Before the current wave of so-called Americana, there was Lambchop. Straight out of Nashville, Tennessee and formed in 1986, Kurt Wagner's charges haven't really slotted neatly into genre, as such, preferring to mix their core alt-country sound with string-laden soul or lounge-flavoured jazz-rock. With baseball caps, checked cotton-shirts and lyrical references to outback intelligentsia, Wagner's muse of choice appears to be a bottle of good beer, a packet of quality lung-chuggers and a wealth of books and art, rather than Jim Reeves, Hank Williams or Woody Guthrie. But his songs and delivery are beautiful, languid and unique - his band are the icing on the cake.
Talking of art, he's recently exhibited paintings in his home-town, as part of the "Eight Musicians Who Make Art" exhibition in Nashville which also featured images created by friend Wayne White, who pieced together the excellent sleeve for Lambchop's pioneering and heartily recommended 2000 album, "Nixon". Talking of which, have a listen to the near cross-over smash from that album, "Up with People", which in anyone's language is a fine piece of gospel-driven country soul. Fragile yet resonating baritone Wagnerian vocals, strings, simple hooks and soulful backing singers - it's a winner and a tad more upbeat than usual.
News of a new Lambchop is normally greeted with critics fawning and baying for live shows - and they've got them. The album, entitled "Mr M" and their first since "OH (Ohio)", appears in February just prior to their first UK/Ireland tour since their sold-out tour in 2008. First stop is the Barbican in London on 1st March, followed by stops in Dublin (3rd), Gateshead (4th), Glasgow (5th), Manchester (6th - it's at the city's impressive cathedral) and finally (and very aptly) The Fleece in Bristol (7th).
We will have tickets for the shows on Friday, except for Manchester which hits the servers on Saturday morning at 9am.