Wigtown Musicians Record Album With Who Legend ‘Pete Townshend’

The Bookshop Band, from Wigtown, are set to release a new album produced and recorded by Pete Townshend.

The rock legend was “blown away” when he was gifted a set of Ben Please and Beth Porter’s CDs that he got in touch and suggested working together.

In the end Townshend (himself a former bookshop owner) not only produced the album and recorded it at his own studio but played on every track.

He said: “I listened to the CDs in my car as I was travelling. I was blown away, completely blown away. I got into the whole Bookshop Band technique, which is just two people making this sound like a symphony orchestra. It’s quite extraordinary. Each song was special in its own way. So, I reached out.”

Emerge, Return is a dark album of 13 songs, all written by Ben and Beth, responding to themes including the oppression of bodies, free will and free speech that are explored in books such as:

  • The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
  • Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  • and The Book Of Dust, by Philip Pullman.

It is already attracting praise with Shaun Keaveny describing it as “Hypnotically beautiful” on Radio 2’s The Folk Show and Zoe Ball describing the band as “amazing!” on the Breakfast Show.

The title comes from a song inspired by Robert Macfarlane’s Underland, which glimpses our underworlds and morality in the scale of deep time.

Ben said: “It’s been a rollercoaster working with Pete Townshend, really exciting and not something we could ever have predicted happening.
“He brought his great musicality and experience to the recording process, doing things we’d never have thought of ourselves, offering a different perspective on the songs. That’s the value of working with a great producer.
“And the fact that he ended up playing on every track added an extra dimension – I think that fans will hear his influence woven right the way through the album.”

The band, which has worked with many celebrated authors, plays gigs in small bookshops across the UK, USA and Europe. It is much admired among writers, with best-sellers such as Kate Mosse (The Ghost Ship) specifically asking them to write songs for the book launches.

The band has existed largely off-grid, occupying a creative space between the music and book worlds. Their approach is to read books, respond by writing a song, then bring the work to new audiences by performing in (mostly independent) bookshops.

They have previously recorded 13 albums, which have been sold at gigs and online. Emerge, Return will be their first wider, commercial release.

The 28 June release will take place alongside a podcast series of conversations with the authors of some of the books which inspired its tracks (15-22 June). It will be supported with a full, 71-date UK tour by Ben and Beth, mostly in indie bookshops – starting at Glastonbury Festival with a set at Toad Hall.

Beth said: Ben and I are really excited to be touring this album. Playing these songs live and getting to share stories in bookshops is what this band is all about.”

The Bookshop Band was formed in Beth and Ben’s former home city of Bath in 2010, as a collaboration between a group of musicians and local indie bookshop, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. The duo now live in Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town, where they are important contributors to the well-known annual book festival.