"Scotland’s Most Gentlemanly Band", Splendid Gentlemen dressed in their finest Gentlemen Threads, put on a spontaneous and passionate musical performance covering everything from 1950’s rock ’n’ roll to songs which are in the charts right now. Having been a working, professional band since 2010 they play literally hundreds (yes, plural) of gigs per calendar year.
Covers and versions from The Police, Sting and more classic rock.
To listen to Al Shields' music, with its inherent Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan influences, you'd be surprised to learn that his original musical inspiration was in fact Noel Gallagher.
"I grew up on a healthy diet of country and folk music from my Mum's record collection, but I was a Britpop kid" Al says, "But the great thing was that Oasis led me to The Beatles, who led me to Dylan. Dylan took me to Leadbelly and Robert Johnson. Everything I liked as a teenager led me back in time to the real storytellers.".
Shortly after receiving his first guitar at age 14 (a hand-me-down from his older brother), Al's mother passed away. Al moved from the small Scottish island of Bute to Newcastle to live with his sisters. "I was 14, and pretty private, but I wasn't very creative at that point" he says, "...but listening to music held an escape for me. I started devouring music. I bought what I could afford and I watched MTV, and I spent weekends reading music magazines and teaching myself guitar".
Having played in a rock band in high school, Al planned to study Music Technology after finishing his exams, but "Those hopes went down the drain with my grades." he laughs. "I even failed my Music exams, so after school I worked a few jobs and music fell by the wayside for a while".
At age 21, Al was re-acquainted with an old school friend from Bute. "He had a bunch of songs and was looking to start a band and record. I bought a cheap bass guitar and moved to Edinburgh a soon as I could, and the band became 'Ardentjohn'."
"I wrote a couple of songs for Ardentjohn" he recalls, "But my writing style and my delivery, right down to the sound I had in my head when I was writing songs...it was always in the Americana vein, it didn't suit the ambient indie-folk sound we made with the band.". These songs would not go to waste, however, as in 2008, Al released his first Americana-tinged solo effort 'Done and Dusted', limited to only 100 CD copies. "I could only afford to get 100 made!" He laughs, "I was still learning to write songs when I made 'Done and Dusted'. I'm still proud of it, though. Maybe one day I'll re-release it for nostalgia's sake".
With Ardentjohn now on something of a hiatus, Al has fully embraced the Americana genre, writing, recording and touring his country-flavoured solo album 'Slow Burner'. Upon the album's release, Scottish arts website Edinburgh Spotlight noted: " With titles like Travelling Man and Had A Little Lovin’, you get the sense Al would be more at home in some dustbowl diner in the mid-west rather than a grand ballroom in the east end of Edinburgh.".
"Johnny Cash was always a big influence for me" he says, "and my Mum loved Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton. That's really where my sound and songwriting style came from. American music always resonated with me more. The imagery used in American folk and country holds more romanticism for me. Highways and dusty old railroads might seem clichéd at times but that imagery has always appealed to me in songs".
Al is currently working on a new EP, due early 2016, with shows planned across the UK.
Since embarking on his solo career, Al has had the privilege of opening for a number of international touring acts, including Joe Pug, Neal Casal, Corb Lund, Krista Detor, Old Man Luedecke, Red Sky July, and LA country rockers Dead Rock West.
Event: SPLENDID GENTLEMEN, BGG BAND, AL SHIELDS
Date: Wednesday 1st March 2017
Venue: Whistle Binkies
Time : 17:00 - 03:00
Saturday 20th October
DIE HAPPY, THE DEAD FLOWERS, BLACK JACK BLUES BAND, GED HANLEY TRIO
Sunday 21st October
BANNOCKBURN, BRIMSTONE AND BLAKE
Monday 22nd October
Open Mic Night