ALEX & HANNAH ELTON-WALL
(The Redlands Palomino Company)
"Take Me Home"
(Laughing Outlaw Records)
The first review I ever wrote for the Insurgent Country site (and the first review I ever wrote in English!) was about "By The Time You Hear This...", the 2004 debut of The Redlands Palomino Company. In case you don't know this wonderful group yet, let me quote a little bit from their bio... "They're one of the few UK bands who can credibly and convincingly blend their Americana influences with a contemporary British edge. Over the past couple of years the band have acquired a devoted following, thanks in part to their regular live appearances, which balance alcohol-fuelled raucousness with moments of tear-jerking poignancy. They've also made fans of numerous radio DJs including BBC Radio 2's Bob Harris.
At the core of The Redlands Palomino Company are the stunning crystalline vocals of Hannah Elton-Wall, surely one of the most talented singer-songwriters around. Husband Alex Elton-Wall provides the perfect foil with his gritty lead-vocals and harmonies, while the remaining members are just as important to Redlands' sound: cliche-free pedal steel guitar, chiming 12-string and a full-on rock&roll rhythm section complete the mix. Comparisons have been made with classic Ryan Adams, The Jayhawks and Wilco as well as The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and Exile on Main Street-era Rolling Stones. Few who've seen or heard the band have failed to be won over by their energy, sincerity and heart.
With "Take Me Home", The Redlands Palomino Company have honed their craft to perfection, with a fuller mature sound, courtesy of co-producers Sean Read (keyboard player with Beth Orton, Graham Coxon) and Chris Clarke (The Rockingbirds). From the epic string-drenched title track and the achingly sad "Harbour Lights", to The Faces-like fuzz of "Pick Up, Shut Up" and the power pop climax of "She Is Yours", with "Take Me Home" the band have substantially raised their game, delivering an album with even more variety and charm than their well-received debut."
I'm honoured that Alex and Hannah were kind enough to tell us -exclusively- a bit more about their new album "Take Me Home":
WASTED ON YOU
Hannah: ‘Wasted on You’ is about a man who doesn’t appreciate the relationship he’s in and has a roving eye. I wrote this one while Alex was out at the pub…ha! The theme of the broken down marriage is unconnected to us though, honestly! We’d been listening to a lot of Jesse Malin and I really liked the way his lyrics sort of ran off the tongue in a few of his tracks, notably ‘Almost Grown’ off his first album. I wanted to write something that pounded along vocally, as most of my stuff is a bit less wordy.
Alex: I was surprised when Hannah agreed to let me sing this song, and was over the moon as I think it has such a great melody. It’s great fun to sing and play live.
TAKE ME HOME
Hannah: ‘Take Me Home’ began with an ancient song, a melody and chord pattern that I had been playing with for years. I was utterly sick of living in London at the time and really wanted to move to the countryside (we were planning to move to Wales, where I come from). 'Take me Home' became a bit of a demonstration of my frustration at the time. It’s probably my favourite track on the record. In my opinion the song would be nothing without the pedal steel riff and the strings. I love the way the steel part, despite its simplicity, really drives the latter part of the song – it’s constant and monotonous while the instrumentation around it changes and builds into a climax. The moment our steel player Dave came up with the part the song took shape. I love singing ‘Take Me Home’ it always reminds me of how I felt at the time, and how glad I am we’re not in London anymore!
Alex: The lyrics for this song are pretty straight forward really – it’s just a song about my childhood. It’s a happy song, which may not be particularly cool and rock ‘n’ roll, but I guess all country music can’t be about misery, heartache and being fucked up. Most of our songs are about our personal experiences, and I just felt that being happy was not something to be ashamed of! It actually started out as a purely acoustic song, played much slower and more downbeat, but then when the band got hold of it, it became something else entirely. I love David’s 12 string playing on it, and we just decided to lay more and more guitars on it. When the time came to record the vocals, I actually had a really bad cold and sore throat which explains the growl in the vocal. I kept going back into the booth to redo the vocals, each time getting more and more sore and frustrated. But in the end I was happy with the final take.
PLEASE COME RUNNING
Hannah: This is just a simple love song about the feeling you get when you’re missing somebody but they’ve moved on and are happy with someone else. Classic country music fodder! I like the lyrics to this one for some reason, it was a real ‘quickie’ to write, I remember reading a Neil Young interview (not that I’d put my songwriting on a par with his!) but he said something like “The moment I feel I’m TRYING to write, I stop” and I try to stick to that rule. I think sometimes the first thing that comes into your head shouldn’t be messed about with too much. I never seem to come up with anything worthwhile when I sit down and try to make it happen. I really love doing this song live. The audience always seem to look shocked when the melancholy verse explodes into the chorus!
