – best album, best solo singer, etc, etc.
Stuart Whant who was listening in noted the quality of the material being played. The fourth, third and second placed artists in the ‘band of the year’ category had been announced and their music played. Feeling pleased to be nominated alongside such good quality acts and material he took himself to bed to relax and listen to the last 30 minutes of the show.
The DJ Trevor Howard – known as Dr Wart Hoover announced, “and now for band of the year 2020” – to Stuart’s shock – he then said – “and the winner is ……………. BARRELHOUSE!!!!” The tones of Red Right Hand (one of the few cover tracks on the album) rang out. The bands social media activity kept him awake and busy for a further two hours! Dr Wart Hoover went on to say, “now they are not just Marlborough’s finest but also Severn FM’s finest”. The band are absolutely delighted to have been recognised by the voting public and want to thank everyone who voted for them. So that’s the inspiring story about the art of the possible when a classics teacher, a local authority project manager, A motorbike mechanic, a management consultant and a music producer/musician get together and share their love for blues focused foot stomping music and perhaps like Peter Pan, never want to grow up.
Next? – Perhaps a third album and hopefully a headlining performance at Mantonfest – either this year, or if Covid shuts much of the summer down it could be 2022.
You can find their album Mainline Voodoo (a collection of bluesicana) on all music download sites and grab it on CD at Sound Knowledge Marlborough. Or for a sample of the title track click below: