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Clive Gregson

One of the great unsung heroes of British songwriting, Clive Gregson has penned clever tunes with sometimes witty and always heartfelt lyrics since the mid-'70s. While he's performed in a variety of formats (with a rock group, as part of a contemporary folk duo, and as a solo act), he's been a favorite with critics, discriminating listeners, and his peers -- his songs have been recorded by Nanci Griffith, Norma Waterson, and Fairport Convention, and he's performed and toured with Richard Thompson, Eddi Reader, and Plainsong. Gregson's work with his band Any Trouble is best appreciated on the 2013 collection The Complete Stiff Recordings 1980-1981, while those interested in his collaborations with Christine Collister should investigate 1989's A Change in the Weather. Fine examples of his solo work include 1996's I Love This Town, 2002's Comfort and Joy, and 2004's Long Story Short. Gregson was born January 4, 1955, in Ashton-under-Lyne, Tameside, England. He developed an ear for music during the first rush of Beatlemania in the U.K., and when his older brother gave up playing the drums, his parents sold his kit and bought young Clive his first guitar. While Gregson played in a band with his school chums, he didn't play his first professional gig until he founded the group Any Trouble, a pub rock/new wave quartet, in Manchester in 1975. The band's sound, and Gregson's songwriting and singing, reminded some critics of Elvis Costello, and Any Trouble was signed by Stiff, the label where Costello got his start. The band made several well-remembered but poor-selling albums, then split up in 1984. Gregson discovered Christine Collister singing in a folk club in 1984 and, impressed by her talents, offered to work with her on future projects. He had already begun an association with Richard Thompson, initially singing backup on the classic Shoot Out the Lights album in 1982. While working on Thompson's Hand of Kindness, Gregson suggested using Collister for additional backup vocal duties. The formula worked, and the two continued for years as integral parts of the Richard Thompson touring band, arguably the finest live act he's assembled. In 1985, Gregson made a solo album, Strange Persuasions, with Collister singing backup on a few tracks. The two began performing as a duo on the folk club circuit shortly thereafter; their first release was a homemade tape sold at gigs, later released on LP as Home and Away. It was followed by their first formal album, Mischief, in 1987, and by a Change in the Weather in 1989. Love Is a Strange Hotel, released later the same year, was an album of cover versions of Gregson and Collister's favorite songs. By 1992, the stress of constant touring and working together without substantial success finally took its toll on Gregson and Collister. The two decided to go their separate ways after one parting shot, The Last Word, and one final tour. Gregson eventually relocated to Nashville and launched a solo career, releasing the live "official bootleg" Carousel of Noise on his own label in 1994. People & Places followed in 1995, and I Love This Town was issued by Compass Records in 1996. Gregson also did production work for acts such as the Weather Prophets, the Oysterband, and Brilliant Corners, and frequently collaborated with fellow songwriter Boo Hewerdine. In 1998, after a brief stint in the group Plainsong, Gregson returned with Happy Hour, and launched a successful tour of the U.K. with Hewerdine and Eddi Reader. Gregson's 2002 release Comfort and Joy was followed by extensive touring, including rare jaunts to the United States and Japan, but in 2003, his career was put on hold for several months after a fall from a ladder resulted in a broken shoulder and arm. Thankfully, Gregson fully recovered, and returned with a low-key solo set, Long Story Short, in late 2004. In 2007, Any Trouble reunited to record an album, Life in Reverse, which they supported with a handful of live dates. Gregson resumed his solo career with the 2011 album Bittersweet, produced by him and featuring all-original material. Another solo set, This Is Now, followed in 2013, and Gregson brought Any Trouble back together in 2015 to record the album Present Tense, which was followed by a tour of the U.K. 2015 also saw Gregson touring with fellow singer and songwriter Liz Simcock, with the duo performing songs from the Gregson and Collister songbook. Gregson and Simcock reunited in 2017 to cut an album together, Underwater Dancing. In 2020, Gregson announced he was retiring from live performing, and that his U.K. tour of that year would be his last. The COVID-19 pandemic scuttled Gregson's farewell tour plans, but he did launch another ambitious project for 2020 -- releasing a new album for each month of the year. He began with One Year, which included 12 tracks, each concerning a different month of the year. Next came Raggedy Ass (a collection of rock & roll tunes), Eighteen Strings (featuring material he wrote for his 3 Boxes project), Every Face Is Turned My Way (focused on his life in music), Poorville (devoted to political and topical material), and Bus Stop Conversations (a set of songs about life in the North of England).
© Chris Woodstra, William Ruhlmann, & Mark Deming /TiVo


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