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Village Music & Drama

Old dog, new tricks

Posted on October 29 2016 at 9:01:56 0 comments


Sally Oldaker chats to an Alvechurch musician who’s putting his own talents in the spotlight.

There are a few surprises in there,” says Alvechurch singer-songwriter Tony Price of his debut album, Old Dog, New Tricks. “When we were making it we kept saying, ‘People won’t be expecting this. . .”

If it sounds odd that people should already have expectations of a first album, Tony has actually been a regular on the Midlands music scene for 30 years but has largely worked with or in support of other artists.

Old Dog, New Tricks is the result of his decision to create his own project, and was produced by fellow Alvechurch musician Dave Howard of Paddywack Records at Mercury (formerly Carbon) Studios in Kings Norton.

Dave set up the studio with Tony’s help in June 2015, with Paddywack Records being part of community initiative Dynami Creative, which offers everything from songwriting and music recording to web design and organisational development.

But before the studio was yet up and running, Tony came to Dave with his ideas for an album, and the concept got bigger and bigger.

“It soon went far beyond just me and the guitar – Dave is brilliant at taking it forward and trying new things,” says Tony. “He is very good at interpreting what’s in my head.”

However, Tony had to get used to Dave’s production style: “I call myself a ‘kitchen sink’ producer, which means I like to chuck everything in!” explains Dave.

“I say ‘What if we had an orchestra or brass band here, what if we used a dance beat, party sounds, a ringing doorbell?”

This method is clearly discernible in Old Dog, New Tricks, which takes Tony’s own style – blues, country, soft rock, Americana, a voice rightly compared to Mark Knopfler – and ups the ante with an eclectic mix of sounds.

As well as tracks like Candlelight and Sleepwalking, which are more typical of Tony’s work, you’ll find a Latin brass section in Remember Me, a Roy Orbison tribute in Little Town Woman (complete with dramatic kettle-drum flourishes) and the gloriously unrestrained cabaret number Have Some Fun Tonight, which shoots us right back to 1920s Berlin by way of euphonium, xylophone, accordion, clinking beer mugs and rowdy cheering.

“Apparently the Rolling Stones’ new album took them three days – mine took two years!” Tony remarks. “I really enjoyed the creative process, and each bar has been crafted and agonised over – towards the end we had to discipline ourselves and stop any more tinkering with the songs.”

Apart from the guitar, bass, keyboards and harmonica – all played by Tony and Dave – and backing vocals by Dave and village singers Fiona Holmes and Gemma Batty, all other instrumentation and sound was achieved digitally – which presented something of a dilemma:

“How would Tony perform these songs live, when they have so much virtual content?” says Dave. “But we realised it would be fun to interpret the live songs differently than the recordings.”

Tony says it’s very difficult to pin down exactly which musicians and styles have influenced him most, but names Tom Petty, the Rolling Stones, Tom Waites, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Placebo and the Alex Harvey Band as some of his favourites, plus a bit of opera.

“I’ve had a really wide variety of tastes and influences throughout my life – I think all my songs will remind you of something!”

Brought up in Kings Heath, Tony was 14 years old when he got his first guitar, and played in bands as a teenager, but gave that up for a long time while adult life took over – but he always continued to play guitar and tinker with songs.

He later moved to Redditch and then to Alvechurch some 25 years ago, and gradually got back into the performance side of things – but mainly worked and performed with other artists, including Slim Pickins and the late Iain Howarth.

“He’s coming out of the shadows at last,” says Dave, to which Tony adds thoughtfully, “It’s my turn now!”

As part of the “Tony Price Project”, Tony has performed in a guitar and vocal duo with Mike Genders (husband of Village gardening correspondent Hannah), and the pair are also members of folk-roots group The Lench Mob with Dave, fiddler Aly Craigan and percussionist Freddie Gee.

“At this stage in their musical journey, lots of songwriters find they have a catalogue of songs they either never recorded at all, or didn’t get to do in quite the way they wanted,” Dave continues.

“It’s not about wanting to be famous or getting on the radio – it’s part of your legacy, and you feel you owe it to the songs to get them down for posterity, even if only one person hears them.”

With an official launch at the end of last month and a growing buzz on social media, there will certainly be more than that one person listening to Old Dog, New Tricks – which you can buy as a CD (with artwork by Graham Higgins) or in download format.

Tony and Dave want to give people the chance to buy from the Paddywack music store first, so the album won’t be available through any other outlets until January 2017 when it will be released on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and more.

You can buy the album and find more information at:
Twitter: @RealTonyPrice

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