High Hopes: Broken Witt Rebels – best Southern band the USA never had?

They don’t sound like they come from Birmingham. Playing blues rock with a soulful Skynyrd-like swagger – and fronted by a singer whose guttural howl sounds like it’s the product of a hard life spent frequenting gin joints south of the Mason-Dixon line – Broken Witt Rebels are an authentic southern band in all but actual geography.

“The nearest I’ve been to America is Frankie & Benny’s,” laughs frontman Danny Core. “We’d love to go and experience it first-hand.”

These Rebels have drunk deep from the twin wells of blues and soul. “We’re massively into the originals like Muddy Waters, people like early Fleetwood Mac – the British blues explosion stuff is great,” confirms Core. Perhaps Zeppelin are a key reference point too – fellow West Midlanders whose coals-to-Newcastle relationship with America changed rock music forever.

The band were formed by childhood friends Core and bassist Luke Davis. “We just saved up our money, bought some Argos guitars, some second-hand tablature books and learned old-school,” Core explains. Guitarist James Tranter and drummer James Dudley were added later and a name plucked from the pages of the free newspaper Metro. “I wish we had a cool story we could relate about that,” sighs Core. “Me and Luke literally picked three different words from separate stories in the paper.”

They’re a band that have paid their dues, enduring their fair share of fruitless Transit journeys to play to one man and a dog. Or in their case, cat. “We’ve had so many crap gigs,” relates Core. “One time at the Adam & Eve in Birmingham, we had a cat that came in and climbed into the drum kit. We ended up having to coax it out of the bass drum before we could go on and play to just one person. We really have put everything into it. We’ve lost jobs and lost relationships. We’ve constantly had to make sacrifices.”

Gradually, though, that hard graft is paying off. The group have just released Georgia Pine, an impressive five-track EP that showcases the breadth of their songwriting – from big-riffed gospel-influenced workouts to plaintive Kings Of Leon-style pop – and they have enough material for an album, which they hope to release later this year, “if things go well”.

It’s been a long time since a West Midlands rock band has broken through and Core sounds determined that his group can finally put that right. “Birmingham has had some amazing rock bands but recently it’s been perceived as home to this sort of shoegazey indie music, which is not our cup of tea at all,” he says. “I’m very passionate about bringing rock back to where it belongs. And we think we can do that. We’re going to keep on kicking down doors and trying to make it happen.

“Without sounding too cocky, we’re not here to make up the numbers,” he adds. “We’re here to take over.”

FOR FANS OF: Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac

The band are fans of every era of Fleetwood Mac, but in particular the early Peter Green-led version. “I personally love Rumours,” says Core. “That album blew me away. But as an influence on us as a band, the first album is way more important. Peter Green’s playing on it is amazing. It’s such a great album.”

Will Simpson was Music Editor of the Big Issue South West in Bristol before relocating to Thailand to become Deputy Editor of English language books magazine New Arrivals. Since returning to the UK he's freelanced, writing about music for Classic Rock, IDJ, Metro and Guitarist, and environmental issues for Resource and The Spark. He also writes for contract publishing titles such as Teach, Thomson Air, Musician and Korg.