Los Pistoleros Review - CMI
This all-star British Americana band
are wonderful, whatever you call them, says Nick Dalton.
BOBBY VALENTINO, THE slickest, coolest fiddler in the
biz’ is (cheerfully) bemoaning the fate of his all-star
band Los Pistoleros.
“We are country and western, in the true sense of
the term, but we daren’t use that expression because
everyone just thinks of people in clubs wearing cowboy
outfits and guns. So we’re Americana, even though we’re
doing country music and we’re doing western-swing.”
But, no matter what you call them, the band are, quite
simply, one of the most entertaining and musically wonderful
acts you’re likely to see or hear - perhaps the only
country (and western) group who play the Star Trek theme.
A British superstar band, something that, he agrees,
“hasn’t been done since the 70’s, although that brought
us Emerson, Lake and Palmer”.
Los Pistoleros have been playing for 10 years but
they’re all so busy with other projects that only now
have they managed to release their debut album, Trigger
Bob, the Gone With The Wind Clark Gable lookalike,
plays, sings (in his Crosby croon) and writes some of
the best western-swing around today. If you think you
know him but aren’t quite sure, he played the catchy
fiddle bit on the Bluebells’ single Young At Heart,
constantly appearing on Top Of The Pops during the song’s
two chart stints, one at No.1.
He’s also been (not very country this) the face of
TV ads for the likes of Colgate, the voice of a Vitalite
ad, getting his golden tones around a version of The
Israelites, managed a walk on one Christmas Day on a
Bruce Forsyth/Ronnie Corbett special (a Gone With The
Wind skit, naturally) and was recently seen alongside
John Malkovich and Melanie Griffith in the movie RKO281.
That would be enough for a good evening out by itself,
but then you’ve got the others. There’s BJ Cole, who’s
been pushing forward the boundaries of pedal steel since
his early 70’s band Cochise, and has been on everything
from Paul Young hits, to touring with John Cale and
backing the likes of David Allen Coe and Butch Hancock.
And there’s guitarist Martin Belmont, the pub rock
veteran turned master of the lead six-string bass who
started out in Ducks Deluxe, was in Graham Parker’s
Rumour and Nick Lowe’s Cowboy Outfit, had the privilege
to play on Johnny Cash’s version of Lowe’s Without Love
(on 1980’s Rockabilly Blues) and came up with an excellent
country-rocking solo album, Big Guitar (Demon), not
so long ago.
Then there’s unassuming bassist Kevin Foster, long-time
Hank Wangford sideman (alongside Belmont) whose one
song on the album, the hummable One More Heartbreak,
gets to feature in the new Billy Connoly/Sharon Stone
movie Beautiful Joe.
For a long time, Bobby Irwin (Lowe, Carlene Carter,
Bill Kirchen) was drummer, but life was too busy and
now Jim Russell who’s played with Paul Young amongst
others, completes the line-up.
The band is a victim of it’s own success constantly
in demand by other artists. “It would be nice to do
chunks of three months here and there, but it’s so difficult
with everyone working with other people,” says Bob,
himself having just enjoyed a promotional tour of the
TV and radio stations (and nice restaurants) of Europe
with Mark Knopfler. BJ has been flitting around the
world with Richard Ashcroft who he’s worked with ever
since the hitmaker drafted him into the Verve for their
final tour. BJ also tries to fit in work with his own
Transparent Music Ensemble, and only recently released
a drum and bass album. Belmont and Foster are still
part of Wangford’s band.
When they all get together, though, the music’s so
tight, it hurts. “This started as our fun band” says
Bob. “We’ve never had a rehearsal -if you can’t learn
a song in a soundcheck it’s too complicated. Then we
started selling out the 100 Club and places.”
Now, with the record they’re pushing to become more
high profile. The album is a beautifully produced melee
of, well, country and western - a sublime collection
of mostly Valentino originals like Swinging With The
Chickens and Break For The Border - in the best possible
sense of the term.
Bob first hit the scene in the days of punk, playing
in the twisted pop band the Fabulous Poodles (one of
the final acts on Pye Records), and then almost made
it big in the cajun pop outfit the Electric Bluebirds
before himself having a stint in the Wangfords, appearing
in the band’s Channel 4 TV series. A jazzy-country solo
album, The Man Who Invented Jazz, came out a decade
ago, he’s played live with everyone form Dylan to Big
Country and has appeared on records by everyone from
Tom Petty to the Style Council. Throw in oddball stuff
like dub reggae sessions for the Mad Professor. Keeping
it in the family, his sister Anne Dudley, an arranger
who won an Oscar for her work on The Full Monty, did
the strings on the reworking of the Webb Pierce hit
“I said: I want Billy Sherill. And I think she succeeded.
She doesn’t know who Billy Sherill is but she’s come
up with classic Nashville strings.”
That classic country sound means a great deal to Bob,
a fan of the songwriter’s art, whether it’s revitalising
old swing tunes like Cow Cow Boogie or writing new word
twisters like Engaged To Be Living In Sin.
“I’ve actually now written one called I Don’t Give
A Damn” he says with a chuckle. “Well I had to ...”
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