Outdoor Stage: Saturday 29 July
The story of Smoove & Turrell began in the post millennium North East of England with a group of working class lads and a shared passion for soul. Smoove had met keyboardist Mike Porter through the local music scene and recruited him for his ‘Smoove Live’ project for the label Acid Jazz. Around Mike’s house one day they overheard a neighbour singing sublime melodies in his garage with friends which turned out to be none other than a young John Turrell practicing in a band called ‘The Stevies’. After a couple of further sessions ‘scouting’ him they finally knocked on the door and had a chat and hit it off straight away.
A man of many facets, John Turrell was a skilled carpenter, working and teaching the trade to apprentices at a local college as well as his musical endeavours. After the trio performed several gigs together with various other guest musicians it was agreed they would create some new material and so they started to write and arrange a clutch of tracks that Smoove would record and produce.
Their first track was the now classic ‘I Can’t Give You Up’ recorded at Mike Porter’s house as his Hammond Organ was immovably wedged in his utility room! If you listen closely to the (now extremely expensive) original 7 inch recording released on the German label Club Tikka you can still hear Mike’s mum retrieving a pack of peas from the freezer…
The first few tracks were received with a rapturous response and their newfound northern soul style demanded that a Smoove & Turrell live band was formed so they swiftly filled out their ranks with a crack team of like-minded Geordie musicians. Joining the guys in today’s line-up with the aforementioned are Andy Champion on bass, Lloyd Croft on drums and Lloyd Wright on guitar. Now as a full soul band they were creatively allowed to really stretch their legs both live and in the studio and their debut Antique Soul was released in 2009 on Jalapeno Records.
It was in fellow soul head Craig Charles that they found their first radio champion as he supported them heavily on ‘The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Show’ which was a kick-starter for their assault on national radio eventually landing Radio 2 record of the week twice and a playlist on 6 Music.
By the time their sophomore album – Eccentric Audio was released the band had already been touring far and wide building up a loyal fan base helped by continued support from radio which culminated in two playlists and a New Year’s Eve live session on Radio 2. With two critically acclaimed albums under their belts and word starting to spread across the pond to America – S&T tracks were used on TV shows, feature films and an ABC network primetime ad campaign, as well as in video games and adverts. KCRW in LA put Hard Work in their coveted Today’s Top Tune slot further exposing the band to west coast tastemakers and the boys becoming unlikely darlings of the US sync business.
Sticking to their roots and keeping a close relationship with their fans was always a key driving ethos behind the crew. By their Broken Toys album their extensive touring and appeal across borders was recognised by BPI as they were awarded Music for Export Growth Scheme funding to assist with an extended touring schedule. This ‘get in the van and play the show’ willingness has built up one of the most loyal fanbases in the industry today, proven when the boys were invited to play Canadian Music Week and crowdfunded the costs to take them there in just a couple of days.
Which brings us to today and album number 4 – Crown Posada. With the whole band involved in the writing process their latest offering infuses their northern soul and funk style with early electronica influences, rock, pop, disco and jazz whilst still maintaining the signature S&T sound.
Lyrically it’s deep, with a broad return to the themes explored on the likes of ‘Beggarman’ and ‘Money’ meditating on the divide between the rich and the poor and offering an insider’s look at what it’s like to grow up, live and raise a family in the North East. 50 days Of Winter in particular offers a bleak picture of the isolation that can strike when life on the road stops and real life kicks in.
As always though with Smoove & Turrell the highs and the lows of life are represented and the hard times realism of some of the lyrics is tempered by the irrepressible dancefloor euphoria of others.
The album’s name and exotica influenced title track is taken from the 2nd oldest pub in Newcastle and spiritual home for the band which on an album with the subject matter such as this is an apt working class homage to their town.