The spirit in the songs and music of Deborah Bonham draws on the hurt, pain, joy and anger that come with life for all of us. Negatives are decanted as positivity, from mistakes comes learning. From that spirit comes the determination to always push forward and celebrate life, sharing experiences with her audience. As she sings in the opening salvo from the album: “Pain is going away, it’s gonna stop today. I’m gonna fly”.
So there could be only one title for the new album: ‘SPIRIT’
But Deborah also has soul. It’s the soul that comes from her deep love and understanding of so many musical greats – Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, Lowell George and many more – all of whom are artists who surrounded themselves with great musicians who had that same ‘feel’. And so it is with Deborah’s band. It’s also their instinctive affinity with the words being sung and how they absorb her emotions; sometimes soft, sometimes fierce.
Recorded at a highly charged, personally emotional time in Chichester UK and Nashville USA, Deborah instinctively channelled all that was going on in her life into the sessions, which she co-produced with Glenn Skinner (Deborah Harry, Killing Joke), who also manned the desk for her last album, ‘Duchess’. On Drums is Marco Giovino (Robert Plant’s Band of Joy, John Cale, Norah Jones). Marco flew in especially from Nashville to record the drums in a Chapel local to Deborah and she then joined him in Nashville to finish the recording and mix with Mike Poole (Band of Joy, Rickie Lee Jones) and master with Jim DeMain (Michael McDonald, John Hiatt). Pedal steel supremo B.J.Cole also guests together with a special guest appearance from Robert Plant on harmonica, whilst the remainder of the musicians are her long-time, forceful working band – including bassist Ian Rowley, keyboardist Gerard Louis, and guitarist Peter Bullick.
Embracing more than ever before the bands’ rootsy-Americana influences of the likes of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Little Feat, ‘Spirit’ seamlessly travels through Deborah’s songbook of original compositions, alongside two co-written with John Hogg (Moke, Hookah Brown – with the Black Crowes’ Rich Robinson) and ‘Painbirds’, written by the late Mark Linkous and originally recorded by Sparklehorse for their debut album. In the same way that Hendrix made Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ his own and as did Joe Cocker with The Beatles’ ‘A Little Help From My Friends’, Deborah Bonham and band firmly stamp their identity on this stunningly powerful song.
Elsewhere on the album, mandolin, cello and dobro weave throughout ‘Fly’ (co-written with John Hogg and Simon Sessler) and the irresistible ‘Take Me Down’ the first single to be released and a ReverbNation Rock Chart Number One – twice – which is perhaps reminiscent of The Eagles’ ‘Take It Easy’ but more intriguingly, uses a recurring lyrical theme in Deborah’s work – that of the mercurial nature of the rivers and the seas, to heal or devour.
The Cajun stomp of ‘What It Feels’ builds on Marco Giovino’s percussive box of tricks, giving way to a harmonica solo from Robert Plant, that delivers in the most concise way and not heard perhaps since Led Zeppelin’s ‘Custard Pie’. The Byrds-esque ‘I Won’t Let You Down’ follows before a sultry, hot n sticky atmosphere permeates ‘Good Times’ and there are echoes of Christine McVie and Bonnie Bramlett sweetly lingering in Deborah’s delivery of album closer, ‘Lay Me Perhaps the most tellingly autobiographical song is ‘Spirit In Me’. If there is a defining song of this albums’ genesis and attitude, then this is it – lovingly dressed with B.J Cole’s sympathetic, yet playful pedal steel performance.
Throughout, Deborah’s sympathetic band sear, coax, blend, sweeten, compliment, rock and groove, proving (if proof be needed) why Paul Rodgers would have them as his band of choice for recent shows drawn entirely from his catalogue of This Deborah Bonham ‘live’ band also includes drummer Rich Newman (Sam Brown, Steve Marriott, Rory Gallagher) and the band have showcased several of the new songs in recent months, including the show-stopping, classic Bonham blues rock ballad, ‘I Need Love’ at Festivals and shows in the UK and Europe: The Great British Rock & Blues Festival, the massive Harley-Davidson European H.O.G. Rallies in France, Austria and Portugal and The Great British Folk Festival, where, even in the bands’ stripped-down acoustic format, the songs connected with the audience.
