Stan Lewis, 1927-2018


In southern soul news: I confess I only just registered that Jewel/Paul/Ronn owner and Shreveport legend STAN LEWIS passed away a month ago.

Here’s a great shot my pal Muir Mackean snapped of Stan outside his record store, on the 1985 travels that produced (the newly-reissued) Say It One Time For The Brokenhearted… more detail at

Say it again: the return of my Country Soul tome

Say It One Time42780016

The author copies of BMG’s “30th Anniversary” edition of my first book just showed up, complete with a foreword by country-soul king William Bell (right) dozens of previously-unseen photos taken in 1985 by my accomplice Muir Mackean. Here are the first few paras of the new introduction I wrote for it…

NAMED AFTER an extemporary yelp in the fadeout of Kip Anderson’s bereft 1968 single “I Went Off and Cried,” Say It One Time for the Brokenhearted was my first book. Revisiting it for the second time in 30 years, it feels, in places, as callow and earnest as I was myself at age 26, when I wrote it. I’d retroactively fallen in love with a sub-genre of American popular music that barely had a name, and I was close to evangelistic in my desire to turn people on to it.

The book’s original 1987 subtitle was The Country Side of Southern Soul, its cover sporting an awkward splice of a tuxedoed Ray Charles wearing a Stetson hat. (Tuxedo = soul, Stetson = country: you get the drift.) Brother Ray had, of course, been one of the prime movers in bringing black and white music together—he followed up his groundbreaking Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music albums from 1962 with the even more explicitly titled Country & Western Meets Rhythm & Blues, a.k.a. Together Again, in 1965—but not even he used the term “country soul,” which became part of the revised subtitle for Say It’s 1998 reissue and stays in place for this updated edition. I’m fairly sure I first encountered the phrase in Charlie Gillett’s groundbreaking history The Sound of the City (1970).

As I now look back to the early 1980s, when I first wrote about music for the NME, I ask myself why “country soul” got under my skin to such a degree that I decided to write a whole book about it. Naturally I loved the music, but there was more to it than that: something poetic, something almost mystical. Learning, as a schoolboy, that Aretha Franklin had recorded her breakthrough Atlantic single “I Never Loved a Man”/“Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” in a tiny studio in (of all places) Alabama—engineered, moreover, by a local white man named Rick Hall—gave me a thrill and instilled a curiosity that led me on a long and winding journey to—well, the very studio where Franklin made that record…

Don’t delay: Buy Say It One Time for Brokenhearted here…

hate again


Ahead of the POTUS’ UK visit next week, a limey snowflake writes…


The massed white faces in the blood-red caps

are what the monster sees and what he needs to feed,

but still I ask myself if they believe or merely

blind themselves to creeping evil and to cruelty

they never would have countenanced before.

Are these God-fearin’ folks the enemy

and must I hate them as they hate the likes of me?


For in the end I’m unconvinced they want

the opposite of what I want.

Without the monster stoking fear

they would not sneer

at children torn from Mama’s arms

and would not harden like Good Germans

laughing at old pelted Jews.


If we could talk, not be transfixed

by terror of the Other,

we might see instead we are

a single species in the stars.


I fear it is too late, for they are drunk on hate,

with little left to lose and limitless supplies

of folks who aren’t like them to vilify.

John Niven’s Band classic: A foreword


Bloomsbury are publishing a new edition of John Niven’s brilliant 33 1/3 novella about The Band’s debut album Music from Big Pink. I was very honoured by John’s asking me to write a foreword for it. Here it is…

THE FACT THAT John Niven was just two years old in 1968 – the year in which The Band’s Music from Big Pink was released – only makes his 2005 novella about the album’s inception and germination the more remarkable.

As someone who’d not only been obsessed by The Band since 1973 but had moved a young family to Woodstock largely on the strength of that obsession, I read Niven’s boldly unorthodox contribution to the excellent 33 1/3 series in a state of mesmerized disbelief that a thirtysomething Scotsman could, with such uncanny accuracy, catch the heady geist of that late ’60s zeit.

It was as if the former Wishing Stone – and future author of the caustic Kill Your Friends, the bestselling novel about his coke-crazed days as a London A&R man – had time-travelled back to Woodstock’s Tinker Street and infiltrated the “scene” that coalesced around the demurring Bob Dylan and his musical henchmen the Hawks. What supernatural deal had he struck to pull this off, and which literary devil had he struck it with?

