Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Billy's Coming Back to Sing about His Heroes

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Billy's Coming Back to Sing about His Heroes

Article excerpt

Byline: By Sam Wonfor

His latest music project has seen Billy Mitchell embark on a reflective and emotional journey into his past and beyond. Sam Wonfor talks to him.

When Billy Mitchell accepted an invitation to make his contribution to the Northumbria Anthology, hindsight allows the popular singer to admit he was rather unprepared for what was to follow.

Armed with a far-ranging brief to "write about whatever you like as long as it's relevant to the Anthology's idea", (to celebrate the region's history and culture through music) it took the former Lindisfarne frontman nine months to decide on his subject ( and then the hard work started.

Billy decided to focus his creative energies on his childhood experiences ( and those of his close family ( when they lived and worked in West Wylam Colliery. "I lived there until I was nine and was the first man in our family not to go down the pit," he explains.

The nostalgic journey he embarked upon developed into an often tough voyage of personal discovery through many memories and forgotten feelings. "I found it really difficult, really hard," he admits thinking back to making the resulting CD, The Devil's Ground.

"I didn't want it to come out as personal as it seems to have come out but, once I got into the swing of it, this is the only way it could've gone. I wrote about what I know and who I know and when those are the people you loved most, there's a pressure to do them justice, without making it inaccessible to the people who will listen to it."

Following closely on the heels of other Northumbria Anthology releases from Judy Dinning, Pete Scott, Bob Fox and slide guitarist Johnny Dickinson, Billy (or Mitch as he is more widely known) has created a folky, traditional- sounding collection of songs, rooted in the place he has always called home.

Dedicated to "all miners and their families, past and present", the album includes songs such as 1915-1972 ( a moving biography about his father, The Pitman and The Blackin', a celebration of boot polish and The Bogs Bank Disaster, a poem written by his cousin, Joe Ridley about the 1910 landslip at Wylam: "That's quite a dark one, but it was a dark and devastating disaster. …

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