Alt.folk duo Doghouse Roses send Scotsman Sessions greetings from windy Westphalia, where they have finally completed a tour of Germany rescheduled twice in as many years.
The Glasgow-based pairing of Paul Tasker and Iona Macdonald have been regular visitors to Germany over the past 15 years, since they were first recruited to join Willard Grant Conspiracy, a Boston-based Americana outfit with a habit of collaborating with Scottish musicians such as Jackie Leven and composer Malcolm Lindsay.
“The band were recording a new album in Glasgow, were looking for a female singer, then found Iona…I just tagged along really!” says Tasker. “We’ve now toured here around half a dozen times on our own as well as with other bands. We really enjoy being here and have missed it over the last couple of years.”
For their Session, the duo serenade the streets of Finnentrop with a new song called The Past is a Country which Tasker says “sprang to life during lockdown, as a reflection of the times and spaces we found ourselves alone in. With so much solitude, memories of past times came flooding in, recalling simpler days, meandering through the streets and parks of the West End of Glasgow, reminiscing on what had been and what was lost.
“It hasn’t been a totally unproductive time though, as we’ve written and demoed more than enough songs for a new record which we’ll keep working on. I also recorded and released an instrumental album over lockdown too, as I write a lot of music on guitar and banjo and when I feel I’ve a collection that works together, into the world it goes.”
Tasker and Macdonald first formed Doghouse Roses around 20 years ago. “When we started, we were heavily influenced by Sixties folk revival bands, in particular Pentangle and Fairport Convention,” says Tasker. “I saw Bert Jansch play in the Press Club on St Vincent Street back in 1996 and was instantly hooked on the style and the sound.”
For Macdonald, singing was in the blood – her father Duncan Macdonald won the Mod Gold medal in 1970. She began singing to herself at the age of four and was writing songs and poetry by the time she was 12 but didn’t perform in public until her twenties.
In addition to a shared love of the British folk boom bands, Macdonald was inspired by the likes of Tracy Chapman, Natalie Merchant and Nina Simone: “voices that did more than just hit the right musical notes, but that were able to somehow communicate a wider emotion and create an emotional landscape,” she says. “My father was keen that I not get singing lessons, as he believed that it was important for me to find my own voice, and I think that this has been key to translating my experiences into music.”
The duo released their most recent album, We Are Made of Light, back in November 2019. With their German dates duly honoured, Tasker and Macdonald return to work on their fifth album, now expected in sometime in 2023.
Doghouse Roses will play at Leventime: A Tribute to Jackie Leven at Oran Mor, Glasgow on 4 February as part of Celtic Connections, see https://doghouseroses.bandcamp.com