A prosaic answer would point to the telling of The Band’s near-tragic story through the eyes and ears of drug dealer Greg Keltner. This device instantly demystified the curated sainthood of the Hawks/Band as forefathers of back-to-the-land Americana – mystic bumpkins with Homburgs and mandolins. From the moment we first meet Rick (Danko) and Richard (Manuel) in Niven’s story, there’s no mistaking their priorities: drugs, girls, and music, in that order. Which takes nothing whatever away from the magical music they made.

Keltner, who hails from Ontario like four-fifths of the Hawks/Band, is a somewhat feckless but endearingly poetic soul. True, he scores his dope from “Fifth Floor Dave” in the scuzzy East Village, but he quickly gets the point of Woodstock, the tiny Catskills town to which so many dropout boys and girls are beating a path in the summer of 1967. He also gets the point of the Hawks/Band, responding sensitively and meaningfully to the lovely songs he hears in the squat West Saugerties box known as Big Pink – as he does, still more incredulously, to the soulful woe and funky exhilaration of Music from Big Pink itself.

Keltner may be a rock’n’roll parasite but he is not a heinous dude. Plus we know he’s going to wind up broken and desolate in 1986, the year of Richard Manuel’s wretched death. The loose stoner flow of his narrating voice is the perfect medium for depicting the unsteadiness of Woodstock’s bucolic dysfunction in that 1967-69 period, hinting strongly as it does at Niven’s saturation in the more gonzoid strains of 20th Century American prose from the Beats to Pynchon to the so-called “Noise Boys” (Bangs, Tosches, Meltzer) of ’70s rock journalism – and snaring the disorienting vibe of a time and place in which everyday hedonism is evolving a little too rapidly.

I have no idea whether Rick or Richard would have recognized their lives in these pages, but then nor do I have any idea whether Robbie or Levon or Garth even read Niven’s novella. I do know that Greil Marcus, whose chapter about them in his sacred Mystery Train (1975) framed and explained most of what I felt about The Band, was as astonished by the book as I was, rightly acclaiming it as “an amazing piece of work”.

Keltner, in a sense, speaks for every besotted Band fan as he seeks to understand how these five men – these musical brothers – transcended their rather quotidian apprenticeship with Ronnie Hawkins to craft two of the most special records made in the name of “rock”. Espousing half-hearted songwriting aspirations of his own, Greg swiftly abandons them on hearing an acetate of Music from Big Pink. Like Al Kooper and Al Aronowitz in their early Rolling Stone pieces about them – and like the group’s entranced British disciples Eric Clapton and George Harrison – he understands instinctively that The Band has tapped into something altogether deeper than rock bombast or singer-songwriter over-sensitivity. “Now I knew, I really knew,” he confesses, “that Richard – and Rick, Levon, Robbie, Garth – they were a different order of human being from me.”

If there’s something Zelig-like about the novella’s serendipities – the chance encounters with Dylan, his crony Bob Neuwirth and his manager Albert Grossman, even with Lou Reed – they permit perfect cameos from these enigmatic characters. The drawling Arkansas poetry of Levon Helm’s speaking voice is expertly replicated; so is the aloof coolness of guitarist and principal songwriter Robbie Robertson. There’s also the gauzy presence of love interest Skye, a bewitching sprite who distils the appeal of so many liberated late ’60s girls – and who is bedded by the insatiable Rick before Greg can even get near her.

It should be no great surprise that Niven’s next work of “fiction” was the lacerating black comedy of Kill Your Friends. Certainly he was under no illusion that late ’60s Woodstock represented any kind of valid countercultural utopia.

“It seems to me it went fairly quickly from being the hippest place you could go to being almost Touristville,” he said when I talked to him for my Woodstock/Bearsville history Small Town Talk (2016). “It was already becoming a caricature of what it had been. A lot of the people were quite troubled, so there was this notion that ‘If I put myself in some kind of bucolic surrounding, things will get better’. But changing your locale doesn’t change what’s going on inside you.”

Yet Niven’s remarkable book is a testament to the fact that Woodstock’s “locale” did change the Hawks/Band – just as it profoundly altered the course of North American music.

