Danny & The Champions Of The World : Hearts & Arrows

Danny & The Champions Of The World released their new album ‘Hearts & Arrows’ on CD through SO Recordings on 18th July 2010. The follow-up to 2009’s acclaimed ‘Streets Of Our Time’, the album was produced by Tony Poole and mixed by Ted Hutt (Gaslight Anthem, Lucero). The album features an entirely new Champs line-up. It will be released on 180g vinyl on 14th February 2012.

“On the back sleeve of the new record, I’m holding a Stratocaster,” grins Danny Wilson. “A friend saw it and said, ‘Woah, a Strat… Controversial!’ Yeah, too fuckin’ right! I wanna play a Strat, and I wanna plug it into a valve amp, and I wanna play music with my friends, and we’ve got a sax in the band, so let’s have a party. We can play all night, if you want. That’s what I love.”

The choice of this particular guitar is by no means random, and signals a number of profound changes for Danny and his Champions Of The World with their third album. First off, the current line-up of the Champs is very different from the line-up that recorded their 2008 eponymous debut album and its 2010 follow-up, ‘Streets Of Our Time’. Whereas the Champions Of The World were originally a loose and chaotic collective of like-minded souls – so loose and so chaotic that, at any given gig or session, you couldn’t accurately predict who exactly would be performing alongside Wilson – this new incarnation of the group is a proper rock’n’roll band, wholly and entirely committed to being the Champs.

“I love folk music, I always have,” Wilson says. “But I’m so fucking bored of ‘new folk’, and the trendiness that surrounds it, everyone pretending that it’s 1971 again. I wanted to make a totally un-bearded record. My reference points were Black Flag and Bad Brains, Tom Petty and Thin Lizzy, not Nick Drake and Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. Forget 1971, this is 1976: Dr Feelgood, Nick Lowe, just great rock’n’roll.”

Be assured, Hearts & Arrows sounds much more alike Tom Petty than Black Flag (who are name-checked on ‘Can’t Hold Back’), but it is also the rockingest waxing the Champs have thus far delivered: you can hear it in the hopeful pulse of opener ‘Ghosts In The Wire’ and the purposeful, melodic hurtle of its chorus, the chiming riffs of the title track and its infectious call to freedom, the urgent gospel-y overtones of ‘You Don’t Know (My Heart Is In the Right Place)’. The album also harbours some of Wilson’s trademark heartbreakers, ballads and laments… Some of his best, in fact, as the potent mourn of ‘Too Tough To Cry’, and his fair-minded, Guralnick-inspired meditation upon Elvis – ‘Colonel & The King’ – prove.

To best capture both sides of the Champs’ temperament, Wilson worked with two particularly adept studio magicians, men who know the ground upon which the Champs tread. The album was produced with Tony Poole, once guitarist with Starry Eyed And Laughing, mid-70s rockers of a kin with Nick Lowe and Brinsley Schwartz, and a man Wilson describes as “a genius guitarist, who comes from a time when the Hippy-ness of music was coming to an end and pub- and punk-rock was rising up. I went back to the source of the sound I was after with Tony.”

The album was mixed, meanwhile, by Ted Hutt, former member of Flogging Molly now better known as one of LA’s most in-demand producers, his CV including key releases by Lucero and Gaslight Anthem. “Ted’s a punk-rock guy who’s well into his Springsteen and his Tom Petty,” grins Danny. “He brought an edge, and an urgency, to the record.”

The lion’s share of the credit for Hearts & Arrows, however, belongs to Danny Wilson and his Champions Of The World, for their songs that wear your heart on their sleeves, for the timeless melodies played with a glorious desperation, like we’re only moments from the curfew, like this were the sweetest encore ever given. Cos Danny’s got a Strat, and he’s gonna plug it into a valve amp, and he’s got a sax in the band, so let’s have a party. They can play all night, if you want. That’s what they love.

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    Hearts & Arrows

    DIV035LP
    180g Single LP
    14th February 2012

    1. Ghosts In The Wire
    2. Hearts & Arrows
    3. Soul In The City
    4. Colonel And The King
    5. Brothers In The Night
    6. Too Tough To Cry
    7. Every Beat Of My Heart
    8. Can’t Hold Back
    9. On The Street
    10. You Don’t Know (My Heart Is In The Right Place)
    11. Walk With Me