Liverpool duo the Good Intentions delve into Americana’s overseas roots
By Bliss Bowen
Just as numerous Stateside artists specialize in playing Irish music, so is there a complement of UK artists making Americana music: veteran songwriter/activist Billy Bragg, Yola Carter, Ags Connolly, Danny and the Champions of the World, among many others.
That creative UK community also includes Liverpool’s Good Intentions, aka husband and wife Peter Davies and Gabrielle Monk, who formed their band in 2005.
Eagle-eyed film fans may recognize Davies; he was one of the everyday kids featured in director Michael Apted’s much-discussed 1964 documentary “7 Up.” Unsettled by the media attention incurred by his involvement, he declined to participate in later chapters of Apted’s every-seven-years “Up” series — until 2012’s “56 Up.”
“I had absented myself from the series for years, precisely because of media intrusion,” he explains via email, “but Gabi persuaded me to return and to maximize the exposure to our advantage. Call it payback!”
More comfortable as storyteller than intensely analyzed subject, Davies says that, to him, Americana is “a return to what country music was originally meant to be — an earthier, darker, even poetic music, which largely came out of the old mountain music collected by A.P. Carter.
“That music was very much rooted in the traditional music brought from the British Isles by the emigrants. So in that sense I think that Celtic music — and I speak as a Celt — is just as much a part of the American heritage, and that old-time Americana is part of ours.”
An admiration of the Carter Family as well as Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris shines through Davies’ melodic songs and harmonies with Monk. They’re back in town this week accompanied by widely respected guitarist/songwriter (and sometime Dave Alvin sideman) Rick Shea. Their Sunday show at the Cinema Bar will celebrate the U.S. release of “The Long Unbroken Line,” the third album they’ve made with Shea producing.
At the Cinema and every show on their California tour, Davies says they plan to dedicate a song to Dafni Amirsakis, a gifted Westside-based musician who joined them on previous tours and added harmony (as part of the Ragged Apostles Choir) to “Paul the Apostle” on the Good Intentions’ 2013 album “Travelling Companion.” The local music community was stunned in May when the vibrant 43-year-old died after experiencing sudden cardiac arrest during a spin class; a memorial sign in her honor hangs near the Cinema Bar stage.
“You can see and hear her in quite a bit of YouTube footage [with us], although I’m not sure whether Gabi and I will ever be able to watch that without feeling overcome by sadness,” Davies says. “Dafni was a dear friend and a wonderful person, and we can’t believe she’s gone. We plan to contribute to a tribute album being put together by her husband, Pete, but when we arrive in California, it’ll be in the knowledge that we’re not going to see her again, and that’s going to be hard.”
Hopefully they will connect with members of I See Hawks in L.A., with whom they’ve been writing songs via email. Shea will accompany them throughout their fortnight-long tour and will perform a set with his band the Losin’ End at Sunday night’s show. (Local singer-songwriter Ernest Troost will also perform a set.)
The warm tones of Shea’s guitar and pedal steel are heard throughout “The Long Unbroken Line,” which also features L.A.-based musicians such as drummer Don Heffington, singer Claire Holley and fiddler Brantley Kearns. The album leads off with “A Long Way Home” — a melancholy, mandolin-laced portrait of a working-class town’s decline and its effect on a “tired-eyed” prostitute.
“She’s part of an amalgam of images of the Britain I see all around me these days,” Davies notes. “There is a lot of gloom and a lot of weariness and desperation, and it really does feel like it’s a long way home for us.”
One of the album’s strongest tracks is “The Leaving of Liverpool,” a traditional tune arranged by Davies and Shea.
“When I researched it, I discovered that the song was collected in America, and that it probably dates back to the 18th century,” Davies says. “Liverpool was one of the great international ports then, so it would have been well known to American seamen. The song is better known in the UK, for obvious reasons, but we thought that it embodied the strong historical connections between Liverpool and the States, including our shared musical history.”
Another sweet highlight is the waltz-time “Appalachian Girl,” dressed in banjo, fiddle and mandolin.
Ironically, Davies and Monk haven’t visited Appalachia — yet.
“We will get there,” Davies vows, “and it will be like finally getting to the crucible, almost like a pilgrimage.”
The Good Intentions perform on Sunday Oct. 23, between Ernest Troost and Rick Shea & the Losin’ End at the Cinema Bar, 3967 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City. The music starts at 7 p.m. No cover, but the tip jar goes directly to artists. Call (310) 390-1328 or visit thegoodintentions.co.uk.