Meeting ‘The Midnight Ramble’

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Midnight Ramble band members Rory Ballantyne, Paul Dunbar and Chris Pearce. Pic by Natalie Romero

Midnight Ramble band members Rory Ballantyne, Paul Dunbar and Chris Pearce. Pic by Natalie Romero

JMU Journalism caught up with members of The Midnight Ramble, as they spoke about their musical influences and new material.

The Midnight Ramble, a self-made, six-piece blues-soul-rock band from Liverpool, have been together four years, independently recording and releasing numerous singles and their album, ‘High Time’, which dropped last year.

Brand new track ‘Earth, Sky or the Raging Sea’ was released in March, which the band promises will be followed by more fresh songs by the end of this month.

Singer/songwriter Paul Dunbar, 26, who also plays guitar for the band, said: “The single seems to be doing very well. We’re glad because we worked very hard on it.”

With influences including Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, ‘The Band’ and Motown/soul staples, The Midnight Ramble commands a wide range of fans. Paul said: “At our shows, our audience is made up of those re-living the sounds of the 70s, and younger, curious types who are just discovering the blues. In that way our music ‘transponds generations’.”

The band came together with mutual aims from all its members. Recruited by front man Paul, he is joined by bass player Chris Pearce, trumpeter Rory Ballantyne, saxophonist James Orrin, guitarist Mike McLeod,  and drummer Phil Stevens.

“We’ve had the same goals since the start,” Paul says. “We wanted to create something that was exciting for all of us; honest, soulful music that is the best it can be.”

His thoughts are echoed by 23-year-old Rory, who is originally from Essex, who said: “We also feel it’s important that as a band we are self-sustaining: anything we earn from shows goes right back into the band, which is how we have an album out and more new releases on the way.”

Showcasing their collective passion for their art, album ‘High Time’ ranges from the title track’s smooth Motown-jazz, coupled with Clapton-styled guitar work, to the defiant strut and commanding lyrics of ‘Black Dirt’. The album comprises three studio works, seven live tracks recorded at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre, and is the product of three producers, including Marc Joy, who has worked with the likes of Radiohead in the past.

The Midnight Ramble band live. Pic by Natalie Romero

The Midnight Ramble band live. Pic by Natalie Romero

Hearing them live, however, is something very different, as the band brings with them only their zeal for the job, their instruments and a real stage presence, with no studio influences misting over their sound.

The Midnight Ramble’s first gig was in March 2011 at Liverpool pub and music venue, The Shipping Forecast, before graduating to larger crowds at The Great British R&B Festival in Lancashire, which thousands of blues enthusiasts flock to from all over the country. Paul recalled: “It was absolutely massive and everyone there was part of a festival crowd, so they were really hungry for it. Best crowd to play for.”

Band members arrange most of their events themselves, as Chris explained: “About 95% of our gigs are off the back of other performances, through recommendations. In Liverpool, our favourite show so far has been ‘Shake Your Soul’ at Mello Mello. It was our own night of blues, jazz, soul and rock music, organised between us.”

Paul added: “We enjoyed it so much as it brought together so many talented artists; absolutely spot-on music. We came off stage afterwards drenched in sweat.”

About Natalie Romero, JMU Journalism