With a band like Black Tar Roses, it’s difficult to know where to start. Maybe a book would be the answer rather than a column of 700 words, but at Phluid Records we are always up for a challenge, so here is a compact review of one of Plymouth’s finest bands.

“Begin at the beginning”, said Lewis Carroll, so to do just that Founding member, Darren Long, told us the band’s name was penned when he mis-heard a friend telling him about a restaurant on Venice Beach called “Tar & Roses”.

“I thought he said ‘Black Tar Roses’. As soon as it rolled off my tongue, I knew that was it. The band was born through musicians coming together to fulfil their roles, and from that we have all become friends bound by that music”, says Darren.

“I was out in Los Angeles in 2018, recording for myself with the sound that we now know as Black Tar Roses, but I lacked a band. Rebels Rogues & Outlaws (The debut album), was all but written, and I needed musicians to take it further.”

“My wife, Sally, played kick drum; I played Guitar, and we both sang. We came across John Maddock (Mandolin), in Calstock, and so we had a trio. We released the album in July 2019, having recorded in part at Momentum studios in Plympton, and in part at Studebaker Studios in LA.”

With the bands Americana Folk style, you can really get a feel for that ‘Trans-Atlantic’ vibe. Their songs have catchy hooks and an addictive quality that leaves the listener going straight back to the start of the album and listening again.

Ian Stewart (Bass), and Anna Crabtree (Violin) joined the band, and as a 5 piece they recorded a charity EP, Plymouth Gin, in 2020, followed by the second album ‘Travelling Emporium’.

“Sally and I parted on the release of the second album” says Darren, “but Jesse Mullen took sally’s role, and with the addition of Wendy Darling on Keys and vocals, the band was complete.”

With the band all hailing, in some part, from the west Country, they describe themselves as Gritty, Rootsy and Edgy, with all members contributing to the song-writing process on some level.

“I used to be the sole song-writer”, says Darren, “but these days everyone comes up with part or fully formed ideas. Jesse and Wendy also write for themselves in their solo projects, with Jessie rarely writing when she is happy, and Wendy having a very political edge to her style. Anna has been writing for years, and her writing style is very emotional, whereas John is still fairly new to the process, but with so many different approaches the music is constantly evolving.”

Darren also told us of his ‘writing box’ where he will mentally store a chord sequence or a lyrical line taken from a piece of graffiti or a Facebook comment. 

“I then end up with a box of ideas from which I can take parts to create songs. Also, I write a lot so I never suffer from writers block.”

With influences from bands like Crass, Howling Wolf and New Model Army, the band are also happy listening to James Blunt, Johnny Cash and Whitesnake, with these wide-ranging styles clearly impacting on the bands musical output. As do their hobbies, ranging from John making mandolins, Darren customising his V Twin Bobber, and Jesse, Wendy & Anna kayaking, SUPing and skating.

Given the opportunity to play at any live venue in the world, the band told us that they would love to play at Cornwall’s very own Minnack Theatre, saying it would be one tick off the bucket list.

You can, however, catch the band live at B Bar in Plymouth on 15th April, and, of course, you can catch them live talking with Leo and Neil on this week’s Wal of Paine Show on Phluid FM this Thursday, 30th March. search vision.phluidrecords.co.uk

Search Black Tar Roses to find the band on Spotify, Youtube, Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to their website at www.blacktarroses.com