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The Armadillos

by Graham Lees


The exciting sounds of North West band The Armadillos are quickly grabbing the attention of the British country scene. Gregg takes lead vocals, playing guitar and non-pedal steel, Tony can be found on keyboards and lead guitar, Andy on doghouse bass, with Ian keeping it all together on drums. The type of music that The Armadillos play is not the typical run of the mill Ketchum and Jackson fodder that is often heard from Armadillosmany bands on the British country music club scene. The band leans very much towards the Texas sound with a stride over the State lines into Louisiana and New Mexico, which they say gives them plenty of scope for music styles.. I took the opportunity to talk with Gregg and Ian about the band and their music. Gregg was at one time steel player with the western swing band The Winchesters (who sadly disbanded at the end of 2002) and played with the R&B band The Herberts for 10 years. Ian has played with several country bands over the years, including Nashville Fever for around 7 years with Tony and previously with the band Southern Pride along with several trios around the Manchester country scene from the early seventies through the mid-eighties. Ian stopped playing for a while when Tony went to play the cabaret scene in Germany and the Middle East

Gregg says. "It all started around the mid-nineties when Ian and I got together over a few beers. Ian was playing in a country band and I was with a blues band and we realised that we both liked a similar kind of music." Ian explains, "obviously Gregg's interest was country as well as blues and mine was blues as well as country, so we had this idea about doing a crossover band. We weren't sure how it would pan-out Gregoriginally, but it's panned out better then we thought. We're nicking styles from everywhere, Tex-Mex, Cajun, Blues, Country, Jazz….it's a real melting pot of music!

I asked Ian what the appeal is in playing the music from around Texas and Louisiana. "From my perspective it's like the whole thing…the rhythms…and it's dangerous stuff. If you're a musician you'll know what I mean…it's dangerous because the rhythms move about a lot within the song. It might have a nice shuffle beat, or a nice two-four sort of rhythm going on, but there is a lot more to it than that and though it seems very simple, anyone who plays it will tell you its not. Western swing basically comes from jazz and jazz is a bit of a musician's music! We all like it, so that's where we wanted to go. But obviously you've got to do different styles as well and can't hemmed in on one avenue."

Playing a particular style of music that you enjoy doesn't always go over well with the punters in the country music clubs. Gregg enthuses, "Basically we've had a lot of response saying, 'wow something different to what we've been listening to!' IanComments along the lines that you've gone out to do something that you really want to do which is really refreshing, rather than treading the same paths as some of the other artistes tread. I think when anybody encounters something a little bit fresher than what they've been used to having, they find it all the more stimulating. We didn't go all out to do that; we were just doing the music that we liked to play. Basically, we're not trying to step on the beat, but get behind the beat with that swing thing."

Though The Armadillos play many gigs with a sit down listening audience, Gregg always likes to see a floor full of people, "whether it be line dancing or otherwise. For us if they dance to your band, it is a great compliment because they are physically stimulated by what you are doing."

With a CD recently released The Armadillos are going from strength to strength. Gregg Tonyoffers, "On the CD can be heard a mixture of Tex-Mex, western swing, rock 'n' roll style country, some Cajun and a little of all styles mixed in together. The four of us did it all with just a few overdubbes with steel guitar, because I prefer to play steel guitar with finger picks and you can't play the guitar with finger picks. Gregg plays a non-peddle steel guitar, "that's the sound of steel I like…Speedy West! The Capital recordings of the 50's, Tennessee Ernie Ford…that kind of thing, Jimmy Bryant, it all comes from that. I was given a tape many, many years ago…Boogie Woogie Fever and it just blew me away when I heard it. Merle Travis was on it, the Milo Twins and Moon Mulligan (well remembered as writing "Cherokee Boogie" a hit for BR5-49 a few years ago).

The Armadillos have had some success on the British country music festival scene such as Brean Sands and Prestatyn this year and are also booked to play the Crételle Festival in October and the Ayr Festival in November. The important thing is that the people are there and they are up for a goodtime.

For the future The Armadillos are looking towards to writing some original music to fit into their stage act. Gregg states, "I think we'll all have a contribution there, it's a case of getting it formed and getting it to work. I think over the last seven years we've Andylearned to play together and now it's time that we did some original material." Ian adds, "I think it has taken us a long time….we only have one CD out which we have been a little bit slow in getting going, I must admit. The reason behind that is, we didn't want to do anything just for the sake of doing it…because; hey look we have a CD out, buy this at the gigs…that kind of thing. We wanted to put out a piece of work that we are proud of! We have done that at the right time, took time over doing it, and are very proud of the outcome. As Gregg says the next stage now is to try and emulate that quality on to our own stuff! That has always been the stumbling block with us. You hear a great song and you think, how can I better that? If I can't better that why try to write my own thing! I think it will come easier now. We have discussed it quite a lot and we should obviously be writing our own stuff and getting into more venues and targeting the bigger festivals."

You won't disappointed with The Armadillos, for further information and bookings give Gregg a call on 01254 774010