Peter Davies, frontman of UK Americana band the Good Intentions, returns to Coffee Gallery Backstage Saturday with local "American Intentions"
By Bliss Bowen 09/26/2013
Last week, in a UK newspaper, British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg posited that mid-20th-century British teenagers who embraced American folk and blues invented the genre now known as Americana. Whether or not you agree, Americana is, demonstrably, at least as popular on the other side of the Atlantic as it is here. UK/European tours are bread and butter for US Americana artists, and there's a burgeoning list of UK-based Americana acts.
That group includes the Good Intentions, anchored by songwriter/guitarist Peter Davies and vocalist/keyboardist Gabi Monk. Last March they structured a California tour (including a house concert at this writer's home) around recording sessions at drummer Dave Raven's LA studio. Those yielded the new album "Travelling Companion," produced by Covina singer-songwriter Rick Shea, which Davies is promoting with another West Coast tour. Monk's home with his daughter, so Davies will be accompanied by local "honorary American Intentions" Shea, I See Hawks in LA guitarist Paul Lacques, fiddler Brantley Kearns and singer/banjoist Dafni.
Film geeks may recognize Davies as one of the children in Michael Apted's 1964 documentary "Seven Up!" The director has subsequently chronicled their lives every seven years, most recently with 2012's "56 Up." Davies says the documentaries were just part of childhood.
"When you're 7 or 14 or 21, you think you'll live forever and that everything is possible. As I got into my twenties, what became increasingly apparent was the power of the media, and how that could impact upon your life; it was a hard lesson to realize just how vitriolic some of the media could be. I suppose the experience made me a little more cautious and cynical. I was in [the documentaries] up to and including ‘28 Up.' I returned to the series [last year] purely to promote the Good Intentions and our new record. I'd always stayed in touch with Michael, and he was only too happy to do that."
That film connection proved useful when it came time to record the elegiac "Paul the Apostle." The gospel tune features a spoken-word outro in Welsh by actor Ioan Gruffudd.
"My family are from North Wales, and the song is bound up with my feelings about my roots, and particularly about my dad, who was a Methodist lay preacher," Davies explains. "Ioan had starred in one of Michael's films, and was a friend, and he immediately agreed. He came to the studio and nailed it on the first take, and it worked beautifully. Funnily enough, his dad is also a lay preacher, and I think he had a sense of what the song was about."
"People like hearing good tunes with thoughtful lyrics, whatever labels you apply," Davies says. "We're never going to make our fortunes playing country/folk/Americana music, but we love getting out there and making records and playing shows, and we'll do it until we keel over."
The Good Intentions return to the Coffee Gallery Backstage, 2029 N. Lake Ave., Altadena, 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28; $15. Reservations/info: (626) 798-6236. thegoodintentions.co.uk