“An intense, electric, melodic and smart debut. Powerhouse band TBelly may declare that Dead Men Don’t Pray in the album’s title, but for all those still living: hear this record.”
“The truth is, I didn’t discover the blues . . . it discovered me.”
You instantly believe Russell Keefe when he says this, the words spoken with a voice reminiscent of Tom Waits or Joe Cocker. The warm, broad smile that follows reassures you that he knows the world enough to know what he’s talking about.
The Manchester-born founder and lead singer of TBelly has a distinguished career in music to rest his laurels on, but he’s clearly focused more on what’s ahead of him and his new-found band than he is on what’s behind him.
As a member of Les KcKeown’s legendary Bay City Rollers, Keefe (as well as bandmates Kevin Magill and Ross Lardner) toured the world and recorded multiple studio and live records, furthering the iconic band’s worldwide success. But it was a batch of new songs that Keefe says fueled this new direction. “I started writing the songs a year or so ago and this blues style just came out. It suited my voice and it suited the type of songs I was writing. But there are other elements in the songs, and in the band too. TBelly certainly has its roots in the blues, but it’s very much a contemporary sound that we bring.”
About his songwriting process, Keefe adds, “Only two of the songs on this album have come from me deliberately sitting down at my piano and writing songs—the rest have come in various ways—walking to the pub, or inspired by noticing the people I come across in everyday life. One evening I was walking through town and saw this old guy who had clearly been drinking a little, dancing a waltz with himself. That influenced the song “Night at the Ritz.” So sometimes I’d get an idea, or hear a melody in my head and over time it’d evolve into the songs you hear on the album.”
Bass player Riad Abji and backing singer Debs Bonomini fill out the band’s roster, and join Keefe and company on the 11 songs that make up TBelly’s forthcoming debut album Dead Men Don’t Pray.
“We set up drums, we set up amps, we set up mics and we played as a band—just like you’re supposed to,” says Keefe. “That’s the energy that’s on this record: people playing together, and having a blast.”
Recorded at the Brighton Electric recording studio and co-produced by Keefe and Paul “win” Winstanley, the band’s debut album Dead Men Don’t Pray will be released worldwide May 26, 2015 on Cabin Music/ECR Music Group.