Formed in Edinburgh in 2007, The Wynntown Marshals tip their hats to artists like Tom Petty, Neil Young, The Jayhawks, and Wilco. Since its formation, the band has supported several world-renowned Americana acts including Marty Stuart, Richmond Fontaine, Jason & The Scorchers, Tift Merritt, John Murry, and, in 2008, toured the UK opening for the influential American singer-songwriter Chuck Prophet.
The Marshals released a self-titled, 6-track studio EP in February 2007 and followed this up with their full-length debut album "Westerner" - produced by the band and Graham Deas (KT Tunstall, Super Furry Animals) in May 2010.
“Westerner” immediately received universally excellent reviews, including 9/10 from AmericanaUK ("as good as Americana gets") and received 5 stars in Maverick magazine ("quite simply stunning"). The album was also described by renowned Dutch magazine 'Heaven' as "one of the best European Americana records ever", with the celebrated US Americana website NoDepression.com declaring the album as a strong contender for their 'debut disc of 2010'.
Following the release of "Westerner", the Marshals were invited to record a live BBC Radio 2 session with the legendary "Whispering" Bob Harris MBE in July, performing 3 songs in the studio. Then, in the midst of a headline tour of the Netherlands, the band recorded a national radio session in central Amsterdam for Kink FM's legendary "2 Meter Sessies" at the request of renowned Dutch broadcaster Jan Douwe Kroeske.
The Marshals then released a live EP entitled "Live at the Holly Tree" - a 7-track blast featuring a cover of Neil Young's "Powderfinger", and then followed this up with a live session on "Another Country with Ricky Ross" on BBC Radio Scotland in June 2011.
From 2011 through to the winter of 2012, the band split their time between writing the follow-up to “Westerner”, album pre-production, and touring around the UK, Holland and Germany - both as a full-band and as a duo (featuring lead vocalist Keith Benzie and guitarist Iain Sloan).
Their 2013 release "The Long Haul" (released in Europe on 17th June and in the UK on 15th July) was recorded in three short months in the band’s rehearsal space above The Blind Poet, one of the city’s many venerable watering holes. The Marshals took a more DIY approach this time around, recording and mixing the album on a Tascam portastudio.
“The Long Haul” sees the band stretch out a little from the purer Americana sound of “Westerner”. Organ and piano are more prominent this time round and there are pop hooks aplenty, sitting comfortably alongside more guitar-heavy tracks and subtler, more intimate moments. On two tracks, simple strings are employed to beautiful effect and there is also a sparkling cameo from Diane Christiansen of Chicago-based outfit Dolly Varden on the album closer “Change of Heart”.
The trademarks of the Marshals’ sound – honest and heartfelt lead vocals, the driving guitars, chiming Rickenbacker 12-string, and sweet pedal steel – are still present. The story songs of old are also in attendance; “Curtain Call” is a stripped-down hymn to a ruined Victorian illusionist, while the country-shuffle/sea- shanty of “The Submariner” tells the tale of a modern-day Captain Nemo.
However, line-up changes have brought a new dynamic and a more collaborative approach to songwriting and arrangements, while adding new flavours to the sound too. Listen closely and you’ll hear multi-layered backing vocals, mellotron, banjos and mandolins, echoes of 60s beat-pop, and simpler, more contemporary guitar lines.
Highlights include the hook-laden, radio-friendly “Canada” and the country-rock groove of “Low Country Comedown” - a track inspired by the band’s regular trips to the continent. “Whatever It Takes” shows the band’s more sensitive side, “The Submariner” rolls up-country then dives deep into the ocean. “Tide” is a windblown, Crazy Horse-esque workout, and the aforementioned “Change of Heart” brings the album to a close in epic style (think Neil Young or Tom Petty jamming with a string quartet).
“The Long Haul” speaks of so much more than the path the band have travelled to get to this point. It’s a treatise on journeys past, present and future, an ode to relationships, friendships and family and, ultimately, it’s a soundtrack to our endless search for identity and the road home.
The Wynntown Marshals:
Keith Benzie: Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica
Iain Sloan: Electric Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Backing Vocals
Murdoch MacLeod: Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Kenny McCabe: Drums, Backing Vocals
Richie Noble: Keyboards