Small Town Talking in the Black Country


“Popular rock author set for talk at Bewdley Book Week” (Weds. 6th Sept)

Yes, I’ve finally made it into the pages of the Redditch Advertiser! So it’s been worth all the aggravation… especially if you’re in the area and want to toddle along to the RIVERSIDE CHURCH HALL in Bewdley (England) next Weds 6th Sept at 7.30 pm and hear me small-town-talking about Woodstock/Bearsville/Dylan/Bobby Charles (and, yes, local heroes Led Zeppelin too).

May Days: Small town talking

9780571309764Never Enough cover

I’m doing the following UK events this month to discuss Never Enough, Small Town Talk (shortly out in paperback), and anything else anyone might want to ask me about…

Mon 15 May 19:30 (MEMBERS ONLY)

Shoreditch House, 1 Ebor Street, London E1 6AW

Weds 17 May 19:30

The Woolpack Inn, 6 Fawcett Street, York YO10 4AH

Thurs 18 May 19:30

Wakefield Beer Exchange, 14 Bull Ring, Wakefield WF1 1HA

Tues 30 May 19:30

Studio 2 Parr Street, 33-45 Parr Street, Liverpool L1 4JN

Small Town paperback, out today


The U.S. paperback of my Small Town Talk is published today by Da Capo. Read more about it here and/or buy it on Amazon here.

“A portrait of the musical life of Woodstock, an idyllic artists’ community that turned into a rock ‘n’ roll soap opera.”
The Guardian, “The Best Music Books of 2016”

A San Francisco Chronicle “Top 5 Rock Biography of 2016”

“A breezy, gossipy read that takes you inside Woodstock, N.Y., during its glory days…The always-erudite rock critic vet Hoskyns effortlessly connects the dots in the notorious town’s history.”—Addicted to Noise, “Best of 2016: Top 5 Books”


Publishers Weekly, 2/15/16
An absorbing glimpse into events that shaped Woodstock, N.Y., into a haven for musicians. Hoskyns’s stunning book highlights some of the most memorable music in American history.

Record Collector, Issue 451
[A] supremely evocative book. Hoskyns has painted his masterpiece.

Rolling Stone, 3/24/16
Goes inside the myth, debauchery and creative fire of one of rock’s legendary towns. Hoskyns’ fascinating new history of Woodstock, Small Town Talk, explores one of rock’s most mythic settings [Hoskyns] pin[s] down the knotty reality behind the tie-dyed myth.

The Guardian (UK), 3/2/16
[An] enjoyable study of the New York upstate village. [A] fascinating account of the epic influence and mysterious magnetism of this Dibley-sized corner of the Catskill mountains. Hoskyns, who appears to have talked to everyone who ever lived here, and amasses their testimony with admirable grace and ease, chronicles the excesses that set in during the ’70s in unsparing detail.

No Depression, 1/28/16
Absorbing and in-depth. Hoskyns so powerfully evokes the feelings and vibes both good and bad of living in and through those halcyon and fraught days. In his pages[he] brings new life to old tales[A] captivating look at this sometimes sad and always fascinating scene that gave birth to Americana music.

Mojo, March 2016
Barney Hoskyns has come up with something novel in Small Town Talk. Instead of focusing on the concert which actually took place 60 miles from Woodstock he nails the magic, and mayhem, of the town which inspired the festival’s organisers to co-opt its name. Hoskyns offers a pitch perfect East Coast corollary to his classic tome on the Laurel Canyon scene, Hotel California. Better, he chronicles the seeds of the Americana movement, whose fetish for rural music resonates louder today than ever.

Financial Times, 7/1/16
Woodstock, the Catskills town where Bob Dylan recuperated after his motorbike crash in 1966, [is] a hippy oasis with a storied place in music history, well related in Small Town Talk.

Austin Chronicle, 6/17/16
Hoskyns examines the small upstate New York town that lent the festival its name and uncovers details long forgotten, and in some cases, previously unknown. There’s sex, plentiful drugs, and all sorts of rock & roll.

Best Classic Bands, 7/29/16
In a word: Illuminating. Small Town Talk is the story of refugees fleeing the chaos and paranoia of the rat race, embracing the peace and nature of this welcoming oasis, making some of the best (and sometimes worst) music of their lives, but ultimately discovering that leaving their demons behind was just another pipe dream.

