Kenny and Dolly, Nancy and Lee, George and Tammy, Linda Ronstadt and Kermit the Frog; the country duet has a rich and deep lineage. It’s the perfect set up for a genre that revolves around the ups, downs and ins and outs of adult relationships. You can now add to that list the pairing up of London-based Dubliner and Holler favourite Louis Brennan with Michele Stodart of the Magic Numbers, for their delicately understated duet ‘A Full House’.
A brooding late night tête-à-tête wrapped up in the warmth of a Fender Rhodes and a softly sighing pedal steel, it’s another jaw-dropper from the singer that gave us the beautiful ‘Black Limousine’ earlier on this year, as Stodart and Brennan pick through the remnants of a long-term relationship that’s broken down with both parties reluctantly showing their hands. A domestic mini drama which slowly reveals the distance between two lovers as their conversation lays bare all the ways they’ve grown apart.
It’s reminiscent of the lightness of touch Carla Torgerson could add to Tindersticks or the duets of the late Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell. Stodart softly cuts through Brennan’s gloomy disgruntlement and sets him straight with her own hot takes on a relationship that he seems to have lost all hope for; batting back his slurred barbs with her own rejoinders on where and why she thinks it all went wrong.
“How did it get so bad and I never noticed?” Brennan croons in his murky baritone, “I want a compromise but you want a confrontation”.
Of course, there are always two sides to every love story, and what he sees as diplomacy, she sees as a lack of communication. “What kind of woman carries on believing?” she implores him. “What kind of man can’t understand / Just showing up is not good enough for me.”
It’s another of Brennan’s tales of ordinary people trapped in their own self-imposed prisons, perfectly observed and peppered with pitch-black humour and embarrassing intimacies.
“I wrote the song over lockdown 1.0 as I’d become sort of obsessed by how two people’s perception of the same situation could often be so radically different, and I wanted to sort of graft that onto a relationship-type song”, says Brennan. “I’d never written a duet before but Michele was a natural choice to sing the female part, her ability to really inhabit a song is incredible.”
They recorded the demo remotely, and it wasn’t until a serendipitous post-lockdown double bill at London’s Green Note that Brennan and Stodart finally got to sing the song in the same room together.
A few months later and they managed to finally get into a studio together in East London to record the song, bringing in some of London’s best players for the sessions: Ned Cartwright on keys, Joe Harvey Whyte on pedal steel, Laurence Saywood on bass and Chris 'CJ' Jones on drums.
They even caught some of that studio magic on film and put it together for the new video premiering exclusively at Holler below.
Louis Brennan and Michele Stodart will both be appearing on the bill at Red Rooster as part of an all-star tribute to the late, great John Prine, as well as across various stages over the Jubilee weekend. They’ll also be appearing at Bath’s inaugural Americana Fest in July with Michele undertaking bass duties for The Magic Numbers as well as performing solo.
‘A Full House’ is available everywhere from May 27th