SHEFFIELD voice of soul Paul Carrack will play York Barbican on February 17 on next year’s Good & Ready tour on the back of releasing his 18th solo studio album next month.
Created in his home studio base “when lockdown cast its unwelcome shadow on the music business”, One On One will be out on September 17 on his own label, Carrack-UK.
This will be his first album since These Days in 2018, a year when he performed at York Barbican on February 16.
Singer, songwriter, keyboard player and guitarist Carrack, 70, has run his record label and touring operation for more than 20 years, equipping him with a do-it-yourself mentality to cope with the need to adapt to pandemic restrictions.
He not only wrote, played and recorded the album, but this time, answering to his muse and trusting his instincts, he even mixed it too. From the voice of Mike + The Mechanics’ The Living Years, you could almost call One On One the result of his live-in years.
Aside from cameos from the likes of a long-time friend and collaborator, ex-Pretenders guitarist Robbie McIntosh, and former James Brown sideman Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis, he often worked on his own, effectively a one-man band on a defiantly live-sounding album, where only one song existed in demo form beforehand. Carrack conjured the rest during lockdown, the mood set by the opening track, the tour title-inspiring Good & Ready.
“The sound of the record is warm, I think, and engaging, and nourishing,” he says. “There’s two ballads on there, but the rest of it is surprisingly upbeat. I think that’s maybe because we were mid-tour when the touring was shut down, but I was still in a kind of ‘live’ mode.”
The “decidedly funky” A Long Way To Go is boosted by a stellar horn section, arranged by Carrack’s long-time neighbour, but new friend, Dave Arch.
“I gave Dave the midi part that I’d written, and he transcribed it, and voiced it properly,” says Carrack. “You can’t beat real horns. So, we had Steve Beighton, of course, who’s been in my band for 20 years and tours with me all the time.
“We got the legendary ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis, of James Brown and Van Morrison fame, Dennis Rollins on trombone, and Andy Greenwood on trumpet. So, we recorded the horns in [the studio] here, and they sound great. And backing vocals by Michelle John, who I met working in Eric Clapton’s band. She’s absolutely unbelievable.”
Moments from Carrack’s personal life inform One On One. I Miss You So, for example, emerged from not being able to visit his daughter, after she gave birth to his new granddaughter early in 2020.
It is never a case, however, of Carrack capitalising on a situation for a tune. “I hardly ever have a plan about writing a song,” he says. “I come in here, I sit at the keyboard, or the guitar, get something going, start some lines off the top of my head. And without trying to sound too pretentious, things come out.”
The ballad You’re Not Alone was released in February as the first single from the album, subsequently being picked as a BBC Radio 2 Record of The Week. “I think I was listening to a conversation on the radio, or something, and somebody said, ‘Well, if you think the world’s going mad, you’re not alone’. And I thought, ‘Yeah’,” recalls Carrack. “The sentiment is one of support really, for someone very close who was struggling with the anxiety of lockdown.”
The swinging Lighten Up Your Mood has another ‘Pee Wee’ horn arrangement and the slinky When Love Is Blind features Carrack’s son, Jack, on drums. Normally, he would have played on the whole album, had he not been living on the other side of town.
Shame On You, Shame On Me has shades of Carrack’s original 1960s’ heroes such as Ray Charles, while Set Me Free carries a simple message for our times. “Not trying to be political or anything, more a cry from the heart to get back to some kind of normal,” he says. “I’m lucky, I live in a nice place, I’ve got a great family, but we definitely miss being out on the road.”
One On One closes with Carrack’s latest re-make of a time-worn favourite, in the wake of The Young Rascals’ Groovin’, Jackie DeShannon’s When You Walk In The Room and Goffin & King’s When My Little Girl Is Smiling. This time, he enriches Charlie Rich’s country crossover hit of 1973, Behind Closed Doors.
The full track listing is: Good & Ready; A Long Way To Go; I Miss You So; You’re Not Alone; Lighten Up Your Mood; Precious Time; When Love Is Blind; Shame On You, Shame On Me; Set Me Free and Behind Closed Doors.
Now that doors are open once more for gigging, Carrack will play Rye Jazz Festival, Bexhill on Sea, on August 26, followed by three autumn shows that will kick off at Hull Bonus Arena on October 19.
Next year’s 27-date Good & Ready tour will feature three Yorkshire gigs: Hull City Hall on January 22, York Barbican on February 17 and a homecoming finale at Sheffield City Hall on March 19.
York tickets for the soulful vocal sound of Ace’s How Long, Squeeze’s Tempted and Mike + The Mechanics’ Over My Shoulder, Silent Running and The Living Years are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk. For Hull Bonus Arena, premier.ticketek.co.uk; Hull City Hall, hulltheatres.co.uk; Sheffield, sheffieldcityhall.co.uk.