Western Electric

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Western Electric

Photo: Graham Diss

Western Electric are:
Sid Griffin vocals, guitar, mellotron, harmonica & mandolin, Pat McGarvey bass, vocals, hair gel & banjo, Neil Robert Herd guitars, pedal steel, six string bass & vocals, and Dave Morgan drums, programming, post-production & percussion.

“A deft synthesis of psychedelia, folk, pop, country and trip hop; pedal steel and banjo mate blithely with samples and audio cut-ups…fresh and ultimately a little dizzying…not unlike several different radio stations broadcasting harmoniously at the same time. This is Sid Griffin’s best, most assured, most experimental and most ambitious work.” Billboard (USA)

Western Electric is an artistically successful attempt by ex-Long Ryder Sid Griffin to break free from the straight jacket of tradition which chokes so much of what is called alt-country. By embracing the newest technology and expanding their musical palette Sid Griffin, a bass player, Dave Morgan and Neil Robert Herd have created a new music. They call it “Country & Eastern”.

Three years in the making, the album Western Electric breaks new ground by blending cool, shimmering western guitars, ambient tones, electric 12 strings, sound bites, pop/dance rhythms, pedal steel, mandolin and psychedelia. One of the most adventurous rock/Americana releases of the year, both genre-bending and genre-expanding, their debut CD was stunning and the reviews were proof. (Mojo magazine named “Western Electric” as their Americana Album of the Month.)

Western Electric

Photo: Kim Smith

Western Electric, both the band and the album, is an attempt to do something radically different with antique instruments, modern rhythms and state-of-the-art technology, something akin to Portishead making music with The Jayhawks’ equipment. Samples woven into their bright tapestry include a gospel radio live broadcast taped in South Carolina from the AM dial and DAT recorded sounds from rural Kentucky Baptist churches. Contemporary rhythms invigorate tracks such as The Power Of Glory whilst a trip hop beat backs Emily In Ginger. Guitars are used more like pastels than primary colours. The pedal steel playing by Neil Robert Herd is non-traditional, sounding more like keyboards or organ; the 12 string guitar doesn’t imitate the Byrds and the mandolin sounds more like percussion.

Recorded and mixed in London, various mixes were tried out as part of the experimental ethos. The final album mixes selected were the ones which fit the overall mood of the “Western Electric” album best. And “Western Electric” works both as an adventurous yet coherent soundscape and as a refreshing way out of all the old tired formulas, retaining all the warmth of the great records we know and love. Check it.

The Western Electric album:
Includes a previously unrecorded song written by the late great ex-Byrd Gene Clark called Straight From The Heart. Gene Clark recorded and performed with Sid several times when Sid was in the Long Ryders and was an important inspiration then and now.

Special guest is Robyn Hitchcock, with Robyn’s voice and guitar lending extra tenderness to the unrecorded Gene Clark song. The ex-Soft Boy has never sounded more at home.

Appeared on Gadfly Records in the USA, Munich Records in Benelux and Glitterhouse Records in Germany and central Europe.

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Western Electric hope to have their second album out by the summer 2012. Low key sessions have yielded five songs so far, or as Sid says, “four good songs…Esther Mae’s Butterfly Hearts was of course given to the Coal Porters”.

Western Electric - When You Find OutTwo new Western Electric songs have appeared on compilations in 2006. One compilation is a tribute to Sid’s dear friend Peter Case and the other is the Buffalo Springfield tribute CD Five Way Street (Not Lame Records, USA).

“I have known Peter Case over a quarter of a century and he is in my top five all-time fave musicians along with McGuinn, Aretha, Sir Doug and Magic Sam. The fact the greater world doesn’t know about him only proves to me that the flaming media hoops you gotta jump through to become rich and famous are not the kind of challenges a noble, talented, dignified artiste such as Hamburg, New York’s finest son seeks, knowing full well (as Peter does) that the greatest achievement is in the creation and the love of creating and not, not ever, in the selling or the marketing or the merchandising.” -Sid

Dave Morgan, M.B.E.-drums, sampling, mixing; Pat McGarvey-bass, hair gel, classical guitar, arrangement, lead vocals; Neil Robert-pedal steel guitar, guitar, vocals; Sid Griffin-Rickenbacker 12-string guitar, guitar, vocals; produced by Pat McGarvey & Dave Morgan; recorded by Esther Mae Griffin in London, England.

Pedal steel guitarist and ex-standup comedian Neil Robert Herd is part of the team which won the Academy Award for Short Film in April 2005 for the film Wasp.

This success has slowed Neil editing both concert and behind the scenes footage of the month long Western Electric tour of the USA, so the film has been postponed indefinitely. Herd, seen below on far right in typically bemused countenance, was also the Long Ryders tour manager on their summer 2004 State Of Our Reunion Tour.