A new record deal has begun a new era for British blues and rock vocalist Deborah Bonham, bringing her Belfast-born partner, guitarist Pete Bullick, into the spotlight with the Bonham-Bullick moniker.
It has also brought about a self-produced, self-titled covers album featuring some of their favourite songs, all realised by their “arse-kicking” group: drummer Rich Newman (Rory Gallagher/ Steve Marriott), bassist Ian Rowley and keyboard player Gerard G Louis, all of who were members of Paul Rodgers’ Free Spirit band.
Tell us about the new record, Bonham-Bullick.
The band’s been together for so long, and I’ve been with the guitarist, Pete, for thirty-one years, so it was time to have that acknowledged, the team effort. For the record, I wanted blues, soul, rock and prog in it – everything I love in music. Pete is such a great guitarist. He was picked by Paul Rodgers to front the Free Spirit band and I was really proud of him, and wanted to show him off.
And you’ve produced it, too.
I always doubted my ability to produce. But I thought: “I really wanna do this.” It was a hell of a challenge, but it was a load of fun and I loved it. I had to learn to be diplomatic in the studio, so no: “Just play the fucking chord!” [laughs]. It’s quite an eclectic mix, covering an array of musical styles.
How did you pick the songs to cover?
I wanted to cover our favourite songs – some classic, some obscure. We were looking at about a hundred at one point. I whittled it down to thirteen, and each is a strange choice, such as The Changeling by an Australian guy called Chris Wilson. His style is between Leonard Cohen and JJ Cale. He’d only ever done it live, and I saw it on YouTube and I knew we had to cover it.
Then there’s See You Again by Bernard Fowler, who’s known for his work [backing vocals] with the Rolling Stones, but he’s an incredible solo performer. And you’ve got songs by Sam Cooke, Ann Peebles, OV Wright… Each song spoke to us. It was all about connecting with the song.
Is there one song that you were most keen to cover?
Bleeding Muddy Water by Mark Lanegan. I heard it because he’d worked with John Paul Jones on the album Blues Funeral, and it blew me away. I was gutted he passed away; I wanted to send it to him. This track puts a toe in the prog world. I came up with a keyboard part that was a little bit No Quarter, with a Zeppelin feel. It’s got a darkness and etherealness about it, and I love singing dark songs.
Who was your inspiration when you started singing?
From the get-go, Robert Plant. He was mesmerising. And then singers such as Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Janis Joplin, and I love, love, love Joni Mitchell. You’ve played with Robert Plant a lot, and he’s something akin to a brother to you now.
Might he pop up in the audience on tour?
He was there in London last week! I’m very lucky to have that closeness. It got even closer when we were working on [John Bonham’s] memorial statue. The loss of my brothers John and Michael, and the humour we had, I now have that with Robert. It’s why I like being in the band, it brings that humour back for me.
Bonham-Bullick is out now via Quarto Valley Records.