Saturday, May 28, 2022

Rebecca Downes

Following up on her critically acclaimed third studio album More Sinner Than Saint, the Black Country’s Rebecca Downes has announced the release of her fourth studio album, Stripped Back, on her own label, Mad Hat Records with a release date of  9th April this year.

Lockdown has hit the music industry hard and at the time of writing we are only just seeing the first signs of a return to live performances.  Having performed a storming set at Planet Rock’s Winters End on 1 March 2020, Downes has since then, like many others, been limited to online streamed gigs, mostly from home – Although the full band did manage what has been recorded “a superb show” at the Birmingham Streams venue. 

Without the prospect of a tour to promote it, a full new studio album had to be put on hold, but Downes and co-writer Steve Birkett saw an opportunity to use the time to revisit and reimagine some of their most popular tracks.  The result is Stripped Back, a new studio album that includes what’s been referred to as “a fascinating reworking” of six tracks from More Sinner Than Saint and four from the second studio album Believe.

“Once it was clear that gigging was some months away, we spoke and agreed that it was the opportunity to do bring this project forward and get on with it,” recalled Downes. “Then when the first lockdown eased, we did some duo online gigs and that convinced us even more that there was real scope to present these numbers in a new and exciting way that would appeal to our supporters.  And I’m over the moon that the two new tracks can be released at last.  I have always really loved them, but I couldn’t see how they would ever fit on one of our normal blues/rock albums.”

The pair being prolific songwriters, in the aftermath of More Sinner Than Saint they had over 20 songs that had not made the cut for that album, most because they simply did not “fit”.  The feel and mood of Stripped Back created the scope to include two of these previously unreleased tracks, so ‘Blues For Us’ (to be released as a single on 12 March, with the official video featured here at RAMzine) and ‘Washing All Over My Heart’ make their debuts on the album.

Lockdown also presented the opportunity for a different approach to the recording process. Birkett, a multi-instrumentalist, undertook the vast bulk of the playing and recording, as well as the arrangement, production and engineering.  While the musicians who make up the gigging band – Neil Ablard, Nigel Darvill, Aiden Goldstraw and Vince Yarrington – contributed remotely to the track ‘Hurts’

“It has been a real labour of love for me to rework and hone these tracks,” said Birkett.  “It has also shown that we have the skills to take the music all the way from conception to release, and as independent musicians that is a really helpful capability.  Like Rebecca, I’m really pleased that we now have an outlet for the two previously unreleased tracks.  All round, it’s great that something so good has come out of an otherwise pretty dismal period for everyone.”

Keeping it in the family, the album was mixed and mastered by Steve Birkett Jnr, the musican’s son.  Even three of the images that are used on the album artwork were shot remotely by Adam Kennedy (the fourth is by Downes herself).  The end product is a laid-back, yet vibrant album that shows a range and depth, and that lockdown did not mean ‘freeze frame’ to this talented duo.

Tracks featured on the album are: ‘Take Me Higher’, ‘Blues For Us’, ‘Screaming Your Name’, ‘Hurts’, ‘Sailing On A Pool Of Tears’, ‘Wave Them Goodbye’, ‘More Sinner Than Saint’, ‘Washing All Over My Heart’, ‘Believe’, ‘Night Train’, ‘Come With Me Baby’ and ‘With Me’.

With gigging still an uncertain prospect, Rebecca Downes will be working hard to present Stripped Back online, but with a number of gigs on the books just waiting for the “all clear”, she will be back out on stage just as soon as it is possible.  And in the meantime, work on new material continues with an eye to an album of new original material later this year or early 2022.

Stripped Back  is available pre-sale by clicking here.

Paul H Birch
RAMzine Senior Writer - Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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