MASTERFUL musician Louis Philippe, él Records aesthete and scribe of the beautiful game, has been away far, far too long; which is why here at Backseat Mafia we’re damn excited for the release of his second album of the year, in cahoots with The Night Mail, Thunderclouds – not least because we gets to hear it in full already (best appreciated in a faux-Brooklyn subclause, that subclause). Therefore, we know just how bloody good it is.

Hopefully you’ve also been able to join with us in loving that first single release from Thunderclouds, the lyrically fiery and musically elegant “Fall In A Daydream” (if you missed it, just click through).

The second single arrives as today dawneth: the sultry pastoralism of “The Mighty Owl” – take a listen below on our SoundCloud embed.

Led forward by beautiful guitars; it’s a luscious dispatch from the life of a lover, refracted through pretty lyrics and a trilling flute for good measure: “She caught the moon in her feathered lap,” Louis sings, bedazzled. That’s more like it. Screw the ‘rona, and Brexit, and all of that; let a little beauty back in.

And that’s not all; live stream show it may be, but Louis has also announced his first concert for what? three years since that now-legendary show at The Lexington; ladies and gents, at 8.30pm sharp on Wednesday, December 16th, pour y’self an early Christmas sherry and gather round for a show live from Rimshot Studio, Kent.

He’ll be in the company of not only The Night Mail (Ian Button, Andy Lewis and Robert Rotifer) but also special guests, Louis’ long-time collaborator Danny Manners on piano and violinist Rachel Hall, of Stackridge and Big Big Train, who also guests on Thunderclouds. The assembled ensemble will not only be playing material from the new album, but also from his rich back catalogue.

The event will be broadcast in HD from the beautiful Rimshot Studio and filmed with multiple cameras in 4K, thus transporting Louis and his band direct into your living room – or near as dammit.

Louis says: “The paradox is that it took a lockdown to finally get me to play live again.

“It is now three years since I’d last appeared on stage, at London’s Lexington, in a concert that I now see as one of the most important of any I’ve ever played. That evening, I played with The Night Mail – my old friend Robert Rotifer, my new friends Ian Button and Andy Lewis – for the first time. This was the night that convinced us, and Tapete, that we just had to do that record together. And now we had that album, Thunderclouds, which was very much recorded as a ‘live’ project, we all wanted to play it to an audience.

“As luck would have it, despite the pandemic, we found that the place where Thunderclouds was recorded for the most past, Rimshot Studio, was also not ‘a’, but the perfect venue for the performance we had in mind. The setting is beautiful. The natural sound of the huge live room is beautiful. The whole technical set-up is beautiful.

“Rimshot’s owner Mike Thorne was just as taken by the idea as we were, after which it became a question of finding a suitable date, as close to the album’s actual release as possible. The 16th of December worked for everyone, so the 16th it would be.

“Now, which songs to play? Obviously, most of the songs which make up Thunderclouds. But also songs from a more distant past, songs that we’d already rehearsed for our Lexington gig. And as my longtime collaborator Danny Manners was going to join us for the occasion, perhaps a couple of the piano and vocal songs that we’ve loved to perform together over the years. Altogether, well over an hour of music, for which Big Big Train’s violinist Rachel Hall will also join us. 

“For us, it will be a wonderful moment, but one also tinged with sadness and tempered by hope. The sadness is that we will have to perform in the absence of a crowd, and won’t be able to take from it as much as we try to give.

“The hope is that, because of that, we’ll try to give even more.”

Tickets for the Live at Rimshot Studios event are £4.99 for a one-time watch within 48 hours of broadcast, or £9.99 as a full, unlimited purchase – oh, and the chance to plus the chance to win one of five signed copies of Thunderclouds. The winners will be notified by email and will be able to choose either a vinyl LP or a digipak CD. Gonna be excellent.

Watch out for our review of Thunderclouds, which we’ll be publishing on the morning of December 7th; and at the end of that same week, a tremendously erudite and convivial interview with Louis, looking at, among many other things, his career, how London’s changed – and possibly the best football song of all time.

Louis Philippe & The Night Mail’s Thunderclouds will be released by Tapete on digital download, CD and LP on December 11th. You can order yours direct from Louis at his Bandcamp page, here; or from Tapete, here.