Searching for St. Jude – Stephen Cracknell on Pete Greenwood’s ‘Beauceron’

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Singer-songwriter and Heavenly alumnus Pete Greenwood has just followed up his critically acclaimed 2008 debut ‘Sirens‘ with this year’s ‘Beauceron’. The album was produced by Stephen Cracknell, who reflects on their time in the studio in the extract below.

“All we could hear were the helicopters. Lou had come by train all the way from the West Country and we had one day to record her vocal for “St. Jude” in the abandoned school with no sound-proofing where I lived. This was to be our last day of recording, the old school stood on the edge of the old city next to the burial ground for non-conformists and radicals. Perhaps it was predictable that we chose a day when London was overrun by a demonstration which turned into a riot and the air was filled with helicopters. In the end we got one full take before Lou had to leave and of course she nailed it, that I never doubted.

The fine producer David Wrench recently tweeted some recollections from his time recordings some legendary recordings at Bryn Derwen studios. In one he stated very elegantly “Generally speaking, if a band turns up and are burying bin bags full of drugs in the woods, they are unlikely to end up getting signed.”

There were no bin bags buried during the making of this album, but similarly if a singer-songwriter turns up at your door to make a record and talks about wanting it to sound like Neil Young’s “Tonight’s The Night” and old Townes Van Zandt records then it is perhaps not surprising that external factors like police helicopters should loom large in the making of the record and that it might take a little journey of uncertainty before reaching people’s ears.

“Won’t you turn your lights down low, if nobody asks me then no one will know” St, Jude

No one had asked us to make an album, Jeff Barrett at Heavenly got me in to record some b-sides with Pete just before the label went into a temporary hiatus while the record business went into another of its regular tailspins. Jeff went fishing for a couple of years and I ended up walking the chalk hills of Southern England in search of a lost road, but Pete had an album of songs and although I have no record of producing for other artists I do have a fondness for Tonight’s The Night and old Townes Van Zandt records. The songs I heard Pete playing to me on his trusty old Martin stayed with me, so we ploughed on regardless and put our faith in the patron saint of lost causes.

Many of the members of The Memory Band made contributions; Tom Page from Rocketnumbernine played drums, Jennymay and Laura from The Elysian Quartet did the strings, Sarah Scutt played accordion and Lou Rhodes sang so beautifully while the city was in chaos all around us. But mostly the album is Pete, playing and singing and doing the things he does so well, weaving pictures of the World he sees around him, of Leeds and London and the spaces in between.

Now a few years later the album is being released on Brown Leather Jacket Records and I get a chance to listen back, to remember the people and places from another time not all that long ago and everyone gets a chance to hear these songs I first found so beguiling. Songs like The Lowest Love, 24 and Counting, Don’t Go Out Anymore and Meet Me By The Bower as well as the singles Me and Molly and The 88. I’m glad we persevered, the album is named Beauceron after “a big fuck-off French dog” in Pete’s own description. It is messy in places, tender in others. I tried not to get in the way too much and to simply capture what Pete wanted as best I could. He has a unique voice and one I think should be heard. I think we did okay.”

The album is available to order here.

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