Another weekend in London is not a bad thing, and the journey of a couple of hundred miles is not a bother when I know that I am on my way to not only see FM but hear a playback of their new album as well. There’s a hint of a meet with them as well, but it’s going to be a busy night so I decide not to hold my breath on this one.

Covent garden is the venue, the Raodhouse to be more specific. Although I’ve heard of it I’ve never been before, and after sampling the delights of a few street performers I am buzzed by drummer Pete Jupp and am ushered in through the side door to see what we can sort out. Inside, The Roadhouse is a veritable sea of Americana, dominated by a Harley Davidson slap bang on top of the bar. It all looks pretty snazzy, with a small stage over in one corner. There’s a bloke on keyboards and two acoustic guitarists sound checking, making nice if unexceptional noises. After a while I manage to get a short sit down with the band (minus bassist Merv Goldsworthy) in between various other commitments.



As Steve Overland makes his way over, Pete Jupp explains the reasoning behind the return of a band I first saw a quarter of a century ago. “We came back initially for Firefest 7,” he says, looking happy and relaxes amidst the chaos. “Kieran (Dargan, FF organiser) had been asking us for years, and we’d said no, and it just felt right, so we said ‘Let’s do it’, and the reaction was so good we decided to do an album and carry on.”
Unfortunately, this was halted by the fact that guitarist Andy Barnett was unable to commit to the band as an ongoing project. Pete fills me in on why. “I think Andy just wanted to do different things, and he now lives in Malta.” Steve has arrived now, and takes up the tale. “We couldn’t tie him down,” he explains with a trace of regret. “And it was like if we’re gonna do this we’ve all got to be 100%.”
Andy’s loss was the gain of new boy Jim Kirkpatrick, a thirty something bluesman from oop north. (To hear some of Jim’s music (including a track with Overand on vocals) go along to ) “How did I get into it?” jim says when asked about getting the gig. “He kidnapped me!” Steve Overland is the target of the joke, and continues the story. “We’d known each other for a while, me and Jim, I’ve worked with Jim on writing things and other stuff. When we tried guitarists out, I’d hear Jim play lots of times and I thought he’d be perfect for the band.”

I ask whether Jim was able to have a hand in the writing, and he is happy to alaborate with typical Northern modesty “Some of the songs were done before, but even those ones when we went into rehearsal I went and changed it all and made it into the great record it is today” he says with a laugh.
I assume that the album was relatively pressure free to write, what with no record company breathing down their necks this time round. ““We took our time on forming the type of album we wanted to make,“ says Steve. “We just wrote lots of songs and picked the best ones.” Indeed, opening single “Wildside” is a cracker, but it’s rather heavier than some people might expect from the band. “It’s a bit of everything,” continues Steve. “What we’ve tried to do is bring together all the elements that over the years people have said make the FM sound.” He explains that the release of a heavier song initially was intentional, so people didn’t just dismiss them as sounding old fashioned and fluffy, the same as they’d always been. Half of this I get on tape, the other half is drowned out by James Ralphs plinking away on his keyboard during one of the world’s most fussy sound checks.

As Ralphs wails away in the background I harangue the band about the fact they stopped playing my favourite song “Say It like It Is”, and they take it well but make no promises, although I may have just persuaded them to squeeze “American Girls” back in when the inevitable tour comes later this year. Before we can get any more real chat in the band are whisked away for a photo call, and from there to the meet and greet with some lucky fans. After this I manage to get a few more minutes with Steve and Pete, but due to equipment malfunction it’s all lost to the ether unfortunately. What I do remember is that there will definitely be a tour and that Merv is not going bald. You heard it here first…