And why? Because they all see and feel the SPIRIT
Born in Worcestershire, the younger sister of the late John and Michael Bonham. Deborah was only five when John joined Led Zeppelin, and this powerful introduction sparked in her the overwhelming desire to write and perform. Her home was The Old Hyde farm, where she lived with her father, John Henry Bonham Snr, known as Jack, in The Cottage.
Her brother, John and his family, lived in the main House. While living there, Deborah and John’s son Jason started writing and recording their own songs.
At the age of 17, at Robert Plant’s house in a nearby village, she recorded her first demos. Deborah sent out the songs anonymously and soon landed her first record deal with the major label Carerre Records, for whom she recorded the critically acclaimed album ‘For You and the Moon’. The album reached the top 5 in the NME chart, was Simon Bates Record of the Week on BBC Radio 1 and sold extremely well in Europe, being voted ‘Record of the Year’ by Musik Mart, Germany. A period of recording for the Japanese label SAM Co. followed, and with press and radio promotion including interviews for Burrn and J Wave Radio. English label RPM records released the single, ‘Perfect World’ in 1995.
1997 saw two extremely successful trips to the US. Firstly, she performed live on LA’s Rockline Radio with Jason Bonham to three million listeners throughout North America and Canada, followed by a guest appearance with Jason and his band at the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles. The success of the first trip led to a US tour with her band to open for The Jason Bonham Band kicking off in Los Angeles at the ‘House of Blues’ with guests Slash and Terry Reid . Dallas Fort Worth, Houston, New York and Chicago ‘House of Blues’ subsequently followed.
Back in the UK Deborah began recording ‘The Old Hyde’ (2004), the long awaited follow up to her debut album, which featured Jason Bonham on drums throughout and a special guest appearance from Mick Fleetwood. Reviewers were equally impressed – Classic Rock lead the compliments “…the album has balls…a classy set of bluesy hard rock”; Country Music Round-Up simply said “..quite superb” and the influential All Music Guide judged that it was “one of the best blues-rock albums of the early 21st century… not a bummer in sight”.
Deborah’s last album ‘Duchess’ (Warner Rhino 2008) was perceived by the press as her finest work to date. Consisting of 13 original compositions, it featured her forceful working band – bassist Ian Rowley, keyboardist Gerard Louis, guitarist Peter Bullick and Jerry Shirley of Humble Pie on drums. The live band is now joined by drummer Rich Newman (Sam Brown, Steve Marriott, Rory Gallagher). Each song showcases Deborah’s soulful singing and her effortless, sensitive approach to a gamut of styles from blues and soul to country and rock, and includes a moving duet with Paul Rodgers on ‘Hold On’ with Jason Bonham on drums. Reviews of ‘Duchess’ were glowing: Blues Matters! described Deborah as “A blues mama par excellence”; the USA’s Blues Revue listed her as “One of the New Women of Blues” and Modern Guitars proclaimed “…a celebration of soul, strength and family… the album stands as her finest work to date”.
A blistering live set adds to the magic of Deborah Bonham and suggest that this is a band that must be seen and heard live. Having played festivals from Canterbury to Glastonbury, Bulldog Bash to Donington, Cambridge to Cropredy, Ripfest to Harley Davidson’s European Festivals, Deborah’s live performances have seen her open shows and duet with such luminaries as Paul Rodgers, Jools Holland, Steve Cropper, Fairport Convention, Ann Peebles, Paul Weller, Robert Plant, Foreigner, Nazareth and Van Halen to name a few. Deborah also performed alongside Ozzy Osbourne in the Czech Republic, where she returned for more shows, and France, Germany, Portugal and Austria in 2012 & 2013.
Summer 2013 also saw Deborah open for Bad Company’s 40th Anniversary show in Chicago, USA to 5000 people prompting Bad Co’s promoters to say “The audience loved her”.
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