Spectrum Culture, 8/4/16
Some scribes get it right. Barney Hoskyns is one. The reader is moved at a deep level by the drama that unfolds, as the town’s glory fades or, rather, evolves into something that trades on its past rather than creating an ever-brighter future. A book that will hold you in its grip from cover to cover and encourage you to think more deeply about a town that has seen its time come and go.

Montreal Gazette, 4/11/16
A book that eloquently serves as both tribute and eulogy to what people used to call the counterculture. It’s a clear-eyed look at the bohemia-friendly town where many of rock’s major figures found themselves living, working and playing in many cases, playing very hard indeed.”

Woodstock Times, 4/8/16
Hoskyns has spoken to, or spoken to those who have spoken to, almost everyone who was a player, large or small, on the cosmic-bucolic stage of Woodstock, and his affection for them all is on a par with his scholarship and his love and respect for the music and art they created. What’s really valuable about Small Town Talk is the way the author has tied the disparate strands together and braided them into a single, intimate, extensively researched, and color-splattered narrative. The definitive history of Woodstock’s emergence as a world-renowned musical Mecca.

New York Post, 3/13/16
[Hoskyns] tells the colorful history of this town that began its life as an artists colony in the early 20th century.

Counterpunch, 3/11/15
An in-depth look at the Woodstock music scene, that also provides a history of the artistic inclinations of the town itself Small Town Talk is loaded with legendary stories of rock and roll, some funny, some crazy.

Catholic Herald, 3/11/16
How did a Republican-voting rural town in the Catskills become a magnet for disaffected hippies and its very name a metonym for the entire 1960s counter-culture? This is the question Barney Hoskyns, one of rock ‘n roll’s most engaging chroniclers, sets out to answer in this compelling new book. Hoskyns has written a fascinating, poignant and elegiac book that is about much more than music, success and the gentrification of rural AmericaIn Small Town Talk, Hoskyns has taken this tale of smashed hopes and turned it into an allegory of the American dream and of all Edenic aspirations.

Revival meeting: Gillian Welch in 1997


The release of Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg prompts me to share this MOJO interview with Welch and David Rawlings from December 1997, plus (below) an Uncut review of the very fine Soul Journey from August 2003…

DETACH YOURSELF for a moment and this here’s a pretty rum scene. A raw, callow-looking couple straight out of a Depression-era Walker Evans pic are singing plaintive mountain songs in a bar in, of all places, Chicago – not commonly renowned as a bluegrass town, to my knowledge, even if it is home to Freakwater. They’re doing it, moreover, to the wild applause of the sort of folks who wear combat boots and dye their hair, most of whom seem to know these songs – the song about the V-8, the song about “the dead baby” – by heart and only want more of what the lanky girl and bony boy do so very, very well.

Not only do the couple’s voices blend superbly – the girl’s stark, vibratoless alto shadowed by the boy’s soft baritone – but their guitars, a 1935 Epiphone for the boy and a big reddish-brown Guild for the girl, also intertwine with unearthly neatness. They sing beautiful, chilling songs like ‘By The Mark’ and ‘Orphan Girl’ and ‘One More Dollar’ and the place is simply transfixed. They rev it up a little for ‘Pass You By’ and ‘Tear My Stillhouse Down’ and the effect is just the same.

The girl is called Gillian Welch, the boy David Rawlings, and together they’re responsible, by almost universal critical consent, for the outstanding country debut of 1996. Produced in Los Angeles by T-Bone Burnett, Revival features legends like James Burton and Jim Keltner, but mostly it is just Gillian (hard G) and David, performing quietly together as they do onstage tonight. Since its release last spring, Revival has garnered the duo across-the-board adulation and taken them all the way from the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, where they live, to the Purcell Room in London. At a time when the profile of bluegrass in America has never been higher – when an Alison Krauss can make the Top 20 Album chart and you can’t move for summer bluegrass festivals – they are becoming one very hot property.

The pair first met in 1989 while auditioning for a country band at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, where both were studying. Welch was the adopted daughter of Hollywood television composers, Rawlings a Rhode Island native who’d come comparatively late to the guitar in 1986.

“We both passed the audition,” recalls Welch. “Mainly we played Bob Wills and Buck Owens stuff in the band, but sometimes we’d play a little recreational bluegrass. It wasn’t until later that Dave and I first sang together, just the two of us. We started doing traditional tunes and realised that our voices together sounded okay. Especially as it seems to be a little less common in bluegrass to have the lead on top with a baritone harmony below – you’re a little more used to hearing lead with a tenor harmony on top. It meant that hard as we tried to copy a Stanley Brothers song, it always ended up sounding different.”

