TO say legendary guitarist Duane Eddy and local hero Richard Hawley made a connection when they met last year would be understatement.
Asked if he sees some of his younger self in the Sheffield-born muso, Eddy pauses a moment with his cuppa.
“Yeah, I do. If I had a son here... I think he would have been it.”
His wife Deed fidgets in the seat next to him. “Metaphorically speaking,” he adds with a smile. “He’s just got what I call ‘The Elvis Dust’, he just sparkles. He’s got charisma and everybody loves him. I don’t know how to describe it. He’s just a lovely man and a great guy.”
Such appreciation led to Duane breaking a recording hiatus that lasted 25 years. In just 11 days in Yellow Arch Studio last October they captured Road Trip, 11 tracks that range from atmospheric to sassy, rocky to brooding, all underpinned by ‘The Twang’ Eddy signatured with his Gretsch guitar half a century ago.
Hawley has long extolled the now 73-year-old’s style, evident in much of his own music. So it was no surprise Duane recognised the language and warmed to someone who had found his own path with it.
He also acknowledges fate, having waited years to meet the right combination of people, namely Richard and his band: bass player, co-writer and producer Colin Elliot, guitarist Shez Sheridan and keys man Jon Trier, the latter also tendering co-writes such as Mexborough Ferry Boat Halt and Bleaklow Air.
“We used to make albums in 10 days, a week or two, back when I started. Of course it was a lot simpler.
“Richard was the driving force behind this but between the two of them, he and Colin shaped it all up. His band, they all contributed. And it was all done there.
“Richard had a couple of ideas, I had a beginning which Richard sorted out for me, everybody pitched in.
“It was a great experience and reminded me of the early days in Pheonix when everybody would jump in and offer their 50 cents. Who knew what would work and what wouldn’t.
“I made a few albums through the years, since those early days, and those guys drew out of me what hasn’t in a long time. I don’t know how they did it, they just wrapped themselves around the whole project and I just reverted to early days.”
Which is all quite a compliment from someone who has worked with the likes of Lee Hazlewood, Chet Atkins and George Harrison.
Duane, who combined an autumn visit to collect a MOJO Icon Award with recording sessions, admits to having found like-minded souls in an unlikely place. Then Road Trip emerged without agenda.
“We had no idea whether anybody would like it or not. So we said ‘Let’s not worry about it and do what we like and hope for the best’.
“But I had a feeling it would work, because I got that feeling when I first heard Richard’s records, but I didn’t know him or any of these people.
“I’d been to Sheffield to play one-nighters down the years, in and right back out again, never got to spend any time here.”
From some of the major reviews so far it appears critics, at least, have missed Duane.
“Like a friend of mine said, ‘There’s a pent up demand for you’, so he’ll get a kick out of this,” quips Duane, who isn’t ready to measure Road Trip beside past works which include a daring ’80s revival courtesy of Art Of Noise.
“I’m going to have to wait and see. There’s two parts to an album; there’s the making of it, which I love. Then there’s the ‘See if the public likes it’. That’s the real test. If they like it enough to buy a few of them so we make enough money to go back and do another album, I feel it’s a success.”
Either way, it seems unlikely Duane will wait quite so long to record again.
“I’d been working another project with a friend in Nashville. When this came up we put that back on the shelf because we’ve got some more to do to it. But I’ve got practically another album made and we might do another this Fall if I come back to do some dates. Richard’s already got ideas.”
As well as making “a few choice comments” when he learned Duane had been admiring his music, Hawley has been immersing the American in his local culture, including city pub Fagans, chilli-filled Yorkshire puds at the “magical” Strines and countryside that inspired the High Storrs father-of-three.
As for the accent. “It is strong. And very charming, I think,” Duane says, nodding to Deed. “She’s got a good ear and I say ‘What he say?’ and she’ll interpret for me. I don’t hear good anyway. Standing in front of those live amps all these years I miss a lot.
“But everybody’s been so kind. Being here has been like being in the south of America, warm, helpful people who are openly friendly. We’re used to that back home but not in the big cities. To come to Sheffield and find the same thing is amazing.
“We fell in love with it here. They drove us out to the country, went out to Bakewell, had a tart – I wish we had that at home, it’s just gorgeous.”
Suddenly the couple have to be elsewhere. “We’ll just have to keep coming back,” adds Deed, leading Duane out.