Striking an exhilarating blend of English rock and American roots music, The Dunwells’ songs arrive both ready for the fight and the fallout.
Emerging from the pubs and clubs of Leeds, England, their hometown in 2009, The Dunwells are brothers Joseph Dunwell (vocals, guitar) and David Dunwell (guitar, piano, banjo) along with cousins Jonny Lamb (vocals, drums) and Rob Clayton (bass) and longtime best mate Dave Hanson (guitar, pedal steel). “We are genuinely best mates,” explains singer, songwriter and guitarist Joseph Dunwell. “We sometimes bicker and fight, but then we hug and make up and go out for a drink.” Their stellar musicianship, classic roots songwriting and soaring harmony vocals have already made instant but lasting impressions on scores of fans.
Their debut album Blind Sighted Faith (Concord/Playing In Traffic) is a collection of eleven captivating, indelible songs of purpose and resolve that live free of easy categorization. From its mission defining opening track, “I Could Be A King” onward, Blind Sighted Faith finds a sustained level of excellence and joy; and keeps on comin’.
In songs such as “So Beautiful” the band reveals an elusive equilibrium between their rock power and folk richness, while regal folk-rocker “Goodnight My City” conversely sparkles with modernist Britpop shine. From moments of graceful reflective repose like “Only Me” to the churning pattern of “Follow The Road” to the prayerful closing plaint of “Oh Lord,” the band offers a panoramic vision that seamlessly melds elements of Celtic and American folk, rock, country, blues, pop and soul into a sound all their own. The anthemic title track and the flowing romantic ode “Elizabeth” illustrate the band’s artistic aspirations. Further, their adept feel for American country roots is evident in the slow burn of “Borrow Me” and the allure of “Dance With Me”; both songs featuring remarkable vocal turns by Dave Dunwell.
John Porter, who also hails from Leeds, produced ten of Blind Sighted Faith’s eleven tracks. A band mate of Bryan Ferry, he played bass with Roxy Music before stepping behind the recording console to produce that group and solo Ferry projects along with a spectrum of other stylistically diverse artists like The Smiths, B.B. King, and Ryan Adams. With nine Grammy Awards to his credit, Porter proves to be the ideal collaborator to help bring the artistic richness within The Dunwells to brimming fruition. George Drakoulias, known for his work with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Black Crowes, The Jayhawks and others, produced “So Beautiful,” written after the initial album sessions.
All five members hail from the same part of Leeds and earned their stripes as musical entertainers in local pubs and clubs before uniting as a band. Brothers David and Joseph Dunwell grew up in a home plentiful with music thanks to their father’s extensive record collection. Weaned on such artists as Bob Dylan and Van Morrison as well as countless other musical acts from the 1960s onward; both began playing guitar at an early age, inspired by their father, a talented classical acoustic player. David and then Joseph both started writing songs, and individually made their initial marks at open mike nights in and around Leeds. When a booking agent suggested that they unite as an act it made perfect sense.
Bassist Rob Clayton and David Dunwell are longtime friends who spent many hours in their youth listening to music together. Drummer Jonny Lamb is Clayton’s cousin. Guitarist Dave Hanson heard Joseph Dunwell singing at an open mike night in a pub and, duly impressed, befriended and began playing with him. “We all made music for a living before we became a group,” notes Hanson. “It’s not just a band that formed. It’s organic and it comes from sharing the same roots, and everybody growing up, listening to and learning music together.” Once they united as The Dunwells, they all knew that something special was brewing. And beyond their classic rock and folk roots, they count among their inspirations artists such as Damien Rice, Radiohead, Ryan Adams, Oasis and influential legends like Ray Charles.
Their debut U.K. single, “Elizabeth,” hit #31 on the Independent Music chart the week it was released in March 2010. The band spent the rest of the year touring Britain and Europe, playing such top festivals as Hop Farm (with Bob Dylan and Van Morrison), Edinburgh’s cutting-edge Fringe Fest, Triumph Live (with Mumford & Sons) and the Fete De La Musique in Paris. Following the release of their debut EP in October 2010, The Dunwells were named Artist of the Month by the Caffe Nero coffee chain — the British equivalent of Starbucks — and played a 20 day/40 show tour of its shops in England and Scotland to win over a growing U.K. fan base. To help spread their music further, the band frequently busks on the streets of the cities they visit. The buzz spread to London when the band booked a gig at The Bedford, a noted showcase venue where acts like Paolo Nutini, KT Tunstall and Ellie Goulding began their rise. Tony Moore, the influential UK music promoter, BBC radio personality and singer-songwriter, immediately became a key supporter.
From the very first time The Dunwells hit American shores at the 2011 International Folk Alliance conference, their impact has been astounding. “Anyone that’s seen them has just been ‘Oh My God!’ They’re mind boggling!” raved Folk Alliance Executive Director Louis Jay Meyers to Voice of America radio.
Lyrically evocative and musically assured, Blind Sighted Faith is a stunning first bow that seems to charm everyone on first listen. Now with their debut album under their belts and the unending road in front of them, The Dunwells are primed to take their music as far and wide as they can; one can hear that solidarity and aspiration in the music they create together. “We’re all in it for the same reason,” concludes David Dunwell. “We just love making music.”