Whiskey Moonface are Ewan Bleach on clarinet, Jim Ydstie on double bass lead by the stunning vocals of accordionist and song-writer Louisa Jones. One Blinding Dusky Dusk is their debut album release. It features guest performances from fiddle player Alistair Caplin from the John Langan band, violinist Mirabelle Gillis, trombone player Sky Murphy, drummer John Blease who has worked with London Symphony Orchestra and Massive Attack, and songwriter and banjo player Sam Bailley.
Stevan Krakovic, short-listed for “Breakthrough Engineer of the Year” in the MPG awards 2011, recorded the album over two days at Shock and Awe Studios. In total twenty-two tracks were recorded, thirteen of which feature on the album. The remaining have been made into the EP The Echo of Me Shoes. The album was launched on 10th May in St Marys Old Church, Stoke Newington in London with a full live band show and support from Cretan Folk musicians, El Khandak and puppetry from Alice Cade. The concert was followed by an Irish session at the Old Auld Shillelagh. Louisa and Ewan were brought together whilst living at The George, a 150 year old Victorian east London pub that by night became a speakeasy central to the emerging folk, jazz and roots music scene of east London.
It was on a trip to Ireland, that Louisa spent some time on Sherkin Island where she stayed with a Celtic musician who inspired her to learn the accordion. Later she spent time in Bhopal in Northern India, learning Dhrupad (northern Indian classical vocal tradition) with the Guducha Brothers. She studied ethnomusicology at SOAS and a diploma in astronomy at UCL. These have had a strong influence on her song writing. She also plays double bass, cornet (sometimes at the same time as accordion!) and clarinet.
Whiskey Moonface also share a love of traditional jazz, influencing their original songs. The bass player Jim Ydstie (from North Dakota) originally came to London on tour with New Orleans clarinettist Dr Michael White. He then moved there to play with the “Pasadena Roof Orchestra”. Ewan and Louisa (playing double bass) all are in the “Dakota Jim Band”, led by Jim (playing accordion), playing songs collected from his life as a carpenter, fisherman and musical travels across the globe.
Ewan, who studied at the Guildhall, also runs the “Cable Street Rag Band” with Louisa playing double bass, Jim playing piano and Magic Mike Henry from the Chris Barber Band (who also features in some of Whiskey Moonface’s gigs). This band play every Thursday at the Jamboree, listed in the Guardians “London’s top five quirky bars” (2012). Ewan & Louisa also play in Man Overboard (with Classical Violinist Thomas Gould) who were the featured band on BBC 3’s In Tune Christmas Special.
Best description of the band is, to quote:
“Born into a puddle of whiskey beneath a stark winter moon and raised by cold winds, schooled in the warming spirits and hungry for more, Whiskey Moonface manage a natural, graceful sound built from many ports. Singer-song writer Louisa Jones and her troupe of musical-journey men straddle times and styles with ease and familiarity to conjure a sound at once arresting and that you can also dance to.”
The album is full of unique and imaginatively quirky songs, songs capturing lowlife bohemia at Cable Street, coupled with crazy dreams, a transcendent spiritualty, and just great storytelling. Theo Bard, folk promoter, has described Louisa’s voice has having “an astonishing purity yet there are a thousand nights of drunken nights and cigarettes soaked into that voice. I find it hard to imagine a sound I would rather listen to”. Ewan plays with the clarinet in weird and wonderful ways. His improvisation and inventiveness knows no bounds. Jim plays with imaginative improvised walking bass lines throughout.
An understated humour runs through many of the songs, for example; the fact that all the secrets of the universe are revealed in ‘Whiskey Spirit’ but we can’t understand them. This humour is present in the lyrics of ‘Dead Dog’ featuring a beautiful Celtic-style solo from Alistair Caplin. The album ends with Sam Bailey’s ‘Octopus’ (based on a true occurrence when a woman asked Sam to put an octopus on his head for her art project)
Artists’ website: http://www.whiskeymoonface.co.uk/