A move to Nashville in 1993 was based on the pragmatic decision to reside in a music town. “I’d lived in the Bay Area,” Welch notes, “so I had a feel for what it would be like to stay in a non-industry city and try to come up through the local scene. I’m definitely glad we went to Nashville. It’s been a good place for us.”

The first break came with a writing deal at Almo-Irving, leading in turn to Welch’s signing to Almo Sounds, the post-A&M label formed by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss in 1994. (Welch signed as a solo act for the simple reason that it’s a good deal harder to market a duo.)

“I did an in-person audition for Jerry Moss in the summer of ‘94,” says Welch. “Flew to LA and sat in his office and sang. I knew things were going well when he was singing along to Orphan Girl. And then we made the record about a year later. Didn’t meet Herb until a bit further down the road, although he and Jerry came to see us play at this real neighbourhoody bluegrass dive in Nashville called the Station Inn.”

The latter venue was also where T-Bone Burnett caught the duo the first time, offering his services as a producer should they ever need one. “We talked to nine other producers after we signed our deal,” says Rawlings, “but we kept coming back to T-Bone, because that was who we felt the most in tune with.”

In the end there wasn’t a whole lot of production to be done on the record, though the duo gives full credit to Burnett for adding just enough contemporary feel to the arrangements to rescue it from the cobwebs of Carter Family arcana. The dragging rockabilly groove of ‘Pass You By’ and the spooky Patsy Cline-meets-Cowboy-Junkies feel of ‘Paper Wings’ are certainly two of the album’s highlights.

“We started with the arrangements Dave and I had been playing and recording them live to mono,” says Welch. “Did about a week of that, and then brought in Jim Keltner and [bassist] Armando Campean, plus James Burton on… other stringed things! I feel like T-Bone kind of pushed us to experiment somewhat. We tried some wackier stuff, and then most of it got pared down again.”

The resulting album has been a priceless gift to citybillies searching desperately for some compromise between Alan Jackson and Will Oldham: far from the glitzy big-hair mainstream but not too twistedly outré for the traditionalists. Do they see themselves in any way as part of the fabled “alternative country” scene?

“We’re probably over on one edge of it,” says Welch. “If there’s such a thing as a spectrum…”

“But when people say to us, ‘Don’t you feel oppressed in Nashville?’, we’re like, ‘Well, not really’!”

Is it not ironic – some have even suggested disingenuous – that a couple of middle-class Berklee graduates are reviving stark gospel tunes and murder ballads while Nashville slides ever nearer to Vegas schlock?

Rawlings, who has doubtless been asked this question before, gives it some serious reflection.

“I tend to think that this kind of music is… is, y’know, art. And I think you can make art out of it if you love it. In the ‘60s it was the exact same thing – the people who played folk music weren’t people from the backwoods. But if you really want to authenticate it in some way, Gill was singing Woody Guthrie’s ‘Ramblin’ Boy’ at eight years old! And I’ve spent quite a lot of time outdoors! Doing rural things!”



GILLIAN WELCH, with her hard ‘G’, is indisputably a Good Thing. Tall and slightly gawky, decidedly non-photogenic, Gillian gives hope to all of us who contend that talent should triumph over Nu-Nashville cuteness. No less than revered Ralph Stanley, Gillian – along with paramour/accomplice David Rawlings – deserved the newgrass shots-in-the-arm that were O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Down In The Mountain.

I saw Gill ‘n’ Dave just when they were setting off on their scholarly alt.bluegrass path in early 1997. They were a match made in heaven, Dave’s soft tenor exquisitely shadowing Gillian’s stark, vibrato-less alto as their guitars – a 1935 Epiphone for him, a big reddish-brown Guild for her – intertwined. Backstage they struck me as two of the most decent, honourable – and super-talented – musicians I’ve ever encountered. More power to their ascetic Appalachian shtick, said I.

Of course, back then there were mutterings about the provenance of these blue-ridge ballads of orphans and Walker Evans hillbillies. Wasn’t Gillian Johnny Carson’s daughter or something? Authenticist baloney. If music had to be sociologically correct we’d never have had Tom Waits, Steely Dan, Randy Newman, Prince and innumerable others. Rock’s biggest pitfall is the delusion that it should be a transparent medium for a singer’s ‘identity’ (whatever that is). Which is why musicians conflate their fame with their self-intoxication and fuck up so badly.

