On The Ground Where John Wesley Walked
A new single ‘On The Ground Where John Wesley Walked’ will be available as digital download from iTunes and other online music stores from 7 April 2011.
Recorded with Chris Clarke at Reservoir Studios it features flute by Clive Bell and cello by David Barbenel.
A sleeve by Inga Tillere.
Catalogue no: RADIO JOY DD05
After the slaughter the fields stood silent, empty and silent, the footpaths and bridleways closed
The Band Of Holy Joy follow up January’s Oh What A Thing, This Heart Of Man single with the download-only double A-side On The Ground Where John Wesley Walked c/w The Black Middens on their own Radio Joy label, again drawn from the six-part radio play The North is Another Land broadcast on Resonance FM last Autumn.
A double racket of rural northern punklore that harks back to other spaces, other times, whilst speaking most presciently of the state of mind of this land as it is right now and all the while serving as a savage prayer for better brighter days to come.
To celebrate the release, the Band Of Holy Joy will be performing a special show for Easter Week at the venerated St Pancras Old Church in London on Thursday 28 April.
The Band Of Holy Joy were formed out of the 80s South London squat scene by Newcastle émigré Johny Brown. After a hiatus during the 90s, where Johny concentrated on various other projects, they returned in 2002 with the album Love Never Fails on Rough Trade. Since then, eschewing the traditional album-tour-album treadmill, the band have chosen to explore other media, launching their own internet radio station Radio Joy in 2007, and presenting the play Troubled Sleep at the Shunt Theatre in London and The Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle in 2009. Johny has also hosted the immensely popular Mining For Gold show on Resonance FM for a number of years.
The Band’s 1987 track Who Snatched The Baby? was recently included on the MOJO magazine CD, Panic: 15 Tracks Of Riotous 80s Indie Insurrection. Nearly a quarter-century on, The Band Of Holy Joy are as relevant as ever.
Here comes hope, here comes faith, here comes clarity
Gerry Ranson, MuleFreedom PR, March 2011
The Band of Holy Joy are back with a double download single “On The Ground Where John Wesley Walked / The Black Middens” on the 28th of April. In between his trip to the gym in preparation for a tour of Greece and an afternoon stint on the touchline as manager of a youth football team, I grabbed a chat with the man behind swirling epics like the recent “Oh What a Thing This Heart of Man”; singer, songwriter, playwright, broadcaster and long time Stoke Newington resident, Johny Brown.
Originally formed on the squat scene back in the 80′s and tagged onto the burgeoning industrial movement, more by accident and their refusal to use conventional instruments than any metal pounding angst, the band enjoyed success until they quietly disbanded in the mid 90′s. Leaving Brown to develop his writing and theatrical ideas, subsequently taking his plays to the Edinburgh Festival. And, more recently, to produce his acclaimed Resonance FM show “Mining For Gold” a mixture of “sound and text, obscure stuff culled from out of the ages, visionary and rare artists that inspire us in the here and now”.
Reforming ten years on, a continuing lyrical fixation with the seedier sides of life and a desire to write “English vignettes” led a stripped down version of the band to take a hiatus from the conventional live group format and work on a series of his ‘song plays’. “Troubled Sleep” performed at the ground-breaking art/music/happening ‘Shunt’ and taken on the road to his home town of Newcastle, was inspired by observing the comings and goings of a certain N16 beds-by-the-hour hotel, which shall remain unnamed.
Now back in a more conventional live format of vocals, guitar, fiddle, bass and drums, the band have been steadily releasing stunning, beguiling records that seem to allude to our broken cities, dreamlike landscapes, lost values and renewed hope – “I have concern about the cities..” – summoning up the sublime and the kitchen sink in equal parts. “..I feel we are making a stand for the romantic heart, for forgotten things – tenderness, dignity – things that are not ironic. We aren’t a sarky finger-pointing band, we write from dark to light”.
Like the The Waterboy’s wild flowers growing on The Fall’s poisoned wastescapes or the film of Gormely’s ‘Angel’ before installation: prone and paraded at night through the crowded streets of a shipyard town like some contemporary folk fire-festival, old skills and half forgotten crafts are involved – “we started out using old fashioned instruments found in junk shops” – and the city, the industry, the ritual of making and the ritual of celebration is never far away. With comparisons to Brecht and Brel thrown around in the early days – “..mandolins, trumpet, battered trombones..got us noticed by the press, but really they were all we could afford – more importantly, they shaped our song writing and what we listened to”, what began in folk music’s rustic simplicity, has grown into cinematic soundscape. “It’s important for us to capture a time and a place with a song, I’m not into religion but I’m inspired by the idea of people having spiritual ecstasy’s – the bands name, yes, originally it was part ironic – but really it describes our musical intentions very well”.
Live, there’s an alarming but equally disarming honesty about Brown’s passionate delivery. Poetry, stories and song lines, with snippets of dialogue run through and across the bands musical grain. Whilst behind them, film maker Inga Tillere’s projections, inspired by the songs, but left to develop their own life, flicker like visual postcards, scraps of Newcastle, landscapes, fields, posts, wire, telegraph poles, Stoke Newington…
“I love Stoke Newington and Hackney, I came here because of the creative people, the cheap rents and great rehearsal studios – Karma, Gun Factory. The pubs with good jukeboxes, where ideas get thrown around. There’s still a feeling of the possibility of making non corporate, non government sponsored art here. When you’re young you just accept being in a band, but now it feels like a privilege to be on stage, to try to inspire, to do all these things, to play music, write, create, to host a radio show that maybe is playing the unsung poets of the future”.
Pete Bennett, N16 Magazine, February 2011
You can’t beat a stirring piece of folk music with a big arrangement and passionate lyrics, which gives you that feeling of an emotionally swelling chest as it grows and grows. That just about describes “On The Ground Were John Wesley Walked” by Band of Holy Joy. A slow opening with just the electric guitar and vocal before a flute joins followed by the rhythms and then a beautifully mournful violin and we’re heading in to a beautifully constructed and played piece. It’s the voice and violin that really make this, and even though there sounds to be an element of the vocal drifting slightly off key in places that actually adds to, rather than hinders the whole piece.
Black Middens doesn’t have quite the same impact and the introduction does sound a touch too much like “Hallelujah” but it’s still a reasonable track. Disappointingly, it does drift rather than finish at the end and doesn’t really sound fully complete.
Who’d have suspected all those years ago when I spent much of my life at the Manchester Apollo watching heavy rock bands and Band of Holy Joy originally came together, I’d be promoting the virtues of their brand of folk. A musical genre I always considered to be defined by old men and Arran jumpers. How the times change.
Andy Barnes, Mudkiss Fanzine, March 2011