PETE MOLINARI is a country blues singer, songwriter from the Medway Delta. He was born into a large Maltese/ Italian/ Egyptian family in Chatham, Kent, where he was discovered by Billy Childish. Molinari had an odd childhood. While his friends were listening to Nirvana and Oasis he developed a deep infatuation with the Billie Holliday, John Coltrane, Leadbelly and Bob Dylan records of his much older brothers.’ We had a sideboard unit with a record player’, he remembers. ‘I would sit and stare at these records going round while my brothers were out playing football’. Discovering himself to be lacking in the academic and athletic departments, Pete devoted his life to art. ‘My parents came to this country to work and found my decision hard to accept. And I’ve had hundreds of jobs, from working in a factory to digging potatoes, that have only lasted two or three days because I’m only ever thinking about songs.’
With a head full of songs and his trusty guitar he went out to New York for a month, which turned into two years travelling round the USA. There he honed his unique vocal style playing the bars and cafes of New York’s Greenwich Village like the Bitter End, the Gaslight, Cafe Wha?, Café Del Artista – places where Jack Kerouac and his beat poets read and also the likes of Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Dylan all played. On his travels, Pete got to play with some of the best players that were part of Dylan/ Phil Ochs scene like Justin Devereaux and Eric Fransen who was later invited by Dylan to join his Rolling Thunder Revue. Pete says: “They thought it was real strange that a kid of my age from England could play this kind of music in a more authentic way than any of the Americans they normally see in the Village.” Pete built up a cult following and also won fans like actor/ musician Vincent Gallo and legendary photographer Louis Stettner, who filmed him.
As Pete says: “I’ve travelled a long road to get here. These songs have been on that road. From playing little places in Chatham and London to the late night coffee houses of Greenwich Village, Memphis, New Orleans, San Francisco, LA and Paris. I seem to be drawn to these places. There’s something more real about them. More close to the earth.”
When he returned to Chatham the painter/ poet/musician Billy Childish suggested recording an album. ‘We made it in a day in Billy’s kitchen. He got out an old Revox tape machine and recorded it live. That way we got a bit of that old spirit that I love so much about those old records. The ones that were thrown to one side in my house as a child…Hank Williams, Johnny Cash…I can only thank God that they were.” I was used to people showing interest and doing nothing, but Billy just got on with it. He’s a huge inspiration.’ ‘Walking Off The Map’ stands as one of those rare warm and intimate records where you feel the singer is there performing in front of you.
In 2007, bolstered by the stereo production quality of the legendary Toe Rag Studios and, on many of the songs, a full band, Pete returned with sizzling second album “ A Virtual Landslide”. It features: the majestic ‘Sweet Louise’ and the heartbreaking ‘Oh So Lonesome For You’ both guided by the spirit of Roy Orbison; ‘There She Still Remains’ a melancholy country-soul beauty complete with slide guitar from by BJ Cole that’s reminiscent of 60’s Nashville at its finest – think Arthur Alexander; the blues howl of ‘Virtual Landslide’ which filters the weight of history through Molinari’s knock-out voice; the rockin’ country of ‘I Came Out Of The Wilderness’ and ‘Goddamn Lonesome Blues’; the rollin’ freight train rhythms of ‘Adelaine’; the beautiful and wistful ‘One Stolen Moment’; the plaintive ‘Look What I Made Out Of My Head Ma’; the straight-up honesty of ‘I Don’t Like The Man That I Am’; the Spanish-tinged ‘Dear Angelina’; and ‘Lest We Forget’ – a traditional lament to those lost in World War I.
Pete was nominated for a MOJO breakthrough award at their awards for 2008, with “A Virtual Landslide” listed in their top 50 albums of the year.
April 2009 saw Pete release his first new recordings since his breakthrough second album. A four track EP was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee at Playground Sound Studios and features four of his live favourites – covers of ’Today, Tomorrow and Forever’, ‘Satisfied Mind’, ‘Guilty’ and ‘Tennessee Waltz’ – all backed up by the extraordinary vocal talents Of The Georgettes and the legendary Jordanaires!
The idea for this EP came about when Pete decided to take a break from preparing new material for his third album and headed over to Nashville for a few weeks. While there he met up with a few like-minded individuals that included producer and guitarist Adam Landry (Hayes Carll/Allison Moorer ) with whom he enjoyed several late night impromptu gigs. Spurred on by the success of these shows and certainly encouraged by the local reaction to his rather unique talents he decided to return a month later to record his long planned EP of covers – a selection of tracks that were not only particular favourites of Pete’s but also those that had proven to be hugely popular when performed at live shows in the UK and Europe.
Hooking up once again with Adam Landry (who also produced the EP) and a number of local musicians including steel player Chris Scruggs (grandson of Earl Scruggs) the recordings surpassed all expectations but were then taken up a gear when a chance introduction to The Jordanaires – who were completely bowled over by Pete’s voice and treatment of these songs – led to these legendary singers agreeing to provide backing vocals to the tracks. Even to be in the same town as these rock ’n’ roll heroes was a dream come true for this boy from Chatham in Kent but to then actually record with the very same men who backed up the likes of Elvis and Patsy Cline turned the sessions into a surreal experience.
The results were released on a limited edition 4 track 10” single and a special issue seven track mini-album (CD only) that also features for the first time on CD the B-sides from his last three 7” singles.
After Pete left Damaged Goods he self released his third album ‘A Train Bound For Glory’ and his latest album ‘Theosophy’ is out now on Cherry Red Records.
’Molinari’s voice and haunting melodies left me feeling that the musical void in the British music scene will most definitely be filled. He can follow in the footsteps of Dylan and Guthrie’ – NME
“A singular talent….his distinctive voice and guitar establish him as a Medway Hank Williams. Worth investigating.” – UNCUT
’The soul of American music distilled into the voice of a Cuban-heeled greaser from the Medway Delta’ – THE GUARDIAN
‘An extraordinary new British talent…4.5/5’ – THE SUN
‘A spellbinding, wondrous voice….an amazing album’ – STOOL PIGEON
‘Young, finger-picking, country-blues marvel Molinari has a thrillingly ambiguous voice…’Virtual Landslide’ is an actual triumph’ – TIME OUT
‘A superbly realised piece of folk blues heartache’ – MOJO
‘Sweet-voiced blues-folk…a cherishable artefact even before you fall under the spell of the actual music’ – NME