Gillian Welch doesn’t pretend she’s some Alabama miner’s daughter. She just loves this music, studies and inhabits it, revives it in the most caring and compelling way. How great those first two Almo records were: Is there a better song than ‘One More Dollar’ (Revival)? Did A.P. Carter ever write a more moving ballad than ‘One Morning’ (Hell Among The Yearlings)?

Which was why I felt the teensiest bit let down by Gillian’s post-Almo Time (The Revelator) . To me it felt like Gill ‘n’ Dave were striving to move beyond their old-timey scholarship – commendable in itself – and not quite making it. Gill’s front-parlour DIY banjo playing was nice but the songs simply weren’t special enough. Not as special, at any rate, as ‘Orphan Girl’, ‘Pass You By’, ‘My Morphine’.

Which is why it gives me so much pleasure to report that Soul Journey is a highly satisfying bridge between the log-cabin museum pieces of Revival or Hell Among The Yearlings and a more rockin’, Basement Tapes-ish Americana. Of the ten tracks, at least two (‘No One Knows My Name’, ‘I Had A Real Good Mother And Father’) are dependably stoical acoustic statements of sorrow and orphanhood. (‘No One Knows…’ is Welch directly addressing the small matter of her own adoption.) Along with ‘One Little Song’ and ‘Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor’, ‘I Had A Real Good Mother And Father’ also gives us the previously-unheard sound of Welch performing without Rawlings or anyone else – just the gal and her guitar, recorded at home in Nashville.

The flipside of Soul Journey is a clutch of songs (‘Lowlands’, ‘Wrecking Ball’) that feature a soup of scrunched electric guitars, loping Richard Manuel drums, scraping Scarlet Rivera fiddle and muted Garth Hudson/Al Kooper clapboard-Baptist organ. The drumming on the album is by Welch and Rawlings themselves, and very Manuel-esque it is too. Among the other players helping out: Son Volt bassist Jim Boquist, dobro wizard Greg Leisz, fiddler Ketch Secor and guitarist Mark Ambrose.

‘Wrecking Ball’, which closes the album and has nowt to do with the Emmylou Harris song of the same name, is just terrific: a very Dylan-ish piece of reminiscence looking back on life as ‘a little Deadhead’, no less. Did Gillian ‘play bass under a pseudonym’? Did she meet a ‘lovesick daughter in the San Joaquin’? The song is possibly more autobiographical than ‘Miner’s Refrain’ or ‘Caleb Meyer’, for what that is worth. Almost as good is the spare, thuddy ‘Lowlands’, which is more Neil than Bob, Harvest to ‘Wrecking Ball’’s Basement Tapes/Rolling Thunder hybrid.

If Gill isn’t delving into her own past or channelling Depression-era orphans, you can usually find her running around with good-time boys and gals. The sauntering, dobro-licked ‘Look At Miss Ohio’ and the blithe fatigue of ‘Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor’ – the album’s first two tracks – set this tone for Soul Journey.

Similarly occupying the middle ground between the family-bible bereavement of ‘I Had A Real Good Mother And Father’ and the electric tie-dye sweep of ‘Wrecking Ball’ are the can’t-go-home-again lament that is ‘Wayside/Back In Time’ and the morose ‘One Monkey’ – the latter the darkest patch on what Welch herself rightly regards as a fairly sunny soundscape. “I wish I were in Frisco with a brand new pair of shoes,” she sings wonderfully on ‘Wayside’, “[but] I’m sitting here in Nashville with Norman’s Nashville blues.” Whoever Norman is…

Soul Journey‘s one unarguable masterpiece is the penultimate ‘I Made A Lover’s Prayer’, possibly the most perfect thing Gill ‘n’ Dave have ever created. It’s so simple, so unadorned, so dreamily lovely that I can barely find words to describe it. Some braided guitar lines, some words about a beloved boy, a puff or two on a harmonica – all combining to make a mood that’s almost divine. Otis Redding eat your heart out: Soul Journey is worth buying for ‘Prayer’ alone.

Loose and laid-back, Soul Journey is a porchlight songbook of a record, a close-to-perfect soundtrack for a country summer. Get on board without further ado.