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Monday, April 27, 2015

An eulogy

A couple of lengthy pieces on The Granite Shore have been published recently by the always excellent Penny Black Music online magazine. In this, the first, Malcolm Carter, Distractions fan extraordinaire, who's written about the group many times, profiles Nick Halliwell's "other" band. As you'd imagine, The Distractions loom rather large in this story...

Great things are expected from Occultation Recordings’ label boss Nick Halliwell’s debut album under his Granite Shore project. Occultation Recordings is one of those indie labels that really put 100% into every little detail of their releases. They’ve already established their own identity through the haunting images that have adorned their catalogue so far, and they’ve yet to release a single or album that hasn’t been up to a very high standard. 

The label is maybe, up to this point, best known for the work they have done in getting The Distractions’ second album, ‘The End of the Pier’, recorded and released. Before ‘The End of the Pier’ though, the label issued two Distractions EPs. ‘Black Velvet’ featured two new songs written by original Distraction guitarist Steve Perrin, and a ‘new’ version of an older song by the band, ‘Still It Doesn’t Ring’. This was followed by the ‘Come Home’ EP. This time, apart from two new Steve Perrin songs that not only matched but surpassed some of the tracks on their classic ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ debut, there was a song titled ‘Oil Painting’ written by Nick Halliwell who also played guitar and sang across the EP tracks. ‘Oil Painting’ was a Distractions song; there’s no question about that. Lyrically it was classic Steve Perrin, and the haunting melody was reminiscent of much of ‘Nobody’s Perfect’. But it came from this guy Halliwell who, it seemed, had somehow edged his way into one of the most underrated bands ever to come out of our fair isle and fitted in so perfectly you couldn’t see the join. 

When in the summer of 2012 The Distractions finally released that second album after a 32-year wait, Halliwell was there again. This time not only did Halliwell lend his guitar skills, but he also produced the album and co-wrote, with Perrin, two songs. Then there was the song that Halliwell wrote solo, ‘Wise’. If any more evidence was needed that Halliwell not only deserved a place in The Distractions, but that he embodied all that was great about the band’s music it was contained in that one song. Lyrically it could be taken as an eulogy to the band he was now part of. Certainly those who didn’t check the credits would believe that the song had been written by Perrin. It had all the markings of a classic Distractions song and, without taking any credit from the work Steve Perrin and Mike Finney put into ‘The End of the Pier’, it has to be said that without ‘Wise’ that album would have shone just a little less brightly. 

Apart from running Occultation Recordings and writing classic pop songs for The Distractions, Nick Halliwell was also busy with his own band, The Granite Shore. ‘Once More From The Top’ the band’s debut album, features, apart from Halliwell on vocals, guitar, autoharp and keyboards, Phil Wilson (June Brides), Arash Torabi (June Brides, Distractions) Mike Kellie (Spooky Tooth, Joe Cocker, the Only Ones, Distractions) Probyn Gregory (Wondermints) and Perrin and Finney from The Distractions but for all the sterling work that select bunch of musicians contributed the album is still very much the vision of an extraordinary talent, Nick Halliwell.


The album opens with ‘Artiste & Repertoire’, and what initially strikes anyone who has heard and loved ‘Wise’ from ‘The End of the Pier’ is that this song is cut from the same cloth. It’s that good. The longing melody that Halliwell dressed ‘Wise’ in isn’t repeated here, but it’s matched in its beauty.


While Halliwell is no soul singer in the way that The Distractions’ Mike Finney is, his vocals are expressive in a way that few are capable of...


If this sounds like something you'd be interested in as a Distractions fan (an album partly-inspired by the original Distractions, and featuring all of the current Distractions? - it is!), while you wait patiently for Parabolically Yours to become reality, then please support Occultation and its musicians by ordering directly from them. From the lavish Deluxe boxset edition to the standard vinyl or standard CD release, all physical purchases come with an instant download, as is usual from Occultation:


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