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  • The Sound Cafe

A Conversation With Mary Stokes and Brian Palm Of The Mary Stokes Band


Photo Credit: Miguel Riuz, Hotpress



The release 'Comin’ Home' by the Mark Stokes Band out of Dublin received the Blues & Roots Radio Album Of The Year Award 2021. As a follow up to that album, the band has re-issued a dynamic live recording of a performance from 1999 that is as fresh and energetic as if it was taped yesterday. Mary Stokes and Brian Palm are proud to announce the album 'Clouds In My Heart'.


Ken Wallis interviewed the pair for his radio show Blues Source International which can be heard weekly as a podcast here on The Sound Cafe as well as on the Blues & Roots Radio schedule.


The following excepts are taken from that interview.



Ken Wallis

They say what is old is new and what is new is old, and if that doesn't confuse you, I don't know what will. To straighten us all out Mary Stokes and Brian Palm are here to get us going.


The Mary Stokes Band has a new release out and they're going to tell us all about it. Guys thanks for coming on.


Mary Stokes

Oh, it's such a pleasure to be here again with you Ken, and to say thank you to Blues And Roots Radio for your extraordinary support and you're really the sort of boost that can only come with people who love what they do, and believe in what is in fact what music is about – communication.


Ken Wallis

Well, you guys have released a new album and it was recorded a few years ago. Tell us all about it.


Brian Palm

Well, I guess you're referring to Clouds In My Heart, Live in Dublin which we recorded in 1999. We recorded just before Christmas and released it at Christmas which strangely enough may make it one of the very last blues records of the 20th century, or perhaps the last one unless there's someone else who did one just the night before at Christmas Eve, or New Year's Eve. But having said that, to follow up Comin’ Home, people were asking do we have more? So, to keep that momentum going and I won't say fear, but the understanding that to follow it up with new recordings, you don't want to rush it and make a mistake.


We knew that people had always liked Clouds which we sold at live shows so we reissued it; did a little bit of repackaging and luckily we found the original artwork from 1999, and we were able to just fly them off and then Mary of course released it into the cyber world which is so important nowadays, perhaps if not more important.


Mary Stokes

I think that to recognize the value of something, like a platform like Bandcamp, it is important because it sort of serves artists well, and works very well. I think it's interesting to say because we're long-time blues players and performers. Clouds In My Heart was released and was recorded at a gig. It was truly without overdubs. I think what's fascinating when I now listen back to it to be honest, because a period you stop listening to something of your own, well I do anyway, and then what is interesting, you can really feel the fact that we were so road hardened, we were working on the road all the time. It was a period of time in all of our lives where you do a lot of road work, and really when you're gigging then things are so kind of gig tight. If you're lucky you can capture something very immediately. So, we brought a desk into a relatively small venue, but a really exciting venue packed jam tight right back to the rafters, and brought in the equipment and recorded that day with a very good sound engineer. So, we were then able to bring it into the studio and just tidy up kind of bits and pieces.


Brian Palm

But not even that much tidy-up. As you can hear there's parts that just work but that's the live thing. People I think at this moment, miss the live experience, so to bring in as close as we possibly could we thought rather than going forward we'll go back and see what's out there. We're sort of in the habit of bringing out records because every year at the Cork Jazz Festival where we have had a great following for years and years, our fans would come up and ask do you have something new for us? When Covid hit, we thought we’d do a re-release. Rather than live gigs let's just do it because musicians have to keep making music.


There was a strange thing here that musicians should re-tool and re-learn a different trade, because some forget about being a musician. Mary and I thought the best thing to do is prove that a musician is a musician regardless of whether you're in a van on the road, if I bleep myself here on the road it can be pain in the ass after a while. It can be tiring and not exciting.


Mary Stokes

I think that it's a particular feature of blues artists that having music that you're bringing with you, having your cds, having your t-shirts, having your kind of merchandise without it necessarily being the big piece. It's interesting because this continued even when cds became less popular as they did in in later years. But even then, people wanted to take something of the live experience away with them. There's without a doubt I'm putting credits to Brian who loves recording and the recording process. I love recording but it's a different thing for me.


Brian Palm

Mary, you love the live audience connection which we all do. Mary, you feed on the audience. I mean if the audience by the way isn't behaving, not paying attention or getting into it, you make sure they do.


Ken Wallis

That's what I love about the album. The album doesn't sound like it's been recorded years ago - it sounds fresh, it sounds now, and the music is fantastic and Brian your harmonica playing on that is just superb.


Brian Palm

Well thank you Ken. There are a few times it reminds me of an experience I had on a motorcycle when I was younger, hanging onto the handlebars for dear life. A few times it's fine and I think how did we get through that? There's energy there but I guess we were younger, but nonetheless we weren't that much younger.


Mary Stokes

It's interesting because that's where I see the consistency when we were gigging. If we are doing five nights a week, then you are in a position where you will never be able to rehearse regularly, but actually to be live gigging, you get all those pieces and particularly with blues where there needs to be a bit of kind of fluidity, and sort of the experience of like a lot of the things. What I really like about it is, where Brian and the guitar player exchange dialogue.


