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John McCane John McCane

The Last Of The Breed

by Graham Lees


Branding their mark on the British country music scene, the North West's own John McCane and The Breed have never been as busy as they are today. Why The Last Of The Breed…for several years while many of the bands on the British country music scene were following the progressive trend of artistes such as Hal Ketchum and Alan Jackson, John and his four-piece band drew greatly on the 60's - 70's music of Ronnie Millsap, George Jones and Merle Haggard, playing some of those less remembered songs that are instantly recognised and drawing and exclamation of "haven't heard that one for ages…now that's what you call real country music!!!"

Though John McCane and The Breed have played the British country music clubs for many years, a change of line-up around 3 - John McCane3½ years ago brought about a more positive attitude to the music from McCane and the band. John and the boys have just released their second album with the curious name of 'Area Code 0161'…being the telephone area code for Manchester where John lives and was brought up. With two recent major British country awards under his belt, I had a chat with John who gave me a little more insight into the band.

"What it is, is finding the right fellers that are able to travel…so they've got to be committed! It's not so much the musician's point that they've been hand-picked from, but they are easy to get on with and easy to work with and as they are fine musicians anyway, I've been very, very lucky! We've won two country music awards over the past year…The People's Country Music Award for Band Of The Year and the UK Country Radio Awards for Best Single, which took place in February 2003, but voted for 2002. The single was "Wrap My Arms Around The World" which was first recorded in the early 60's by Narvel Felts…with Narvel being an old rock 'n' roller first and foremost."

John McCane's second album has just been released which has taken 14 months of hard slog to put it together. "A lot of hard work has gone into it, recording it in Ireland. Of course I have a studio band as well as my band on the road over here. You have the likes of Jim McVie who is Dominic Kirwan's musical director and Steven Smith who is an absolutely wonderful bloke to work with and a great musician….that man can play absolutely anything! He has so much competence and confidence, he is just an absolutely gifted musician."

Besides several covers, the album contains two tracks solely written by John and two numbers from British songwriters; being Ray Grundy with CD cover whom McCane co-wrote "Running Round In Circles" and "Afraid" by Tony Ainscough, well-known as half of the British country duo Louisville. "Sitting back and looking at other British musicians and artistes on the British country music scene over the years, I've found that anybody that seems to write a full album never ever gets anywhere. That's because I think people just look at the albums and if they don't recognise any of the numbers they don't buy it full stop…they want familiarity! The key to it is you've got to be able to do it live on stage. Deliver it from the stage and if they like it they'll buy it, that's the top and bottom of it!" Whereas the first album I put three numbers that I'd written on it, with this one there is five new numbers. I've written two myself, co-written two and of course one by Tony Ainscough. So there are three different people involved….Tony Ainscough, Ray Grundy and my keyboard player Pete McDonald who have written or co-written the numbers. I've put five on this time…I thought it might be a bit cheeky to put more on, but maybe on the next album it might start creeping up (which I'm already planning). It takes years to do it and a lot of money…you've got to be confident and do it with conviction. It is not something that I'd like to look back on in later years, thinking I should have done this or that. All right maybe I should have made my move 10 years ago, but saying that I think the time was right now. I've matured a lot as a musician and as a person!!! Musicians are fickled people and it's knowing how to handle them…there can only be one boss at the end of the day.

Playing for private parties, the Irish scene along with the British country music scene, John McCane and The Breed can turn their hand to a wide variety of music. To further substantiate the quality and professionalism of John McCane and The Breed; when I was married almost two years ago, the first band that came to mind to book to play at my wedding…you've guest it John McCane and The Breed.