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Raintown - a sort of review

August 2nd, 2016 (11:02 pm)

Anybody who knows me at all well will be well aware that musically, my favourite group are Pet Shop Boys, and my favourite genre is synthpop, with a fair side order of eighties nostalgic pop in the mix too. But that's not the whole story. Generally speaking, I'm happy to listen to anything that's got clear vocals, a hummable tune, and interesting lyrics. That being the case it should be no surprise that, although I'm no aficionado, country music is a genre which I find generally appealing (I have a particular soft spot for Kenny Rogers' Coward of the County. So when the existence of a burgeoning UK Americana scene - British artists writing and singing songs tapping into the vein of country, folk, and bluegrass music - was brought to my attention, I was naturally, if somewhat casually, interested. Groups such as Luke & Mel and Dexeter, and singers such as Gary Quinn and Lucy May, are regularly putting out the sort of music that I can enjoy, and as well as gigging up and down the country in headline or support slots, are also playing at dedicated festivals such as Country to Country and Buckle and Boots.

Early in 2014 a friend of mine, badfalcon, said that she'd be at a gig in London and would I like to meet up? So I booked my ticket for an event at the East Wintergarden venue in Docklands - a triple bill featuring support from the aforementioned Luke & Mel and Gary Quinn, and headlined by a group called Raintown.

Raintown are a Glasgow-based couple, Paul Bain and Claire McArthur Bain (they married a couple of years back). Their debut album, Hope in Troubled Times, was released in 2012, and the follow-up, Writing on the Wall, came out in October last year, funded by fans through a Pledgemusic campaign and supported by a five-date UK tour.

Hope in Troubled Times is an excellent album in itself, but Writing on the Wall is just that little bit better in all respects, in my opinion. Don't get me wrong - in an ideal world I'd recommend both albums, but if you were to only buy one album by Raintown as a "dipping your toe into the water" album, it'd be Writing on the Wall.



The opening title track is an up-tempo number which to my mind has shades of Cliff Richard's Devil Woman in its lyrics. There are some lovely upbeat songs throughout the album - Right Here with me and It's a beautiful life are both positive and cheerful. Mellower numbers such as If this was a love song and Better Beautiful contrast with those excellently, and we're also treated to do Nineteen Again, written by fellow Glasgow artist Brian Hughes, as well as the haunting Forever isn't long enough and See you again. My personal favourite track on the album is probably Feel much better now, which is positively anthemic (the refrain of "When you feel like letting go/Turn on the radio/And you feel much better now" is a great pick-me-up). Paul and Claire's vocals throughout the album complement each other perfectly, with some great harmonies, the instrumentation is strong and tight, and the whole thing is held together by Justin Johnson's production.



Raintown, like many others in the UK country scene, are very open in their relationships with their fans on social media - there is a very welcoming atmosphere on their Facebook page (along with jokes about how a picture of their dog Bella will get more likes than one of their guitarist Stevie!). This has, sadly, led to an encounter with at least one internet troll. However, unlike many people who've had such problematic situations, Raintown have at least been able to immortalise this through the medium of song - another of the album's highlights, Shut the front door, which shifts gear from a slightly Bon Jovi-esque intro into a positive hoedown.



Despite two strong albums to their name, Raintown are most in their element playing live dates. Paul and Claire have an obvious exuberant joy as they share their songs with audiences, and their growing fan base reflects this with an infectious enthusiasm at gigs. Main guitarist Stevie also contributes to the cheerful atmosphere at their live shows. As well as festival appearances, they've played a recent live headline date at prestigious Glasgow venue King Tut's Wah-Wah Hut, and a support slot to venerable Scottish band Runrig at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire, and later this month they'll be supporting fellow UK country act The Shires at Cottingham Folk Festival. I'm not sure what live dates, if any, are planned for the foreseeable future after that - Claire is expecting their first child, a girl, in October, which may well limit their live dates for a while. But if you get the chance, I highly recommend seeing them live (their mashup of their own song Love's got a hold on you with country classic Jackson is worth the price of admission alone). But whatever you do, if you like pop/rock with a strong country influence from a likeable, charismatic band who have several BCMA awards under their belt already and are clearly going places, I strongly recommend checking out one or both of their albums.

Comments

Posted by: Icarus was a test pilot (galwithglasses)
Posted at: August 3rd, 2016 01:38 am (UTC)
Farmall H

Hey, thanks for the write-up. I'll listen as soon as I get a chance. Have you listened to any of the US americana acts? Anyone you like there? I'm not sure who the latest voices are but some of the older stuff, I really enjoy. I come at all of this from the folk and bluegrass bit so some of the earlier UK folk and traditional acts are pretty familiar. These folks are new to me and I'm looking forward to listening.

Posted by: David Brider (davidbrider)
Posted at: August 3rd, 2016 07:54 am (UTC)

I haven't really, no - it's stuff that I like listening to - if I hear it on the radio or TV or whatever - but it's never really been stuff I've sought out. But if you've got any names to recommend, I'll check them out. :-)

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