BURNING IT DOWN
Hannah: ‘Burning it Down’ is about losing something from your past. Like when you go back to your hometown and see that the park has been paved over, or a field where you played is now full of houses. The song talks about a derelict building that’s going to be burned down and redeveloped. It is supposed to be a letter, telling a lover that this old place and all the old memories in it, is going to be destroyed. I like the idea that feelings can linger in a house, or place, or area. The nostalgic feeling of happiness or sadness you get when you visit the street you lived on when you were small, or the woods or park you used to hang around in. I love the thought of derelict buildings, for some reason when you see one you always want to go in and explore in the hope that there might be some personal belongings, or clues as to who lived there, left inside.
Alex: Whilst this song is actually pretty short and only has two verses – it took me a long time to finish. This tends to be the way quite often when I write. I have an initial idea for some chords or a melody, which I just sit on for ages before properly finishing the song off. But then when I actually sat down with a pen and paper to write the words down, they all came flooding out really quickly. It’s just a plain and simple love song – about the fear you have of losing someone, not necessarily in the sense of a relationship ending, but in the sense of something terrible happening to the person you love. I took this song to the band a few times and we started rehearsing it, and it didn’t really work for ages. It just wasn’t sounding right rhythmically, as I had a very strong idea in my head of how it should be. But then David started playing electric guitar on it instead of pedal steel and it all just seemed to click in to place.
SHE IS YOURS
Hannah: I always tend to write songs whilst playing my guitar, but I distinctly remember writing this whilst washing the dishes in our flat. Alex had gone to the shops and when he came back I’d more or less finished. It was about the bands wives/girlfriends and the feeling you get when the person you are going out with/married to is the only person in the room worth looking at. It could have been a gentle track, but somehow it ended up being a full-on wall of noise!
Hannah: For some reason I really fancied writing a song with a coastal feel to it. I wanted to write a song with a story where you could follow the character along. I remember writing this, and it was a pretty strange process. We were rehearsing late at night in a grubby rehearsal studio. The band were playing a separate song, just an older one we were due to play at a gig. While we were playing I couldn’t stop thinking about the melody to Harbour Lights so stuck my fingers in my ears and grabbed some paper and cobbled the song together while the rest of the band carried on making a din! I got to play glockenspiel on this one too – just one tiny bit – but I insisted on it being really high in the mix and it makes me laugh whenever I hear it. I’d like to play the thing live, but I know I’d probably cock it up!
FRIEND IN THE DARK
Alex: This is quite an old song – probably written about 2000. We used to play it live in the early days, and actually recorded it as an early demo before Hannah joined the band. But it kind of dropped out of the live set and we forgot about it. When we came to start rehearsing songs for the recording of 'Take Me Home', I suggested it and we started playing it again. The title kind of explains what it’s about – being there for a friend when they are going through a bad time - but then realising that you actually need them just as much. I’m really pleased with the way the recording turned out – particularly the electric guitar part. It’s nothing complicated, but several of us tried to play a part and it just wasn’t sounding right. I knew exactly what I wanted but couldn’t really explain it to anyone. In the end I played some of it myself and David, our steel player did another electric guitar overdub and we mixed the two parts together. We also got a friend in to play fiddle, which I really love. In hindsight I think I would have actually mixed the fiddle slightly higher in the mix…
DON’T KNOW WHY
Hannah: This is a really old song, one of the earliest ones I’ve written. I was 18 and at University. I was only just getting to grips with playing guitar really and got very excited about bar chords! Probably sleeping too much, drinking too much, definitely smoking too much, I remember writing it feeling thoroughly miserable at the time! It’s still one of my favourites.
PICK UP, SHUT UP
Alex: This song was co-written with two of my friends, neither of which are musicians, but both are huge music fans. We were all living in a squalid flat in North London at the time, and the song came about very late one night, after lots of beer and Jack Daniels had been consumed. We’d been listening to the Stones, the Faces, and the Band all evening at rather high volume which had annoyed the neighbours, so we thought it was about time to turn the stereo off. We then decided to start writing a song as a bit of a joke, and just kind of brainstormed the outline for a story and the lyrics really quickly. Before we even had any music in mind we’d written all the words down on various scraps of paper. I then went and got my acoustic guitar, started playing some chords and it all sort of fell into place. Again, I brought this song to a rehearsal with the band and it just hadn’t really clicked – in-fact, I don’t think we’d ever even really played it live. But I knew it could be really good and really wanted to record it. The real catalyst, was asking our friend Tom Bowen to come in and record some electric guitars for it. He did a cracking job which made the whole song make complete sense. In-fact, we thought he did such a good job, that he’s now actually in the band full time!! I’ve spoken to the friends who co-wrote the lyrics and I think they are suitably happy that we did it justice on the recording, so I guess that’s all that really matters.
TAKE ME HOME (REPRISE)
Alex: When we recorded the track ‘Take Me Home’, our friend John came in to do some strings on it. He’s a fantastic classically trained violinist, and we sent him a rough mix of the track and he scored some music for it. He came down to the studio, and amazed us all by laying down over 25 separate violin and viola parts. They are all there on the final mix of Take me home, but we all felt that what he had created was so beautiful in its own right that it would make a perfect reprise and end to the album.