Soon afterwards the remaining fans are let in and there are many gasps as people find out the extortionate bar prices. It keeps me sober, if nothing else, because I’m not paying £7.40 for a pint of cider unless it’s poured out of Sandra Bullock’s shoes. By Sandra Bullock. So it’s with a clear head I settle down to listen to the new FM album “Metropolis”. Fifteen years after their last release “dead man’s Shoes” failed to excite many people, “Metropolis” looks like doing the opposite, and is packed with great songs. There’s mid paced rockers like “Over You” with it’s neat twin guitar solo and “Hollow”. There’s big assed ballads like “Days Gone By”, which has a great “Na na na” type singalong bit, and “Extra Mile”. Add to these some crunchy gems to go alongside “Wildside”, like “Still the Fight Goes On” or “I Ain’t the One”. “Flamingo Road” combines melody and power very well, “Hollow” is a typical melody strewn AOR track, and “Unbreakable” would be at home with any of Overland’s other projects. It’s only a single listen in a very crowded room, but at the end I am happy that this is going to be an album I can enjoy.

Before FM give us a live show, James Ralphs (son of Mick) plays some songs, both alone on an acoustic guitar and on keyboards with two other guys on acoustic guitars. I’ve heard this sort of thing too many times to get excited, and although it’s done well it’s nothing special. Once they shuffle off, though, the excitement is palpable.



Unsurprisingly, FM open with “Wildside”, setting their stall out nicely by blinding those at the front as a confetti bomb explodes. The sound is as good as can be expected in such a venue, and Steve Overland’s voice is as good as ever. Jim Kirkpatrick shows the guitar chops that have made him so respected in the Blues world, with the whole band coming over as very tight and very happy. Gotta feel a bit sorry for Keyboard player Jem Davis, though, as he’s shunted off to the side of the small stage with a handy notice saying “Please Do Not Feed The Keyboard Player” taped in front of him. The band are happy to wheel out the old favourites, and everyone is kept clapping and bouncing with “Face To Face” (With the crowd singing the intro as usual), “That Girl” and “Don’t Stop”. The crowd sing along at every opportunity, with Overland happy to let us enjoy ourselves as much as possible. When new song “Over You” comes along, however, it’s all about the band, and the audience is kept to attention with what proves to be a very catchy song that lets both Steve and Jim join forces on a nice twin guitar solo. I can see this remaining as a live favourite and deservedly so. Following hot on it’s heels is another new track “Flamingo Road”, a song with a Free-esque vibe to it, ramping up the blues quotient nicely, although with a spiffy AOR chorus to it. From here on it’s fun all the way, with all the old favourites (except “American Girls” - hmmmf!) dragged out and given a good shake. 80’s b-side “Dangerous” (re recorded for the “Wildside” EP) stays in the set, surrounded by “Blood & Gasoline” and the bluesy “Hard Day In Hell”, whilst ballad fans are well catered for with “Only the Strong” and the perennial soppy bollocks of “Frozen Heart”. they don’t scrimp on the rockier stuff, with sterling versions of “Bad Luck” and “Burning My Heart Down”, and there’s no surprise when “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” makes an appearance. If I’m honest, though, that’s one that can be retired, as it takes up space better filled with FM songs. For the inevitable encore there’s another cover, this time of “Feel Like Makin Love” by Bad Company, not a song FM usually tackle. Thereason for this is clear as soon as the special guest steps on stage, as it’s none other than Bad Company guiratist (and father of support man James) Mick Ralphs. The ensuing song is a pleasure to hear, although perhaps not really right for Overland’s voice. Either way, you can tell he’s enjoying it, although maybe not as much as Jim Kirkpatrick, who must be well chuffed at sharing the stage with an old Blues master like Ralphs.

All things must come to an end, especially when the venue wants to open up to people wanting to watch the Super Bowl, and after 15 songs we’ve had our lot. It was a fantastic night that bodes very well indeed for the immediate future of FM, and I’m sure I’m not alone in looking forward to the release of the new album and another chance to see the band on the accompanying tour.

If you want to see some of the performances, you can go to my YouTube channel ( where there are good quality videos for eleven of the songs, including the two new ones.

Interview by Alan Holloway, alan "at"
Photos by Alan Holloway
25 February 2010
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