Brian Palm

I think we would pick up on each other very quickly. A band is like a surrogate family; you're on the road with the band and you see them more than you see your friends or your family. You see their traits immediately, who exactly needs to go make a phone call or when the gear needs to be lifted, who's always going to miss their breakfast. We talked about hockey players, and you don't have to say to them please be motivated. They're motivated otherwise they wouldn't be out there. Musicians come on and get it together and do your best. You have to get up and get in the van because we do have to go to the next show.


Mary Stokes

I do think that that to record anything there's a sort of formality. So what happened with that recording was that we managed with real fortune and despite a few upsets along the way, we managed to have decided on the day we were gonna go ahead with this recording. We were also investing because we are independent and so anything we're doing is an investment not only of time, but of money. We were committed to the day and fortunately we could bring out of the musicians and out of the experience with the audience, a kind of sense, a level of wildness if you like.


Brian Palm

That's true. It reflects that era way more than for example today's sedate audiences or socially distanced audience. We couldn't do the same thing. Thanks for asking about that record and we have loads of new recordings that we have done throughout this period which are very exciting because again, we were able to go in socially distanced and build up a few tracks from the bottom up with just a bass drum and layer them. I did some harmonica on my own and added to it and stuff like that and then Mary came in, so we had I think three or four tracks we did. And then the first chance we all got together again; we did two great sessions in two different studios where we got down 17 tracks between the two different places which was this new album coming out in a little.


Mary Stokes

There’s another side of it which is to use the studio in a more deliberate way and actually try and temper that by having the band together in the studio and yet be able to say, okay if we want to bring in something else to layer or to change, we can do that as well.


Brian Palm

There's only so much we can do because they were live, one-two-three go in the same room so you can't really change too much. Pretty much what you see is what you get.


Ken Wallis

Listening to Clouds In My Heart I was immediately transported to Dublin. I was part of the audience and that's what I really like about this release. You feel the energy you feel the excitement and you feel the music. You're virtually a part of the band, not really but you're certainly sitting in the front row having a good draft.


Brian Palm

Well that's actually where the desk was, right in front of us because we didn't want the desk taking up valuable customer space.


Mary Stokes

It's interesting as well because that's part of what has been a challenge in terms of live gigging, and I think it's a challenge sometimes where there's a formal stage. Were we performed that gig was one that we did which was a phenomenal gig in a very established, a really landmark pub. We did 10 years on Sunday afternoons, and it was right beside the centre of the city. This the main kind of shopping area and it was kind of casual on one hand because people would just walk in.


Brian Palm

It was right on the ground floor right in an exclusive hotel full of V.I.P people.


Mary Stokes

We had a regular steady audience of people who would come in every week and then all sorts of people would hear us from walking down the street and then they would come in and they'd be like, oh well, what's going on here? It’s something really exciting.


Brian Palm

The actor Chris Penn and his entire entourage which included the current Miss Budweiser and hair stylists, and you name it, they were all on their way to Dublin airport and he heard the band. He came in and he said that's it, cancel our flights. We're coming in here and then Miss Budweiser was like, “gee, we're going to L.A., we're doing a big thing there”. Chris said we're not going anywhere. “I'm going in here to jam” which he did for about two hours with us. Other times, all these famous actors would come in.


Mary Stokes

One of the funny things was Guns And Roses. Duff McKagan and Slash were staying in the hotel…


Brian Palm

I'm going to stop you right here, this is a family show. [LAUGH]


Mary Stokes

All I'm going to say was there was a weekend rugby match in Dublin. There was a lot of Wales supporters and they’d been drinking Guinness all weekend, so just let's put it this way for reasons of health and safety we decided that we are really needed the windows open, and the doors open.


Brian Palm

They were farting so badly, people were saying they can't stay and we were like I can't play. I was playing harmonica for god's sake. We were we just can't do it anymore so we left the gig like an hour earlier than normal and we get home and we're sitting here in front of the fire and our bass player calls, “you'll never believe who's here? Guns And Roses are at the hotel. They brought in their gear and they want to jam. Where are you guys?” We're like well the gig is over. The next day we met them at the hotel and gave them that record ,Clouds and I remember Mary autographing it for Slash.


Mary Stokes

Clouds In My Heart Live In Dublin was capturing a time which in some respects will never come back again. It was just a particular energy so we're very lucky to have caught that and then to have captured it, but also then the fact that it hadn't ever had that international platform so that's also why we've kind of decided this would be a good time to bring it out.


Ken Wallis

I've thoroughly enjoyed chatting with you again where can our listeners get a hold of your album?


Mary Stokes

They can get a hold of it very easily on Bandcamp, and The Mary Stokes Band is the site. We now have three products up there. We have the album that Blues & Roots Radio awarded us Album Of The Year 2021. We're so proud and so grateful for that, that's Comin’ Home and then we have just put up Clouds In My Heart and that's available. If people like cds they can order cds, there or download and then we also had the Christmas song.


Brian Palm

Which is just a fun little festive frivolity. And you'd be happy to know our new record includes songs by Little Walter which you have to be some kind of harmonica player to tackle. And one of our favourites Babyface Leroy. And then there's a Jimmy Rogers song. And then we did a tribute to Big Walter and Carey Bell.


Ken Wallis

Boy, am I looking forward to hearing that. Thanks so much for the chat.




Bandcamp: https://themarystokesband.bandcamp.com/album/clouds-in-my-heart

Bandcamp: themarystokesband.bandcamp.com/album/comin-home

Facebook: www.facebook.com/marystokesband