British singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Philip Morgan Lewis is one of the most creative and prolific artists I’ve encountered in my more than six years as a music blogger. Drawing from an eclectic range of music genres and influences, including alternative rock, blues, R&B, soul, garage rock, folk and EDM, the London East Ender crafts his own unique style of blues-soaked rock. That unique style, combined with his distinctive raspy singing voice that sounds like no one else, makes his music instantly recognizable as only his.
Over the past decade, Philip has released an impressive amount of music, including two albums – Grief Harbour in 2017 (which I reviewed) and Now + Then this past September – as well as two EPs and scores of singles. I’ve also reviewed several of those singles, most recently “I.O.U” this past August (you can read some of those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post). Now the hard-working musician returns with a fantastic new single “Redchurch Street Blues“. In addition to writing, singing and producing the track, Philip also played slide and electric guitars and organ. Drums were played by Jon Harris, bass by Ben Jones, additional electric guitar by Rob Updegraff, and backing vocals were sung by Philip, Vicky and Little A. The track was recorded at One Louder Studios London by Alan Emptage, and mastered at Fluid Mastering by Tim Debney.
I’ve stated previously that one of the things I like about Philip’s music is its unpredictability, and how no two songs of his ever sound alike. With every release, we’re treated to an entirely different sound and vibe than the song before, and “Redchurch Street Blues” is another fine example of that. The song is a raw and bluesy ode to the hardscrabble East London neighbourhood he once lived in, which in recent years has undergone gentrification, along with all the positive and negative changes that comes with it.
The song’s retro and bluesy vibe has one foot planted in late 1950s rock’n’roll, with noticeable shades of Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley. In fact, Philip seems to channel Vincent with his be-bop-a-lula-esque vocals in the bridge. The other foot is firmly planted in the present, with a contemporary blues rock sensibility similar to some of the music of two of my favorite bands, Cage the Elephant and The Black Keys. The dual intricate guitars of Philip and Rob Updegraff are outstanding, floating over Ben Jones’ pulsating bass groove and Jon Harris’ thumping drums keeping the tight rhythm.
About his inspiration behind the song, Philip elaborates: “Redchurch Street is set in Shoreditch. I used to live a couple streets down on Bethnal green which is rougher and saw a good deal of the riots; it’s part of the poorest borough of London, Tower hamlets. It’s the home of the colourful Bricklane market and of course the Cockneys which by the way my daughter is as she was born in Whitechapel. Gentrification started a while back as posh shops and franchises moved into the area and most of the little shops, tenants and businesses had a hard time surviving with rent rising and all. I guess this is the way of the world, but the contrast remains stunning from one street to the other, with the City of London and its billions looming over in the east end of London.”
Builders aren’t building Landlords evicting The rent is trebling No signs of easing Cars are burning While my baby is sleeping The streets are a-blazing And the bonfire grins I’ve got the red church street blues And I’m down in the gutter There goes the neighbourhood We toil everyday For a misery pay Ain’t got too much to lose When you’re down with that blues Now shops they are closing And the malls keep on thriving Got a bag full of nothing And the pawnbroker’s spleen I’ve got the red church street blues And I’m down in the gutter There goes the neighbourhood Now the tables are turning Heads are consulting Inflation is rising And my blood pressure steams I’m just a dead man walking Lord I’m up to my chin I’ve been played now I spin And the banker still grins I’ve got the red church street blues And I’m down in the gutter There goes the neighbourhood It seems like yesterday Will never fade away No matter what you hear No matter what they say You’re on your own I’ve got the red church street blues And I’m down in the gutter There goes the neighbourhood
Here’s a video of Philip’s acoustic performance of the song: