It’s been a busy few days for Tracyanne Campbell and Danny Coughlan. Their eponymous “Tracyanne and Danny” debut album was released on Friday and they’ve played their first three gigs.
It’s been a busy few days for me too. I’ve bought the album, played it on repeat and have been to the last two gigs on consecutive nights in London. It’s been time well spent.
Taking a break from their roles in Camera Obscura and Crybaby, the pair got together via the old-fashioned medium of tape sharing. Tracyanne takes up the story.:
After hearing a rumour we were all Indie purists up here in Glasgow, Danny from Bristol sent me a handwritten letter along with a C90 tape of a song and asked if I’d be up for a collaboration.I immediately liked his voice and after a few phone and emails we decided it had legs enough to at least meet up in person.
I collected him from the airport and, not knowing what he looked like l guessed correctly he might be the fella wearing a lemon cardigan and desert boots. I took him to Jaconelli’s on Maryhill Road for breakfast and then onto The Belle pub for a pint and by home time we decided to make a record. So, we did.
I wrote about the breaking news of their collaboration here and it is great to now witness to the fruits of their labours.
This is an immediately rich and enjoyable package. Both are stellar songwriters in their own right and their voices mesh delightfully, whether working in harmony or providing backing whilst the other takes the lead. The songs are honed and honeyed, taking inspiration from classic 60s pop from Dion and the Everlys through the Velvet Underground and to the Style Council.
Working as a five-piece band, the live sets consist entirely of material from their project with the exception of a cover of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End”. The chugging Modern Lovers-esque version is at odds with the ramshackle original or the lovelorn version that Wilco did a few years ago. There’s no room for any Camera Obscura or Crybaby numbers and it is entirely right and in keeping with the project. This isn’t something that is passing or temporary. It stands on its own merits.
The highlights are manifold. Lead single “Home and Dry” (with backing vocals from Mr and Mrs Edwyn Collins) starts with a crystalline vocal from Tracyanne. Danny’s star turn vocally is the most Crybaby-ish track “Jacqueline”, which features his rich reverbed vocals. He’s up there with Richard Hawley and John Grant in channelling that dramatic classic 60s balladeer into a contemporary setting, a Scott Walker or Roy Orbison for our times.
“Cellophane Girl” is an upbeat paean to unrequited love, cryptically an ode to white wellies and hair nets according to Danny. Danny channels classic Orange Juice and Aztec Camera guitarist Malcolm Ross for a rhythm guitar solo. A personal favourite is “It Can’t Be Love Unless It Hurts”. Like all of the material, it arrives fully formed but live it takes on a Springsteen vibe. You could imagine this one being belted out by the E-Street Band, the Boss leading the charge:
It started with a kiss right between the eyes
This purgatory love comes as no surprise
I was in the car shaking in the dust
Gazing up a silhouette running rings around your heart
This is a fantasy
Baby it’s you and me
It always goes from bad to worse
Can’t be love unless it hurts
I’d recommend the album wholeheartedly. It skillfully captures familiar song forms but endows them with personality. It may bear the traits of traditional pop and rock’n’roll but the signatures of both Tracyanne and Danny are evident.
The same goes for the live experience. It is early days for the ensemble and they were joking about their teething problems. It wasn’t evident though. They are dynamic and responsive, knowing when to ease back and provide light and shade. The role of occasional Midnight Runner Shaun Reed is crucial, adding both keys and sax, whilst Glaswegian drummer Noel O’Donnell and bass player Suze Bear ground things perfectly.
This is beautiful romantic music, adult but with a sense of mischief and fun. It speaks to me in a similar way to Tracey Thorn’s latest wonderful album. It was touching to see the band welcome their family at Rough Trade, Danny’s young son and Sean’s daughter. This project means something to the band as well as their audience.
Go ahead and indulge. Trust me – you won’t regret it.