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Baker's Dozen

Thirsty For Song: James Johnston Of Gallon Drunk's Favourite LPs
Julian Marszalek , November 16th, 2016 09:31

As well as being the lynchpin of suited rock howlers Gallon Drunk, James Johnston has played with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and PJ Harvey - but we're not going to hold the fact that he's picked both of them for his Baker's Dozen against him. Portrait by Steve Gullick.


Dr John, The Night Tripper - Gris Gris
Where do you start with an album like this? The cover, the voice, the playing, the sound, the incredible atmosphere? For a debut solo record this comes so fully formed, the character, the image, and a whole musical dimension all of its own, and he even introduces himself with the opening line.

It echoes though so many other albums. Exuma comes close and tracks like 'Dambala' have the same kind of feel as this album, but this one is just so special. There's a whole history of music in there. Every track, every second is just perfect, and so beautifully recorded and produced by Harold Battiste with fantastic instrumentation, exotic sounding percussion that's matched with bass clarinets, flutes and mandolins. Surely one of the most haunting records ever made.

Recently, on tour in New York, I was on my way to breakfast and got in the lift. It stopped a floor down and I was expecting - and hoping- to see one of the band walk in. But instead the doors slid open and in walked Dr John with his horn-topped canes and the sound of jangling shells. I was virtually dumb-struck! What do you say to someone like that, apart from "hello"?

James Johnston's solo album, The Starless Room, is out on November 18th on the Clouds Hill label