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Away from the Mainstream: Meet the Oxbow Lake Band

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Guitarist and vocalist Andy Clucas of The Oxbow Lake Band tells Jason Holmes about why he wants to continue making music with integrity

'We're a gigging band in Scotland,' Andy Clucas tells me. 'We started as an acoustic band back in the winter of 2007, and a lot of people told us we had a Dexys [Midnight Runners] sound, probably because our sound is...eclectic.'

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Andy Clucas laughs after having uttered that last word, a word often associated with the musically astute or the musically precocious. At any rate, he realises The Oxbow Lake Band cannot be easily pigeon-holed because of it. The band has taken its influences from funk, soul, Mod, Latin, ska and electric blues, and does indeed sound somewhat like Dexys with a touch of The Style Council, circa 1985.

'We're developing our sound with each successive album,' he says. 'The new LP will include rappers and African musicians and percussionists, so world music is where we're headed right now. Put it this way, we're not restricting ourselves to a handful of tastes.'

Clucas is a self-confessed fan of the music of the early 1990s when the likes of Galliano [on the Talkin' Loud label] were melding African and black American musical influences that made for very interesting studio recordings and live gigs. 'The Acid Jazz sound created by Gilles Peterson and Eddie Piller was our inspiration. It was soulful, funky as hell and of excellent taste.'

In London in the early 1990s there grew a collection of DJs, producers and musicians that marked a high point in British independent music. It was when world music and fusion first hit the national airwaves when DJs like Gilles Peterson, Patrick Forge, Chris Phillips, Bob Jones, Norman Jay, Jez Nelson and Tomek were playing rarely-heard, and until then, lost musical gems on Jazz FM and Kiss FM to a receptive citywide audience, going beyond the finite listenerships who could be found at venues like Ronnie Scott's, The Jazz Café or Dingwalls in Camden.

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It is to this musical ethos that Andy pays fealty. 'A record can be both funk, jazz and folk at the same time. Back then I was listening to recordings by the likes of Mother Earth or Jamiroquai alongside Brazilian fusion, Bobby Womack, Alice Coltrane or Donald Byrd. I still love these sounds, sounds which defy easy classification.

'I'm also a DJ, so I'm into Pharoah Sanders, Corduroy, The James Taylor Quarter, Ray Charles and Bootsy Collins alongside Celtic folk music. The list is endless!'

The Owbow Lake Band comprises Andy on guitar and vocals, Matt Norrie on bass, Chris Newton on drums and Daryl Short on organ, harmonica and flutes, but the personnel is ever-expanding with an ever-changing selection of instruments. The new album will also feature a beefed-up horn section with Al Thomson and Kenny Shand, and there are plans to release vinyl singles from the long player.

'It's a concept album,' says Andy with a wink. 'We're going back to our Highland roots.' The second album follows Away From The Mainstream, which was released in December 2011.The band has been touring all summer in the Inverness and Aberdeen area promoting it, having hit all the coastal communities and the Greenhouse Project in Dingwall on the tour. The band also played to a 15,000-strong crowd at the Belladrum Festival in Inverness in August.

With a loyal following north of the border, are there any plans to gig down in London? 'Yes, but the logistics are tough,' he says.

As a self-contained band who produce their own records on their own label, Village Sunsets, they are, wisely, content to avoid approaching major labels for production or distribution deals.

'It's our thing,' says Andy. 'No one dictates to us. And now,' he says as a parting shot, 'I've got to go and de-grease my scooter.'

There are Mods in the Highlands? Who'd've guessed. But perhaps it's not the best climate to be riding around on a Vespa. That can only produce the wrong kind of blues, especially if you're wearing a kilt, which, of course, no self-respecting Mod would ever do.

© Jason Holmes 2012 / jantholmes@yahoo.co.uk / @JasonAHolmes

For more tour information, visit www.theoxbowlake.co.uk or follow the band on Twitter @theoxbowlake

Photographs courtesy of Andy Clucas