THE name Danny Wilson has raised a few eyebrows in Sheffield’s footballing fraternity in recent times.
And while the debate over the former Owls manager taking charge of The Blades rages on perhaps this one can provide an alternative soundtrack.
Ten albums into his career, Sheffield-bound musician Danny Wilson is still under the radar of the mainstream but continues to make friends, not least with new record Hearts & Arrows.
It’s his third fronting Danny & The Champions Of The World, a collective shaking up country, folk and soul, and sees a shift in the methodology of previous records and touring. Whereas before Danny George Wilson used a fluid line-up of co-conspirators – “not a band as such, more like an open invitation to a group of friends” – he’s now got a solid brethren hammering out the cause.
The former Grand Drive man used to indulge personnel randomness on tours with a fluctuating workforce turning up on various dates, spontaneity ruling over rehearsing.
“I was freewheeling, entirely, and I loved it. It was exactly what I needed at the time: making music, making friends.
“People started taking notice of the group with the second album.
“Some nights we’d have the whole band but some nights it’d be me, the drummer and the kazoo player. The loose collective was too loose and it was too hard to try to steer it in the right direction.”
Now Danny, seemingly on a mission against the modern folk movement, has got organised: “I love folk music, I always have,” he says. “But I’m so bored of ‘new folk’ and the trendiness that surrounds it – everyone pretending it’s 1971 again.
“I wanted to make a totally un-bearded record. My reference points were Black Flag and Bad Brains, Tom Petty and Thin Lizzy, not Nick Drake and Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. Forget 1971, this is 1976: Dr Feelgood, Nick Lowe – just great rock ‘n’ roll.”
That meant a more fixed line-up to the one he used to make the 2008 eponymous debut album and last year’s sequel Streets Of Our Time.
Gone is the chaotic collective of like-minded souls in favour of a gang wholly committed to being the Champs – including Barnsley’s Rosalie Deighton.
Heart & Arrows comprises a solid, occasional Springsteen-hugging, batch of good times and bad drawn from life and delivered with enough passion to win many hearts and minds. Then Danny once wrote Henry The Van, a lament for a broken down tour bus that captured the romance and rigours of life on a road he’d spent a decade pounding.
Aussie-born, but raised in England, Danny’s first Boss fix came aged 10 when his dad took him and older brother Julian to see Springsteen chums Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes.
Seven years later the Wilson siblings went uninvited to the tour hotel where Johnny was staying, armed with songs they thought he might perform, and got to hang about for a night.
Their first group, Soul Green, married the fury of punk with the melancholia of early Uncle Tupelo, but it wasn’t until the more country-orientated Grand Drive that the Wilsons released records. Several albums, including 1999’s Road Music, True Love & High Adventure, See The Morning In and Everyone, showcased a songbook that proved you didn’t have to live on the Mississippi shore to create music from another world.
Having recorded a batch of his own songs along the way, Danny released his first solo album in 2005; The Famous Mad Mile which eulogised a stretch of tarmac in Surrey beloved by boy racers.
When touring took him to Oxford’s Truck Festival he ended up in a studio with members of local band Goldrush, setting the MO and sound for the first two Champs albums.
The dissolution of the original Champs, however, inspired much of the lyrics to the third.
“This record is about friendship – it’s almost a break-up album. I’ve been with my missus forever so I’ve never really written a proper break-up song. But some of these are sad, emotional, heart-rending.
“The album’s a mixture of love letters and break-up letters. And it’s a defiant record. When you form a new group it’s like when you break up with someone and then you get a new haircut, a new girlfriend, and wanna show ’em off.”
He’ll do that at Sheffield’s Harley on September 25.