Words by James Shakeshaft
Art courtesy of New West.
I first came across this 5 piece after meeting Sam Doores whilst he was touring with Hurray for The Riff Raff in Manchester back in 2014. In that evening my musical horizons were broadened. After all, it’s not every day you see a cowboy slinking down Manchester’s Northern Quarter. The songs he sang were simple and true and the same can be said for The Deslondes where he plays alongside, Riley Downing, John James, Dan Cutler and Cameron Snyder. The band is diplomatic by nature, with all members contributing to the wholesome tones in their records and their latest release is no exception.
This spring I took a trip out west to the States. My first stop was New Orleans, and as soon as I arrived I was greeted by stormy skies and humidity in the air. Despite having been awake for 20 odd hours, I decided I couldn’t call it a day, knowing what was happening that night down at Mags, a venue down on Elysian Fields. So I jumped in a cab and after passing the St Louis Cathedral, flying down the road parallel to the Mississippi, the source of so much music I’ve come to know and love, I arrived. In every sense of the word. As I stepped onto the pavement I was greeted by familiar faces, Louisiana locals as well as a few folk from Leeds. Surreal. As I entered, The Deslondes were about to start their set and the whole time I couldn’t shake the feeling of community in the place, it was like nothing I’d ever experienced and for me that’s what this music is all about. Everybody danced, not like back home, where a few drunken folk dance ironically whilst wallflowers hang by the bar, I mean everybody. And with each other, not necessarily out of romance, just for pure enjoyment. Suddenly this world that seemed so far removed and untouchable was laid out in front of me and I was part of it. This was the first time I got to hear a lot of the songs from ‘Hurry Home’.
From the frantic ‘Hurricane Shakedown’ by John James to the delicate harmonies of Dan Cutler’s ‘Beautiful Friend’, this record is filled with dynamic changes, all tied together by the warmth created by both the musicians and production. It’s real in every sense of the word, you don’t have to listen hard to realise that. Songs of love, working, heartbreak and humour that just about anyone could empathise with. With song names like (This Ain’t A) Sad Song and She Better Be Lonely, they don’t hide behind personas, everything is laid on the line for the listener to hear and, for the length of the record, to live. It’s an organic transition from their self titled debut, punctuated by the release of their foot stomping cajun single, Tres Grand Serpent and B side What Are They Doing In Heaven Today- a gospel number featuring the marvelous Twain .
I’ve never known an album like this. Every song brings something so unique yet so fitting to the table- from the Cactus Blossoms esc ‘Just In Love With You‘ which sounds like it could’ve been performed by Patsy Cline or taken straight out of a David Lynch film, to the nostalgic opening from Riley Downing with ‘Muddy Water‘ (which I first remember hearing him sing at Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club last year, a real hair raiser). The highlight for me is the final song on the record, Déjà Vu and A Blue Moon. The simple warning of ‘get what you want but be careful’ is harrowing and like many of the 13 originals on this album is backed by wonderfully sluggish percussion and melodies that could make anyone lonesome.
In an age of arguably more social isolation, setting foot into this circle of musicians and supporters is a firm reminder of music’s purpose. It brings people together and makes people travel silly distances to be a part of it. Or is that just me? But at the center of all these artists I support are The Deslondes and their latest release only further cements that.
The Deslonde’s album Hurry Home is out now on the New West label