Pete Molinari is a country blues artist from the Medway Delta.
Pete was born into a large Maltese/Italian/Egyptian family in Chatham, Kent. Molinari had an odd childhood. While his friends were listening to Nirvana and Oasis he developed a deep infatuation with the Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Leadbelly and Bob Dylan records of his older brothers. “We had a sideboard unit with a record player”, he remembers. “I would sit and stare at these records going round while my brothers were out playing football”.
Discovering himself to be lacking in the academic and athletic departments, Pete devoted his life to art. “My parents came to this country to work and found my decision hard to accept. And I’ve had hundreds of jobs, from working in a factory to digging potatoes, that have only lasted two or three days because I’m only ever thinking about songs”.
After reading Woody Guthrie’s ‘Bound For Glory’ and Jack Kerouac’s ‘On The Road’, which were pretty much like the old and the new testament for him, Pete completely absorbed the romanticism of the whole spirit of a poet/musician.
With a head full of songs and his trusty guitar he went out to New York for a month, which turned into two years travelling round the USA. There he honed his unique vocal style playing the bars and cafes of New York’s Greenwich Village like the Bitter End, the Gaslight, Cafe Wha?, Cafe Del Artista – places where Jack Kerouac and his beat poets read and also the likes of Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Dylan all played.
On his travels, Pete got to play with some of the best players that were part of Dylan/Phil Ochs scene like Justin Devereaux and Eric Fransen who was later invited by Dylan to join his Rolling Thunder Revue. Pete says: “They thought it was real strange that a kid of my age from England could play this kind of music in a more authentic way than any of the Americans they normally see in the Village”. Pete built up a cult following and also won fans like actor/ musician Vincent Gallo and legendary photographer Louis Stettner, who filmed him.
As Pete says: “I’ve travelled a long road to get here. These songs have been on that road. From playing little places in Chatham and London to the late night coffee houses of Greenwich Village, Memphis, New Orleans, San Francisco, LA and Paris. I seem to be drawn to these places. There’s something more real about them. More close to the earth”.
When he returned to Chatham the painter/poet/musician Billy Childish suggested recording an album. “We made it in a day in Billy’s kitchen. He got out an old Revox tape machine and recorded it live. That way we got a bit of that old spirit that I love so much about those old records. The ones that were thrown to one side in my house as a child…Hank Williams, Johnny Cash…I can only thank God that they were. I was used to people showing interest and doing nothing, but Billy just got on with it. He’s a huge inspiration”. ‘Walking Off The Map’ stands as one of those rare warm and intimate records where you feel the singer is there performing in front of you.
Now bolstered by the stereo production quality of the legendary Toe Rag Studios and, on many of the songs, a full band, Pete released a sizzling second album, entitled ‘A Virtual Landslide’.
It features: the majestic ‘Sweet Louise’ and the heartbreaking ‘Oh So Lonesome For You’ both guided by the spirit of Roy Orbison;
‘There She Still Remains’ a melancholy country-soul beauty complete with slide guitar from by BJ Cole that’s reminiscent of 60’s Nashville at its finest – think Arthur Alexander; the blues howl of ‘Virtual Landslide’ which filters the weight of history through Molinari’s knock-out voice; the rockin’ country of ‘I Came Out Of The Wilderness’ and ‘Goddamn Lonesome Blues’;
the rollin’ freight train rhythms of ‘Adelaine’; the beautiful and wistful ‘One Stolen Moment’;
the plaintive ‘Look What I Made Out Of My Head Ma’; the straight-up honesty of ‘I Don’t Like The Man That I Am’; the Spanish-tinged ‘Dear Angelina’; and ‘Lest We Forget’ – a traditional lament to those lost in World War I and World War II, right up to the troubles in the present day.
Molinari had first made a trip to Nashville during a break from touring ‘A Virtual Landslide’ and while there had hooked up with producer Adam Landry and a number of local musicians. His reputation as a songwriter and vocalist of some note had already made it Stateside thanks to the British music press, but to see and hear him perform in the flesh was a revelation to the locals and it was not long before he was holed up at Playground Sound with new admirers The Jordanaires to record a collection of covers that was to see the light of day on the ‘Today, Tomorrow & Forever’ EP.
For a man brought up on many of the classic records that these legendary performers had sung on, the experience of working with the vocal group was mindblowing.
“The Jordanaires came in, listened to the tracks, wrote down parts, gathered around one mic, started to sing, and my jaw dropped,” recalls Molinari. “I didn’t want them to leave.”
Spurred on by the success of these recordings, Molinari decided to stay on in the States – playing the bars and coffee shops of Nashville, New Orleans, San Francisco and New York, just as he had as a young kid when first crossing the Atlantic [Pete had previously based himself in Greenwich Village for 18 months, playing shows and honing his trade and stagecraft in front of some very tough and unforgiving audience who were all just waiting for this young pretender from the UK to trip up – by all accounts he never did].
Having spent almost two years touring the UK and mainland Europe as both headlining act and as support to the likes of Richard Hawley and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, this extended road trip not only gave him a much needed break from a rigorous schedule but also allowed him the chance to rediscover the country he had first fallen in love with back home in Chatham, Kent via the works of Kerouac and Guthrie and the impressive record collections of his older brothers and sisters; factors that would prove to be hugely influential to a boy with a classic case of the small town blues.
Molinari: “As a kid I was given two books that made as big an impression on me as anything could. They were by Woody Guthrie and Jack Kerouac and along with the songs and music that were later handed down to me, they helped convince me that my life should and would be some kind of journey on the road that some call bound for glory and others the road less travelled by”.
June 7th brings the release of his new album “A Train Bound For Glory”
Many of the songs on ‘A Train Bound For Glory’ were already written (at least in part) before he headed back to the States, but by immersing himself in and being subtly seduced by cities such as Nashville, New York and a defiant New Orleans – towns that for Molinari remain not only the birthplace of but also the catalyst for some of the greatest pieces of music ever written – they became fully formed and, thanks to incredible performances from all involved, took on a life of their own.
Here he is performing the first single from the album “Streetcar Named Desire” recently on “Later……..with Jools”
To buy the music of Pete Molinari click HERE
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