Danny Bryant's guide to Blood Money
The Blues catches up with Norfolk gunslinger Danny Bryant for his track-by-track guide to Blood Money, a new album inspired by gambling, media manipulation, death and smashed ribs...
"I look like a thug, don’t I?” laughs Danny Bryant, as we inspect the sleeve of his new album, Blood Money. “I love those old Alligator album covers where they look a little bit menacing, a little bit dark. I showed the photographer some of those so he knew what we were aiming for.”
Not a thug, exactly, but certainly a man who means business. Since forming a creative partnership with producer Richard Hammerton for 2013’s Hurricane, Bryant has fired off two albums in consecutive years, and continued to tour with Bonamassa-worthy zeal. “We even did a week in China,” he recalls, “and I actually had to do that whole thing of submitting the lyrics to the government. That’s probably my most rock’n’roll moment ever. I was actually a little bit gutted when they all got through!”
After the varied songcraft of Hurricane and 2014’s Temperature Rising, Blood Money marks a return to Bryant’s first love, described by the 35-year-old as a “love letter” to his early blues heroes. Yet the album also has its finger on the pulse of 2016, with Bryant channelling tales of love, death, hope and fear from the world around him. “Me writing about a £600 vet bill is not going to be very inspiring,” admits the bandleader, as he prepares his tracklist commentary. “You have to borrow bits of people’s lives, in a way. You fit yourself into those shoes so the songs become real...”
BLOOD MONEY (FEATURING WALTER TROUT)
“That was the first song we cut. I remember that we nearly had a disaster in the studio, Grange Farm, because they have these winding stairs. I was in my socks and I slipped from the top to the bottom and smashed my ribs. They were a bit bruised, so that put the singing on hold for a couple of days.
“Blood Money originally came about when Walter got home from surgery. We had Skyped and he said we should write a song together. So I started it, and I had the riff, but then he got better quite quickly and went in to make his own album. So I just finished the song myself as a duet to play together. We couldn’t do it face-to-face because he was in LA and I was in Norfolk, so we transferred his parts. It was quite strange: I woke up one morning and I could hear Walter’s voice down in the control room.
“I wanted something riffy, and I just couldn’t see it sitting anywhere else but at the start. I loved what Walter did. He’s definitely got his chops back and it was great to hear his voice at full strength after that roller coaster of emotions. I really thought I was going to lose one of my dear friends. I’ve always had him there as a mentor, as something to navigate by and look up to. I’m a much better player now than when Walter guested on Days Like This . But I would hope to be. It just comes with age.”
“Lyrically it’s about the media and the way they seem to be controlling everything. That song was written before [the terrorist attacks in] Paris, but it’s quite topical with what’s happening at the moment. It seems like the media is churning up a lot of racism and hatred. The Paris attacks were absolutely terrible, and it sort of hits closer to home because I have friends who play that venue [Le Bataclan, where 89 music fans were killed]. But I think the dangerous thing is that you can’t blame a religion for a few thousand fanatics. And the media sometimes likes to. You have to be very careful not to bring hatred to a race of people or a religion when it’s just a few nuts.
“I was looking at the live set and we didn’t really have a big Texas shuffle. I’d always kind of steered away from that because so many guys do the Stevie Ray Vaughan thing, which was never anything that I did, as much as I love it. So I wanted something that would be a fun one to take out on the road. Guitar-wise, I wanted it to be balls-out, very much influenced by the Texas guys. Texas has some amazing blues players: I just tried not to think about them while I was playing it. I think there’s something in the water there. I’ve been to Texas and I drank plenty of the water – but it didn’t work!”