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wHaT It’S LiKeGoD KnO w S

In the early 60s, American country music rode into the British consciousness on the back of a wagonload of Sunday afternoon spaghetti westerns. Sorrowful songs of heartbreak and lawlessness in one-horse towns didn’t make much sense in city centres gripped by jazz and rock’n’roll, but in the satellite towns and closeknit communities of the Midlands and north-west England, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams found fans for life among suburban cowboys and girls. Around the same time, another American cultural export, the soul of industrial Detroit and Chicago, was rooting down in the pleasure domes of northern seaside towns and big city centres. Somewhere between the two, the large cotton-weaving town of Bolton was an epicentre of neither but must have soaked up some soul from Manchester’s shadow and felt country winds from the West Pennine Moors. It was in this fertile ground that Bolton-born mathematician-turned-musician Simon Aldred finally found his sound. “I’d been playing in local bands for about eight years and Oasis were the biggest thing around so I was singing in a fairly Manc way, struggling to find my own voice.” At the same time, trying to emulate the music he really loved was not an option: “I always listened to Motown but was wary of doing the whole blue-eyed soul thing, it never really works, so I wasn’t tempted.”

Drawing On The Country Soul Of Muscle Shoals And His Life In A Northern Town, Cherry Ghost’s Impassioned Songs Strike Home With Every Note

The revelation came following a rapid set of musical discoveries; the alternative country of Wilco and Smog, the psychedelia and surrealism of Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips, and, crucially, the re-emergence of almost forgotten country soul recordings from Memphis’s Muscle Shoals studios. Songs like Larry John Wilson’s “Sheldon Churchyard” showed Aldred the way to “crowbar in the soul and country” when he sat down with a guitar on his knee and started singing. Almost immediately, he began knocking out original melodies that had been locked beneath the restrictions of rock band rules for way too long. Demos of future hits like “People Help the People” and “Throw Me to the Dogs”, recorded in his bedroom with sampled strings, found their way into London’s A&R inner-circle. Eventually, the boundless enthusiasm of label

boss Geoff Barrett ensured that Heavenly’s hat was the most inviting in the ring. “We recorded in a big old analogue studio in the Wirral that no one really knows about. Instead of using a 16-piece orchestra, we used a quartet and got them to play four times. In the end, I think we got to something which sounds unlike anything else that’s around at the moment.” So, is he looking forward to being the focus of attention? “I’ve got a huge family who get excited on my behalf. And of course, I’ve got Geoff Barrett who is probably the most excitable person over the age of eight in the whole world.” Text Callum McGeoch

The new single Mathematics is out on April 9

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